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Madge pleads for Carmarthenshire’s future

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'Status quo not viable': Leighton Andrews

‘Status quo not viable’: Leighton Andrews

AS UNCERTAINTY grows about whether Carmarthenshire will survive as a unitary authority, Council Leader Kevin Madge has turned to Carmarthenshire’s electors to help preserve the status quo at County Hall.

With three months to go in the Welsh Government’s consultation on the future of local government in Wales, the Garnant representative has appealed to the public to make their feelings known about the benefits of retaining the council.

The possibility that Carmarthen could be subsumed into a larger authority or split between new local authority structures has begun to hit home as the authority bobs from controversy to controversy.

Citing the authority’s so-called ‘ten-year plan for housing’ in the county as a likely victim of any local government carve up, Cllr Madge claimed that Carmarthenshire was far ahead of other authorities. As this newspaper reveals elsewhere, however, the council has delivered precious little other than words to tackle a shortage of both social housing and affordable housing in the county.

Whether Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews will consider that the authority’s scandal-wracked recent past commends its preservation is, however, likely to prove decisive.

Carmarthenshire is among the council’s named by the Public Services Minister as being ‘officer-led’, as opposed to being member-led. There is little sign that the secretive and authoritarian council has done much in recent months to change the Minister’s view.

When the council came to debate the Welsh Government’s White Paper in March, there were predictable shrieks of horror from councillors fearful of losing their place on the gravy train, or, if one took a more charitable point of view, who wished to continue to serve their electors in the manner to which they had become accustomed.

However, speaking in 2014, Cllr Madge was bullish about the prospects of reorganisation affecting Carmarthenshire.

Referring to the previous Dyfed authority, he asked: “Why go back to what didn’t work? People thought that Dyfed was too far away, too remote from them and their communities. The Welsh Government has not got agreement from local government leaders on this at all and there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge first.”

He continued to point out that the political future was uncertain: “We have a general election in 2015, Assembly elections in 2016 and a round of local government elections in 2017. Elections are unpredictable things and I would say that the reorganization the Welsh Government want is not a done deal.”

He continued to attack the idea that reorganisation would bring savings: “Let’s look at the suggestion that costs will be cut and savings made. Well, I suppose there might be savings at top levels, but people still need their councils to deliver important daily services. I am concerned that service jobs, which are already under pressure, will be cut and councils will no longer be able to deliver vital services to its communities.

“The cost of reorganization will be £300m to £400m. How will that be funded? That’s the question. I do not think that the people will accept that money being taken out of the budget to deliver services to them.”

He concluded: “I was a councillor in 1996 when the last reorganization took place. Any new structure will take five to eight years to ‘bed in’ and it could take eight to ten years for a new authority to fully get to grips with things. Things won’t improve overnight. Reorganization is not a magic wand.”

What adds particular piquancy to the dispute is that both Mr Madge and the Public Services Minister are in the same party.

Speaking to The Herald in February, Leighton Andrews told us: “We have a lot to say about the political leadership in the White Paper; including the way in which we think leaders should present a manifesto so that they can be held to the promises they make.”

Mr Andrews did not underestimate the size of the task he faces or the magnitude of the test ahead: “I would say on balance that most Council leaders would prefer the status quo. But I do not think that is a viable option.”

The Minister concluded: “I don’t think it will be an easy sell. There will be widespread public debate on the issue and the discussions that are ongoing will not be finished by the time of the next Assembly elections in 2016. There will need to be a consensus to move forward in the Assembly and that will require at least one other party to come on board with the Welsh Government, in my view.”

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Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities

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WALES & West Utilities will shortly begin work to upgrade gas pipes in Llandeilo.

Wales & West Utilities has liaised with Carmarthenshire County Council to plan the work and it has been agreed that work will commence after the town has celebrated the Festival of Senses.

The £123,000 investment scheme, which is essential to keep the gas flowing safely to heat and power local homes and businesses, will begin in New Road on 21 November. This section of work will be complete before Christmas and Wales & West Utilities will return to the town next year to undertake further work in the Crescent Road area. Barring any engineering difficulties, work in the town will be complete by the end of February next year.

Wales & West Utilities Adam Smith is managing this gas pipe upgrade work. He said: “Working with the Council, we have planned this work to accommodate the needs of the town.

“While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Llandeilo. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“We know that working in areas like this is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“This work is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.”

Our Customer Service Team is ready to take your call if you have any questions about our work. You can contact them on freephone 0800 912 2999.

Alternatively, you can contact us on Twitter @WWUtilities or Facebook.com/WWUtilities.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we’ll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We’ll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.

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Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands

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OFFICERS from Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that they are investigating the theft of items, including a Christmas Nutcracker Ornament valued at £129.99, from the Home Bargains store in Crosshands, Carmarthenshire.

The theft occurred at about 12:40pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2022.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/2006/27/09/2022/02/C

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Witness appeal after car is stolen and burnt out

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is investigating the theft of a car from a property in Lando Road, Burry Port, which was later found burnt out in Pembrey Country Park.

Officers are appealing for witnesses to the theft of the blue Ssangyong Rexton, which took place sometime between 5pm on Friday, 11th November, and 9am on Saturday, 12th November, and would like to speak to anyone who may have information or CCTV or dashcam footage.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation 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-20221112-109

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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