THE HERALD attended an explosive public meeting of the Parc Howard Association on Saturday (June 6).
Prior to the meeting, this newspaper asked members of the public for their views. Jean Prior, who was visiting the park with her family and said: “The park was gifted to the children of Llanelli. It is a disgrace that there are plans to sell it off. It belongs to the people and the people should have the say in what happens to it.”
Liz Lewis of Felinfoel Road was attending the park with her grandchildren. She said: “I have been coming here for years with my children and now my grandchildren. I had a flyer through the door to invite me to an open meeting, but I had no idea what the agenda was, which was the privatisation of this park, which is an outrage. It is ours – they cannot sell it off. The people of Llanelli should decide what happens to this park.”
Before the meeting commenced, The Herald was approached by Tony Rees, who is an associate of the company Loca Venture Ltd.
Mr Rees asked: “Who gave you the information in your article on Friday (June 5)?”
When told that that information is confidential, he said: “It was Bill Thomas, he’s the one who gave you that, I’ve got evidence. He’s in trouble too, pass it on to him.
“I’m ex News of the World, that is libellous. It’s a disgraceful article. The damage is done, there are people ready to put money into this venture, and you may just have destroyed that – that’s how irresponsible you are.
“I don’t know who your editor is, but there’s going to be trouble over this. Our lawyers will be contacting him. Trust me, he’s on his a**e over it. You warn him.”
The meeting commenced at 2.15 pm. Chairman, Ken Rees struggled to control the meeting from the start, and there did not appear to be a clear agenda for discussion.
Numerous members of the public filled the room, seated in front of the lone figure of Mr Rees sitting behind an enormous table. Some stood in the doorway and out in the foyer, such was the interest and concern over the proposals for the park.
First to question Ken Rees was Cllr Jan Williams, who requested that he confirmed the amount of reserves Carmarthenshire County Council held. Councillor Bill Thomas told the meeting that the reserves covered all the schemes in place or ready to be implemented, and it was misleading to say the council had £120 million in reserve.
A member of the public asked why there was a delay from the County Council in answering questions when ‘we are paying them’. Cllr Jan Williams said that the Town Council were waiting for answers from the County Council before they could consider any proposals.
Cllr Bill Thomas said: “We have had meetings with the County Council to begin the process of looking at Parc Howard and other parks. We can’t charge for concurrent services.
“If we were to take on the whole of the parks for Llanelli and be equal to everybody, the cost would be around £400,000. Our precept is £800,000.
“Parc Howard costs £200,000 a year to run and the County Council are still paying for the running of Parc Howard.
“The original gift was to the children of the town. The trustees were the council. This is an asset. Last week, the Town Council were placed in an invidious position where a company were requesting a 250-year lease. We have no intention of giving it away. The chairman has been in meetings with a company who intend getting this asset.
“Ken Rees brought the people there to speak to our clerk. It is clear that the intention was for them to take a 250-year lease. If they get into difficulty the asset is lost. We have secret meetings going on with a company according to the figures I have seen who have minus £40,000 assets.
“The council must have an opportunity to look at this the same way they looked at Llanelli House.”
Ken Rees said: “My attendance was as chairman of the association. Two meetings were held in public places. I have not been in any dealings whatsoever. I was there as the chairman of this association.”
When Cllr Jan Williams asked: “Did you invite all the members of the association to this meeting?” Ken Rees said: “Had I invited the county councillors I would have involved them in declaring an interest. This company have offered the looking after of the park. The park would remain in the hands of the County Council. What they (Loca Venture Ltd) were looking at was tenure of the mansion house.”
Councillor Thomas said: “You (Ken Rees) arranged that meeting and contacted our clerk.”
Katrina, an association member told Ken Rees: “I have challenged you about your association with this company in an ordinary committee meeting and I advised you then that you are in danger of bringing this association into disrepute.
“You are in danger of sullying the objectivity. When you met with them and members of the Town Council, you did so under your initiative. I as a member of the committee, knew nothing about it.
“You were not representing the committee or me. If this situation continues, I personally will call for your resignation at the next committee meeting.”
Councillors told Ken Rees that they had questioned the proposals and had only recently had information on the company. Former editor of the Carmarthen Journal, Robert Lloyd asked for clarification on the identity of the company. He asked if company members were in the room.
Mr Lloyd said: “All we seem to get is that it is a mystery company with mystery people behind it. In order to be transparent, we need to know who this company is. The County Council have asked this mystery company to investigate possibilities for the park.”
Katrina said: “The council received an unsolicited private request,” to which Ken Rees replied: “They (the company) have met officers of the County Council and they were due to meet Mr Mark James. I understand they have met with Wendy Walters and Mr Jonathan Fern.”
Katrina asked Mr Rees: “You asked Mr Lawler to speak to the company (Loca Venture Ltd) on the phone, and what that man (company representative) said was that he was hoping to avoid the tender process.”
Cllr Thomas said: “You know full well that this kind of business has to be tendered. We were made well aware by County Council officers that a tender process had to be followed.
“Last week’s agenda for the Town Council on that was the requirement of the company for a 250-year lease. You had a meeting in the Diplomat and we were not invited.”
Cllr Thomas Jr said: “They are looking for freehold and they are looking at moving the museum.”
Ken Rees replied: “They indicated to me verbally that they would open a new museum on the bypass road.”
At this point, Tony Rees stood up and said: “This is a shambles, places like this end up getting boarded up and bulldozed. I am from Porthcawl and I know this area very well.”
He was asked if he was a representative of the company, to which he said: “I know some of the people involved.”
The chair was asked if he (Tony Rees) was introduced as a member of the company at the meeting at the Diplomat, to which he said he was.
Katrina asked Tony Rees: “What were you doing there if you were not a member of the Association or the Council?”
Cllr Thomas called on the chair to ask Tony Rees to leave the meeting on a number of occasions, stating that he was ‘a representative of the company and was trying to flannel people with promises of what would be done’. Mr Thomas said: “Nobody knows what will happen.”
Nia Griffth MP said: “We need to get things in the right order and understand the democratic process. The park is under the county council and it is only the county council who can make definitive decisions about what happens to it.
“We re-established the association to give our opinions but we don’t own the park. We feel very frustrated but first of all the county has to decide where it is going and the county is exploring this avenue with town and rural councils regarding a number of parks in the area.
“They have to have those talks and then make those decisions about what they do with their remaining assets. If it does want to franchise out, there are all sorts of proper rules and regulations about how that is done.
“If people are meeting with one particular company breaks every rule in the book. We have to get back into doing things in the right order and within the frameworks.”
When asked why the company was seeking anonymity, the chair said he was safeguarding confidentialities and that he was in the meeting with the representatives of the company. Eventually the company were named as Loca Ventures Ltd.
Tony Rees got up to speak, but was interrupted and asked if the company was a limited company. A member of the public interjected and said: “It seems to me Mr. Chairman that you have a serious conflict of interest.”
Tony Rees stood up once more and said he would pass on to the company many of the intelligent questions that were being asked.
The chair was told that allowing Tony Rees to speak was ‘out of order’.
Cllr Thomas insisted: “This gentleman (Tony Rees) has been associated with the company. He has been in a meeting and introduced to members of the committee at the Diplomat hotel. As chairman you should ask this gentleman to leave. He has a vested interest.”
A member of public raised the issue of legality and asked if the county council could sell off the park.
Councillor Bill Thomas said: “We have fought to stop developments here including plans for housing. There is a museum here, the house is here, there are treasures here and there is land here. Every time something comes up we have fought on your behalf.
“Do you think we want to see cars in this park where children cannot play? Do you think we want to see conference and wedding venues at this park? He has made sure that this gentleman (Tony Rees) is in the audience to try and persuade you that things can be done.”
Ken Rees agreed, saying: “You are right Bill, I am not denying anything you say.”
Cllr Jan Williams said: “We will defend this park. Your local representatives are here. We will not sell the park.”
Speaking to The Herald outside following the meeting, Nia Griffith said: “It is a priority to have this park for future generations. I want this association to have a meeting with Meryl Gravelle here. She is an executive member who is ultimately responsible. We can put the point to her that we want to keep this park in public ownership for public use.”
Association member, Katrina told Ken Rees: “You have been misguided in what you have been up to and I have to serve you notice that I will ask for your resignation at the next meeting.”
Keith Davies AM said: “Ken Rees has been misled by the County Council and the company Loca Ventures Ltd. I agree fully with Councillor Bill Thomas.”
Following the meeting he said: “The most important thing for me was that an associate of the private company was there giving general advice.
Cllr Jan Williams said: “He (Tony Rees) was masking himself as a member of the public. He did not declare that he was an associate of the company Loca Ventures Ltd.”
As of 2013, Loca Ventures had £973 cash in the bank, and he company director is Mohammed Fiaz Hussain from London.
What impact will digital media have on Welsh speaking rural communities?
At an open forum under the title Tynged yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language in Carmarthenshire): The Contribution of Digital Media on Saturday the 25th of September, Cymdeithas yr Iaith will bring together elected councilors and officers of the county council, chief officers of Yr Egin center and those developing online Welsh language content to discuss how digital media can benefit our communities.
Carmarthenshire County Council is due to publish its Digital Transformation Strategy. This will include funding specifically to develop the network. According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith, there will be new opportunities for rural communities but, to take advantage of these opportunities, specific steps need to be taken
A spokesperson for the Cymdeithas yr Iaith in Carmarthenshire said: “Digital media can strengthen rural Welsh-speaking communities in Carmarthenshire by enabling more people to find work locally and even work from home, and by broadening and enhancing the community culture and links between communities.
“The council’s digital strategy and Yr Egin in Carmarthen will provide opportunities, but we must plan to capitalise on the opportunities. In the past, it has been assumed that the development of better highways is sure to boost the economy, but they can just as easily attract commuters to work out of county and raise house prices Similarly, the development of “digital highways” could be used only by people moving into the county to work from home and further inflate house prices beyond the reach of local people – unless there are concrete steps in place for training, collaboration with the Education Department and the Careers Service, and projects for Yr Egin to work with the county’s local communities.
“There will be an opportunity for everyone to ask questions and be part of the discussion by sending us a zoom link”
As well as discussing infrastructure and connectivity there will also be a presentation on the concept of creating a digital Menter Iaith, to ensure that Welsh language material is available online.
Psychological thriller from Carmarthenshire author draws on real experience with victims
John Nicholl’s new book Killing Evil features a child abuse survivor who takes revenge
Psychopath or agent of justice? John Nicholl’s compelling narrator in his new book Killing Evil is a victim of devastating childhood abuse who sets about hunting down and killing abusers.
A cunning loner who uses her job in the probation service to find her victims, Alice Granger gives each her own “trial” and punishment – but as she continues with her mission, she descends further into darkness and her crimes become harder to comprehend.
Told through the killer’s eyes, the tale is dark and gripping, with a satisfying twist at the end. It asks important questions about the rehabilitation of offenders, the plight of victims and the dangers of taking justice into your own hands.
Like his previous 10 bestsellers, Nicholl’s book draws on his own experience in his previous roles in the police and child protection.
In a long career that saw him start out as a police officer, move into social work and become a head of child protection services, Ferryside-based Nicholl experienced many harrowing cases.
He was left with PTSD and started writing fiction after a psychologist recommended writing as a form of therapy.
Nicholl self-published his first book, White is the Coldest Colour, in 2015 It sold 150,000 copies on Amazon; this led to him getting signed by an agent and a publisher, and he has written prolifically ever since.
John Nicholl says:
“What I’m always trying to get across is the rage and the anger that survivors often feel – and it’s a rage that’s often shared by the professionals trying to protect them. I worked with so many people who had been through those sort of awful experiences – some even worse than what Alice goes through. There’s a lifelong effect from that. One thing which has surprised me is the number of people who messaged me after reading Killing Evil saying they went through similar experiences. I don’t think a lot of people realise how many predatory offenders there are out there. This is the first book I’ve written through the eyes of the killer. As with all my books, I hope people find it a gripping read, but also that it gets people thinking. It’s been surprising how people have said they sympathised with Alice and wanted her to get away with it until she crossed the line.”
What people are saying about Killing Evil:
“The master of the psychological thriller at his brilliant best.” Sarah Stuart – Award-winning author
“Ice cold, chilling and brilliant.” Goodreads
“This was a great, page-turning, intriguing book that I highly recommend.” Joyce Stewart Reviews
Council launches campaign to recruit carers
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has today (Monday September 20) launched a county-wide campaign to encourage more people into a career in social care.
The campaign, which focuses on real people in real situations, shines the spotlight on the council’s dedicated team of carers who deliver an outstanding service throughout the county and encourages others to consider a career in care.
Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for social care and health, said: “Our new recruitment campaign focuses on the type of person we are looking for to help us deliver a quality care service. We need positive, kind and caring individuals to join our team and help us to make a difference to service users in Carmarthenshire.
“We can offer support and training to those with no previous experience, but what we need most are people with a friendly nature and a positive attitude.”
Home and residential care vacancies are available throughout the county with full time and casual positions available.
As a carer, duties include providing personal care (bathing, dressing and other tasks), meal preparation and a range of other duties, to help promote independence where possible and to provide a good quality service to those in need.
The council offers good rates of pay with full and part-time, permanent and temporary contracts available.
For more information on care job vacancies please e-mail SCRecruitment@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or call 01267 228703.
To apply or to read any job descriptions visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/jobs-socialcare
If you have worked within the care sector previously and would consider returning to work, please get in touch.
The council’s requirement to recruit additional care workers in both home and residential care roles mirrors shortages seen throughout the UK.
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