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No rainy day relief for soaked students



HARD-PRESSED parents and students will have to make do with such arrangements as currently exist for school transport.

A motion presented by Labour member for Llangennech, Cllr Gary Jones, received short shrift from Executive Board Member Hazel Evans at Wednesday’s meeting of the county council.

Cllr Jones’ motion called on the Council to make limited provision for 500 students affected by the sudden withdrawal of commercial bus services which brought children to school just before the start of the current school year.

Gary Jones told councillors that parents and children were being adversely affected by the sudden drop in bus services.

He explained that large bus companies had spent the last decade ignoring the requirement that their vehicles had to be disabled accessible if they carried fare-paying passengers.

As a result of that law, the bus companies had until January next year to provide vehicles up to spec.

Instead, the larger companies had stuck their heads in the sand, while smaller companies simply didn’t have the capital to invest in new vehicles.

He asked, therefore, for subsidised transport from the Council while a long-term solution was sought.

Cllr Hazel Evans said she was sympathetic but her response on the Executive Board’s behalf showed few signs of sympathy – if any.

The problem was not the Council’s responsibility to sort out.

The bus companies were to blame. So was the Welsh Government which set the mileage for subsidised school transport. What, she wondered rhetorically, about the 8,500 students who did not take public transport to school? What about them? Ultimately getting children to school was the parents’ responsibility, anyway.

As a display of tin-eared obliviousness, Cllr Evans’ performance would take some beating.

Never mind the cost, she didn’t even recognise the figures which Cllr Jones used to support his motion. She didn’t recognise them.

Cllr Jones did not intervene at the time, but he rather punctured Hazel Evans’ self-righteousness when he pointed out – delicately – that the figures came from the local authority’s own officers who dealt with the issue.

Glynog Davies, the Executive Board member for Education, was rather less negative than his colleague, but his sympathy was similarly constrained by the financial implications of providing a service.

He said that the financial outlook was not good and unlikely to improve as councils continued to face uncertainty over future funding from the UK and Welsh Governments and potentially faced being lumbered with more responsibilities without the money to pay for them.

Cllr Deryk Cundy said that his ward, Bynea, had been hit hard by the cut in bus services. Students were left walking to school in unsuitable conditions. He reminded councillors that one of the issues they had just debated was climate change, while queues of cars with their engines idling were forced to wait outside school gates every day. Cllr Cundy said families could not afford money from their already stretched budgets and students’ education could be affected.

Cllr Sharen Davies said the problems were no less serious in Llwynhendy, but that she and her colleague on Llanelli Rural Council, Cllr Jason Hart, had set about trying to find a practical solution rather than just words. She felt that solutions were available if councillors worked constructively in their localities.

Responding to the debate, Cllr Gary Jones made sure he got some retaliation in on Hazel Evans by pointing out officers provided him with the data underpinning his motion.

He proceeded to forcefully point out that the Council carried ample reserves. Those reserves were intended for a rainy day and it was – literally – students who were getting soaked.

The motion failed and a request for a recorded vote was rejected, as it was not asked for at the debate’s outset.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Christine

    October 14, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Not in your back yard springs to mind !! Never mind the children left to walk almost 3 miles parents working and trying to juggle lifts !! Buses don’t even pass these schools directly !!!either going into town then catch other bus up !!! or get off at macdonalds and run up in a 3 minute window !! That’s with out the bad weather !!! Is it true that buses are running to less that a mile from the school surely this must be a paid bus !!! as such a short distance really hope Westminster sorts this out soon !!!

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Council continues with Storm Dennis clean-up



CARMARTHENSHIRE’S clean-up operation following Storm Dennis is continuing

Crews have been working hard to clear debris left by the floods, with specialist contractors being drafted in to help in some areas.

A full assessment of the damage caused is being carried out and inspections of affected roads, verges and bridges on major routes will be completed by the end of the week.

A Support Fund has also been set up for residents and businesses in need of financial support.

All homes in Carmarthenshire affected by the floods can receive support and advice, with a £200 advance to those most in need.

Business support officers have contacted more than 100 businesses who have previously been affected by floods to offer assistance if needed; with rate relief also being sought from Welsh Government. The majority of businesses affected have now been able to re-open.

Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole has today taken part in a Welsh Government summit being held today (Wednesday) to discuss the disruption and damage caused by Storm Dennis along with representatives from other local authorities, Natural Resources Wales, the emergency services, businesses and voluntary groups.

Cllr Dole said: “I would like to thank staff who are working hard in the aftermath of the storm to clear up affected parts of the county and who are advising and supporting residents and businesses.

“A Support Fund has been set up to help those most in need of financial support and I would urge anyone affected to please get in touch.

“A full assessment of the damage is underway, and, as well as working with partner agencies, we will liaise with Welsh Government to ascertain what resources are available.”

For more information or to apply for the Support Fund visit the council website or call 01267 234567.

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Carmarthenshire Labour call on county to sort out school buses



LOCAL representatives Lee Waters MS, Nia Griffith MP and Cllr Rob James have again called upon Carmarthenshire Council to step in to restore school bus services across the county, after it has become clear that they have the power to do so.

Lee Waters MS and Nia Griffith MP stepped in to ask the UK Government to grant an exemption to the new regulations to allow parents and the council time to come up with a permanent solution in Carmarthenshire. A letter received by Lee Waters and Nia Griffith from the Secretary of State for Wales makes it clear that an exemption already exists that would allow Carmarthenshire to step in. The exemption was made available to all school transport procured by or on behalf of a school on 31 December last year.

Before these exemptions were granted school pupils in Carmarthenshire had seen many of their school bus routes cut, as a result of the introduction of regulations from the UK Government. The regulations, passed in 2000 and phased in, restricts the types of vehicles that bus companies could use to ensure that all vehicles can accept wheelchairs. The changes have caused a number of school bus routes to be axed with around 500 pupils directly affected. As a result children have been left with long walks to school in the dark and rain, or having to catch service buses that are more expensive and don’t provide an adequate and timely service.

The Labour Group on Carmarthenshire Council, led by Cllr Rob James have been pressuring the Plaid Cymru leadership to take initiative and commission replacement services since this exemption was announced, but the Plaid Cymru leadership have maintained that they aren’t able to do so.

Lee Waters MS said: “We have written to the UK Government to ask them to allow school bus services to keep running as before, but they’ve written back pointing out there’s nothing stopping Carmarthenshire Council from commissioning buses themselves.

“It would be simpler if the UK Government were to take action but there is a way that Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire could sort things out, but it’s clear they won’t act.

“Meanwhile, it’s the children who are suffering”

Nia Griffith MP said: “It’s now crystal clear that Carmarthenshire Council could step in to restore the buses. The only thing holding them back is reluctance on the part of the Plaid Cymru leadership.

“I’m particularly frustrated because we’ve pointed out that the Council could solve this by contracting a service for weeks now, and they’ve refused to budge. Because of that, Carmarthenshire could now be at the back of the queue and pupils will be left stranded.”

Cllr Rob James said: “The children and families affected by the administration’s inaction deserve an apology. We have always known that it was the local Council that could step in and support pupils – it’s baffling that they are still refusing to do so.

“In the coming weeks we will be tabling a vote in the Council to restore lost school buses and I hope all Councillors will vote with their conscience.”

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More investment on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway



The final stage of recovery works to repair damage caused by Storm Callum on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway.

A highly complex programme of phased works has already been completed in one of the worst hit areas at Cwmduad, when a landslide tragically claimed the life of a young man.

Repairs as a result of the storm have also been carried out at Bronwydd.

Some 20 miles of the A484 was affected by the extreme weather conditions in Carmarthenshire in October 2018 stretching from Carmarthen to Cenarth.

Phase two of the support works have now started at other affected areas at Henallt Bends, Pante South, Llwyfan Cerrig Station, Foelfach, Tirgwili/Rock and Fountain, Mile End, Nantclawdd, the A484/A475 junction, Gelligatti before finishing at Flatwood in Cenarth.

Works will include felling damaged trees, providing foundations for new safety barriers, stabilising embankments and installing new highway drainage chambers.

Carmarthenshire Council secured funding from Welsh Government to carry out maintenance of the highway in response to detailed inspections following the storm.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “This has been a very complex operation covering over 20 miles and involving a number of agencies. Whilst the safety of the public is paramount, every effort will be made to ensure these essential works are carried out with as minimal disruption as possible until they have been completed. We understand that this has had a major impact on the local community and road users, and we would like to thank them for their patience and co-operation whilst these recovery and repair works are being carried out.”

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