Friday, 28 November 2008

No new parking charges!

The county council is proposing to introduce charges for on-street parking in Lammas Street in Carmarthen. I and my fellow Plaid Councillors have already resolved to fight the proposal, which will remove any opportunity for people to park free of charge in the town when on a quick visit.

Lammas Street offers only limited parking, but it is the only place that people can park free of charge when they have a specific need requiring a short visit to the town centre. Introducing charges will either increase the cost of such visits or else deter people from making them. In the current economic climate, we should not be doing anything which either places unnecessary additional charges on households or threatens the income of local businesses.

We believe that the existing system of limited period free parking works well and should be continued. One of the biggest problems at present is with people 'double-parking' - that is likely to increase under the council's proposals as people seek to avoid paying the charge.

Cllr Arwel Lloyd, Carmarthen Town South

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Support for Gelli Onn Businesses

I am deeply concerned for the business people in Lliedi Ward who have been subjected to a substantial loss as a result of the work at Gelli Onn - especially at Thomas Street.

The impact of the Gelli Onn development has resulted in unexpected and unprecedented difficulties along with financial loss to these traders. It has resulted in potential customers following two other routes into the town avoiding Thomas Street and these routes continue to be used following completion of the work.

Part of the reason is the narrower pavement which again adds to the difficulty of unloading - especially of glass- and I am told that when a business complained of this difficulty they were threatened with parking prohibition!

In view of the financial loss I believe that the County Council has a moral responsibility and a duty of care to recompense these businesses and provide all the support possible to enable them to continue trading.

I have therefore appealed to the Chief Executive - along with the Council Leader, legal and financial Heads - to meet with these people to discuss their needs and explore every possible avenue of support available. These measures may well require the Authority to go beyond statutory requirements, but it is our duty of care to respond sympathetically and effectively with discretionary payments and measures that will revive the small local businesses which are the backbone of our economy.

They need to be heard, and the Authority, through its' officials, should listen. I have suggested that a meeting be arranged with these ends in view as soon as possible.

Cllr Huw Lewis, Lliedi

Monday, 17 November 2008

Who's running the council?

In theory at least, Carmarthenshire County Council is run by the councillors who sit on the Executive Board. But I sometimes wonder.

Take the latest meeting of the full council as an example. One of the most significant items on the agenda was a report on the follow-up inspection of the county’s Social Services. The report was a good one, showing a lot of progress has been made since the last inspection, although in the area of Adult Services in particular, the council was starting from quite a low base, having had a less than glowing report in the past.

The report was introduced by Executive Board member, Labour Cllr Kevin Madge. After a few generalities about how wonderful the council was and how much good work had been done, he sat down, and members were given the opportunity to raise questions.

Four Plaid councillors raised a series of questions on different aspects of the report. One would have expected the Executive Board member to have responded to those questions – after all, he is the person who is responsible and accountable for the what the council does; to say nothing of receiving a special responsibility allowance for doing so. Not a hope.

Each and every question was answered by someone else, mostly by the Director, with the assistance of the Chief Executive and the Council’s Leader, although her main contribution was no more than a bit of political point scoring, trying to shift the blame on to the Labour Minister in the Assembly Government. Only at the very end, when it was time to close the debate, did the councillor actually say anything further – and then, it was another attempt to blame the Plaid Cymru opposition councillors for a decision of a Labour Assembly Minister.

It seems that Cllr Madge is responsible in name, but is either unwilling or unable to respond to any detailed questions on the services for which he is responsible. Or perhaps the Leader is just afraid that he might give the ‘wrong’ answer?

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Group Leader

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Labour Leader attacks Labour Minister

In yesterday's meeting of the full council, the leader of the Labour group strongly attacked the actions of the Labour Minister for Local Government in the Assembly Government. He complained bitterly about the way in which the Assembly Government has imposed a 1% cut on all council budgets, insisting that the councils can make efficiency savings to at least this level.

Later during the meeting, the Leader of the Council, Meryl Gravell, a member of the Independent Party on the council, joined in the attack, claiming that the Labour Health Minister had been slow to release extra funds for the council's programme to tackle Delayed Transfers of Care (bed-blocking).

The interesting aspect of this was that, in attacking the decisions of Labour ministers, both leaders seem to think that Plaid Cymru AMs are in some way responsible for the decisions! It shows a remarkable lack of understanding about the difference between the Assembly and the Assembly Government - a lack of understanding that runs through much of what both leaders have to say on a range of issues.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, leader of the Plaid Group, has now asked one of Plaid's local Assembly Members to press the ministers concerned to answer the complaints which the Labour and Independent party leaders have doubtlessly submitted.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Letter to the Executive Board

I have been asked by the Plaid Cymru Carmarthenshire County Councillors to write to you on an increasingly pressing matter. The current economic crisis looks as though it will get worse before it gets better. World food prices are rising. There is concern about food miles. People wish to eat healthier food and many would like the opportunity to grow their own.

We strongly support the provision of allotments and other means to release land to allow many more Carmarthenshire residents to grow their own food. There is increasing interest and demand. Provision of traditional allotments and other plots should be encouraged, from new allotments to temporary land use agreements and garden share agreements. We are fortunate in Carmarthenshire that we are not short of fertile land . We feel that the County should take the lead in facilitating this self -sufficiency demand by giving advice and encouragement.

All aspects, from the provision of suitable land for permanent allotments, the legal advice for public and private landlords to lease land under short-term contact, liaison with allotment societies and gardening associations , garden -share arrangements where unused garden space can be lent or leased to others, and education for all in the cultivation of food crops suitable to the Carmarthenshire climate. Advice on small scale livestock husbandry may also be appropriate.

We affirm that the growing of food by individual citizens is already an important and healthy pastime for many. However, few have sufficient plots to grow enough vegetables to meet a significant amount of their families’ needs. Others need education on how to grow food and many need encouragement and help to find suitable land management schemes to address the demand.

May I request that yourself and the Executive Board consider this issue and the many aspects in which we can help this movement. We can not only assist in identifying the current scale of demand but and provide land where appropriate but also, by facilitating the short term use of private and public land , a developers’ land bank, an area we own and might someday develop , to a neglected garden on a council estate or a resident who wishes to lease part of their garden to help others grow food, all of these sources should be considered.

Cllr Siân Caiach