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Carwyn Connects in Carmarthen

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carwyn122CARWYN JONES, the First Minister was in Carmarthen on Thursday (Nov 19) as part of his Carwyn Connect tour.

The free event was a chance for members of the public to contribute questions to the First Minister.

Chairing the event was Sulwen Thomas who began with a question about Trident. He asked if in the light of circumstances in Paris would the Welsh Government make any representations for Trident to come to Wales.

The First Minister said that the Welsh Government had not made any representations for Trident to come to Wales: “It is not something we would pursue. He asked: “What is Trident for in the 21st Century?” He explained that the question needed to be debated as to whether the UK needed to be renewed or not and that he would not have the power to stop Trident coming to Wales: “I am not saying the UK government will listen to what I have to say but certainly, I will be looking at the issues and coming to my own conclusions.”

The First Minister faced a question from Cathy Start who raised the issue of scallop dredging in a Special Area of Conservation in Cardigan Bay. The First Minister said that National Resources Wales would be the authority to look at all the evidence and offer advice to the ministers. It was for them to assess the affect on the SAC and also the affect on other species as well as the scallops. He said it was for the minister involved, Rebecca Evans. Mrs Start suggested that the First Minister looked into the matter as a matter of urgency. She said: “The consultation process asks if you agree or disagree with dredging for scallops. If you put no every other question cannot be answered as they deal with the permit. It is flawed if not corrupt.”

Asked if he could deal with the flaws in the consultation, the First Minister said: “I will write to you. Everyone gets a response.”

One Carmarthenshire resident, Bill Hyde asked the First Minister if financial reserves held by councils would be used? Mr Hyde said: “It is estimated that Carmarthenshire County Council (CCC) have £130m to £300m in reserves and the public face £30m in cutbacks over the next four years.”

He continued: “The council tell us that they can’t touch it because they are earmarked. We can’t get any sense out of them. The new administration who promised they would use the reserves have gone back on their word. The Wales Audit Office has told CCC that they must use their reserves. Your own ministers from the Assembly also say they must use the reserves. I am wondering whether this will be a cash cow for the c hief e xecutives in Wales that have their own severance schemes. It is an issue for Carmarthenshire County Council to resolve. They run their own budgets. They have to explain why they wouldn’t use part of their reserves and it is up to them to explain that ahead of the next local elections in 2017. “

Mr Hyde said: “It seems that the Welsh Assembly or the Wales Audit Office is not saying anything about the issue. They are letting the chief executives rule the roost and whether you like it or not they are officer led and that is one of the big problems.”

Chairman Sulwen Thomas asked the First Minister if he was washing his hands of this. The First Minister replied: “No we can’t force them to spend money. We can encourage them. It is up to them as a democratically elected bodies to explain why they take the financial decisions they do. I think it is important for any council to demonstrate that it is the councillors who run the councils. I don’t think that has been true of some authorities in Wales. When you think that a local authority not too far from here was employing a Chief Executive on £190,000 per year plus a Porsche.”

Chairman Sulwen Thomas cut in and said: “And you couldn’t do anything about it? The First Minister replied: “No!” “Because they employ people independently. That may well have to change in the future. We can’t have a situation where if you are the Chief Executive of a local authority that you earn far more than if you were the top civil servant in Wales. That doesn’t make sense to my mind.”

Sulwen Thomas challenged the First Minister and said: “Is the Welsh Assembly strong enough to implement these changes. There is a strong objection to change?”

The First Minister replied: “We want to push ahead with mergers, fewer councils. Having said that what I want to do is is look at what powers we can give to community town councils. At the moment the reality is that they haven’t got much power.

Sulwen Thomas moved on: “The big talking point here in Carmarthen is that in the County Council only a few people have any sort of authority. Only the cabinet members have any authority. Ordinary councillors have no impact about what goes on most of the time. Would you like to change the emphasis of what goes on in County Councils after the election?”

The First Minister replied: “We have a cabinet system in local government but it isn’t quite a cabinet system in our terms in the Welsh Assembly. I answer questions every week publicly for 45 minutes. Ministers answer questions once a month on average as well. I think the same thing should apply in local government. I don’t see why that should be any different.”

The issue of clean and renewable energy was brought up by Robert Start. He asked what steps are being taken to ensure clean energy production. He wanted to know if the Welsh Government were investing in battery storage technology or hydrogen technology.

The First Minister addressed the question: “I think this is the way of the future. There are buses running on hydrogen. The hydrogen cell was conceived in Wales by a Welsh inventor so we have a proprietary interest in it. In terms of renewable energy generally we control very little in terms of energy production. That is going to change and we will have more power in the future. My view is that we have entered a period where the UK Government is just not interested in renewables anymore. Where do I think that energy has potential in Wales in the future? Marine energy. We have such potential for marine energy. Our southern coast has got the second highest tidal reach in the world. We’ve got the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. It is all set ready to go. My strong suspicion is that the treasury will scupper it because they are not prepared to pay for it. Energy security is one of the most important issues that we face over the next few years. Extending our reliance on energy that is imported is the wrong option.”

Last Friday (Nov 20) the Herald reported on the case of Pontyates businessman Clive Hughes and his accusation that the Welsh Assembly prefers to invest in Chinese plans for bio mass plants in Wales as opposed to investing in his bio mass plant.

At the public meeting, Mr Hughes put his question directly to the First Minister. He outlined his plans for a bio mass plant at Kidwelly and Swansea and said that there was no interest from the Welsh Assembly even though his plant was clean energy. The First Minister replied asked him if he had spoken to officials in the Welsh Government and Mr Hughes informed him that he had made a request to meet with him personally. “The best thing for me to do would to go back and look at this for you and get a letter out to you. The minister responsible for this is Edwina Hart. I need to look into what correspondence has been received and I will write to you” said the First Minister.

Other questions asked at the event included whether St Clears railway station could become a request stop. What steps the Welsh Assembly were taking to improve provision for carers in Wales. Rural high speed broadband, rural transport, farming issues, disability issues and parking on pavements were also issues raised by members of the audience. Following the event the The First Minister conceded that it was not a great turn out but said that he had enjoyed the variety of questions and that it was all about going around Wales and listening to the people.

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Carmarthenshire County Council cracks down on fly-tippers

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council handed out a total of £4,350 in fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) related to fly-tipping last month.

17 FPN’s were issued as a result of CCTV footage at Carway recycling facility, resulting in a total of £2,675 in fines being given.

This includes:

  • £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway male for depositing black refuse bags, blue recycling bags and paint pots at the site on several different occasions
  •  £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway resident for depositing blue recycling bags and other items

Fixed penalty notices issued at other locations in the county include:

  • £125 FPN issued to a female for depositing a black refuse bag at Red Roses recycling facility.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Gorseinon resident who failed in his duty of care when he had his household waste removed by a person not registered as a waste carrier.
  • £400 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident for fly tipping after CCTV footage provided by a member of the public led to his identification.  The male was seen driving along the rear lane between James Street and Swansea Road in Llanelli where he was seen throwing a blue recycling bag from his moving vehicle into the lane.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident who failed in their duty of care after their waste was found in an overgrown verge/hedgerow in the rear lane of their street.  The resident claimed to have paid a male to dispose of their waste but failed to provide their details.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli business for failing to produce waste transfer notes after waste produced by the business was found illegally deposited in Swiss Valley, Llanelli. The business was issued a notice requiring them to produce waste transfer notes within 7 days which they failed to do. The business was also issued a legal notice to ensure any waste from the business is disposed of correctly in the future.  

Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability said: “The introduction of CCTV at Carway recycling facility has enabled us to clamp down on the unlawful dumping of waste at this site. I hope this serves as a reminder that all waste deposited at our recycling facilities must be placed in the correct container, with all bags and boxed removed from the site.”

“The Council’s CCTV strategy will be extended to other recycling facilities in the county in the coming months to help combat instances of fly tipping in these areas.”

“I would urge anyone who needs to dispose of waste to do so responsibly. We have recycling centres at Nantycaws (Carmarthen), Trostre (Llanelli), Wernddu (Ammanford) and Whitland as well as a bulky waste collection service and weekly household waste collections. When paying for rubbish to be disposed of, please use a licensed business and ensure that you are given a valid waste transfer note when waste is collected.”

For more information on disposing of waste please visit Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/recycling

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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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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