AS PLAID CYMRU councillors stepped up their criticism on the conduct of the County Council’s budget debate, the ruling Labour and Independent has responded by attacking the Plaid proposals. Last week, Plaid released a press statement following the budget which, amongst other things, slated the Labour/Independent administration and pointed out: “All the cuts and charges could have been avoided this year had they accepted a Plaid Cymru opposition group proposal to take £6.2m (under 10%) from the Earmarked Reserves of £73.5m.”
The statement went on to claim: “Our people have suffered cuts and extra charges to no avail. What was truly depressing was seeing the council’s Chief Executive and Head of Resources intervening in the debate. This council is obviously officer-led, as the Executive Board is too weak to run the council.” Watching the meeting on playback, a key role in the budget debate was played by controversial Chief Executive, Mark James. Intervening in the political repartee, and siding with the administration after stating that the Council’s Head of Finance could not comment on the opposition’s proposals, Mr James proceeded to comment on them and roundly reject them.
Mr James, whose ‘peculiar’ pension arrangements were the subject of a humiliating climb down by the Council last year and who lately had his request for a £400k plus severance package booted into the long grass, appeared intent on ensuring that the budget proposals before the Council were accepted as written with neither amendment nor redaction. The Labour/Independent grouping made sure that Mr James’ bidding was followed. In their joint statement, both Cllr Kevin Madge and deputy leader Cllr Pam Palmer heavily criticised Plaid’s approach. Leader Cllr Kevin Madge said: “All in all, whilst we welcome sensible debate, and would certainly have welcomed Plaid Cymru’s input during the extensive consultation process, what they finally came up was not only too little, too late, it was not workable, not plausible and certainly not in the best interests of Carmarthenshire.”
Cllr Palmer added: “I repeatedly asked for input from the opposition group for the budget and would happily have given them credit for any workable suggestions, since these are challenging times and we need to work together. Despite this, and lengthy consultation, no proposals were put forward until [shortly before the budget debate], which left no time for consideration.” In the course of the debate, Cllr Dai Jenkins, of Plaid Cymru, pointed out that while frontline departments had suffered cuts to their wage budgets, the Council’s press office had received almost a 13% increase in its own. Councillor Madge concluded his observations on the tough choices made by the Council by saying: “We believe we have done the best we can with what has been the most difficult budget settlement in the history of this council.”
Driver jailed for head-on crash that caused life-changing injuries
A DRIVER who caused a head-on collision with a car being driven by a pregnant woman told police officers at the scene he had drunk 13 cans of strong lager the night before.
Rhodri Rees, aged 36, of Llandysul, admitted his drinking had gone into the early hours before he got behind the wheel and caused the crash on the A476 in Llannon, near Llanelli, by overtaking another car on a bend at around 7.40am on December 11, 2020.
The severe impact meant both drivers were trapped in their cars and had to be cut free by firefighters.
Thankfully the baby was unharmed in the collision, however, its mother suffered serious, life-changing injuries. She had a number of operations to repair the damage and was unable to walk for a year and still suffers the effects of the accident today.
Dyfed-Powys Police Sgt Nicholas Brookes said “When Rees was spoken to by our officers at the scene he told them he had drunk 13 cans of Stella Artois and that he had gone to bed after midnight.
“He failed a breath test at the scene and was arrested on suspicion of drink driving before being allowed to go to hospital for treatment.”
The following day he was interviewed at Carmarthen Police Station where he told officers he had consumed eight or nine cans of Foster’s before going to bed around 2am, before getting up at around 6.45am and setting off.
A sample of blood was taken just before 1pm on December 11 showed Rees had 39mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – the legal limit being 80. A blood alcohol expert had calculated that at the time of the collision the level of alcohol would have been no less than 113mg and more likely 129mg.
PS Brookes added: “This was a serious case that could have been so much worse.
“Rees admitted drinking a considerable amount of alcohol and getting little sleep before getting behind the wheel. He was lucky no-one was killed.
“I would like to commend the officer in the case, PC Benjamin Stevenson, who conducted a thorough and meticulous investigation for the offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.”
On Tuesday, 17th May, Rees appeared before Swansea Crown Court, having pleaded guilty at a previous hearing, and was sentenced to 18-months in prison.
He was also disqualified from driving for three years and 9 months, with a requirement for an extended test to regain his licence.
No monkeypox cases identified in Wales say public health officials
THE UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected 11 additional cases of monkeypox in England.
The latest cases bring the total number of monkeypox cases confirmed since May 6 to 20.
The new cases come on top of the nine already identified in the country.
There are currently no cases of monkeypox identified in Wales, public health in Wales have said.
Public Health Wales said it is working with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Public Health Scotland, and Northern Ireland HSC Health Protection Agency to respond to UK cases of monkeypox.
Richard Firth, Consultant in Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said: “We are working closely with our UK partners to monitor and respond to cases of monkeypox in the UK. Monkeypox is a rare disease that has been reported mainly in central and West African countries. No cases have so far been identified in Wales.”
“Monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low. It is usually a mild self-limiting illness, and most people recover within a few weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals.”
The first case in the current outbreak was confirmed on May 6.
It is not the first time monkeypox has been reported in the UK.
Three cases were also reported in 2021, two of them in Wales.
New city of Wrexham gets big thumbs up from business leaders
BUSINESS leaders have given a big thumbs up to news that Wrexham has been granted city status following a competition to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Wrexham Business Professionals have campaigned for more than a decade to help secure city status and say they are “cock-a-hoop” that the bid was successful, having previously failed last time around in 2012.
According to the group, made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professionals working together to promote regional prosperity and the enterprise and expertise in the region, becoming a city is a “fantastic once-in-a-generation” opportunity.
Wrexham joins seven other winners from across Britain and the overseas territories – including Bangor in Northern Ireland, Stanley in the Falklands, and Colchester in England.
The competition for city status has taken place in each of the last three jubilee years, with previous winners including Newport, which became a city in 2002.
Ian Edwards, a senior member of Wrexham Business Professionals and a director of Allington Hughes, said: “We have supported the idea of Wrexham becoming a city for many years. As far as we are concerned, this is a no-brainer and is one of the best things to have happened to Wrexham for a long time
“Even before the pandemic and the consequences of the pandemic we’ve always thought that being a city would give Wrexham a lot of kudos and would provide a massive economic benefit for the whole of North Wales.
“During the pandemic some business in Wrexham have done well but others – notably in leisure, tourism and hospitality – have really suffered and we really have to get back on our feet economically.
“It’s not just about putting Wrexham on the map – being a city will provide an effective lever in attracting inward investment and new jobs which will help the whole area thrive and prosper.
“The benefits of city status transform the fortunes of the town and provide a better future for the people who live here.
“It feels like the stars have now aligned perfectly and that the time is now right to do our best to seize this opportunity.
“The fact that Wrexham AFC has been bought by Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney helped add bit of magic and stardust to the bid.
“A lot of people across the world hadn’t heard of Wrexham before and now other Hollywood stars are embracing the story and putting on the club’s shirt.
“We’ve never had such a high profile – not just nationally but internationally.
“You really couldn’t script it better. There’s never going to be a better time to become Wales’s seventh city.”
It was a sentiment echoed by the group’s chair, chartered accountant Gill Kreft, co-owner of the Pendine Park care organisation.
She said: “City status will give Wrexham a huge fillip and provide the recognition it deserves as the commercial capital of North Wales.
“City status will undoubtedly help attract more inward investment and funding into the town and the surrounding area.
“It will also give us an enhanced reputation and status as well and raise awareness of what a great place this is and what a lot it has to offer. Wrexham has a lot going for it.
“It will be a massive boost for us and for North Wales and give the town more confidence about itself.
“Hopefully, we can now go for a hat-trick with Wrexham AFC finally winning promotion and being crowned as City of Culture 2025. Fingers crossed!”
Gill Kreft, chair of Wrexham Business Professionals
Ian Edwards., leading member of Wrexham Business Professionals
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