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Llangennech protestor suspended from Labour party

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ONE of the leading members of a group which is campaigning to keep a Carmarthenshire primary school dual stream has been suspended from the Labour party.

This follows a protest organised at the school last week (Feb 9) which was attended by UKIP AM Neil Hamilton. Leaked social media posts subsequently emerged that showed Michaela Beddows, a Labour Party member who told local media that she was standing for the party as a community councillor, had briefed Mr Hamilton, and invited him to attend the demonstration.

It was also alleged that she had shared social media posts from the English Defence League.

In an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn, published in this week’s Herald, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards called for an investigation into Labour involvement in the protests against their party’s own education policy.

“Regrettably, the Labour party in Llanelli has run a nasty, divisive campaign against the plans of the local Plaid Cymru-led Council to implement a policy initiated by the then Labour-run Council administration and approved by the Labour Welsh Government.  I am informed by local residents that parents who support the plans have been intimidated by local activists,” the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP wrote.

“Most surprising to you might be the fact that one Labour County Councillor referred to bilingual education as “apartheid” during a debate in the local Council.   These actions are undoubtedly influenced by political considerations as we approach this year’s local authority elections.  Both County Council seats in Llangennech are held by Plaid Cymru.

“I know it will be an issue of grave concern to you that the Labour party in Llanelli is actively coordinating efforts with UKIP in Llangennech community.  UKIP Assembly Member Neil Hamilton recently campaigned with Labour in Llangennech – a visit we now know was coordinated in liaison with the official Labour party candidate for Llangennech ward.  Labour party members pictured on social media wearing Labour party rosettes are too seen in the picture with UKIP’s Neil Hamilton. Furthermore, recent comments to local media from a Labour supporter in Llangennech suggest your party will contest the Llangennech Community Council elections in a joint campaign with UKIP.”

After the publication of this letter, a Welsh Labour Party spokesperson told the press that: “The Labour Party is aware of complaints about Michaela Beddows. Ms Beddows has been administratively suspended from the Labour Party while an investigation takes place.”

Responding to news of the suspension, Mr Edwards said: “Since publishing my letter to Jeremy Corbyn I have been contacted by parents and teachers who believe they have been the victims of systematic intimidation by Labour party activists.  This is completely unacceptable and must stop now.

“Jeremy Corbyn has responded to the worrying collusion between his party and UKIP within a matter of hours, whilst the First Minister, Labour officials in Wales and elected members in Llanelli have done nothing for weeks.

“A suspension and investigation is a welcome course of action but the scope of it must be expanded to suspend all members and candidates that we have shown to be involved in actively campaigning with UKIP or have permitted such cooperation.

“The toxic actions of the Labour party in Llangennech are not the result of just one individual.”

Mr Edwards also noted that when the proposals for Llangennech School were brought before council only three Labour Councillors – Ryan Bartlett, Calum Higgins and Ryan Thomas – voted in favour of the motion, and questioned some of the rhetoric used by councillors: “As this investigation gets underway, I would expect all those who have perpetuated the divisive rhetoric of the far right; those who are found to have used intimidation; and those who brand this Welsh Government policy as ‘apartheid’ to be barred from standing for public office in the name of the Labour Party,” he asserted.

“Furthermore, with only three Labour councillors voting to support its own policy on Welsh medium education, Labour head office should ask itself whether those who disregard party policy should be allowed to represent the party at all.”

The Carmarthenshire Labour Party has been approached for comment.

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Farming

Carmarthenshire producer celebrating Porc from Wales Week

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PORC from Wales Week (24 – 30 January) is an annual celebration of artisan producers and retailers that specialise in breeding and supplying high quality porc and porc products, from traditional Welsh sausages to Italian style charcuterie.

With a ‘How far is your fork from our porc’ theme this year, leading figures from Welsh food such as broadcasters Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn of Hang Fire Southern Kitchen fame, and a host of food bloggers from Wales, will be showcasing the very best of locally sourced porc and where consumers can buy it from.

Experts in their field

Wales is home to small-scale and artisan porc producers specialising in creating a unique, hand-reared product; a consequence of this is that it is often only available to buy directly from the producer or local independent shops, like butchers.

How food is produced and the impact it has on the environment have increasingly become important factors for consumers in recent years. For generations, Welsh farmers have played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining the rural landscapes that we know and love, both physically and culturally.

The industry is currently a growing one in Wales with an increasing number of producers starting a new business and research has shown that 2021 sales of pork products UK-wide (fresh and frozen, cuts and processed) were 15% higher than in 2019.

Sue and Stephen Dudley of Black Orchard Large Blacks, who are based in Meinciau, near Kidwelly, said: “Our delightful rare breed pigs are sustainable, local and very Welsh.  We believe that by eating our delicious rare breed porc, not only do you preserve this wonderful, Large Black breed, but because they only eat local soya-free food, you are helping to look after the environment as well.

“The welfare of our pigs is our main priority, and we believe that it really does make a difference to our customers. We feed our Large Blacks on a diet of wildflower meadow forage and local barley, and we don’t import feed or use soya. We think that this natural diet, coupled with the pigs growing slowly and living a free-range life, it really does contribute to the delicious taste of the meat.

“We are beginning to notice that due to the pandemic, consumers’ buying habits have shifted too, which has helped support our local producers, the local community, the local economy and the environment. It promises a bright future for our enterprise, our local community and our industry as a whole.”

When Hang Fire met Scott Quinnell

To celebrate Porc from Wales Week, Sam and Shauna will be showing rugby legend Scott Quinnell how to cook porc ‘tomahawks’ with West Indian salsa verde, sweet potato steaks and jerk porc bonbons. 

Sam Evans of the Hang Fire duo said: “We’re delighted to be part of this year’s Porc from Wales Week. We’re all about cooking fresh, local, quality ingredients, with excellent sustainability credentials, so really, porc ticks all our boxes!

“We’ve created this amazing dish of porc tomahawks with a West Indian salsa verde and Scott Quinnell is going to help us make the dish in an exclusive masterclass. We’ll show you (and Scott!) how easy it is to prepare and cook porc and introduce you to some exciting flavours.

“What makes porc so special is that it’s so easy to cook with. We love cooking porc on the BBQ, but we’re excited to show you (and Scott) how you get the best from this fantastic produce in your own kitchen. You can get some cracking results from porc, and people shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with flavours. And it’s not just about bangers on the barbie; porc is great for roasting, frying, stir-frying and slow cooking. So, why not pop to your local butcher’s shop or your local pork producer and ask your butcher for some delicious porc. You won’t be disappointed!”

You can find Hang Fire’s recipe and more information on Porc from Wales Week at www.porcweek.wales

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Winter Gritter’s action suspended as council concede to workers demands

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THREE nights of industrial action and nine picket lines later Plaid led Carmarthenshire County Council were forced to ask for talks and during those talks held earlier this week conceded to the main demands of UNISON, GMB, and Unite members. The harsh reality for the council was that they could not maintain a winter gritting service let alone a safe one without our members.

The council has now agreed to pay Winter Gritters £25 per shift (an increase of £8.00) if they are retained for winter gritting on a weekday.

On the weekend when a shift is longer the employer will pay £40 per shift. On top of this workers will get the agreed overtime rate. It will not be lost on those involved that three nights of action achieved far more than two years of negotiations.

We will now sit down with senior management to get the above clearly put in an agreement. Of course, if this Plaid council had adhered to the agreement in the first place, then we would not have been forced to take the action that we did. What has been agreed will of course have to be taken back to members for them to vote on and we will be a close eye on the council that they do not start backtracking.

We have forced the council to back down because all three unions have worked together and have taken action together. We gave our members a partnership they want and need, a partnership of the unions taken coordinated action together to get an intransigent employer to back down.

This dispute sends a clear message to the Plaid leadership of the council that they cannot continue to bury their heads in the sand hoping the unions and our members will go away and meekly accept how they are being treated.

We asked for the cabinet member for Environmental Services Councillor (Cllr) Hazel Evans to attend the above talks rather than just making comments in the press supporting the council’s stance.

Cllr Evans declined to meet with the unions directly apparently because it was an operational matter but that didn’t prevent Cllr Evans from supporting the council’s stance in the press. Rather than echoing what she is told by management in the press, we would suggest Cllr Evans and her Cabinet colleagues meet with the unions directly if they want to avoid further conflict rather than hearing what we have to say through the filter of senior management.

While it was the action of members that forced the council to concede to our main demands in the main – was also the good turnout on the picket lines was also a crucial factor.

We would like to thank other members, Swansea Trades Council (to whom our branch is affiliated), Rob James Labour opposition group leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, and Socialist students and Socialist party members for showing solidarity and support by attending our picket lines. Also, a key factor in keeping morale high was the support we received from UNISON and other union branches in Wales and the rest of the UK who sent us messages of solidarity and support.

When we have the above in the agreement, we will take what is on offer to our members for them to vote to accept or reject the council’s offer.

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Removing Plan B rules ‘a headline to distract from Boris failings’ says Drakeford

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FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford has said the decision to end “Plan B” restrictions in England next week is not part of a “careful, long-term plan” but it’s a “headline to distract people’s attention from the Prime Minister’s failings.”

Wales will complete the move to alert level zero on 28 January First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed unless the public health situation changes for the worse.

He said the phased plan to gradually relax the alert level two measures and move back to alert level zero will continue.

The Welsh Conservatives have called for the immediate removal of the vaccine passport scheme, restrictions on businesses such as the rule of six in pubs,  ditch all social distancing and the removal of mandatory face masks in schools.

Critics have questioned the Welsh Government policy to ease restrictions at a slower pace than England.

Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that England’s Plan B measures are to end from next Thursday, with mandatory face coverings in public places and Covid passports both dropped.

But that announcement came as the Prime Minister faced mounting pressure to resign amid allegations of parties held at Number 10 during lockdown.

Mark Drakeford said the move in England to ditch those restrictions was not part of a carefully thought-out plan, speaking to BBC Radio Wales he said:

“I don’t think anybody watching objectively at what has happened in England could imagine that their decisions have been made by careful attention to public health advice and with some sort of long-term plan in place.”

“Their announcements this week are entirely due to the astonishing mess that they find themselves in and an effort to find some other headline to distract people’s attention from the Prime Minister’s failings.”

Mr Drakeford said: “Here in Wales we’re in a very different position, we’ve got a government that is capable of making decisions in line with the advice, to do things in the way we’ve done throughout the pandemic, step by step following the science, making sure that we are keeping people in Wales safe.”

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Mark Drakeford said it was “very hard to see how the Prime Minister survives.”

“Even if he were to survive, he will just limp on because he’s never going to escape the damage that this week has done to his reputation.”

“From my point of view, the thing that worries me the most is the fact that the UK Government is frozen by the impact of what has happened to them.” He said.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN WALES?

Welsh Government have said the latest public health data “suggests Wales has passed the peak of the omicron wave and coronavirus cases are falling back to levels similar to those seen earlier in the autumn” adding “There have also been reductions in the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital”.

From Friday 21st January, Wales will move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities.

This means:

  • Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events.
  • There will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities and events.
  • Outdoor hospitality will be able to operate without the additional measures required introduced in December, such as the rule of six and 2m social distancing
  • The Covid Pass will continue to be required for entry to larger outdoor events attended by more than 4,000 people, if unseated, or 10,000 people when seated.
  • The Covid Pass is required in all cinemas, theatres and concert halls which are currently open.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The latest figures show we have passed the omicron peak and we can continue to lift the alert level two protections as part of our careful and phased plan.

“We will lift the limits on the number of people who can gather for outdoor events. We remain cautiously confident the public health situation is heading in the right direction and next week we will be able to complete the move to alert level zero unless the situation changes for the worse.

“We are in this position thanks to the efforts of everyone in Wales and our fantastic vaccination programme. It is important that everyone continues to follow the rules and the guidance to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe, including taking up the offer of a booster vaccine if they haven’t already done so.”

On Friday 28th January, Wales will complete the move to alert level zero.

This means:

  • Nightclubs will re-open.
  • Businesses, employers, and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
  • The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
  • The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas, and theatres.
  • Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details.
  • Working from home will remain part of advice from the Welsh Government but it will no longer be a legal requirement.
  • The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, and concert halls.

The self-isolation rules for everyone who tests positive for Covid and the face-covering rules, which apply in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28th January. The next three-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10th February, when the Welsh Government will review all the measures at alert level zero.

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