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County Hall: Anger inside and out

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Placards with a clear message

WEDNESDAY (Jan 13) and UNISON were protesting at potential job losses resulting from possible sell-offs and cuts to council services.

Union members were joined by members of the football fraternity who were there to ask questions of councillors regarding the asset transfer programme. Labour’s AM candidate Marc Tierney was at the protest and said: “I am here to show support with union members and the community of Carmarthenshire. It is important that people have their opportunity to have their say about how the budget cuts affect them. One of the concerns I had was with the consultation document itself. It did not spell out what some of these cuts particularly the cuts in education would mean for schools.”

Mr Tierney continued: “The austerity agenda is driven by the Conservatives in Westminster. That is where the funding cuts are coming from. The blame lies there. What I don’t want to see is local authorities like Carmarthenshire becoming the sub- contractor of the cuts on behalf of the Conservative Government in Westminster.” UNISON branch secretary Mark Evans told The Herald: “We are fighting all cuts, especially cuts to adult education, against any increased charges for sports pitches, and to asset transfers. We produced a no cuts budget which if this council implemented there would be no cuts for three years. We are told it is not practical yet Plaid can find £20m for a velodrome and other projects and they say it is creating jobs. Why are they creating jobs with one hand and sacking people on the other by cutting services? That is why we are here today. Their consultation talks about savings when it is not, it is cuts. It is going into the bottomless pit of cuts. They are conning the public.”

As cold as the weather was outside, it soon warmed up inside the Chamber. First to question Executive Board member in charge of the Council’s coffers, Dai Jenkins, was Mike Bassett of Carmarthenshire Unified Sports Committee (CUSC). His question turned on the supposed disproportionate numbers of cuts to facilities and increased charges affecting the south of Carmarthenshire: “Shouldn’t the Llanelli area, which contributes 43% of the County’s Council tax be entitled to its parks, playgrounds and playing fields which contribute so much to the health and wellbeing of its residents?” Dai Jenkins questioned his figures and pointed out that it was Llanelli town residents only paid 12% of the council tax and Llanelli rural residents 11% of council tax. After a long and detailed answer Mr Bassett began to ask a supplementary question and there began a spat between Mr Bassett and Peter Hughes Griffiths.

Mr Bassett said he was trying to give some context to his question about the council giving £2m to a Carmarthen museum whereas they had not given Parc Howard any money. But Chair Peter Hughes Griffiths was having none of it. He ordered Mr Bassett to sit down telling him that what he was asking was not relevant to the reply he had received from Dai Jenkins. It was then the turn of Kevin Francis also of CUSC who asked: “If town/rural/community councils are unable to take on an area listed for asset transfer, do the county council have a shortlist of third parties interested in taking over these assets, bearing in mind that CCC were unable to run them at a profit? If so could you please name them?” Dai Jenkins said that there were no third parties shortlisted and that others should step forward.

Nobody could argue that Cllr Jenkins did not have mastery of the facts and figures he deployed. The difficulty he had was that his answers simply did not satisfy the questioners’ deeper concerns. It was re-assurance they were after, plain and unadorned, not a detailed exposition of the deeper financial issues. While it is worth reflecting on the truth of the matter, that the policy on asset transfers was set in motion long before Plaid Cymru took power at County Hall, some of the attitudes struck in response to public questions did not increase confidence that some members have not been house-trained by the Independents and officer-clique. Further questions merely served as the entrée to a spectacularly bad-tempered exchange between the Chair and Wayne Erasmus, Chair of Hendy Community and Park Committee.

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Would you please leave

He asked: “When Councillor Emlyn Dole stepped in to help in the fight against the unaffordable pitch fees, he stated that these fees would put an end to participation in sport across the county. He claimed that these proposals were ill conceived and ill thought out. He was of the opinion that it was a rushed through policy developed in the midst of the twilight zone. In light of Councillor David Jenkins’ comment to the press that we simply cannot afford to maintain these areas, would he not agree that the closure of the parks in which these sports pitches are situated should demand the same response?” In a heated exchange Council Chair Peter Hughes Griffiths warned Mr. Erasmus that he must stick to the rules or he would suspend the meeting. Mr. Erasmus argued that the background to his questions were relevant but was told to ‘stop ambling’ and ask his question. It led to Councillor Anthony Jones calling a point of order and pointing out to the Chair that the public were gracious enough to attend and that he may have been a bit over zealous in his dealings with them.

At this point, Chief Executive Mark James contrived to pour petrol and drop a match on troubled waters by advising the Chair – unbidden it appeared – that he also had the power to refuse any questions. Cllr Bill Thomas also called a Point of Order to say that the Chair, and executive, were not acting according to the Nolan Principles of public life and was breaching the code of conduct. Peter Hughes Griffiths asked Cllr Thomas which of the principles he was breaching, but as Cllr Thomas tried to respond, the sound was cut from the webcast. More worryingly, the Chair said that members of the public could not simply attend meetings and make statements about the council, “we cannot have people coming into this council, standing up and saying whatever they like about it.”

As deathless phrases in the history of Carmarthenshire democracy go, that takes some beating. Eventually the Chair suspended the meeting saying, “There is a member of the public here who doesn’t behave and follow my guidance. Would you please leave?” Mr. Erasmus left, but not before accusing the council of hypocrisy. It was a troubling exchange which reflected poorly on both parties concerned. There was certainly an element of grandstanding from Mr Erasmus, but the intransigence and combativeness of the Chair did little to adorn his post’s repute. In addition, the meeting left the lingering feeling that there remains more than an element of ‘us and them’: Llanelli –v- Carmarthen; Ammanford against everybody; Councillors –v- Public; Expectations –v- Reality. There are certainly bridges to be built if the Council is going to persuade community groups and sports clubs to go with them on the next step of the asset transfer journey.

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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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