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Guildhall discussed in public meeting

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Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 13.45.14THE FUTURE of Carmarthen’s historic Guildhall was among the topics discussed at a public meeting held in the town’s football club on Wednesday evening (Apr 20).

Hosted by Carmarthen Civic Society, the purpose of the meeting was, as one of the organisers put it: “to safeguard the heritage, culture and future of Carmarthen for future generations.”

Almost a hundred people, both individuals and representatives of Carmarthen-based organisations, listened to a brief history of the Civic Society and an update on the progress made by the Town Regeneration Forum, before the evening was thrown open to suggestions from the audience for ways in which different groups could improve what Carmarthen has to offer.

A brief report from a representative of the Civic Society focussed on the progress made since its beginnings in the sixties as a lobby group against the demolition of historic buildings in the town.

While she highlighted the importance of working with the existing fabric of the town – citing Yr Atom as a good example – she stressed that ‘we must not be afraid of change’. This included developments like St Catherine’s Walk and the eagerly-awaited arrival of S4C.

MARKETING AND TOURISM

The aims of the Town Regeneration Forum, which revolve around marketing and tourism; the built environment of Carmarthen, movement and infrastructure within the town, and the commercial aspect, were also discussed, as was the Carmarthen Town Centre Masterplan, which was adopted by Carmarthenshire County Council in 2014.

It was also emphasised that, compared to other similar Welsh towns, Carmarthen was in a strong position, with footfall in King Street measured at over 1.1 million over nine months and a ranking of fourth in a table of Welsh town centres.

However, one of the main purposes of the meeting was to discuss ways in which residents and third-sector organisations could assist the Local Authority – which along with the Town Council was praised for its work in Carmarthen – to meet the aims of the Masterplan, given the current Austerity agenda imposed from elsewhere.

Along with parking issues, the Guildhall was one of the major topics of discussion. In response to a question from the audience relating to its future, a member of the Civic Society referred to an email he had received from the County Council’s Chief Executive, informing him that HM Courts and Tribunal Service had confirmed that the court would be closed in June, and the building would be offered to the public sector before it would be put to public auction.

Cllr Alun Lenny said that the Town Council had already written to the Ministry of Justice to express an interest in the future of the building, and added that the support of the Civic Society would be invaluable come June. He also pointed out that County Council leader Emlyn Dole was ‘on the case’.

SHOULD BE OWNED BY TOWN

It was suggested that a trust be established, to ensure that the building would be owned by the town, and that it would have a sustainable future. Given the Guildhall’s listed interior, encompassing the former Crown Court, one of the main uses suggested was as a museum concentrating on the history of justice in the town.

Parking in ‘pedestrianised’ areas was also a major problem for some, with the Nott Square and Guildhall Square area being cited as a particular example of this. One audience member, who was a Town Council member when the original pedestrianisation plan was passed, said that parking in Nott Square will ‘still go on until council officers monitor traffic wardens.’

It was pointed out that the Masterplan was considering the option of full pedestrianisation for King Street and Nott Square. However, as someone pointed out, the only legitimate exit for traffic from Quay Street is through Nott Square. Full daytime pedestrianisation, with barriers being installed, was considered as an option.

A discussion on the struggle for large religious buildings with ‘dwindling congregations’ led an audience member to enquire about whether churchgoers were ‘still being persecuted by Traffic Wardens’.

A representative of St Peter’s Church said that services had been ‘rejigged’ to avoid people getting parking tickets when the charges began at midday.

In response, CCC Chairman Peter Hughes Griffiths pointed out that the Sunday parking charges had been introduced under the previous administration three years ago, and that the current administration had set a task-and-finish group to reviewing car parking charges across the county. “It is a total mess throughout the county,” he added, remarking that rates, and even the days on which parking was charged, varied widely from town to town.

TOWN NEEDS A BRUSH UP

Bins and general cleanliness of streets were also issues, with one resident criticising Quay Street residents who put out bin bags containing the wrong waste on the wrong days.

She suggested that those found guilty should be fined heavily, and Cllr Lenny pointed out that Environmental Enforcement teams already made efforts to trace flytippers and fine them.

A young Civic Society member stated that around the Jacksons Lane area there were a lot of ‘unsightly’ wheelie bins, and she had started a project to design decorative ‘skirts’ to fit the bins, making them less of an eyesore.

On this note, members of the Town Council said that they were researching the possibility of creating a fenced-off bin store in the area to cut down on the number of visible bins.

Also criticised was the current location of the Tourist Information Centre, especially given that one audience member said that one of the most commonly-asked questions at the old Lammas Street centre was where the castle was located!

However, Cllr Hughes Griffiths said that studies showed ‘nobody walks into tourist offices any more.

“They are closing down everywhere,” he added.

Audience members were encouraged to join the Civic Society, if they had not already done so, and another meeting will be held in the near future.

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Health

Council end contract with Plas Y Bryn Care Home

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FOLLOWING significant concerns with its financial position and an inability to pay their staff and creditors, Carmarthenshire County Council has had to give notice on its contract to provide care with Plas Y Bryn Care Home, Cwmgwili. 

The residents at Plas Y Bryn are being supported by the council to find new homes by a dedicated team of social workers and managers.

Whilst this has come as a great disappointment to the Council, we have been providing significant financial support to ensure that the care company can meet its financial obligations and that care is not impacted. This has included bringing regular payments in advance to enable the company to pay staff salaries.

As a result, the council has had to take the difficult decision to give notice to the care company. The decision has not been taken lightly and we share the deep concerns that the people living and working in the care home will have.

There have been continued attempts to work with the operators to understand their financial position. A variety of alternative options have been considered but, unfortunately, due to the legal and financial circumstances that surround the care company, there are no viable solutions that can be found at this time.

We would like to recognise and thank the staff within Plas Y Bryn Care Home for their commitment to delivering high-quality care and highlight that the quality of care has at no point been a contributing factor to this difficult decision.

Cllr. Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services, Carmarthenshire County Council, said:

“The welfare of the residents at Plas Y Bryn is of the utmost importance and we have acted quickly to support the care home to continue to provide excellent care of its residents.

“We are supporting residents along with their families and next of kin, during what is a very difficult and distressing situation, to find suitable and adequate accommodation for them to find new homes.

“On behalf of the council, I would like to express my gratitude to the staff at Plas Y Bryn for their invaluable work at the care home. We are also supporting them during this hard period as they continue to provide care to the residents.”

Ahead of the contract coming to an end, the council will be working with people and their families over the coming weeks to find new homes where they can receive the care and support that they require. Wherever possible, we will do our best to ensure that people are supported to move to locations of choice. Residents are also being provided with access to advocacy services to support them through this difficult time.

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Carmarthenshire County Council cracks down on fly-tippers

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council handed out a total of £4,350 in fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) related to fly-tipping last month.

17 FPN’s were issued as a result of CCTV footage at Carway recycling facility, resulting in a total of £2,675 in fines being given.

This includes:

  • £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway male for depositing black refuse bags, blue recycling bags and paint pots at the site on several different occasions
  •  £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway resident for depositing blue recycling bags and other items

Fixed penalty notices issued at other locations in the county include:

  • £125 FPN issued to a female for depositing a black refuse bag at Red Roses recycling facility.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Gorseinon resident who failed in his duty of care when he had his household waste removed by a person not registered as a waste carrier.
  • £400 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident for fly tipping after CCTV footage provided by a member of the public led to his identification.  The male was seen driving along the rear lane between James Street and Swansea Road in Llanelli where he was seen throwing a blue recycling bag from his moving vehicle into the lane.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident who failed in their duty of care after their waste was found in an overgrown verge/hedgerow in the rear lane of their street.  The resident claimed to have paid a male to dispose of their waste but failed to provide their details.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli business for failing to produce waste transfer notes after waste produced by the business was found illegally deposited in Swiss Valley, Llanelli. The business was issued a notice requiring them to produce waste transfer notes within 7 days which they failed to do. The business was also issued a legal notice to ensure any waste from the business is disposed of correctly in the future.  

Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability said: “The introduction of CCTV at Carway recycling facility has enabled us to clamp down on the unlawful dumping of waste at this site. I hope this serves as a reminder that all waste deposited at our recycling facilities must be placed in the correct container, with all bags and boxed removed from the site.”

“The Council’s CCTV strategy will be extended to other recycling facilities in the county in the coming months to help combat instances of fly tipping in these areas.”

“I would urge anyone who needs to dispose of waste to do so responsibly. We have recycling centres at Nantycaws (Carmarthen), Trostre (Llanelli), Wernddu (Ammanford) and Whitland as well as a bulky waste collection service and weekly household waste collections. When paying for rubbish to be disposed of, please use a licensed business and ensure that you are given a valid waste transfer note when waste is collected.”

For more information on disposing of waste please visit Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/recycling

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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