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Vice Chancellor contemplates her future

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Vice Chancellor April McMahon

Vice Chancellor April McMahon

THE EMBATTLED head of Aberystwyth university may be forced out, journalists at The Herald’s partner organisation, The Eye, have revealed.

As storm clouds gather over Vice Chancellor April McMahon, sources have confirmed to us that she could be leaving the institution, which has plunged down university rankings, by the end of the year.

Dr McMahon was paid £228,000 for 2012/13, after a pay rise award of 9.57 per cent, butpensioncontributions took the figure to £252,000.

Officials at the university insist this salary, which is 60 per cent higher than that of the Prime Minister David Cameron, is “performance-related”.

Yet Aberystwyth have dropped several places in key performance tables, and a plunge in student applications has led to a severe financial crisis, even as they have opened a new campus on the tropical island of Mauritius.

The university have fallen four places to 110 (out of 119) in The 2016 Guardian University league table.

In May last year Aberystwyth dropped 17 places to 87 in The Complete University Guide.

In The Times and The Sunday Times guide they fell 11 places to 93.

A damaging profile of the university stated: “Aberystwyth has set itself the goal of becoming one of the top 30 universities in the UK and the top 250 in the world by 2017.

“It is a tall order where The Times and The Sunday Times league table is concerned, with the university presently in danger of falling out of our top 100, dropping 11 places this year after last year’s 35-place fall.”

Meanwhile a petition demanding the resignation of Dr McMahon was started by angry students who are worried about their degrees.

It now has almost 2,000 signatories, and declares: “Staff work in what they often describe as a ‘culture of fear’.

“Students came to Aberystwyth when it was a top 50 University and will leave with a degree from an institution flailing at the bottom of the league tables.”

The revelation about Dr McMahon is set against a backdrop of controversy.

Just over two years ago dozens of protesters stopped traffic on a road at the entrance to the university, in support of two staff members who had been suspended.

The director of the university’s arts centre Alan Hewson and the operations manager, Auriel Martin, had been suspended from their jobs since February.

FIGURES

Aberystwyth have also been beset by financial trouble caused by falling rolls.

They have seen their first year student-enrollment figures drop by almost a quarter since 2011.

Their director of finance, Peter Curran, said: “The financial implications of under-recruitment have never been so significant”

It is obvious that deep dissatisfaction exists, after the university dropped in educational rankings and a financial crisis has hit.

But officials remain defiant, saying: “We would rather be higher in the league tables – yes, and we will be; but they are really only a small part of the story.

“We are a university built on a proud tradition of extending a university education to all who are able to benefit from it, committed to excellent teaching informed by high-quality research, and passionate about the success of our students.

“We are delivering outstanding results and look forward to another year of high achievement for students and staff.”

Despite the growing controversy, the university have announced the establishment of a new campus on the luxury holiday island of Mauritius, and the appointment of David Poynton as founding dean.

Aberystwyth say he will be responsible “for the establishment, operation and development of the campus as well as its academic portfolio and engagement with the Mauritian and international communities”.

Perhaps the academic community may now be satisfied once Dr McMahon moves on.

Or perhaps not.

[To read more quality investigative journalism from around Wales visit http://walespolitico.uk/waleseye/ ]

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Have your say on the future of housing in Carmarthenshire

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RESIDENTS and businesses are being urged to have their say on the future of housing in Carmarthenshire.

Carmarthenshire County Council is developing a new 10-year Housing and Regeneration Masterplan and residents are being asked for their views.

Providing quality, affordable homes is a key priority for the council and it is investing millions of pounds in new housing stock; creating much-needed jobs and helping to grow the local economy and regenerate communities.

In 2015, the council became the first in Wales to suspend the Right to Buy to retain its declining housing stock, and built a number of bungalows – the first local authority housing to be built in Wales since the 1980s.

A year later, in 2016, it launched its affordable homes plan to deliver 1,000 additional affordable homes in the county by 2021 by building new, buying from the market and converting empty buildings.

Now the council is shaping its plans for the next 10 years which includes building over 900 new council homes and investing nearly £150million across the county by 2029.

It is important that the new homes are of the right type, size and tenure, and in the right places to build strong sustainable communities where people want to live and work.

The Housing and Regeneration Masterplan will also recognise the role of housing development and investment in stimulating the overall economic growth of the county – which is now even more critical as we recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents are being encouraged to take part in our online consultation which starts on Monday, June 14.

Cllr Linda Evans, Executive Board Member for Housing, said: “We are proud to be leading the way here in Carmarthenshire to deliver new, affordable, high quality and much-needed homes for local people.

“We have already achieved so much during the last few years, but we must now plan for the next 10 years and we need the views of our residents to help tell us where they think these homes should be developed, who should have them, and what type and size they should be.

“We are committed to making more homes available for those in highest need, and aim to deliver a plan that will provide homes in communities where people want to live, with a range of homes to suit specific needs.

“This includes our rural towns and villages, where we must help to make sure that local people are able to afford quality affordable homes and remain in their communities; as well as increasing the residential offer in our town centres, increasing footfall and helping businesses to thrive.

“Aside from providing much needed homes in the county, the investment will also boost the local economy creating jobs, training opportunities and apprenticeships in the construction industry.”

The council is delivering this commitment in a number of ways, including building more council homes and working with housing association partners to deliver more new build schemes, buying stock that suits our needs, working with developers to ensure a range of affordable homes are built as part of private developments and bringing empty homes back into use. 

It is also actively working with landlords to encourage them to make their properties available at affordable rent levels, including bringing more private sector homes into the management of our in-house social lettings agency.

To take part in the survey please visit the consultation pages on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations Paper copies are available from one of our customer service Hwbs. The survey closes on July 26.

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Community wardens hit the streets of Tyisha and Glanymor

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has appointed two new community wardens to patrol the Tyisha and Glanymor areas of Llanelli.

The community wardens will support the local Neighbourhood Policing Team and other agencies to provide a visible presence within the area and will have a varied role which will include:

  • Patrolling hot spot areas to deter crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Tackling vandalism and fly tipping as well as issues relating to communal areas and open spaces/parks
  • Supporting the introduction of a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme
  • Organising the installation of crime prevention measures
  • Offering targeted support to vulnerable members of the community
  • Encourage wellbeing activities and community engagement with youth projects, schools and clubs including the promotion of volunteering opportunities.

Linda Evans, chair of the Tyisha steering group and executive board member for housing said: “I am delighted that Tyisha and Glanymor now have community wardens who will work closely with Dyfed Powys Police and other agencies to deliver a multi-agency approach to tackling issues of community concern. In response to community feedback they will prioritise tackling anti-social behaviour issues, reducing crime relating to drug and alcohol misuse and engaging with the community to make positive changes throughout Tyisha and Glanymor.”

Ann Davies, Executive Board Member and vice-chair of the Tyisha Steering Group said: “The work carried out by the community wardens will make a positive difference through helping to reduce fear of crime and incidents of anti-social behaviour as well as improving quality of life for those who live in these communities.”

The introduction of community wardens to the Tyisha area forms part of the council’s ambitious Transforming Tyisha project which looks to regenerate the area through increasing community safety, developing housing and community facilities and improving the environment.

To contact the community wardens or for more information on joining Tyisha and Glanymor’s Neighbourhood Watch Scheme please e-mail tyisha@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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Pollinators protected during annual grass verge cuts

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council highways crews are starting their annual roadside grass cutting operations this week, but not every verge will be fully cut.

As part of its duty to protect biodiversity, grass will only be cut in one metre swathes in most areas where growth is affecting road visibility and pedestrian safety and several verges will be left until later in the year allowing flowers to set seed before being cut.

Much of Carmarthenshire’s roadside growth of grass and wildflowers will be left untouched to support local wildlife and pollinating insects.

Cuts will only be taken in these areas if there are health and safety concerns, particularly in 30-40mph areas in towns and villages.

Cllr Hazel Evans, the council’s executive Board Member for Environment, said the authority has taken a careful view of grass cutting operations not just for the sake of biodiversity but also to keep costs down.

“We have to carefully balance the needs of local wildlife with our responsibility for highway safety,” she said. “The importance of the road verge network for nature conservation is reflected in our verge maintenance policy. We delay the cutting of some verges in the interests of conservation as long as highway safety for motorists, cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians is not jeopardised.

“This is not only a reflection of our duty to the environment but also follows budget reviews which have identified cost savings by reducing and delaying grass cutting operations.”

Pollinating insects are essential for the maintenance of ecosystems through pollination of the wild plants which form the basis of most habitats. They also play an important role in the production of many crops.

The council works to conserve and enhance biodiversity and has a range of projects to support local species and habitats.

Managing areas for wildlife can provide opportunities for individuals, community groups and schools to get involved, benefiting wildlife and people.

Visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/biodiversity for further information and ideas for ways to support local conservation. 

For further information on highways operations, visit the website’s travel, roads and parking pages.

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