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‘Astounding’ higher education cuts curbed

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Reversal an admission government got it wrong: Simon Thomas, AM

Reversal an admission government got it wrong: Simon Thomas, AM

WELSH GOVERNMENT plans to cut funding for higher education which could have had a devastating impact on West Wales’s economy were not subject to assessment of their impact by Carwyn Jones’s Cabinet.

Plaid Cymru has uncovered that there was no discussion by the Welsh Cabinet of the potential impact of a 32% cut to university budgets.

The discovery came ahead of the Welsh Budget statement on Tuesday (Feb 9).

Last month, the First Minister confirmed to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood that his government had made no calculation of the job threats the budget cuts posed.

The potential impact of the proposed cuts underlined by a report prepared by Universities Wales in October 2015.

That report disclosed that around 5,100 jobs in West Wales were linked to higher education, whether directly or indirectly, and that higher education was worth in excess of £484m a year to the combined economies of Ceredigion, Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire

Ahead of the budget, Plaid Cymru called for the Government’s planned £41m cuts to university budgets to be reversed in order to protect standards of Higher Education in Wales. The proposed cut was reduced to £10m by the Welsh Government in the budget announcement.

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas said: “I’m pleased that the Labour government has bowed to pressure from the Plaid Cymru and has reversed some of these cuts. It is astounding that the government was intending to make record cuts to the Higher Education budget without even carrying out an impact assessment or discussing it in cabinet meetings, and this reversal is an admission that it got it wrong.

“The Education Minister has made a mess of things, and threw our universities into panic. His refusal to acknowledge the crisis that he has caused smacks of a deep misunderstanding of the effect that such large cuts would have on our universities, and the subsequent impact on Wales’ economy. I am pleased that the Higher Education sector has been given some reassurance today that the cuts will not be as devastating as they first thought.”

Mr Thomas’s own position was itself subject to criticism from Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott.

She hit out at Plaid’s education spokesperson for a supposed slur cast against vocational educational in a Plaid Cymru press conference.

Mr Thomas told journalists on Tuesday that Labour’s proposed cuts to higher education would leave Wales with “glorified polytechnics”.

According to Mr Parrott: “Simon Thomas’s attitude towards what were polytechnics is absolutely appalling. It’s entirely typical of the stigma attached to vocational and professional education, and demonstrates just why so many young people are put off taking such a route into work.”

Mr Thomas, the Mid and West Wales Assembly Member, and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire candidate responded: “The Lib Dem spokeswoman does not seem to realise that polytechnics disappeared from Wales twenty years ago, so all our institutions are universities: vocational training is delivered by FE colleges and work placed learning.

“We are clearly committed to vocational training but we won’t slash our universities and pit one sort of education against another.”

The issue of cuts to Welsh higher education has grown particularly toxic following the Welsh Government’s decision to continue exporting £90m of Welsh Government money to English universities in order to top up tuition fee payments for Welsh students studying over the border.

The Welsh Government’s student finance arrangements have been described as ‘unsustainable’ by virtually every higher education body that responded to a call for evidence made in connection with a review of the Welsh Higher Education system headed by Professor Sir Ian Diamond. The Welsh Government is already out of step with funding postgraduate study. From September 2016, English students studying at Welsh universities will be able to access student loans to fund their studies. Welsh students studying the same courses at Welsh universities will get no such support. There is no sign that the Welsh Government is considering reviewing that policy, although The Herald was previously told by a Welsh Government spokesperson that an announcement might be made last month on how the Welsh Government would address the issue of postgraduate funding.

Huw Lewis AM, the current Welsh Education Minister, who is due to retire from the Senedd in May, has ruled out reconsidering the Welsh Government’s approach to its student finance package until after May’s Assembly election.

The findings of the Diamond Review have likewise been kicked into the long grass beyond May’s election by the Welsh Government.

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Carmarthenshire Archives’ new building officially opened

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ON MONDAY, November 28, Cllr Rob Evans, Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council, unveiled a specially designed plaque to commemorate the official opening of the brand new Carmarthenshire Archives building.

The official opening was attended by year 6 pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, along with their Headteacher Mr Dylan Evans, who designed the plaque by compiling various artwork and sketches that are housed at the Archives.

Established in 1959, Carmarthenshire Archives is the local authority archive service for the County of Carmarthenshire and the new building is located at St Peter’s Street, Carmarthen. 

The service is home to our extensive collection of historic documents that date from the 13th century to the present day. The collection includes archives, maps, books, photographs, videos and sound recordings. It is the Archives’ mission to preserve and make its documents available for general study and research.

Admission to Carmarthenshire Archives is free and open to anyone who wishes to use the Council’s records. Most of its services are free, but we do charge for some extra services and help.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Gareth John commented:

“Congratulations to the pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, they have designed an excellent and appropriate plaque that is inspired by the treasure troves of our archives. It was wonderful to welcome them to the official opening so that they can see their work take pride of place at a building that holds great significance to us in Carmarthenshire. 

“This is a brand new and modern building that is fit to keep and protect our county’s most precious historical documents. 

“But of course, these documents are meant to be viewed and studied by school children, students, academics and anybody who has an interest in Carmarthenshire’s rich history; and this excellent facility provides the perfect space for people to come and view these treasures.”

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Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities

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WALES & West Utilities will shortly begin work to upgrade gas pipes in Llandeilo.

Wales & West Utilities has liaised with Carmarthenshire County Council to plan the work and it has been agreed that work will commence after the town has celebrated the Festival of Senses.

The £123,000 investment scheme, which is essential to keep the gas flowing safely to heat and power local homes and businesses, will begin in New Road on 21 November. This section of work will be complete before Christmas and Wales & West Utilities will return to the town next year to undertake further work in the Crescent Road area. Barring any engineering difficulties, work in the town will be complete by the end of February next year.

Wales & West Utilities Adam Smith is managing this gas pipe upgrade work. He said: “Working with the Council, we have planned this work to accommodate the needs of the town.

“While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Llandeilo. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“We know that working in areas like this is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“This work is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.”

Our Customer Service Team is ready to take your call if you have any questions about our work. You can contact them on freephone 0800 912 2999.

Alternatively, you can contact us on Twitter @WWUtilities or Facebook.com/WWUtilities.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we’ll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We’ll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.

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Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands

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OFFICERS from Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that they are investigating the theft of items, including a Christmas Nutcracker Ornament valued at £129.99, from the Home Bargains store in Crosshands, Carmarthenshire.

The theft occurred at about 12:40pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2022.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/2006/27/09/2022/02/C

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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