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Council reorganisation consultation begins

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carmscllrTHE WELSH GOVERNMENT’s announcement of the terms of its draft bill on local government reorganisation has come under fire from all sides of the debate.

Carmarthenshire County Council has already made clear its preference to remain as a unitary authority, a proposal advanced in the draft bill but not picked up as a preferred option. Ceredigion is vehemently opposed to merger. While Pembrokeshire is marginally more equivocal than either of its West Wales neighbours, there is a swell of resentment at being pushed around by Cardiff Bay.

The bill, which suggests a return to a Dyfed structure for West Wales’ councils, has been described as an attack on local democracy and a ‘power grab’ by Cardiff Bay.

While the Welsh Government has claimed that the mergers will save £650m and cost £250m to effect.

Those figures have been queried by Welsh Conservatives. Their local government spokesperson, Janet Finch-Saunders AM, said: Janet Finch-Saunders AM said the Minister, Leighton Andrews, “appears to have plucked a figure out of thin air”.

Ms Finch-Saunders continued: “We heard similar rhetoric ahead of Labour’s last NHS reorganisation, which led to huge deficits and unprecedented pressure on frontline staff.

Her point chimes with the approach of the WLGA, which has repeatedly demanded sight of proof of any proposed savings and not received any.

In addition, the key point of how the mergers will be funded remains unaddressed. The Welsh Government has not got the money and it is widely believed that Cardiff Bay will look for funding to be found from Council’s statutory reserves and by further slashing cuts in council services and a fire sale of assets.

In addition, the Welsh Local Government Association said: “The Draft Bill does not adequately address the issue of Council Tax harmonisation and whatever the outcome of the Assembly election, reorganisation will not happen until 2020 at the earliest. Any predicted savings may therefore be almost a decade away and will not remedy the enormous financial challenges we face over the next five years.”

That point was echoed by Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas, who said: “The average household in Pembrokeshire could see their bills go up 30% if Labour’s plan for another Dyfed council go ahead.”

The average Band D property in Ceredigion pays £1,300 and £1,348 in Carmarthenshire compared with £1,029 in Pembrokeshire.

Calling for local councils to reflect the people who voted for them, Peter Black AM for the Liberal Democrats said: “While we recognise the need for local government reorganisation, the lines on the map shouldn’t be drawn by politicians. Rather than Leighton Andrews trying to stitch this process up to benefit Labour, he should instead give the independent Boundary Commission the task of coming up with a fresh map.”

On voting reform, a concession sought by Plaid Cymru as well as the Liberal Democrats, Plaid’s Simon Thomas said: “Mergers will not create real democracy, real cross-party working or real scrutiny if they retain First Past the Post for elections. I’ve called on the Welsh Government to introduce reforms regardless of the future shape of local government. Plaid Cymru will be campaigning for the Single Transferable Vote in elections. We need a fairer way of electing all our representatives.”

From UKIP, Cllr Keven Mahoney, a candidate in next year’s Assembly elections, said: “In a relatively short period of time I have lived in Glamorgan, South Glamorgan, Vale of Glamorgan and presumably soon Cardiff and the Vale, without moving a yard. The one and only conclusion that can be drawn from that is that the incompetents responsible haven’t a clue what they’re doing.”

Of concern to those opposed to the mergers is the rationale underpinning the Welsh Government bringing forward the Bill. While the proposals have no chance of being decided upon before May’s Assembly elections, Leighton Andrews has made it clear that one of the primary purposes of advancing the legislation now is to ensure that any new Welsh Government is able to proceed full-speed-ahead to ram through the changes after May 2016.

The approach seems to suggest that any concessions made or amendments brought will be no more than fiddling around the edges with the policy decision already a done deal.

The draft bill is the start of a formal consultation process on the proposals for local authority mergers announced in June. Views are sought on the proposed structure, including whether there should be 2 or 3 councils serving North Wales. The consultation closes on February 15, 2016.

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Carmarthenshire’s sensory garden: why locals should embrace this wellness trend

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WITH ‘#sensorygarden’ 499.1k views on TikTok – locals have the advantage of experiencing a sensory garden on their doorstep at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Wildlife experts explain why you should visit.

Wildlife expert Sean McMenemy shares how sensory gardens can do wonders for our wellness whilst providing a safe haven for wildlife and encourages Carmarthenshire locals to visit their local sensory garden this autumn.

A sensory garden is an outdoor space that stimulates the five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, and can be created in your own garden. Sensory gardens at home remain relatively rare, but the trend is growing with the TikTok hashtag ‘#sensorygarden’ amassing 499.1k views*. 

Carmarthenshire, dubbed the Garden of Wales, has a huge array of beautiful green spaces to explore. It’s home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales which spans a huge 568 acres, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The stunning Great Glasshouse features a sensory trail that explores the largest single-span greenhouse in the world! From fluffy flowers from South Africa to a strongly scented Australian plant, it’ll engage all your senses. 

Having recently gifted King Charles with a beautiful oak sapling, the National Botanic Garden of Wales care deeply about the nation’s natural heritage. For those visiting the garden, the paths are wheelchair accessible with manual wheelchairs available on site. Open 10am – 6pm every day of the week.

Wildlife expert and founder of bird food provider Ark Wildlife, Sean McMenemy, explains the benefits of sensory gardening: “Sensory gardens provide a great deal of physical and mental benefits for different people and purposes. From getting vitamin D from sunlight to improving physical fitness by maintaining a garden, there are several physical benefits. Mentally, you can benefit from a mood boost and relaxation by spending time surrounded by calming stimulation.

“Sensory gardens can also have huge benefits for children, older people, those with learning disabilities and those who struggle with their physical and mental health. You can also create a sensory garden for your pets and garden wildlife!”

Top tips for creating your own sensory garden

If you do have the outdoor space, creating your own sensory garden is therapeutic in itself and doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The most important thing is to ensure that the garden engages all five senses. 

Melody Estes, landscape design gardening supervisor, says: “Whether you’re new to gardening or a seasoned pro, you can always improve your garden by adding some sensory elements.” 

Here are some tips from Melody for creating a sensory garden:

Sight – Plant colourful flowers that change with the seasons.

Sound – If you have a fountain or water feature on your property, consider adding some relaxing music to play alongside it. You could also place chimes near your front door to welcome people in.

Smell – Use scent. Consider planting scented flowers or herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme that will give off a lovely aroma when they bloom.

Touch – Mix textures. The texture of plants can be as important as their colour and shape. Try using plants with soft leaves like ferns or grasses that are texturally different.

Taste – Planting herbs, fruits and vegetables not only provide tasty treats, but is a sustainable source of food.

Sean McMenemy adds: “Sensory gardens are an easy way to engage with wildlife and the outdoor environment. Growing your own plants and vegetables provides countless ways to learn about the natural world.

“You can bring your sensory garden to life by using bird feeders to attract beautiful feathered friends into your garden. They’ll bring the sound element to your sensory garden naturally. Fragrant flowers will attract colourful butterflies and other pollinators to your garden, giving you something to observe whilst helping nature to thrive.”

Some people may not have the time, money or space to create their own sensory garden. However, those with balconies and window ledges can still plant colourful, sweet-smelling flowers and edible plants. This mini sensory garden can still provide the benefits and satisfaction of an outdoor garden.

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Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Wales

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THE PRINCE and Princess of Wales have planned a trip to Wales to visit a variety of communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organisations. 

The Prince and Princess have a deep affection for Wales, having made their first family home in Anglesey, and have thoroughly enjoyed their previous visits and the warmth and kindness shown by the Welsh people. 

Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to spending more time in Wales over the next few years, they hope to strengthen their relationship with communities in all parts of Wales. 

During their first engagement, Their Royal Highnesses will visit the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, where they will meet crew, volunteers and some people who have been supported by their local unit.

Holyhead is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast and has a remarkable history of bravery, having received 70 awards for gallantry. 

Their Royal Highnesses will then take a short walk to the Holyhead Marine and Cafe Bar, where they will meet local people, including representatives of small businesses and organisations, including the Coastguard and Sea Cadets. 

In their second engagement, the Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to visit Swansea. 

Their Royal Highnesses will visit St Thomas Church, a re-developed church in Swansea which supports people in the local area and across the City and County of Swansea. 

Over the last two years the church has been transformed into a thriving community hub and is home to a vast array of services, including:

  • A foodbank which supports over 200 people per week
  • Swansea Baby Basics which distributes essential items for vulnerable mothers across the city, such as toiletries and clothes
  • Facilities for the homeless including food, showers and toilets
  • A not-for-profit cafe and community training kitchen
  • A surplus food distribution network which collects food from supermarkets at the end of each day and distributes it from the church to prevent food waste and to help end food poverty

As part of their visit, Their Royal Highnesses will meet those volunteering at the church across different initiatives including Baby Basics and the foodbank. Their Royal Highnesses will also spend some time meeting members of the public gathered outside the church. 

The Princess of Wales has previously worked with Baby Banks and the in summer of 2020 brought together 19 British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide, operated by Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities. 

Her Royal Highness has visited a number of baby banks across the UK, including in London, Sheffield and West Norfolk where she has spent time speaking with families about their experiences of using their local baby bank services, as well as helping unload donations. 

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Carmarthenshire farmer dies following attack by bull near Llandeilo

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A FARMER has died following an incident with a bull on a farm in Llandeilo.

The 58-year-old, named locally as Maldwyn Harrier, was attacked by the animal during a TB test on Friday morning.

Police have confirmed that they were called to a farm in the Penybanc area of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, and are investigating alongside the Health and Safety Executive. 

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