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Carmarthenshire’s Lightbringers school project highlighted in the Senedd

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IN THE SENEDD during a 90 second statement Mid and West MS Helen Mary Jones highlighted the involvement of local schools in the Lightbringers Project.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister, Helen Mary Jones MS said: “We all know, I think, that Twitter isn’t always the happiest of places. But, last week, my timeline was literally illuminated by hundreds of beautiful lanterns. The lanterns were made by children across Carmarthenshire as part of the Lightbringers Project, the brainchild of Jayne Marciano. The project was inspired by a wonderful children’s book, The Lightbringers—Y Lanternwyr, yn Gymraeg.

“The book is a true Welsh product, written and illustrated by Karin Celestine of Monmouthshire and published by Graffeg in Llanelli. It’s in two parts. The first is a story of a journey taken by little creatures as they seek to return light to the earth at midwinter, centering on the idea that light will always return, even from the darkest days. The second part is a short introduction to the traditions that the story evokes: the Mari Lwyd and the wassail.

“The project saw pupils in their homes and in their hubs reading the story, learning about the traditions and making beautiful lanterns, bringing light into dark times. The project also gave opportunities for the children to express their feelings about lockdown and talk about their hopes for the future.

“The lanterns are incredibly varied, made from a wide range of materials: exquisite painting on glass, colourful paper, clever use of cardboard and plastics and tins, made by children as old as 11 and as young as three. They made my timeline glow. For me, they did exactly what was intended. They brought light in dark times. The lanterns made me smile, and seeing the children’s proud, smiling faces made me feel really hopeful, and I’m sure that I speak for many others who saw these lovely lanterns too.

“I understand that there are now plans to expand the project beyond Carmarthenshire. So, I want to say thank you. I had thought to try and list all of the schools that I knew of that took part, but there are just too many. So, I can’t name them all, but thank you all so much school, staff, families, and most of all the children. Diolch yn fawr iawn. You are true lightbringers, each and every one of you.

“Lanternwyr go iawn ŷch chi i gyd. Daw eto, haul ar fryn.

“You are true lightbringers, each and every one of you. The sun will rise again over the hills.”

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Carmarthenshire residents can quickly check symptoms for variety of conditions on NHS 111 Wales online

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NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker can save Carmarthenshire patients time by helping them find the right NHS service for treatment. Symptoms can be quickly checked for a variety of conditions and advice given on the best way to treat them by visiting www.111.wales.nhs.uk which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

The way we access NHS services has changed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more options now becoming increasingly utilised, including the NHS 111 Wales online service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be used for both health information and advice and to access urgent primary care in Welsh and English.

In a recent YouGov survey, a third of Carmarthenshire residents had not even heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker and only 19% had used it during the past 12 months.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are asking everyone to help us by reconsidering the way you access NHS services. The methods available have changed but we are still here for you. It is worth getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can be seen and treated quicker with your first port of call being NHS 111 Wales.”

According to the YouGov survey, carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign, only 67% of Carmarthenshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker. However, 86% said they felt it was important to have access to the service.   

NHS 111 Wales online can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. The way it works is: You answer questions about your symptoms on the website and depending on the situation you will:

·           Get self-care advice

·           Be told how to get any medicine you need

·           Find out what local service can help you

·           Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP

·           Get a face-to-face appointment if you need one

·           Be given an arrival time if you need to go to A&E – this might mean you spend less time in A&E

For those who don’t have confidence going online to seek advice, there is the NHS 111 Wales phone service. This is also a free service where patients can contact the NHS by dialling 111 to receive advice on the best way to manage their issue or gain further assistance if needed. The bilingual telephone service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Eighty-four percent of Carmarthenshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales phone service when asked for the recent YouGov survey but only 20% had used the telephone service during the last 12 months.

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Council budget set for 2021-22

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has approved a budget including a Council Tax increase of 3.45 per cent, or £45.42 a year, for the average band D property – that’s roughly 87 pence a week.

Leader of the council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said the increase is below the national average and was financially prudent given the financial consequences of Covid-19, some costs of which are still unknown.

Council Tax contributes around 26 per cent to the county council’s £386million net revenue budget which is spent on providing services to residents and businesses in Carmarthenshire.

The biggest share of Council Tax contributions is spent on education and children’s services, followed by housing and adult social care.

The budget passed by council also provides a further £133million investment in capital projects which will include regeneration schemes, redevelopment of schools, highway and leisure facility improvements and provision of affordable housing to improve Carmarthenshire.

Cllr David Jenkins, Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “This is a prudent and sustainable budget that reflects our commitment to provide first-class services to the residents and businesses of Carmarthenshire, and our ambitions to grow and improve the county, whilst providing contingencies that will see us through the continued challenges presented by the pandemic.”

The council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover planned expenditure, as well as having money in reserves to pay for unplanned expenses.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the council’s budget – around £20million in extra costs have been incurred over the last year, around £10million of income has been lost, and Council Tax collection is currently around £2million lower than expected.

Further contingency planning has been accounted for to ensure critical services can still be delivered whilst the pandemic continues to affect the county.

Following consultation, savings proposals around gulley cleansing and street cleansing were removed from the budget, and plans to cut spend on highway surface dressing were reduced.

Additional funding has been made available to support the education department and to invest in the council’s TrueCall service which safeguards vulnerable residents from fraudsters.

Furthermore, around £2.5million of internal managerial savings will be made in the coming financial year, with around £6.7million of further savings over the following two years.

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Carregaman car park enhancements underway

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WORK is getting underway to improve Ammanford’s Carregaman car park in the town centre.

Carmarthenshire County Council is making use of Welsh Government’s Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity fund as part of its Transforming Towns initiative, to make the car park more environmentally friendly and visually attractive.

The works will soon get underway and will are expected to be complete by the end of March.

A series of rain gardens will not only brighten up the car park but will help alleviate potential flooding and protect the sewer network.

Carefully chosen planting and green spaces will be utilised to create a better habitat for pollinators and other insects.

The council is also using funds from a Local Sustainable Transport Covid Response Fund to purchase a bio-diverse green roof cycle shelter to accommodate up to eight bikes, in line with the council’s efforts to increase facilities for active travel.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of the Council and Executive Board Member for Regeneration, said: “We are pleased to use Welsh Government funding to help us improve Carregaman car park – not just so that it is more visually appealing, but also a biodiverse space that will attract pollinators and other local wildlife. These are works that will also help improve a main gateway into Ammanford town centre.”

Disruption from works will be kept to a minimum.

For further information about the council’s development and investment schemes, visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales

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