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Seven candidates contest county council seat in Cilycwm

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screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-30-24SEVEN candidates are competing hard to replace the late Tom Theophilus as county councillor for Cilycwm, in north-east Carmarthenshire. 

The hotly contested by-election is on September 22, and the winner will have just seven months in post before campaigning starts all over again for the full council elections on May 4 2017.

The sprawling Cilycwm ward covers almost 50 square miles but has an electorate of only about 1,160 people, of whom between 40% and 50% are Welsh speakers. At the last election in 2012 the turnout was nudging 60%.

The ward has not a single open school, the last two – Llansadwrn and Llanwrda – closing in 2016, illustrating the withdrawal of public services from rural areas.

Plaid quick off the mark – Dafydd Owen Tomos 

Plaid Cymru was quickly out of the blocks, selecting farmer Dafydd Owen Tomos of Penyfedw, Cilycwm, one of the directors of Cilycwm Community Association and former clerk to Cilycwm Community Council.

“I’m standing to be the next councillor for the communities of Cilycwm, Llansadwrn and Llanwrda as I believe I have the experience, the commitment and the passion to advance the needs of the area, and deliver tangible benefits to the residents of north Carmarthenshire,” he said, adding that in the past residents have “too often been ignored”. His priorities include faster broadband speeds and better mobile network coverage.

Conservatives back listening sportsman – Steven Andrew Holmes 

The Welsh Conservatives have Steven Andrew Holmes, a keen runner and secretary of the Sarn Helen Running and Cycling clubs, from Nant y Llyn, Ffarmers. Steven, whose professional background is in hotel management, including at the London Hilton, and also as a health and fitness consultant, grew up in Northern Ireland, which he says has much in common with rural West Wales.

Aiming to be an approachable and effective bridge between local people and County Hall, “with a good listening ear”, Steven’s priorities include better access to healthcare and other public services, and infrastructure improvements such as broadband, mobile network coverage and transport, to aid rural businesses to invest for the future.

Social care critical for Labour – Maria Rose Carroll 

Labour’s candidate is Maria Rose Carroll, whose daughter runs Llanwrda’s shop in the village centre. Maria, who has lived in Llanwrda for 12 years, trained as a nurse and was a council member of the Royal College of Nursing, and also a manager in the NHS responsible for a £300 million acute care budget. “We must engage the community in decision making,” she said. Maria is anxious to protect public services, and in particular to speed up and enhance the home care provided to elderly people so they do not have to languish unnecessarily in hospital, and to improve rural road safety and school transport.

Maria said she is appalled at the financial cuts to local government, and the lack of high-quality local jobs to keep young people in the area. She favours a National investment Bank to support business and entrepreneurship.

Lib Dems choose agriculture specialist – Catherine Nakielny 

The Liberal Democrats are backing agricultural adviser Dr Catherine Nakielny, who lives at Blaennant, Talley. Catherine’s profile on the AgriPlan Cymru consultancy website says she is a technical specialist in sheep production, providing consultations to individual producers and to Innovis Ltd. She gives presentations, has delivered a winter forage cost calculator, and is engaged in estimating the reduction in methane emissions from genetic improvement of the Welsh national flock. Previously she was breeding programme manager at Innovis Ltd, Aberystwyth.

The Herald has not yet received Catherine’s manifesto.

Whistle-blowing blogger represents People First – Jacqui Thompson 

Llanwrda blogger and community councillor Jacqui Thompson, of Cae Brwyn, Hafod Bridge, is standing for People First – Fighting for the Community. Jacqui Thompson is no fan of the leadership style of county council chief executive Mark James. The two have an acrimonious history, the most recent chapter this year when Mr James asked Dyfed-Powys Police to investigate her for harassment and perverting the course of justice. The investigations have been dropped for lack of evidence. Jacqui Thompson’s blog, often critical of the council, has been both a finalist and a winner in the Wales Blog Awards.

“A long-time community campaigner, I am a strong, independent, determined voice, standing up for the best interests of local people. As a county councillor I will be easy to contact and hold surgeries. Most of all, I’ll listen to your concerns, be your champion and not take no for an answer,” is among her messages to voters.

Two independents joined the fray – farmer Thomas Arwel Davies, former chair and current vice-chair of Cilycwm Community Council, of Berrisbrooke Farm, Porthyrhyd, and barrister and Herald columnist Matthew Graham Paul, whose base is Penlan Farm, Siloh, Llandovery. Mr Paul has previously stood for election to Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, representing Welsh Conservatives.

Farming Independent seeks affordable housing for local people – Thomas Arwel Davies 

Policy priorities for Thomas Arwel Davies – always called Arwel — include rural housing, road safety, and the planning system.

“I am particularly interested in understanding local housing needs, with the aim of ensuring that local people can afford to continue to live in their own communities,” said Arwel, who has lived in the ward for all of his 48 years.

He calls rural roads “extremely hazardous” and would like dangerous bends to be improved. As for the planning system, he argues that there is “growing resentment” over planning applications, because of the “very many instances” in which decisions favoured by community councils are overruled “despite the wishes of the local council-tax payers”.

Independent will campaign for local state education – Matthew Graham Paul

Barrister Matthew Graham Paul deplores the closure of local schools, and in 2012 represented the Ysgol Pantycelyn Action Group free of charge in the High Court and the Court of Appeal to try to keep Llandovery’s Pantycelyn comprehensive school open. “Cilycwm residents have unreasonably long journeys to school. I will campaign for secondary education to return to Llandovery, so that we can once again have a local state secondary school,” he says, adding that it is in Cilycwm’s interests for Llandovery as a town to succeed, and to help achieve this, the county council should allow two hours free parking in the car park.

He would work to achieve a county council which responds to local needs. “Carmarthenshire County Council too often overlooks or ignores the north-east of the county,” he says. “Whichever party is nominally in charge of the council, its elected members have completely failed to change the council’s culture.” Matthew feels that his work as a barrister is an asset. “I understand how local government works and how to resolve problems effectively,” he said. “I spend my professional life helping people sort out their difficulties with local authorities, and I have assisted a substantial number of Cilycwm residents for no charge.”

He plans to campaign for micro-generation and the expansion of hydro, solar and small-scale wind power (not large industrial wind turbines). He wants taxpayers’ money spent more effectively, lower council tax, and every effort to avoid wasteful use of resources. Planning decisions should “sustain the viability of farms and rural business, and permit future generations to live and work where they were brought up”. He would work to meet the needs of older Cilycwm residents, in dealing with care home admissions and the services delivered to people in their homes.

“Above all”, he says, “I believe that a councillor should have an open-door policy, and I will respond quickly to constituents’ concerns. I will be an effective, approachable and independent representative for local residents.”

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Shock in Carmarthenshire as it’s named as one of the top locations for most reckless young drivers in UK

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CARMARTHENSHIRE has landed some unwanted publicity after being named as home to some of the most reckless young drivers in the UK.

According to comprehensive analysis by Adrian Flux, the county is one of the areas with the speediest teenagers on the road. On average 87.1% of FluxScore users there will receive a serious warning about their speeding compared to less than one in five in Conwy (17%).

The warnings are triggered by a black box that sits in the driver’s car to monitor their performance in the hope of improving safety and saving them money.

“This gamification style approach has helped sensible drivers save up to 60% for year-long safe driving upon renewal,” said Scott Goodliffe at Adrian Flux, one of the UK’s largest specialist motor insurance brokers.

“Unfortunately, some users are less attentive or cautious and their behaviour is a cause for concern because it leaves them more likely to make a claim or hurt themselves or others.

“It’s disappointing when alerts have to be sent but we’re proud that they are helping to change behaviour behind the wheel. We already know FluxScore is reducing the number of speeders across the board by 70% and hopefully this analysis will help address the small number who negatively impact these already impressive figures slightly.”

There are also considerable concerns about how quickly youngsters are travelling in Rhondda Cynon Taf with the area also being named and shamed in the top 10. It’s a much better picture in Conwy though with youngsters there being rated amongst the most careful drivers in the UK.

Adrian Flux’s self-fitting black box sits on the inside of the windscreen and tracks journeys. It helps reward safe driving by providing daily updates on the FluxScore app to show how the previous 24 hours’ driving has affected a driver’s renewal premium.

FluxScore sends alerts to drivers who it deems as driving dangerously or above the speed limit. The findings focus on Alert 2s, which are considered serious speeding events and take into account other factors such as the type of road. If a driver receives three Alert 2s, this will result in their policy being suspended.

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Local specialist contractors needed for countryside works

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is seeking local specialist countryside contractors for work on Public Rights of Way and conservation sites throughout the county.

Businesses in Carmarthenshire are being encouraged to tender for the countywide framework, which is for two years, starting in September with an option to extend for a further two years.

The work will include the management of nature reserves, mitigation for development and government funded habitat projects on sites with challenging conditions, ecological constraints, wet land and difficult access.

Examples of the work include path maintenance, installation of countryside furniture (stiles and gates), mowing overgrown fields, chainsaw and strimmer work, excavator work, woodland management, fencing and tree planting.

A proven track record and a good understanding of working in the rural and natural environment and knowledge of conservation is essential, as is an understanding of the way that the land changes in challenging weather conditions.

Applicants will need to make available vehicle inspection documents and maintenance records, certificates of operator competency (in relation to plant hire with operatives), health and safety policy and relevant insurance documents.

Any suppliers interested in tendering for this work need to be registered on the National Procurement Portal Sell2Wales website, where they can express their interest and receive further information.

This is a free online service and allows businesses to promote their organisation not only to the council but to other Welsh public sector bodies, and to receive notifications about contract opportunities suitable to their field of work.

The council also encourages businesses to register on the Business Wales Business Directory – a free resource where businesses can advertise their services.

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Police appeal for information after vehicle collides with two pedestrians

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POLICE say they are appealing for witnesses following a road traffic collision which occurred on College Street, Newcastle Emlyn just after 4pm on Monday 20th June.

A black coloured Honda CRV vehicle collided with two people on the pedestrian crossing.

A 70-year-old female sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to hospital.

A 50-year-old female was taken to hospital by ambulance with what are described as minor injuries

The 64 year old female driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has information that could help officers with their investigation, or anyone who was driving in the area at the time and has dashcam footage, is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20220620-283.”

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