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Caebrwyn’s questions for Council

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Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 14.03.26NEXT WEDNESDAY’S (April 13) full council agenda has been published and whilst there are no questions from the public, there are a handful of questions and Motions from councillors. None, I note, relating to the extraordinary business over the exempt report from the last Executive Board meeting.

One issue which has been raised is the damning internal audit report into the facilities at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coast.

Following the Audit Committee meeting a couple of weeks ago, I reported that the findings ranged from accounting improprieties to procurement issues and a general failure to follow procedure, quite a mess in fact.

This whole debacle was presented to the Audit Committee in the form of a brief two page summary, without the full report, which presumably detailed what had happened to arrive at these findings.

As I also said previously, I have been hearing horror stories about these facilities for a couple of years and this report raises the question of how long senior management have been involved or at least aware of the ‘historic issues’.

As we know, the council has plans to offload the whole leisure department, along with the parks, into a trust, or sell them off: either will do.

The Labour opposition group have tabled a Motion for the full report be made publicly available, for it to be referred to the police to see if there’s been criminal wrongdoing, and to the Wales Audit Office to check for financial irregularities.

The Exec Board member, Cllr Dai Jenkins will also be asked whether or not he’s actually seen the full report and how much public money is at risk and/or missing.

I suspect there will be a considerable amount of internal legal advice imparted over all this, of the ‘incompetent and cavalier’ variety to which we are so accustomed. I strongly suggest that the Plaid leadership put away the whitewash for once, join in the call for full transparency and support this motion.

The second issue sees Labour members Bill Thomas and Jan Williams demand evidence from Cllr Meryl Gravell (Ind) to back up her allegations that local residents and local politicians ‘scuppered’ a 2012 bid for Lottery funding. They claim to hold evidence to the contrary. They also want to know why Meryl failed to submit a second bid for funding in 2014.

Despite this cropping up at the previous two meetings, along with Meryl’s ‘That is what I was told and I stand by it’ comment, nothing has appeared in the minutes. Now at least it will be on the record. She will be asked who told her and when, and whether she was given any documentary evidence to back it up. Hopefully they’ll be ready with a supplementary question.

Also on the agenda is a mysterious reference to Tai Cantref Housing Association. This is an ‘exempt’ report so the webcast will be switched off. It also features (also exempt) on the agenda for Monday’s Executive Board meeting, in fact it’s the only item. There is nothing to indicate what is being decided.

The housing association supplies social housing in Ceredigion and north Carmarthenshire and has over 1400 properties. However, the Welsh Government stepped in last summer and commissioned a full report following allegations from whistleblowers relating to mismanagement, procurement issues and the treatment of staff.

That report has never, to my knowledge, been made publicly available and its release refused by the Welsh Government on the grounds that it could “destabilise the association” and “prejudice its commercial interests”, but after the report was completed in December last year, the chief officer of the Association was placed on ‘leave’ whilst the findings were considered.

At the beginning of March the chief officer left and the Chairman of the board stepped down, a couple of weeks later the Association announced it was ‘seeking a merger’ and would be ‘engaging with potential partners’, possibly with another housing association.

All of which suggests that things are not healthy at Cantref. One can only guess at what the Exec Board and Council will discuss. Presumably, in light of a possible take-over, the sizeable amount of public cash it receives as a social landlord, as well as the unseen Welsh Government report, it will be reviewing the Council’s current arrangements with the Association.

Hopefully it won’t be a decision to take over Cantref and thereby have one basket case absorbed by another.

Incidentally, the interim director brought in to run Cantref for the time being is the current CEO of Carmarthen-based Bro Myrddin Housing Association, who is also the sister of Exec Board Member Hazel Evans (Plaid). Although Cllr H Evans declares an interest, fortunately her portfolio is not housing. The housing portfolio is held by Exec Board Cllr Linda Evans, who happens to be Cllr Dole’s sister-in-law. It’s a small world here in Carmarthenshire.

As the end of another municipal year draws to a close, the meeting will also see the quaint Carmarthenshire tradition of ‘nominating the Chair of Council’. This doesn’t involve anything democratic, and doesn’t even require any ability. The only criteria for the reward is years of loyalty to the regime.

Labour, Plaid and Pam’s Independent Party take it in turns each year to be Chair, (£21,500 plus expenses), so the current Labour Vice Chair will replace Plaid’s Peter Hughes Griffiths as Chair, and the new Vice Chair will be selected from the Independent ranks, if any are awake. You can look forward to the full blown ceremony at next month’s AGM.

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Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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