Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Devolve Policing Now!

I went to the quarterly meeting of the Police Authorities of Wales (PAW) on 17th October where we received a detailed report, written by the Chief Executive of PAW, about the Government’s Green Paper on the future of Police Authorities.

It was quite obvious to me, and I think to most people there, that the London government – and in particular the Home Office – goes about its business pretending that Wales doesn’t exist. They even imply that the police services in Wales should be delivering services from a fund that is only available in England. Moreover, there’s no Welsh input at all regarding this funding because the Welsh Local Government Association is not invited to discussions about it.

There is a growing frustration with the way in which the differences between Wales and England are ignored by the Home Office, so much so that the report contained the statement: ‘The Home Office is not seen to respect diversity in Wales and is actively seen to undermine devolution’.

I know that I’m not the only one who came to the conclusion that responsibility for policing in Wales should be passed to the Assembly as soon as possible. After all, the governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland – and even those of the tiny states of Jersey, Guernsey and The Isle of Man – all run their own police services, so what possible justification could there be for Wales being denied this responsibility?

Cllr Gwyn Hopkins, Llangennech

Call for review of funding decisions

Two Plaid Cymru members of Carmarthenshire County Council have written to all members of the Council’s Executive Board urging them to abide by promises previously given about the funding of a school. Ysgol Carreg Hirfaen, which is dispersed over three sites at Cwm-ann, Ffarmers and Llanycrwys, has been left with little choice but to propose closure of two of the sites following the county council’s decision to over-ride promises given previously. The letter has been sent by Cllrs Eirwyn Williams and Fiona Hughes.

Cllr Eirwyn Williams, whose ward covers both Ffarmers and Llanycrwys, said, “When the schools were federated in 2000, the National Assembly gave a clear commitment that the school would continue to be treated as three schools for the purposes of the funding formula. Had it not been for this clear promise, the governing bodies would never have agreed to form the federation, since it was clear that the funding would be inadequate.

“Further, the county council decided to protect the salaries of the headteachers, and committed to funding that additional cost. The recent changes to the way the county council funds schools are effectively tearing up the promises given, and we are therefore calling on the Executive Board to reverse its decisions”

Cllr Williams added, “The Council has a policy of reducing the numbers of children taught in temporary accommodation. Yet, the result of their decisions in this case will be to close two permanent buildings and move the children into temporary buildings at the site of the third school. This is directly contrary to the council’s own policy, and is surely a good reason for making an exception to the new funding rules. The children should be allowed to continue to study in their current buildings.”

Monday, 20 October 2008

Concerns over Marine Life in Burry Estuary

Serious concerns have been expressed about water quality in the Carmarthen Bay area by a number of Plaid councillors in Carmarthenshire. Cllr Siân Caiach said, “There has been a lot of public mention of the effect on the cockle beds, but what has become clear is that there is a range of other marine life in the estuary which is also suffering adverse effects. Sand eels, lugworms and wading birds such as oystercatchers which feed on sand-dwelling animals are also suffering, in addition to there having been large scale mortality amongst the cockles.

“A range of specific pollutants has been identified which are causing the problems, but it is quite clear now that the fundamental problem is with discharges of raw or even treated sewage. The sewage system in the area is wholly inadequate to deal with our needs and must be upgraded as a matter of urgency.”

Cllr Winston Lemon, who has also been actively progressing the issue, added, “When I attended a recent meeting of the Llanelli Flood Forum, I was astounded to hear that we don’t even know precisely where the sewerage and land drains are running, or where they are convergent. Without this information, it is hard to see how any really meaningful action can be taken to address the problem.”

Both councillors expressed concerns about the way development was continuing without addressing the issue. Cllr Caiach said, “We have a really serious problem here which seems not to be being properly addressed. Yet, while we know we have a problem, and we know it isn’t being corrected, we are continuing to allow new developments, not just in Carmarthenshire, but also in Swansea, all of which are going to make the problem worse.”

The councillors have been working closely with local AM Helen Mary Jones, who has urged the Environment Minister in the One Wales government to arrange for an investigation by an independent body.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Call over allotments

I've had a number of approaches from people asking about the possibility of having an allotment in the area. With the rising price of food and increasing concern about food miles, more and more people seem to be developing an interest in growing their own food. I think that the county council should be willing to respond to the demand, but as a first step, I want to assess the level of demand.

Providing allotments is a simple way of helping people to grow their own healthy food, and reduce the county's carbon footprint. It also helps keep people active and healthy undertaking simple enjoyable physical exercise. But we do need to assess the level of demand properly.

I am co-ordinating this campaign on behalf of Plaid in the county - anyone who would be interested in having an allotment is urged to contact me on: 01554 741461 or via e-mail at

Cllr Siân Caiach, Hengoed

County gets highest settlement

Everyone knew that this year’s settlement was going to be a difficult one for all councils in Wales. But the figures announced by the One Wales government this week give Carmarthenshire an extra 4.2% - the highest of any council in Wales, and well above the all-Wales average of 2.9%.

With inflation figures reaching 5.2% this week, it is of course less than ideal, but no-one expected a particularly generous settlement this year. Given the comparatively high level of the award to Carmarthenshire, we expect the Labour / Independent Party coalition running the county council to be able to concentrate its attention on safeguarding the county’s services, rather than complaining about the level of the settlement.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Group Leader

Monday, 13 October 2008

Dismay over Hendy Pool Decision

The announcement that Hendy Pool is to finally close has been greeted with dismay by Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire. Deputy Leader of Plaid’s group on the county council, Cllr Dyfrig Thomas said, “Former Plaid Councillor for Hendy, WIB James, fought over many years to keep this pool open, and it is a great pity that the county council has now decided that it should close.

“I am particularly concerned that, yet again, the council has taken this important decision so undemocratically. This isn’t a decision taken by the full council, or even by a committee – it’s a decision taken by a single councillor as a member of the Executive Board. It underlines once more the need to re-democratise Carmarthenshire.”

Plaid’s parliamentary candidate for Llanelli, Myfanwy Davies, added, “I’ve been knocking doors in Hendy recently and many people are concerned and disappointed that the decision on developing Hendy park was made by a single councillor behind closed doors.

“I have previously attended presentations and exhibitions of the developers’ potential plans for the park and I find it astonishing that having spent considerable amounts of money on presenting options for the park, the council did not see fit to discuss the plans in full council and subject them to a vote. Re-opening the pool would have been a difficult decision to make given health and safety concerns, but the people of Hendy deserve better than this secretive and arrogant attitude on the part of the Labour-Independent group.”

Monday, 6 October 2008

Federating rural schools

The Assembly government has recently produced new proposals which will allow rural schools to join together rather than facing closure. I'm sure that many parents and governors will be pleased to hear that there is, after all, a viable alternative to the policy of Carmarthenshire County Council, which has been to try and close many of these schools.

We need to persuade the majority who currently control the county council (Independent Party and Labour Party councillors), that they should be willing to change their approach. The county council knew that this new advice was about to be published, but has refused to halt the closure programme in order to consider it.

I hope that parents and governors, in schools across the county, will now start to make use of the new power that the One Wales government is planning to give them from early next year to insist that the county council gives proper consideration to the other alternatives. I and my fellow Plaid councillors will be happy to work with parents and governors to ensure that the pattern of schools in the county matches the needs of communities.

Cllr Fiona Hughes, Llanybydder