AS OF THIS WEEK, free swimming provision for the over- 60s in Carmarthenshire has been dramatically reduced. Llanelli leisure centre now only offers free swimming between 6.30am and 8.30am, and an hour at midday. The question is; who is ultimately responsible for these cuts?
The Herald was contacted by Dennis Gardner, a 77-year-old from Pontyates. He told us that the reduction in free swimming time at Llanelli Leisure Centre had come as a surprise, especially given that Carmarthenshire Council and the Welsh Government both encouraged physical activity in the over-60s: “If they want to keep us all active, why have they suddenly told us we’ve got restrictions on pool use? It’s preposterous,” he said.
Mr Garndner also pointed out that people from outlying villages who were dependant on public transport would be unable to take advantage of the early session. A check of bus timetables revealed that the earliest bus to reach Llanelli from Carmarthen via the B4309 would not arrive in Llanelli bus station until 8.09am.
The new times for free swimming are: Monday-Thursday 6.30-8.30am, 12.30-1.30pm; Friday has an extra hour between 4 and 5pm. Over the weekend, an hour of free swimming is available on Saturday and Sunday.
We contacted Carmarthenshire Council to ask them the reason for the reduction in hours. Their response was to the point: “This is a Welsh Government initiative that has been funded by them. If you any have any queries regarding this issue you would need to speak to them.”
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas agreed that the fault lay squarely with the Labour administration in Cardiff: “It is a crying shame that the Labour Welsh Government has cut funding for the National Free Swimming Initiative aimed at those aged under sixteen and over sixty,” he told The Herald. “The scheme brings immense benefits in terms and socialising, keeping active and easing pressure on health services. The responsibility for the reduction in free swimming lies squarely at the door of the Welsh Government. I hope the county council will consider the impact of the reduced hours of free swimming taking into account the connectivity issues residents have to endure to use leisure facilities.”
The Welsh Government have made cuts of 20% to the budget provided for over-60s swimming in the past year, something that has affected provision in all Welsh local authority areas. In Pembrokeshire, for example, a consultation is currently underway to ascertain public opinion regarding which services should be reduced.
Among the options considered are reducing free swimming provision for children in school holidays to one hour per day per facility, and charging adults £1 to participate in adult/ child swimming sessions, which last for two hours. Free swimming for the over-60s, which is available during all public sessions (on average 61 hours per week in each leisure centre,) will remain unchanged.
We took Carmarthenshire Council’s advice, and asked the Welsh Government who was responsible for the provision of free over-60s swimming. We received the following response:
“It is up to local authorities how they allocate the money we provide for free swimming. Our original guidance issued advised that as a minimum, Free Swimming should be available to the over 60’s at all times other than during school holidays. Since the revision of Free Swimming funding allocations, some authorities may have changed their provision. There are around 13 weeks of school holidays so the over 60’s are entitled to a far greater share of free swimming time than the under 16’s.”
This seems to indicate that the decision to reduce the free swimming provision, and more importantly, the times allocated, are the responsibility of Carmarthenshire Council. The Herald has been unable to find any evidence of any consultation with leisure centre users in recent times regarding these changes.
It could also be argued that the reductions at Llanelli pool represent a reduction of more than 20 percent of the service provided. As Mr Gardner said: “They are putting us at times when no one wants to use the pool.” It is to be hoped that these changes to service provision will not stop senior members of the community from exercising regularly. After all, as Carmarthenshire Council’s Health Challenge Carmarthenshire project states: ‘As we age we drift away from exercise – at a time when it’s especially crucial that momentum is maintained’.”
Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities
ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.
As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.
The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.
Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.
The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.
Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.
“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”
Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire
FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.
One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.
One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.
“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”
The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.
The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.
Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.
Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.
John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future.
”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”
Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim
THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.
Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.
He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.
It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.
Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.
“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”
According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.
Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.
She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.
“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”
Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at email@example.com.
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