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Carmarthenshire bowls in crisis

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Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 14.11.39THE FUTURE of bowls in Carmarthenshire is under immediate threat, according to the two people responsible for saving the County Council £250,000 when the football pitches were facing a similar future.

Mike Bassett and Kevin Francis are pedantic when it comes to facts and figures and they say that, even with the best intentions, the strategy being proposed by the County Council’s mathematicians and strategists to save the county’s bowling greens just won’t work unless a range of other factors are taken into consideration.

And it seems that they are not alone in their quest to find a solution to the possible demise of the county’s bowling greens and bowls clubs.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates AM told The Herald that there are various pots of money available to help sport in Carmarthenshire. However, both Mike Bassett and Kevin Francis claim that that money is not getting to the grass roots clubs because it is being held within the regeneration and leisure services department of the council.

We put this to the Deputy Minister and he explained the mechanisms of how money from the Welsh Assembly for sport is allocated.

Ken Skates said: “There is ‘calls to action funding’ which is specifically for new and innovative ways of engaging people who don’t traditionally take part in sport and physical activity to become more active in their lifestyles. That’s available to this area. There is also money, which is channelled by Welsh Government through Sport Wales to the National Governing Bodies as well.

“That is separate from the funding we have been talking about. That is specifically for the individual sports to engage with the communities and with people who wish to participate whether it be tennis, football, rugby or any of the national governing bodies.

“Then there is the money which is spent by local authorities, which is spent on sport and leisure services. Now that would be for local democracy to determine how the money is spent and that’s the sort of funding, which is directly and immediately applicable to a park like this.”

Mike Bassett and Kevin Francis explained the issues surrounding the allocation of money from the County Council. They told us that the issue in Carmarthenshire is that sports pitches and greens don’t come under the regeneration and leisure portfolio. They come under environmental services.

The pair said: “Hazel Evans explained to us that she doesn’t receive a penny of this pot of money to cover the maintenance bill for these facilities. This needs to change. Asking sporting clubs to cover the full cost of a facility through hire fees is not the answer. We have lost five football teams and now face losing bowlers since the inception of this policy.”

We put the concerns of Mr. Bassett and Mr. Francis to the Deputy Minister that many bowling greens will close if the present rate of increases in fees continues, in some cases doubling year on year.

The Deputy Minister told us: “This a major problem. There is some variation. I have asked the local authorities to do some work on this recently looking at the variations in pitch fees, well costs for all sports and leisure facilities. We have seen that in some areas there has been a considerable increase. Other local authorities have not increased their fees by anywhere near as some but there is a great variation so we are looking for a consistent approach.”

Mike Bassett told The Herald: “As previously mentioned, all outdoor sports clubs are being asked to cover the full costs of these areas. We managed to achieve this in Football, Rugby and Cricket, but the same model simply doesn’t work for the sport of Bowls. Carmarthenshire County Council’s policy means the membership fee for the coming season would have more than doubled in two years. This will inevitably result in more bowlers moving to private clubs or leaving the sport.”

We asked Ken Skates what could be done to save the bowling greens of Carmarthenshire from closure.

The Minister told us: “Bowling greens in particular have faced challenges in recent times in part because of the number of people who bowl on a regular basis. We need to increase the numbers of people who bowl.

“That is something I know not just government but various clubs and organisations are looking at as is Sport Wales. We need to increase the number of people who are actually active. The more people that are active the more people you have investing in the sport.”

Kevin Francis took issue with the council’s approach to elderly sports men and women: “Carmarthenshire County Council are ignoring the health benefits of this sport to our ageing population. They simply want bowlers to pay the full maintenance costs of the greens and the pavilions. Can you imagine a swimmer, table tennis player, squash player or badminton player being asked to cover the full cost of a leisure centre? Money is already set aside for these facilities from the Council Tax and WAG money.”

The Herald asked the Deputy Minister if there was any Welsh Assembly money available for bowls.

He replied: “It depends on what the money was for. If it was for a facility, it could come under a scheme such as community facilities programme. If it was a grant being sought for coaching that may be more relevant for Sport Wales.”

Mike Bassett questioned whether the council were actually actively seeking the grants. He said: “At the moment the only solution they are offering is to close greens and increase hire costs. Both of which are unworkable and unaffordable.”

Llanelli Labour candidate Lee Waters said that his father bowled and was considering quitting because of the rise in fees: “What we have seen with CUSC is that they have done a tremendous job on the football pitches. The council need to work with them and help them rather than being seen as an obstacle.”

Kevin Francis explained that he felt that he had been taken down the garden path by the council:“After saving this council over £250,000 a year, we feel that we have been marginalised and misled. All the areas we use are still on the asset transfer list and under threat of closure or third party ownership.”

Mr Skates concluded with a direct message for County Councils: “Be reasonable. Even if we have fewer people taking part in physical activity, even if it is considered as ‘soft’ – like bowls, gardening or walking – the consequence is that we are going to have to spend more on the health service because we are not going to have those preventative measures being taken up by people.”

Both Mr Francis and Mr Bassett told us that they believed that this argument is falling on deaf ears. Mr. Bassett concluded by saying : “Carmarthenshire County Council are only interested in the users of their outdoor sports facilities covering the full maintenance costs. They are not being reasonable at all and we are losing sports people and facilities as a result of this policy.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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Business

Carmarthenshire cheese maker secures Co-op listing

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Caws Cenarth award

A CHEESEMAKER from Carmarthenshire has secured its first listing with the Co-op as part of the retailer’s continued focus on local and community sourcing.

Family-owned Caws Cenarth, which has cheese making in the family dating back to 1903, will now see two of its cheeses listed in more than 20 Co-op stores across the region.

Made on farm in Glyneithinog, Caws Cenarth will supply Co-op with its Organic Caerffili – which has a light and lemony taste with hints of sea salt – and, one of its best known cheeses the Organic Perl Las Mini – which is described as a blue cheese, golden in colour, with a creamy, gently salty taste that grows stronger with maturity.

Carwyn Adams, whose parents rekindled the family tradition for cheese making in 1987 with the creation of Caws Cenarth, said: “We are absolutely thrilled. I shop in our local Co-op and regularly thought how nice it would be to see our cheese on the shelf and, now that is to become a reality. Working with Co-op will support our business development, and raise awareness of our cheeses, not only across the region, but also further afield as visitors to the area often look for local produce to take back home with them as gifts or to remind them of their stay in the area.”

Jo Wadsworth, Co-op’s Community Buying Manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome Caws Cenarth onto our shelves. We know that our Members and customers value the quality and provenance of locally produced food and drink and, here at the Co-op we are focussed on supporting local suppliers as part of our commitment to creating value and making a difference in our local communities.”

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