Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Plea for YFC funding

Plaid Cllr Eirwyn Williams has urged Carmarthenshire County Council to make more funding available to YFCs in the county. He raised the issue at the last meeting of the council, drawing attention to the sums given by neighbouring councils to the YFC.

“Ceredigion makes £16,000 available, and Pembrokeshire give £8,650,” said Cllr Williams. “But this county contributes nothing to the YFC’s core funding, which is what they need. They need to see the county council helping them to plan for the long term future, and to sustain their traditional core activities, not simply to seek to fund short-term fashionable activities.”

Cllr Williams drew attention to the vital role played by the movement in developing skills and talent. “Many of our county’s leaders, in all sorts of fields, honed their skills in YFC activities; we are talking here about making an investment in the future of all of us.

“I was very disappointed – shocked even – by the response of council leader Meryl Gravell. She effectively said that the YFC should stop raising money to help others, and use their time and energy to help themselves. But helping others and doing voluntary work is a key part of the YFC ethos. We want our young people to develop with a sense of responsibility to their fellow citizens, not with a narrow focus on what suits and helps only themselves. It would be a very sad day for our society if we all took the view that we should help only ourselves.”

Friday, 18 December 2009

Call for more bilingual signs

“More needs to be done to ensure that private companies follow the public sector’s lead in erecting bilingual signs,” according to a Plaid member of Carmarthenshire county council. Cllr Arwel Lloyd was speaking after being told at a meeting that the planning regulations could not be used to require companies to erect bilingual signs.

Cllr Lloyd told the council that Carmarthen’s Civic Society had written to one company urging them to make their signage bilingual, but had received a response to the effect that the company has all its signage for the whole of the UK prepared centrally, and was not prepared to erect different signs in Wales.

“This shows a complete lack of respect for and understanding of the nature of the country in which they are operating,” said Cllr Lloyd. “Wales is a bilingual country, and in this county, Welsh is spoken by the majority. It is simply not acceptable that large companies can simply disregard that fact.”

Cllr Lloyd has now asked Nerys Evans AM to explore whether the National Assembly can change the planning regulations to give local councils the authority to insist on bilingual signage. Ms Evans said, “I will be asking for a change in these regulations. This is a small step to take, but it gives greater visibility and status to our language. And the additional cost of making the signs bilingual when they are first erected is minimal.”

The proposal also received strong support from Plaid’s parliamentary candidate, John Dixon, who added, “For companies to say that they wish to keep all their signs the same is a silly and dishonest argument. Many of the large companies operating in Wales already operate in a number of other countries, and in every case they adapt their signs to include the local language. There is no justification for them to treat Wales and the Welsh language any differently.”

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Council decision probably illegal

Plaid Councillors in Carmarthenshire have welcomed the decision made by the council to back down over the closure of four care homes, but have claimed that the way in which subsequent decisions have been taken is unconstitutional and probably illegal. The Plaid leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “The Executive Board’s proposal was heavily defeated at Scrutiny Committee, when the Plaid motion was passed. Clearly that meant that the council needed to change direction, but I was very disturbed to read the press release issued by the council, which said that the decision was taken at ‘an informal meeting’ of the Executive Board. This is no way to take decisions, and the council’s constitution simply does not allow for this.

“All meetings at which decisions are taken have to be properly convened, with proper notice given, and the press and public have to be allowed to attend. Taking decisions in ‘informal meetings’ with no notice to anyone is not only unconstitutional, it is almost certainly illegal. Proper process appears not to have been followed, and I have asked the council’s Chief Executive for an urgent explanation of the process followed in this case.

”In addition to that, they appear to have decided something different from what the committee members thought had been agreed. After the original proposal was defeated, the council’s Executive Board member put forward a suggestion that a group be set up to look again at the issue. We understood that that would be a task and finish group of councillors, representing all parties on the council. It seems, however, that the council’s Executive Board – in its ‘informal meeting’ – has changed that, and is setting up a panel of officials from several different organisations which will meet behind closed doors, and not be subject to democratic scrutiny. This is an extremely worrying development.”

Cllr Dyfrig Thomas, Plaid’s deputy leader on the council, added, “Clearly, the Executive Board had not considered for one minute the possibility that their proposals would be rejected. They are far more accustomed to getting their own way in every vote, and expected their own members to blindly follow them – as they always have in the past - rather than listen to the arguments. The result is that they appear to have panicked and attempted to try and present the rejection of their proposals as their decision. In the process, they seem to have completely disregarded the council’s own rules and procedures.

“One of the main issue now is for the Labour Party to spell out exactly where they stand. Their members supported Plaid in trying to defeat the original proposals – if they stand their ground, we can kill the proposals once and for all. If they allow themselves to be browbeaten by Meryl Gravell and her gang, then the proposals are likely to be put forward again. Which is it to be?”

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Welcome for vehicle monitoring

A welcome has been given to a proposal that Carmarthenshire county council will do more to challenge the need for council vehicles. At its last meeting, the council agreed to a proposal that a more robust mechanism is needed to ensure that the council actually needs all its vehicles, and is making the best use of them.

Plaid’s leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “Wherever I go in the county, I seem to see council vans and lorries all over the place. Many other people have told me the same thing. In fact, I understand that the council has a fleet of around 700 vehicles in total. Most of us know from personal experience how much it costs to run one car; running 700 must be an enormous cost to the council. Clearly, we need to have enough to carry out the council’s functions, but I have often wondered whether we really need as many as we seem to have. Doing more to monitor this is a positive step, and one which I very much welcome.”

Monday, 7 December 2009

Bring back our play equipment!

The county councillors representing the Llannon ward on Carmarthenshire county council have called for the resintatement of play equipment at Maes Gwern play area in Tumble. The two Plaid councillors presented a petition to the council at its last meeting, signed by over 190 local residents.

Cllr Phil Williams said, “The play equipment was removed by the county council with no warning at all to the local community – council workmen simply came and removed it. This has been a major blow to the community, which established the play area itself in 1979 on the basis of a local initiative. The site, which had been a wasteland, was cleared and tidied by local children themselves who wanted an area to play. Apart from Mr Evan Bowen, who lives near the land, all the work was done by the children, mostly those from 11 to 13 years old. Following a campaign locally, the county council finally provided play equipment five years later in 1984.

“In fine summer weather, up to 60 children regularly used the site, and although there is another site behind Tumble School, that site is not suitable for older children – it caters really only for children under 7 years old. I have appealed to the county council to establish new equipment at the site to replace that removed, so that children can continue to play in a safe area.”

His fellow ward councillor, Emlyn Dole, added, “Not so long ago, the county council’s leaders told us that there was no need for the new legislation which Plaid AM Dai Lloyd is piloting through the Assembly to ensure consultation before loss of facilities, but the council’s actions here underline exactly why the new law is needed. It is clearly unacceptable that play area equipment can simply be dismantled and removed like this with no advance warning or consultation with local residents.”

Friday, 20 November 2009

Change rate collection system

A Plaid councillor in Carmarthenshire has called for a change in the way water rates are paid by council tenants. Cllr Marion Binney said that she has been dealing with a number of cases where council tenants are in arrears not because they haven’t paid their rent, but because they haven’t paid their water rates. The county council itself pays the water rates before collecting the monies from the tenants, and Cllr Binney argues that this adds an unnecessary step to the process, and can put tenants in danger of losing their homes because of debts which are really to a third party, not the council.

“I think that council tenants should pay their own water rates directly,” said Cllr Binney. “This would avoid the council chasing tenants for debts to an outside body. It would also put council tenants in the same position as any other householders – responsible for paying their own water bills directly to the water company. This would help both the tenants and the council.

“I understand that it would also enable some families to apply for various rebate schemes available through the water company for which they are ineligible if the council collects and pays their rates. For instance, a family with three under 19s and on benefits, or if there are certain medical conditions and on benefits, will qualify. I suspect that the council is paid a commission of some sort by the water company for collecting the rates on their behalf, but that sort of arrangement should not over-ride the best interests of tenants; and it certainly shouldn’t be a basis for tenants to face the possibility of losing their homes for arrears which are owed to a completely separate organisation.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

County likely to miss target

Carmarthenshire County Council is likely to miss its own target for providing affordable homes, according to Plaid Cllr John Edwards. Cllr Edwards was speaking after attending a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee during which it became apparent that there were a number of problems with meeting the target.

Cllr Edwards said, “We are seeing fewer and fewer affordable houses being provided under section 106 agreements, where the council makes planning consent conditional on providing such homes. Developer after developer is coming back after gaining consent, and reducing the proportion of affordable homes. In addition to that, the financial situation means that mortgages are getting harder to come by, with lenders insisting on higher levels of initial deposits.

“To make things worse,” added Cllr Edwards, “it seems as though some lenders are objecting to the re-sale condition attached to these homes, and would prefer that they could be sold on the open market so that they, the banks, have more security in lending the money. But the resale condition is vital in making sure that the homes remain available to local people. It is completely unacceptable that the policy of proving affordable homes for local people should be undermined by banks for their own commercial purposes.”

Monday, 16 November 2009

Residents unhappy over name change

The residents of Alltwalis are unhappy with the proposed renaming of the wind farm which has been erected in their area, according to local Plaid county councillor, Linda Evans . The wind turbines are currently in the process of being erected at Blaengwen, and the company behind the project is proposing to rename the development as Alltwalis Wind Farm. There are only around 40 houses in Alltwalis itself, and local residents have collected signatures from almost all of those houses protesting against the proposal.

Cllr Evans has presented the petition to the company concerned, and said this week, "The company clearly want to change the name, but I and local residents don't understand why they want to name it after one of the villages in the area. They consulted with local residents in all the villages, asking which of the villages should lend its name to the wind farm. It's true that the largest number supported the name Alltwalis, but it seems as though the votes for that name came from everywhere except Alltwalis itself. It is wrong that the name of one village should be used as a result of the views of other villages.

"Why not hold an open competition, for people to suggest a new name rather then suggesting the names of villages? Or even ask children in local schools to come up with some good Welsh names? That would be far better than the exercise which has been conducted by the company to date."

Friday, 13 November 2009

Sunday Stealth Tax

There has been strong reaction from Plaid Cymru in Carmarthen to a suggestion that the Labour/Independent Party administration at county hall is poised to introduce parking charges at all the town’s car parks on Sundays in the near future. Although charges are currently made for parking on Monday to Saturday between 8:00am and 6:00pm, it has long been the case that all the car parks could be used for free during evenings and on Sundays.

John Dixon, Plaid’s parliamentary candidate for the area, said, “This move would affect hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who currently park free on a Sunday. It would affect all of those who drive to the town centre’s churches and chapels, as well as all those who come into the town centre on a Sunday to shop or for other reasons. It’s a Sunday stealth tax – charging for something which has been free to date, and another deterrent to those who prefer to use our town centre instead of out-of-town centres. What next? Charging for evening parking as well? The Labour and Independent Parties seem to view everything as money-raising opportunities for the county council rather than looking at the needs of the county’s people and businesses. Plaid will do all that we can to prevent this from being implemented.”

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Plaid’s leader on the county council, said, “When I first heard the rumour that this was being considered, I simply could not believe what I was hearing. Yet, when I asked the council what was happening, they confirmed that this is one proposal being actively considered. It is a mean-spirited suggestion which is simply designed to extract more money from the pockets of local residents. This will be a charge on those coming into town on a Sunday to worship. This is something which the council should not even be countenancing.”

The two were strongly supported by Cllr Arwel Lloyd, who has led the party’s campaign against the plan to charge for parking in Lammas Street. “Our campaign has drawn huge support,” he said. “After seeing the strength of opposition to the proposals for Lammas Street, I find it incredible that they could even consider charging for parking on Sundays – something which will affect even more people than the Lammas Street proposals. The people in Carmarthen will be up in arms at the very idea – I can promise them that they’ll have another fight on their hands if they try and implement this proposal.”

Plaid’s other county councillors for Carmarthen Town, Gareth Jones and Alan Speake, also pledged their full support for the campaign to stop this proposal.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Flawed consultation exercise

The exercise undertaken by Carmarthenshire County Council to assess parental preference for the language of education in the Gwendraeth and Dinefwr parts of the county was seriously flawed according to the Plaid group on the council. According to a report on the outcome of the survey which was sent to all councillors, less than half of all parents responded to the questionnaire. Plaid’s group leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said that this was a wholly inadequate basis on which to make any assessment of parental demand in the area.

Plaid had previously criticised the questionnaire for being badly explained and rushed, and said that the county did not even follow their own policy in the way that the question was presented. They now claim that the views which they expressed at the time have been entirely vindicated, and have called on the council, once again, to undertake a proper and thorough assessment.

Cllr Hughes Griffiths said, “Firstly, the council refused to undertake any survey of parental demand at all, and even passed a resolution in the council rejecting our call for a survey. Then, under pressure form the Assembly Government, they rushed out a flawed questionnaire which did not properly present the options to parents – many parents were completely unclear as to the question being asked. It is no surprise at all to find that only 40% of parents had responded.

“The county council claims that it encourages parents to choose a Welsh-medium education for their children; but the documents sent to parents made no attempt whatsoever to implement that policy. Not only was there no attempt at all to promote the council’s own policy, but the options given to parents were not even fully or properly explained. The result is a meaningless set of figures whose only proper place is the recycling bin.”

Cllr Hughes Griffiths also drew attention to recent Estyn reports in the county, saying, “The council seems determined to push ahead with a discredited model of ‘bilingual’ schools. In one report recently, Estyn drew specific attention to some aspects of the language policy of one of these schools. The simple truth is that the approach to bilingualism adopted by the council in most of its secondary schools is a complete failure, and has been shown to be so time and again. It has been rejected by many other counties across Wales which have recognised that fully Welsh-medium schools is the only effective way forward. The council claims to support the Welsh language in education, but that claim has been shown to be a sham in large areas of the county.”

Plaid have called for a complete rethink of the county’s approach, and have said that they will do everything they can to prevent the council’s damaging proposals from being implemented. Cllr Hughes Griffiths concluded, “We have said from the outset that we need to properly establish the true level of demand for Welsh-medium education in the county. It seems as though every other county in Wales knows that demand exceeds supply and is continuing to grow. Carmarthenshire seem to be trying to hide and suppress the demand by using a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing it. They are not serving the county or the nation of Wales, and we will fight every inch of the way to reverse their proposals.”

Friday, 30 October 2009

Welcome for gas project

The plans to extend the supply of mains gas into Upper Brynaman have been welcomed by local Plaid county councillor, Helen Wyn. Carmarthenshire County Council have agreed to support a scheme which will not only extend the gas main into the area, but will also include an energy efficiency programme for the area.

Cllr Wyn said, "People in the area have to date been limited in their choice of fuel to oil and solid fuel, both of which are less convenient and frequently more expensive than gas. A scheme which not only brings mains gas into the area, but also helps people to make the most efficient use of energy will be a huge step forward in terms of providing affordable heating to the community. Fuel poverty - where people spend more than 10% of their income on fuel - is a real issue for many, and I am delighted that there is a serious proposal to start to tackle the issue.

“It is important though that we do not stop at Upper Brynaman. There are other areas in my ward which would also like to have the benefit of mains gas, and I will do whatever I can to ensure that further improvements are made to the network."

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Major concerns over business tax

Plaid Cymru have called for a major re-think about the ways in which businesses are assessed for tax, following reports that many businesses are facing serious financial problems.

John Dixon, Plaid’s parliamentary candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said this week, “One of the biggest expenses faced by many town centre businesses is the rates bill. This is a particularly unfair form of taxation, since the level of charge bears no relationship to the profitability of the business.

“This means that two very similar businesses in similar locations will pay similar levels of rates – even if one of them is making a good profit and the other is making a loss. This can be the final straw for some businesses, and the economic recession is not helping. The tax also provides a direct disincentive to businesses who want to improve or extend their premises to improve their services to customers. Any business that does so will find that they are liable to get hit with an even bigger rates bill as a result. It is time for us to abolish this tax and replace it with a fairer tax which is related to the profits made by the business.”

The call was backed by one of the party’s councillors in Carmarthen Town. Cllr Alan Speake said, “I’ve been speaking to a number of business people in the centre of Carmarthen. They are telling me that they are having great difficulty in keeping their heads above water. The current town centre redevelopment isn’t helping either – many businesses are telling me that their takings have been down since St Catherine Street was closed and traffic into and out of town has got worse. They are worried that some customers may not return at all when the road re-opens.”

Plaid’s group leader on the county council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said that he had written to the council’s executive board asking them whether there was any way that they could give some temporary exceptional rate relief to town centre businesses. He said, “We all know that things have been particularly difficult during the current redevelopment programme, and I think that it would be helpful if the council could consider any possible way of helping. After all, if businesses close, we’ll get no rates at all from them – it’s surely better to try and lower their costs and keep the businesses for the long term than to continue as things are and perhaps risk losing much more income.”

Sunday, 25 October 2009

More Essex than Carmarthen

The programme of events organised by Carmarthenshire County Council to celebrate the re-opening of Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre is more suited to Essex than to Carmarthen, according to Plaid’s leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths. The Theatre has been closed for six months during which time a substantial investment of funds has seen it re-furbished. The public and backstage facilities have been improved and upgraded, and the Theatre is a centrepiece for performing arts in the county.

Cllr Hughes Griffiths said, “I am delighted that the theatre is to re-open, and was very pleased at the level of investment which has been put into the improvements. The whole of the town has been looking forward to the re-opening, and I was expecting an exciting programme of events to mark the occasion. We have a wealth of talent in the county, able to perform in both languages, yet that talent has been completely ignored, and the programme of events is one which could have been arranged in any English town. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which has any Welsh or local feel to it, and I am amazed and shocked that the county council could have thought for one second that the series of events was in any way appropriate.

“Instead of celebrating local talent and Welsh talent in general, what do we have? A screening of Rocky, a silent movie from 1923, and a trio of Scottish tenors! Of course there is a place for all of these events and others like them in a year long programme for a top-class venue such as the Lyric – but as a celebration of a re-opening? Of course not. Even had they ensured that one event of the three had a local or Welsh flavour to it, it would have been an improvement. I simply cannot understand how anyone could have thought that this was an appropriate or sensible way of marking the re-opening.”

Monday, 19 October 2009

Call for full disclosure over TV costs

Plaid Cymru leaders in Carmarthenshire have called for a full disclosure of all likely costs of the TV channel which the county council and other public bodies locally are proposing to launch. Plaid’s leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “The more questions we ask, the less clear things seem to become. We know that the council has agreed to provide up to £30,000 and that the Local Services Board has agreed to pay a further £10,000, but it seems that a number of other public bodies have also been approached for contributions.

“This is a completely unacceptable way of proceeding. Each of the public bodies concerned is being asked to contribute a sum of money, but none of them seems to know the total cost of the project. Clearly, the final cost will depend on a proper competitive tendering process, but it really does seem to me as though decisions are being made ‘in the dark’. I think that the public should at least know which public bodies have been approached and how much each has been asked for – and ideally, we should all have at least some idea of the final total cost. I am seriously concerned about the possibility that the final cost will end up being very much larger than any of the individual contributors initially realised.”

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Last week for Lammas Street Petition

As the period for signing Plaid’s petition against the introduction of parking meters in Lammas Street comes to an end, the party set up a stall in the centre of Carmarthen last week to enable even more members of the public to support the campaign.

Cllr Arwel Lloyd, who has been leading the campaign, was supported by Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths and Plaid’s parliamentary candidate, John Dixon. Cllr Lloyd said, “We have had tremendous support for this campaign, with most of those people to whom we have spoken being only too willing to sign our petition. The petition is also available in a number of shops in Lammas Street itself. We will be closing the petition in another week so that it can be presented to the council – I’d urge anyone who wants to sign it to do so in one of the shops most affected by the proposal, or to contact me direct.”

Introducing charges for parking in Lammas Street would be a serious blow to business in Carmarthen Town Centre, according to John Dixon. He said, “At a time of recession, many businesses are already suffering severely. The last thing they need is another deterrent to people using local shops. We know from what local traders tell us that large numbers of people use the free short term parking in Lammas Street to make a quick visit to just one or two shops at a time – this sort of trade is likely to be eliminated completely by the council’s proposals. We need thriving vibrant town centres, but the council seems to be willing to sacrifice some of the town’s businesses in exchange for the fees which it will collect for parking.”

Last year, Plaid councillors succeeded in persuading the council to delay the introduction of charges for one year, but warned at the time that winning a delay was not the same as preventing the scheme completely. Plaid’s leader on Carmarthenshire county council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “The one year’s stay of execution will soon come to an end, and it is vital that we all put as much pressure as possible on the county to abandon these ill-thought out plans. We will shortly be presenting the completed petition to the council, but we would also urge people from the town to express their views by writing to the council. It will be too late to speak up once the plan has been implemented.”

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Bus company under fire

It has emerged this week that First Cymru buses are pulling out from the provision of a number of services in Carmarthenshire. The company has the contract from Carmarthenshire County Council following a tender process, but are now saying that they are withdrawing from the contract, and that the council will have to make other arrangements with another company.

Among the services affected by the company’s decision is the service to Glynderi, Tanerdy. Ward Cllr, Peter Hughes Griffiths has expressed his dismay at the situation.

“The county council’s officers are working to try and find another company willing to take over the contract,” said Cllr Hughes Griffiths. “I know that people who have difficulty getting out have come to rely on this service and others like it, and I very much hope that the council will be able to find an alternative supplier.”

But Cllr Hughes Griffiths had some harsh criticism for the company and for the system which allows them to withdraw services like this. “It is unacceptable,” he said, “that a company can tender for a service, win the contract and then simply walk away. They bid for the contract, under which they receive public money to provide a service. But it seems that they can simply tear up the contract at any time of their choosing.”

Monday, 12 October 2009

Short termism

One of Plaid’s councillors in Carmarthenshire has expressed his concern over what he described as a ‘very short term view’ being taken over staffing in a vital department. Cllr David Jenkins was responding to information that the Procurement section has been undermanned for at least 9 months.

Cllr Jenkins said, “The procurement section has done a superb job over the past few years in reducing the council’s costs, and has beaten the target which was set for it. But we were told recently that savings had been made by keeping one post unfilled for 9 months and another filled on only a part time basis for three months. Whilst it is true that leaving these posts unfilled does save the council some money in the short term, a properly staffed section can save the council even more in the longer term. I believe that it is short-sighted in the extreme not to fully staff this department in order to ensure larger and more genuine savings for the council over the longer term.”

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Call for rethink on school sale proceeds

Carmarthenshire County Council's Executive Board have been urged to think again after they refused to make any contribution from the proceeds of selling Llanarthne's former school to the local Community Association. The school has been closed under the council's Modernising Education Porgramme, and the county gave the local community an opportunity to put together a business plan for community use. The response from the local community has been that they already have a hall, but would like to extend it further rather than take on the additional building, so they asked instead for a contribution from the sale proceeds. This was unanimously refused by the Council's Executive Board - one of whose members is the local Independent Party councillor, Wyn Evans.

Plaid Cymru's group leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths has called for a rethink. Cllr Hughes Griffiths said, "I believe that the request from the Community Association should have received more sympathetic consideration from the council. Far too many villages have lost their schools under the council's programme, and this can often be a serious blow to the community. It is right and proper that the community should have some direct benefit from the sale of former schools, to help the community to recover form the loss and to find other ways of strengthening community activity. The executive board decided to help the community find alternative sources of finance, and this is a reasonable first step, but I believe that the council should be prepared to reconsider the application if necessary to make up any deficit in funding from those other sources."

Monday, 5 October 2009

More questions raised over Carmarthenshire TV

Local Plaid politicans have raised further questions about the use of taxpayers' money to fund a television station on the internet in Carmarthenshire. The proposal has been agreed by the county council's Executive Board, led by Cllr Meryl Gravell, and by the Local Service Partnership, both of which have agreed to provide substantial amounts of money from public funds. The County Council has agreed to pay up to £30,000, not counting the time cost of officers which is likely to be substantial, and the Local Service Partnership Board has agreed to pay £10,000. The total cost has not been declared publicly, but the county council have claimed that most of the funding is coming from the Assembly Government. It is understood that other public bodies are also expected to decide to make substantial further contributions to the total cost.

The proposal to launch such a channel came from a private company based in the county who approached the various public bodies with the idea, after some councils in England launched similar schemes. Kent County Council, for instance, launched a trial service which cost a total of £1.2 million for the first two years, and a further £400,000 for the third year. Questions have now been raised by Plaid Councillors about the way in which the proposal has been developed.

Plaid's leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, wrote to the Assistant Chief Executive asking why a formal tendering process had not been followed. He said, "For almost everything the council does, we have to go through a formal tendering process, so that a range of suppliers have an opportunity to offer their services, and so that the council can obtain best value for money. Yet, in this case, it seemed to me that there had been no attempt to ascertain whether there are other companies which could provide the service. The impression given was that the contract had simply been awarded to the first company which suggested the idea. I am pleased to hear that this impression is in fact completely erroneous. Although one particular company approached the council suggesting the idea, I have been reassured that, should all the relevant bodies decide to go ahead with the scheme in principle, there will then be a competitive process to decide which company is awarded the contract.

“We as a group think that the whole idea is badly flawed, and is a waste of taxpayers' money; but if the council is determined to get involved in this scheme, they should, at the very least, follow their own normal processes of competitive tendering. Apart from anything else, that gives us all a further opportunity to try and prevent the council from participating in this scheme. And one key question which should be answered, but has not been answered to date, is what the total cost of this scheme is, to be paid from public funds, from all the different bodies involved."

Questions have also been raised about the funding from the Welsh Assembly Government. Nerys Evans, Plaid's regional AM for the area said that she would be raising questions with the Assembly Government on this matter. "At a time when there are likely to be cuts in local government spending, it seems very strange to me," said Ms Evans, "that the Assembly Government should be diverting funds from front line services into a television service. I am asking the relevant ministers how much money is being provided, which budgets it is being taken from, and how the contracts will be awarded."

Friday, 2 October 2009

Glanymôr needs ignored

The needs of the Glanymor area of Llanelli are being ignored according to local Plaid councillor, Winston Lemon. Cllr Lemon said, "The people of Glanymor are fed up of hearing year after year that Glanymor is the most deprived Ward in Carmarthenshire, when acres and acres of ex-industrial land are being reclaimed for private housing, as factories and other buildings are closing down, leading to the loss of real jobs in the area. I am constantly being approached by local tax payers who are amazed at the number of office blocks being built.

"Far too many Council properties are left empty, only to deteriorate and add to costs because of repairs to damage caused by vandalism, Also there are some properties that are used for fly tipping. I am also concerned about the plan to put a school on Crown Park as 98% of residents stongly object to the plan. Not only would it take away the people's treasured leisure facilities it will also add to the problems with the drainage and sewerage which is causing major concern not only in Glanymor, but all along the Estuary.

Cllr Lemon ended by saying, "It is about time the private developers took a back seat and let the public see some of their hard earned cash put back into their local communities."

Friday, 25 September 2009

Call for kerbside glass collections

A call has been made for Carmarthenshire County Council to introduce kerbside collections of glass for recycling. Cllr Alan Speake, one of Plaid’s representatives in Carmarthen, said, “The council is doing a lot to recycle from the kerbside, but glass is currently excluded. The council blame health and safety considerations, but other councils can and do collect glass bottles and jars etc.

“Although the council is willing to introduce more glass collection sites when sites can be found, there are some people who find it difficult to get their glass to collection sites, particularly elderly people and those without transport. The council is quite rightly keen to increase the level of recycling, but I believe that they are missing a trick by not doing more to help people recycle glass. This would make life much easier for the county’s elderly and disabled residents.”

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Welcome for school decision

The decision by Carmarthenshire Council not to close Ysgol Caeo has been welcomed by the local community. Governors, parents and staff are all delighted at the decision after a lengthy period of uncertainty. The county councillor for the ward, Plaid’s Cllr Eirwyn Williams, said, “I congratulate the Council’s executive board for realising at last the sense of what I have been saying for many years, namely that it is wrong to close small schools before building the new area schools to replace them.

“It is completely unacceptable to disperse children to a number of other schools, rather than giving them the chance to grow up together as members of the same community. I hope that the authority will now set about providing a new area school and that in the meantime the education department will give the school all necessary assistance to continue to provide a high quality education to the children.”

Cllr Williams also noted that the decision was in line with what Plaid has been calling for for months, saying “We have consistently argued for a moratorium on the closure of small schools, and on this occasion, the Executive Board have taken the right decision.”

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Shock over scale of council chiefs' salaries

Plaid’s leaders in Carmarthenshire have expressed their shock and surprise at the level of pay increases which have occurred at the council. It was reported in newspapers reports last week that the Chief Executive’s salary has increased by £26,000 over the past three years. The reports also stated that over a two year period, the number of staff in the £80,000 plus pay bracket has increased from 13 to 21.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Plaid’s leader, said, “Of course it is true that we need to have good people running our services, and Carmarthenshire is fortunate with many of the officers employed. But I really do question whether pay levels need to be as high as they seem to have become in recent years. There has been a great deal of attention paid in recent months to the pay packages of our elected AMs and MPs, but there are an increasing number of chief officers in local government who are paid at a much more generous level.

“At a time when most of the council’s employees are being offered a much more modest 0.5% increase in salaries, I for one cannot justify a much more generous level of increases being awarded to top staff. I am aware that the reports may not have been entirely accurate, and am therefore writing to the Council’s leader, Meryl Gravell, asking for full details of the rises over the past three years. It is unacceptable that the first most councillor know about this is when they read about it in the newspapers.

Cllr Dyfrig Thomas, Plaid’s deputy leader, added, “We need to introduce more transparency over pay, particularly at the senior levels. These pay levels are not being set by the council as a whole, but by the Executive Board meeting in secret. The first most councillors know about the pay levels of the top staff is when we read about it in the newspapers. That cannot be right, and we are asking for the establishment of a pay panel representing all groups on the council to review the pay packages of the council’s most senior officers.”

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

More spending on propaganda

Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire have expressed concern over the possibility that the county council is about to spend thousands of pounds on more self-publicity after agreeing a contract with a television company to launch a tv channel on the internet.

Peter Hughes Griffiths, the Plaid group leader on the council, said, “We have very little information on this scheme since it was discussed in closed session by the Executive Board. We know more about it from reading the minutes of the Local Service Partnership than we do from the county council itself!

According to the Partnership minutes for April, which are open to all on the internet, the Partnership has set aside £10,000 for the project on condition that the other partners also contribute, but there is no mention of the total cost. But I do know that Kent council launched a similar scheme – and the cost to them was £600,000!

“We know already that the county council spends more on self-publicity than other councils. In a recession, with the council’s leaders complaining incessantly about the lack of money from the government, therre is no excuse for increasing expenditure in this area.”

Council ignores own policy

Llwynhendy councillor, Meilyr Hughes, has called for the replacement of badly faded road signs in parts of his ward. Cllr Hughes said this week, "I have called for the replacement of street signs at Llandafen Road, Pemberton Road, Llwynhendy Road, and Heol y Gelli, where the signs have been affected by traffic pollution. As a result of the recent developments in the area, Heol y Gelli is now on the B4297, whilst the other three are all part of the 'old' A484, which means that the council will need to give careful consideration to the precise siting of the new signs".

Cllr Hughes has also pointed out that this gives the council an opportunity to implement a policy which it has apparently been ignoring to date. "The council's official policy is to use only the Welsh name where that name has been in existence for some time," said Cllr Hughes. "Previously, the council has put up signs referring to both Heol y Gelli and Gelli Road, but under its own policy, only Heol y Gelli should be included."

Friday, 28 August 2009

Cautious Welcome for Rail Investment

Two Plaid councillors in Carmarthenshire who have raised concerns previously about the rail service to Carmarthen have given a cautious welcome to the plans by the Government for rail investment, which may bring some improvements.

Cllr Alan Speake said, “It’s good news of course that Plaid’s Transport Minister has been able to secure the electrification of the main line as far as Swansea, when the London govrenment had originally planned that the scheme would stop at Bristol. But we must see this as just the first phase. It is vital for West Wales that the rest of the line, to Carmarthen and beyond, should also be electrified so that trains can run through rather than having to change at Swansea.”

Cllr Linda Davies Evans added, “The One Wales government has also agreed to invest in doubling the track around the west of Swansea, and this work will enable trains to run to West Wales more frequently when it is completed. This is another important step, and I hope that it will be completed rapidly, so that extra trains can run and the whole service become more reliable.”

Friday, 14 August 2009

Plea for speed limit at Denham Avenue

Plaid County Councillor Mari Dafis has asked for a speed limit of 20 mph to be imposed at Denham Avenue, Llanelli, in the interests of safety. Cllr Dafis said this week, "There are serious problems at Denham Avenue. Although the speed limit is currently set at 30mph, in practice a number of vehicles actually travel at up to 50mph along this stretch of road.

"There have been problems with parked cars being smashed into as a result, and I am concerned about the possibility of a serious accident occurring if no action is taken. There are two schools in the vicinity, and that ought to be sufficient reason for reducing the speed limit to 20mph and introducing other measures which will help to keep traffic within the speed limit.

"I have been told that budgetary constraints prevent the council from doing anything this year, but I will keep pressing for this in the hope that action can be taken when funds are available."

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Response to language strategy

The Welsh Government recently published a new draft strategy for Welsh-medium education, and Plaid's 30-strong group of councillors in Carmarthenshire has this week given its response. Group leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said, "Carmarthenshire is one of a very small number of counties in Wales where there is still a majority of Welsh speakers. It is absolutely crucial for a county like this that there is a strong and clear strategy for the expansion of Welsh medium education, and we welcome the fact that the Government has produced the first-ever national strategy for doing this. There are, however, a number of weaknesses, and we have highlighted these in our response.

"We very much welcome the One Wales Government's proposal to ensure that a proper and thorough survey is conducted to establish the true level of parental demand. This is something for which we have been calling in the county council although to date the Labour/Independent administration has refused to properly carry out a survey. Instead, we have had a sham questionnaire in one part of the county, with no real attempt to fully explain the advantages. But most important of all, there is no purpose in obliging councils to conduct surveys unless they are also then obliged to make provision to meet the full level of demand highlighted by those surveys.

"We also felt that the targets being set were not ambitious enough, particularly in a county like Carmarthenshire, and have called on the government to set more challenging targets."

Monday, 3 August 2009

Welcome for Welsh education expansion in Llanelli

Plaid councillors in Carmarthenshire have welcomed a report from the county’s officers recommending a number of options for increasing the number of Welsh medium places in prmary schools in Llanelli. The demand for Welsh-medium education has increased substantially in the town, and the county council has been struggling to respond to the demand for some two years now. According to the latest plans, the Council intends to increase the number of places in all of the current Welsh schools, and recognises the need to start planning now for more Welsh schools in the area.

Councillor Dyfrig Thomas said, “More and more parents are choosing Welsh-medium education for their children in the town. They understand the advantages of ensuring that their children are completely bilingual, and also know that Welsh schools are the best way of doing that.

“I very much welcome the plans to increase the number of places in Ysgol Dewi Sant as well as the substantial increase in Ysgol Ffwrnes, and this is as well as the new school for Brynsierfel. But all of this is just a short term answer to the immediate problem – the figures clearly show that we need to find a site for a further Welsh school urgently, and start planning for another school after that.”

Cllr Thomas added, “It’s very encouraging to see that the demand is growing in every part of the town, from people in all our comminties.”

Friday, 31 July 2009

Transport priorities need to be revisited

The priorities in the Regional Transport Plan for South West Wales need to be revisited according to Plaid councillors in Carmarthenshire.

Cllr Siân Thomas said that she welcomed the fact that the proposed Llandeilo by-pass was one of the top priotities, but was concerned about the timescales for delivery. "According to the plan," she said, "this road is one of the very top priorities for the area, but we are not even expecting the work to start until at least 2014, with every possibility of further delay beyond that."

Cllr John Edwards called for a higher priority for work on the A48 between Cross Hands and Pont Abraham where there had already been a number of accidents, and said, "There is a real need for action over some of the junctions along this stretch of road in the interests of public safety."

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Boost for much-used hall

Neuadd Bro Fana, at Ffarmers, is to benefit from a grant of up to £15,500 from the Assembly Government under the Rural Development Plan for Wales. Welcoming the news, local ward councillor, Eirwyn Williams, said, "This hall is in a very rural area, but is used by a plethora of groups and societies. The hall committee has now agreed to a proposal from the school's former dinner ladies to set up a village café and shop to provide addiitonal services to the community, subject to planning permission.

"I am certain that this will not only provide a facility which the community will use, but will also further increase the use of the hall, since the grant is to be used to refurbish the kitchen and store area which will then be available for community events as well. I am delighted that this application for grant has been successful, and wish the new enterprise well."

Monday, 27 July 2009

Call to delay development at Llandeilo

Carmarthenshire county council in its last meeting heard calls for a delay to a proposed large scale development at Llandeilo. Plaid members of the county council expressed their concerns over the traffic problems in Llandeilo, and argued that adding significantly to the size of the town before building a by-pass would only make matters worse.

Cllr Siân Thomas said, "The Environment Committee has already heard about serious concerns about the level of pollution in Rhosmaen Street, and there is no way that we can add to the traffic without making that worse. When is the by-pass coming? The latest government plans suggest that it will not be until at least 2014, and we should not even be considering building more houses on this scale before then."

Plaid's leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths asked, "Are we really comfortable to be moving ahead with this development before the problem is solved?"

Cllr John Edwards said that he very much welcomed the development brief which the council's officers had prepared, but shared the concerns about timing. "It's much better that we plan in this fashion," he said, "trying to set out a pattern for the development in advance rather than merely responding to the developers. It's a very welcome development, and I applaud the council's officers for the work which they have done. It is important, however, that we not only control the form of the development, but also its timing, so that we maintain the best possible environment for the residents of the county."

Need to nurture local sporting talent

Not enough is being done to nurture local sporting talent, says a Plaid Cymru councillor in Llanelli. Cllr Winston Lemon, who represents Glanymor ward on the county council is pushing for a rubgy pitch on Crown Park, and said, "This would be a marvellous local facility and would help to nurture talent for the future. It would also provide a proper home for an existing club, Warriors RFC. This would give them a base in the local community and encourage others, particularly young people, to get involved in sports."

Friday, 24 July 2009

Local needs being missed

Local needs for new housing in Glanymor, Llanelli, are bing missed, according to local Plaid County Councillor, Winston Lemon. Cllr Lemon said this week that there was too much emphasis on new private sector building, when there as an unmet need for houses to rent for local people. "Not only that," said Cllr Lemon, "but there are also far too many council houses empty, which should be used to house local people.

"The emphasis is completely wrong at present. What we need is a policy for housing and development which starts from a proper analysis of local needs, and then tries to meet them. What we seem to have instead is a policy driven mostly by the interests of the developers."

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Further concerns about education cuts

Plaid Cymru councillors in Carmarthenshire have expressed further concerns about cuts in the education budget over coming years.

Cllr Gareth Jones said he was particularly unhappy about the proposed cuts for Theatr Arad Goch. "This theatre group does an invaluable job," he said, "in going around schools and working with the children. Withdrawing funds from this service will reduce the opportunities avilable to the county's children. Arad Goch can present elements of school work in different ways. It gives the children a chance to work as individuals and develop team skills, as well as developing their self-confidence. Their productions are a very worthwhile adjunct to the curriculum.”

The county is planning a further cut of £62,000 in Children's services by ending its agreements with Women's Aid. Cllr Dyfrig Thomas said, "This organisation does extremely valuable work, and in time of recession, its work is needed more, not less. The sort of work undertaken is a vital support to the council's own services, and I am very disappointed to see the agreement terminated."

Monday, 20 July 2009

Welcome for progress on new school

Llwynhendy Councillor Meilyr Hughes, Plaid, has welcomed the news of progress on the replacement for Brynsierfel school. According to the county council, the demolition of the existing school is scheduled to start in the middle of August, and to be completed by 4th September, when construction can commence.

Cllr Hughes said, "I welcome the fact that progress is being made on this much-needed work. Brynsierfel School is desperately in need of the new enhanced facilities, and I very much look forward to seeing the work completed as soon as possible."

Brynsierfel pupils are currently being taught at Ysgol yr Ynys, and the new school is expected to be ready in two years.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Council avoiding public discussion

"Carmarthenshire County Council is acting in an undemocratic and underhand way over the proposed secondary re-organisations," according to Plaid Cymru. Plaid's leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, attempted to raise the issue in last week's meeting of the full council, but was prevented from doing so under the council's standing orders.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hughes Griffiths said, "Just a couple of months ago, we asked the council to carry out a survey of parental preference in the Dinefwr area, but the Labour and Independent Party members voted en bloc against the proposal. Now we find that the relevant Executive Board member has decided to conduct a survey after all. He took the decision himself in a meeting at which he was the only councillor present, and has effectively reversed a decision of the whole council. Not only that, but the decision had been implemented before the rest of the council even knew about it, and the process being followed by the council is badly flawed."

Cllr Hughes Griffiths said that the question being asked of parents was insufficiently clear and did not adequately distinguish between different types of school. "They have referred to a category 2B school as being 'bilingual'," he said. "This is a nonsense; although category 2B schools may 'offer' a range of subjects in Welsh in theory, the practice is very different and there is often very little teaching in Welsh.

“The whole survey has been rushed rather than properly thought through. There has been no attempt to explain to parents in detail the implications of their choices, yet this is probably one of the most important decisions that they could be making about their children’s education.

"One of the worst aspects of all this, however," continued Cllr Hughes Griffiths, "is that we as councillors have had no chance to discuss this. The report of the consultation exercise undertaken by the council was not brought back to the councillors for any discussion - it seems as though the county's education policy is being decided by one man. We need more democratic accountability than we currently seem to have; it is completely unacceptable that we as councillors are unable to challenge this process."

Children's Health at Risk

The state of our children’s health in years to come was the main concern of Plaid Cymru Councillor Siân Thomas when she spoke in the Environment Scrutiny Committee of Carmarthenshire County Council last week.

The debate was regarding Air Pollution and her concerns were about the children of Llandeilo. The “Local Air Quality Management Update” is a mandatory review according to the 1995 Environment Act. Although the Air Pollution from industries in Carmarthenshire is not serious what is of great concern is the pollution from traffic. There are 6 sites in Carmarthenshire that reported higher Nitrogen Dioxide than the acceptable level of 40.

Five of these were in Llanelli and the Council believes this is now being remedied by the greater use by lorries of the Morfa Berwick link road to avoid the town centre, and the new traffic flowing systems around St Elli church.

However the black spot of Rhosmaen St in Llandeilo remains a great problem where the figure is 48.

This is called by the “Canyon Effect” where the tall buildings either side of Rhosmaen St trap the exhaust fumes of the lorries, that as well as driving through have to make stop starts to negotiate the narrow road, which makes the problem worse.

“What worries me” said Councillor Siân Thomas “is that the pollution is so much higher than the safe levels and that this is measured by diffusion tubes placed high on lamp posts out of vandals’ reach. The children walking to our two schools off Rhosmaen St are so much lower and so nearer the pollution. Very small toddlers and tots in buggies and pushchairs are on face level with these lorry exhausts and are breathing it all in. What effect will this have on their health in years to come?

“The only solution is a bypass for this traffic from the A40 down to Llanelli or the M4. Plaid Cymru have been fighting ever since I joined the Council for this bypass. But when we asked in the meeting we were told it was once again delayed until at least 2014. This is not good enough. We must fight for the health of our children. This is for me a Health and Safety priority.”

Thursday, 9 July 2009

New round of education cuts

Carmarthenshire County Council are using the phrase "efficiency savings" to mask a series of significant cuts in the education budget, according to Plaid councillors. At a recent meeting of the relevant Scrutiny Committee, a series of so-called savings was tabled for consideration.

Cllr Dyfrig Thomas, who was at the meeting and opposed the planned cuts, said later, "To describe the list which was presented to us as 'efficiency savings' is to stretch the meaning of words to say the least. Amongst the savings proposed is a plan to cut back on the provision of music services to schools and to charge parents for transporting their children to rehearsals. It has always been one of the strengths of the council's music service that children are not excluded by being unable to pay the costs, but I am concerned that the council will be creating a two tier system of provision.

"The county council's Labour/Independent Party coalition is also considering closures to community education centres, and increasing charges for adult and community education. All in all, this is a bad package for the county and its residents."

Cllr Thomas also expressed concern about the rating given by Estyn to the council's service providing Welsh tuition to adults. "At a time when the overall mark, at 3, was lower than any of us would wish, I have serious concerns about the proposed cuts in the adult education service."

Monday, 6 July 2009

Plaid petition over Lammas Street

A petition has been launched as part of a campaign to try and persuade the county council to reverse its decision to introduce parking charges in Lammas Street. The petition is being organised by the four Plaid Cymru county councillors representing Carmarthen Town. Cllr. Arwel Lloyd, who is leading the campaign said, "We succeeded at the end of last year in persuading the council to defer the introduction of parking charges for one year, but they did not agree to scrap the plan entirely. Unless we can persaude them to back down, these charges will be introduced next year, and so we are continuing with our campaign."

Petition forms will be available to sign in a range of shops in Lammas Street itself, and those who use the shops are particularly urged to show their support for the campaign. The Plaid councillors also drew comparisons with other towns. "There was a report recently," said Cllr Lloyd, "about Billericay in Essex, where the council scrapped on-street parking charges and found that people started returning to the High Street to do their shopping. Parking charges can make a real difference to the vibrancy of the town centre. It's also worth noting that there is not a single boarded-up shop in Lammas Street at present. Experience in towns which charge for on-street town centre parking is often very different.

"If we want to keep the businesses which we have in Lammas Street at a very difficult time economically, we need to reject the council's plans completely," concluded Cllr Lloyd.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Welcome for Assembly recommendation

The report of the National Assembly's Health, Wellbeing, and Local Government Committee on scrutiny arrangements at Local Government level has been welcomed by Plaid Cymru councillors in Carmarthenshire. The Plaid group submitted evidence to the committee as part of its review, and members of the committee visited Carmarthenshire to see how well the process was working as part of their investigation.

In their evidence to the Committee, Plaid called for cross-party balance in the appointment of scrutiny committee chairs, a call which has become a clear recommendation of the Assembly Committee. Responding to the report, Plaid's Group Leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, "We have always felt that it is wrong that the appointments to the roles of scrutiny chairs should be made by the council's leader, since he or she is effectively appointing the people who are supposed to scrutinise the work of himself or herself and the other cabinet members. That does not give the scrutiny process a sufficient degree of independence in our view.

“We had asked the Committee to ensure that the appointment of such chairs was entirely independent of the council leader, so that they could properly hold the Executive Board to account. They have not gone that far, but a new law to enforce party political balance would be a major step forward, and one which we would very much welcome. It is a great pity that the only way to ensure party balance is by passing a new law, and it underlines the highly politicised nature of Carmarthen's so-called 'Independents' that they will only act fairly when the law obliges them to do so."

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Welcome for school award

The news that Carmarthenshire County Council was successful in winning the award in the Road Safety (reducing child casualties) category for the Safe Routes initiative at Carway School has been welcomed by local ward councillor, Tyssul Evans.

Cllr Evans, a Plaid member of the council, and this year's County Council Chair said, "I am delighted to hear of this award for the work being done in a school in my ward. The Safe Routes scheme is an important one; and winning the award shows that even fairly small schools can play a role in schemes like this. My congratulations go to all concerned - most importantly of course, the staff and pupils at the school itself."

Monday, 29 June 2009

Plaid challenge over affordable homes

In a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council, Plaid's group leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, challenged the council's leadership over the implementation of the council's policy on affordable homes. "The policy is a very good one, on the whole," said Cllr Hughes Griffiths, "but I am concerned that we do not always adhere to it. When developers seek permission to build more houses in the county, the council always tries to get an agreement for a proportion of the homes to be affordable. It seems at times, however, that it is too easy for the developers to come back after they have obtained permission, and change the agreement - usually to reduce the number or proportion of affordable homes.

"The result can be that the developments we see in our towns and villages do not go far enough to meet the needs of local people. It's certainly a difficult area, because the council's officers warned very clearly that unless the council is prepared to negotiate over such changes, then there could be a costly appeal which the county could lose. To me, this shows a weakness in the whole area of planning law - once the council has made a decision, we should expect that decision to be implemented."

Cllr John Edwards expressed his concern that the council would not meet its own targets for affordable houses on the basis of the figures presented to the council. He added, "What we need is a system of planning which starts from identifying local need and then responds to that need, rather than a system where developers seek to build those houses which will generate the most profit. Planning should always be led by need."

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Confusion over building rules

Following a plea by a Labour Councillor for Carmarthenshire county council to be encouraged to build new housing, Plaid Councillors have responded by pointing out that it's the Labour Party which is preventing this from happening.

Plaid's housing spokesperson, Cllr Joy Williams said, "I'm very pleased that there seems to be a unanimous view in the council that we should be allowed - and encouraged - to build more council housing as part of the response to the needs of our communities for more affordable housing. It's one thing on which all the groups on the council seem to be agreed.

"However, the Labour group seem not to understand that it's not the Assembly Government which is preventing this from happening - it's actually the rules laid down by the Treasury in London. It's a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer who is obstructing progress."

Monday, 22 June 2009

Traffic Calming at Llannon

Following representations made by Plaid County Cllrs Emlyn Dole and Phil Williams as well as the local community council, the county council has agreed to consider implementing traffic calming measures along the whole stretch of the main road through Llannon. Welcoming the move, Cllr Emlyn Dole said, "Parts of the road are quite straight, and this has encouraged some drivers to drive faster than the speed limit allows. This creates dangers for pedestrians and other road users, particularly children. I hope that any measures implemented by the council will help to ensure that drivers maintain their speed within the limit set and this can only improve safety locally."

At this stage, it has not been decicded precisely what measures will be implemented, but the two councillors have arranged an open day session when the Transport Dept will be unveiling their detailed plan for road calming measures throughout the village in the village and council officials will be available to hear residents' views.

Cllr Dole added, "I'm glad that the county council is so willing to listen to local opinion on this matter, and looking forward to a successful implementation after the residents have given their input."

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Speeding worries at Llanllwni

The primary school on the main road at Llanllwni is the only primary school in Carmarthenshire where the speed limit is not set at 30mph or lower, according to local county councillor Linda Davies Evans.

The Plaid councillor is working with the county council's officers to seek a reduction in the speed limit, as well as considering other traffic calming measures not just outside the school but also throughout the village of Llanllwni.

"The school at Llanllwni is situated right on the main road," said Cllr Evans. "We all know that the faster the speed, the more serious any injuries are likely to be in the event of an accident. All the other schools in the county have a speed limit of either 30mph or even 20mph, and there are growing calls for all roads passing schools to have the lower limit of 20mph. Yet the speed limit outside the school here is currently set at 40mph. In practice, that means that many drivers are going past at up to 50mph.

"I am asking the county council to reduce the speed limit immediately, and also to consider other steps which can be taken to ensure that drivers abide by the new lower limit. Safety, particularly of school children, must be paramount," added Cllr Evans.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Concern over council house sales

Plaid's councillors in Carmarthenshire have expressed concern over the delays in granting new powers over housing to the National Assembly. The Assembly had asked for the power to stop the sales of council houses in areas of housing pressure, but Labour and Conservative MPs in London have been working together to obstruct the Assembly's wishes for many months, and there is still no resolution to the issue. In the meantime, things have been moving on locally.

Cllr Linda Davies Evans said this week, "Carmarthenshire is one of the few councils in Wales which has decided to retain council housing within the council's control rather than transferring all the houses to an outside agency, and this is something that I very much support. Not only that, but the council is investing heavily in improving its stock of council houses.

"There is a danger, though, that this could lead to a further reduction in the numbers of council houses, since the newly-improved homes will be more attractive to buy. I'm not suggesting for a moment that we should not be improving the houses - of course we should. It's essential that the council, as a good landlord, provides its tenants with high quality housing. But we need to be able to ensure that the investment which is being made serves not only the current tenants, but also future generations of tenants, and that houses are avilable to our young people."

Plaid's Housing spokesperson on the council, Cllr Joy Williams, added, "The One Wales government has recognised the problems that could arise, and has been seeking power to allow councils to retain even newly-improved houses as part of the stock. It is completely unacceptable that Labour and Conservative MPs should be obstructive in the way that they have; and their actions could well be endangering the ability of the council to continue to provide homes in the future."

Friday, 22 May 2009

Council neglecting playing fields

Carmarthenshire County Council is neglecting its play equipment and its playing fields according to a Plaid Councillor. Cllr Siân Thomas of Penygroes has criticised the council for cutting back on play equipment, and for failing to maintain playing fields.

"According to what we were told in a recent meeting," said Cllr Thomas, "there will be no spending on children's play areas in future. The Labour/ Independent coalition which runs the council has decided to close every paddling pool in a year’s time if the local town or community council does not agree to take over the responsibility. If play equipment needs to be removed for safety reasons, it will not be replaced. Before long, we will have a number of parks with no play equipment at all for small children. They will find only empty squares where the equipment used to be. With the school summer holidays approaching, this is a matter which concerns me. The bets place for children to be is out in the open air."

It seems that there will be no expenditure on playing fields either. Cllr Thomas said, "The County claims that they worry about keeping the population fit and healthy, but on the other hand they refuse to spend a penny on keeping our playing fields in an acceptable condition. There will be no repairs or improvements. Our playing fields for sports such as rugby will deteriorate. There's no hope of developing sporting heroes for the future, and the Scarlets will not be the champions of everything - as they should be - in their new home without new talent feeding through."

Friday, 8 May 2009

Call for better signage at Parc y Scarlets

The lack of adequate signage for the new stadium at Parc y Scarlets is causing unnecessary traffic problems, according to local county councillor Meilyr Hughes.

Cllr Hughes, a Plaid member of the council, said, "I have received a report of one instance where a bus pulled up on the approach to the roundabout, and all of the passengers left the bus to head to the Stadium. In the process, they stopped traffic on two busy roads in order to cross them. I am told that this is a far from isolated instance, as other people have been seen attempting to jump over surrounding fences at the Retail Park and then make their way through busy traffic to get to the Stadium.

"I am convinced that clearer signage, indicating the location of car and bus parking, would help. But we also need pedestrian access to the grounds in order to improve the safety for both supporters and general traffic in the area."

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Report now available on-line

The report of the Plaid Cymru group of councillors in response to the county council's proposals for re-organisation of secondary education in Dinefwr and Gwendraeth areas is now available on line here.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Call for Rail Investment

A call has been made for more investment in railway capacity on services to and through Carmarthenshire by two Plaid Cymru members of Carmarthenshire county council.

Cllr Alan Speake said, "The level of service west of Swansea is currently very poor. There is frequent overcrowding, and many of the trains are old and past their best. We need some serious new investment in both trains and track so that the overall capacity of the system is increased significantly. The poor quality of the current service deters people from using rail transport at a time when we should be encouraging people to switch from cars to public transport."

The councillors have called for longer trains from Swansea westwards. They have also called for more dualling of the track where there is currently only a single track, so that trains can be run more frequently in both directions.

Cllr Linda Davies Evans said, "My own experience of returning by train to Carmarthen is that there is simply not enough capacity. We need more carriages on the trains so that more people can travel in comfort. I sometimes wonder how they are allowed under Health and Safety legislation to cram so many people in. It's particularly noticeable when there's a major event on - they promise to provide extra capacity, but never seem to do so, and the trains are much more crowded as a result."

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Missed opportunity over playing fields

Carmarthenshire have missed an opportunity to try and give better protection to playing fields, according to two Plaid councillors. At its last meeting, the council accepted the decision of the council's Executive Board not to support a new law being promoted by Plaid AM Dai Lloyd. Mr Lloyd's Measure would make it harder for playing fields to be disposed of, by insisting on considering the impact on the local community first. The Council's Executive Board felt that there was enough protection already, and that there was no need for any further measures. However, this was strongly challenged by Plaid councillors at the meeting of the full council.

Cllr Siân Thomas pointed out that the playing field at Parc Penygroes had been endangered by a decision of the council's own planning committee. "Playing fields will not be safe," she argued, " as long as the Planning Committee can permit building on our parks."

She was supported by Cllr Emlyn Dole, who said, "In my ward, playing equipment has been removed and not replaced. There was no consultation at all - I don't understand how anyone can argue that there is adequate protection at present."

Monday, 27 April 2009

Council Publicity Criticised

Plaid Councillors in Carmarthenshire have again attacked the county council for publishing its own newspaper in the county. The latest edition was circulated in the period leading up to Easter, but according to Plaid, it is little more than propaganda on behalf of the ruling groups.

Cllr Dyfrig Thomas, Plaid's deputy group leader, said, "One of the reasons given previously by the council for publishing this newsletter was that it was a cheap way of advertising jobs with the council. The latest issue contains just one job advertisement, albeit for two separate jobs, and it is ludicrous to suggest that publishing a 36 page newspaper is a cost-effective way of advertising two jobs! In addition, the centrefold list of members of the county council is so riddled with errors as to be almost useless to the public. It seems that those responsible for producing the publication don't know what some of the councillors look like, don't know the names of others, and aren't even certain which wards councillors represent!"

Cllr Thomas also attacked the statements made in the paper about the way the council is governed, saying, "Anyone reading the article concerned would be left with the impression that the council as a whole is responsible for decision-making. Nothing could be further from the truth - the reality is that only the ten members of the Executive Board have any real say on council decisions.

"Finally," added Cllr Thomas, "the newspaper, which was distributed just prior to the Easter Bank Holiday, doesn't even give details of the council's waste collection programme over the bank holiday period. That's one piece of information which might really be useful to residents, but it isn't even mentioned. I can only repeat what we as a group have said before - the council schould scrap this propaganda sheet, and use the money saved more productively."

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

School proposal is "in the wrong place"

Carmarthenshire County Council is proposing to build a new school in Glanymôr in the wrong place according to local Plaid ward councillor, Winston Lemon. Cllr Lemon has met with county council officers and other interested parties to discuss the school, which the council is proposing to build on Crown Park.

He said this week, “This park is an extremely valuable facility for the local community, and will be lost if this plan proceeds. We would also be losing the local paddling pool. I have spoken to many many residents of the area and they have all told me that they would prefer the school to be built on the Draka site instead. The location would be as good in terms of the needs of the school, and it would be built on a brown-filed site rather than a greenfield site. It would also enable the community to keep its park.”

Cllr Lemon also drew attention to the traffic and safety implications of the proposed new school. “Siting a school here will inevitably lead to increased traffic in the area, and I am concerned for the safety of residents. I do not believe that the local roads infrastructure can cope with this proposal.”

Friday, 17 April 2009

Banks not doing enough

Despite the billions of £s of taxpayers' money which has been poured into the banking sector, the banks are still not doing enough to keep businesses running, according to Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire. Cllr David Jenkins, Plaid's Finance spokesperson on the County Council has welcomed the moves being made by the council to try and support local businesses during the current recession, but has strongly criticised the banks for not doing enough.

"As taxpayers, we have put many billions of £s into the banks in order to restore their balance sheets," said Cllr Jenkins, "but it seems that they are still not providing the credit which is essential to keep local businesses in operation. There are many local businesses which are viable in the long term but which hit short term cash shortages, but the banks seem unwilling to provide the necessary assistance to them."

Carmarthenshire County Council's Executive Board has this week approved a report setting out details of the help that it can and will offer local businesses, including the provision of short-term loans and deferment of rent and rates payments in approved cases. Cllr Jenkins said that he welcomed these moves, and supported the efforts of the council to help. He did, however, sound a note of caution, saying, "There is a danger that the county council will find that it is taking on some of the riskier loans where banks have refused to act. I feel that they are right to do so, given the current circumstances, since it has to be better for the county's residents to keep businesses alive than to see them fail. But it really shouldn't be necessary for the county council to be taking on the work of the banks. Central government should do more to ensure that banks serve the needs of our economy."

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Cat released from bag

In Carmarthenshire County Council’s meeting of April 8th, the Council's Leader declared that the Independent Group had a 'free vote' on the issue of an increase in members' allowances. After the meeting Plaid Cllr Gwyn Hopkins said: “This was an unmistakable admission that normally there is no ‘free vote’, but that the so-called Independent members are – just like a disciplined political party - expected to ‘toe the party line’ and vote en-block in one particular manner, as the leadership dictates.

“During the past year there have been four ‘recorded’ votes at Council meetings and in each case (except for three abstentions in the second vote) all the Independent members present have voted together en-bloc. This fact proves conclusively that these members are anything but ‘Independent’ – given the dictionary definition of independence as ‘free from the influence or control of others’ (Collins English Dictionary 2007). The only time that they are allowed any freedom is when the leader tells them so. As such, the electorate should be wary of being misled by anyone describing himself/herself as ‘Independent’ and ‘Non-political’ for, on past evidence, it is all too often a bogus description.”

Friday, 10 April 2009

Plaid criticise council over procedure

Plaid Cymru Councillors in Carmarthenshire have criticised the Labour/Independent administration for playing games with the council's constitution. At the Council’s meeting on March 6th, Plaid asked for a survey of parental demand for Welsh medium education to be conducted before carrying out any re-organisation. In response the ruling groups brought forward an alternative proposal that deleted the whole of Plaid’s motion and replaced it by an unrelated new motion masquerading as an amendment, that does not even mention the key issue of the original Motion, namely a parental survey.

Cllr Gwyn Hopkins strongly attacked the Council's handling of the issue. "If they didn't like our motion, all they had to do was to vote against it," he said. "The Independent/Labour coalition have a majority which means that they can always vote down anything we in Plaid propose. They always do. But to propose an entirely different motion and call it an amendment is contrary to any normal procedure for debate, and certainly contrary to the spirit of the council's constitution. This is just playing silly games with the council's rule book."

Friday, 3 April 2009

Carmarthenshire Investment Welcomed

The announcement that the Assembly government is making a significant investment in Carmarthenshire transport schemes has been welcomed by Plaid's councillors in the county. Cllr Siân Thomas, the party's spokesperson on Transport on Carmarthenshire County Council, said, "The Deputy First Minister has this week announced funding of £1.7 million for schemes in Carmarthenshire. This is an important investment in the transport infrastructure of the county, and represents a real commitment by the One Wales government to working with local authorities for the benefit of the community."

The spending package announced by the Deputy First Minister, Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones, included the North Carmarthen and Ceredigion link road, which gets £200,000 and £600,000 towards Phase 1 of the Ammanford Distributor Road works. In addition, the Amman Valley Cycleway project gets £350,000, £100,000 has been awarded to improve town centre public transport and £52,000 for a project to improve rural and urban transport accessibility. And the Dafen / Felinfoel ‘Safe Routes in Communities’ project gets £388,000.

Cllr Thomas added that the Safe Routes in Communities scheme was a particularly important one. "This scheme builds on the success of the previous programme, 'Safe Routes to School'," said Cllr Thomas. "It aims to develop safe walking and cycling routes which provide links within communities to other facilities such as leisure centres, parks, hospitals and care centres".

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Telephone box re-materialises!

The campaign to restore the telephone kiosk in Llanfihangel-ar-arth has been successful. The box was damaged by a vehicle, and BT took it away, saying that they were not planning to replace it. Local residents refused to accept this, pointing out how essential the kiosk was to the village.

Local Plaid county councillor Linda Davies Evans took up the issue on behalf of villagers, and presented a petition to BT as well as lobbying them for the return of the kiosk. BT have now relented, and the box has been restored. Cllr Evans said, "I'm delighted that BT has been willing to listen to the voice of the local community on this issue, and that common sense has prevailed. It shows that community campaigns can make a difference."

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Confusion over play equipment

There is a lack of adequate facilities for children in the Llwynhendy area, and the situation is exacerbated by a lack of communication between the company responsible for the Pemberton development and the county council, according to local Plaid councillor, Meilyr Hughes. There was a skateboard ramp and seats on the site prior to the development, but they have been removed and not replaced despite over twelve months having passed.

Cllr Hughes has been trying to get to the bottom of the matter for some time, and said this week, “We are getting two very different stories here, and it’s hard to know what is or is not true. Costain say that they removed the equipment at the request of the county council, and put it to one side for the county to collect. The county council took almost a year to come and collect it, and then took only the skateboard ramp, and left the seating behind.

“However, according to the council, the developer refused to release the equipment to the county council. These two stories cannot both be true, but the result is that both parties seem to be saying that the other is responsible and should pay compensation or provide new equipment.”

Cllr Hughes said that, in reality, his main concern was not about who was or was not telling the truth, but about getting proper equipment provided for the children in the area. “It’s the children who are losing out,” he said. “It’s all very well for the adults to have an argument about this, but it’s the children of the area who’ve lost the facility, and been without it for over a year. I will continue to press for a resolution to the problem.”

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

London rule stops housebuilding

Welsh councils are efffectively being prevented from building new council houses by rules imposed by the Treasury in London, according to Plaid Cymru. And Plaid Councillors in Carmarthenshire are calling for a change in policy so that councils can start building houses again. Cllr John Edwards, Plaid's Housing spokesman on the council, said, "The rules applying to councils and housing associations are quite different. The effect is that it is more cost-effective to give social housing grants to housing associations than to give them to councils, and this deters councils from building houses.

"The Prime Minister has recently spoken about encouraging councils to build more new houses, and I would welcome that. It would help us to meet local housing needs and provide a boost to the local economy. But, at this stage, it's the rules laid down by his government which prevent that from happening. And we know who was Chancellor of the Exchequer for most of the past 12 years."

Monday, 16 March 2009

Plaid launch counter proposals

Plaid Cymru's councillors in Carmarthenshire have published their response to the county council's proposals for reform of secondary education in the county. The group's leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said that he had formally submitted a copy of the group's comments to the Director of Education. In a comprehensive rejection of the county council's approach, the Plaid group have called for an immediate halt to what they describe as a 'fundamentally flawed' process.

Cllr Hughes Griffiths said, "The council seem determined to proceed full pelt with a scheme which ignores key elements of the advice which the Assembly Government have given them. Specifically, they have been asked for a scheme for the whole county, yet have prepared a scheme for only part of the county; they have been asked to consider possible cross-border arrangements and have chosen not to do so; and they have been asked to consider all potential partners, such as Coleg Sir Gâr, but again, have chosen not to do so. As if that was not enough, they have ignored their own scheme for Welsh medium education, have refused to waith until the Assembly Government's own proposals on Welsh medium education are published, and have even refused to carry out a survey to assess the true level of demand for Welsh-medium education.

"All in all, the result is that their proposals are rushed, badly thought through, and seriously defective. They have caused a great deal of unnecessary concern throughout the area affected, and include a series of proposals with which many parents are deeply unhappy. We cannot support these proposals as they stand and have urged the county council to halt the process now, and draw up a comprehensive plan, on the basis of a meaningful level of consultation with all parties.

"It is completely unacceptable to leave an area such as Llandovery as some sort of 'educational desert' at secondary level, as the county seems to be planning. And leaving the whole of the Dinefwr area with no Welsh-medium provision at secondary level is to ignore the linguistic character and history of the area. Even when they plan to protect and expand Welsh-medium provision, such as in Cwm Gwendraeth, their plan fails to address the issues which arise from attempting to accommodate the hundreds of children currently receiving a wholly or predominantly English-medium education in the area. They have managed to get to a situation where, by trying to rush things through, they have pleased almost nobody."

The Plaid councillors held their own, highly successful, series of consultation meetings on the issue. "We didn't go into those meetings," said Cllr Hughes Griffiths, "the way the county council went into theirs, with a series of options which limited the discussion. We went in with a blank sheet of paper; we went to listen, not to tell. We found people were open and ready to debate, but what they do not like is having what looks like a fait accompli foisted on them by the council. Even at this stage, we are urging the council to think again, and produce a plan which addresses all the issues in the whole of the county, not just some in a part."

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Call for urgent action over sunbeds

"Sunbeds should be removed immediately from Carmarthenshire County Council's Leisure Centres", said one councillor this week. Cllr Gareth Jones, Plaid Cymru spokesman on Leisure on the council, said he was extremely concerned to learn that Carmarthenshire was now one of only four councils in the whole of Wales which was continuing to operate sunbeds, despite recent incidents highlighting the dangers.

The county council has said that the beds will be removed in the next financial year, but this is not good enough, according to Cllr Jones. "There is a proven danger from the use of these beds, as a recent horrific incident in Barry showed. I want the council to cease operating the beds immediately, and have also asked for a report on this at the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee."

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Plaid oppose tax rise

At last week's meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council, the Plaid Cymru group attempted to reverse the inflation-busting rise in council tax which was proposed by the ruling coalition between the Labour Party and the Independent Party. The coalition is proposing a 3.3% increase in council tax for the coming year, despite the fact that inflation is forecast to fall to zero, or even lower, over the next year.

Plaid's Group Leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, "The economic situation in which we find ourselves is wholly exceptional. It appears that it isn't just a recession of the type we see periodically, but something much worse. At this stage, no-one seems to know how deep it will be, nor how long it will last. In such a situation, it is right and proper that the council should act in a wholly exceptional fashion in order to respond to the crisis, and for that reason, I and my group argued that we should be aiming, for this year at least, to keep the increase as close to zero percent as possible. We put forward a number of suggestions as to how that might be achieved, but unfortunately, the ruling coalition was unwilling to listen to our arguments."

One suggestion put forward by the group was that the council should take account of the £1.9million extra grant which is expected from the Assembly Government. Cllr Gwyneth Thomas said, "The Council has been notified that it will receive an extra grant from the Assembly Government, but has chosen to ignore this money completely in preparing its budgets. There are certain conditions which will need to be met before the council can receive the whole of the grant, and there may be some small costs involved in meeting those conditions. But I am confident that most of the money will be available to the council - and even if they only counted half of it, they'd have enough for a significant reduction in the planned rise. Instead, it seems that they plan to simply ignore this money, and ask the council tax payers to pay extra."

Cllr David Jenkins drew attention to the council's dramatic success in recent years in making savings on its costs of purchasing goods and services. He pointed out that the council had achieved the targets it set for itself well ahead of target, and was still achieving further savings. Cllr Jenkins said, "These extra savings are not included in the budgets put before us, yet the council knows that it will be achieving these further savings. These savings should be passed on to the public in the form of lower council tax, this year of all years. Costs are likely to continue to fall over the coming year, yet the council's budget seems to ignore that fact in order to justify an excessive increase in council tax."

The group made a last minute appeal to the council's Executive Board to think again about its proposals, and to take into account the points which had been made by Plaid's councillors. Cllr Hughes Griffiths said after the meeting, "I felt that we put forward a reasoned and sensible argument to the council, but Labour and Independent Party members chose to ignore the points which we were making. It was clear from some of the comments of members of the ruling coalition that their minds have been made up, and that they simply do not understand the financial pressures which will be faced by ordinary people over the coming year."

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Lack of Democracy

Carmarthenshire County Council has been accused of acting undemocratically by a Plaid member of the Council after the Executive Board ignored a request for further information by one of its Scrutiny Committees. The Council's Cabinet proposed to close the restaurant in County Hall because of the level of losses which it was making. When the issue was discussed by Scrutiny Committee, the Committee decided to request more information first on possible alternative courses of action, such as better publicity for the service.

Cllr Gwyneth Thomas said, "There was a clear majority in the Scrutiny Committee for a delay whilst alternatives were considered. But after the meeting, it was discovered that, without waiting for any comment from Scrutiny or anyone else, the Council's Executive Board had already rushed out redundancy notices to the staff. This undemocratic approach undermines the scrutiny process, and highlights how the Council's ruling Labour/Independent Party coalition believe that they can ride roughshod over any opposition to their plans."

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Jobs should be here first

Concern was expressed by Plaid Cllr Mari Dafis at a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council about the government’s strategy for putting people on training programmes. Cllr Dafis felt that if we didn’t know which jobs were coming and when, there was a danger that we would either provide the wrong training, or else that the training would be out of date before it could be put into practice.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Dafis said, “I very much welcome the government’s expansion of the Modern Apprenticeships Scheme for instance, and I am delighted that the county council is endeavouring to make more use of it. But unless we know that there are going to be permanent jobs available at the end of this sort of scheme, there is a danger that the schemes just hide the true extent of unemployment.

“For the young people concerned, it can be very frustrating spending time learning skills which they are never able to apply. It’s almost as bad when they complete their training and then find that it’s so long before they get a job that the training is out of date, and further training is needed.”

Monday, 23 February 2009

Plaid return to attack over education

The Plaid group of councillors on Carmarthenshire County Council have again criticised the selective approach of the county council to educational re-organisation. Despite clear assurances from the Education Minister that the detail is entirely a matter for the county council, the county council leaders continue to maintain that they are following instructions given to them by the Assembly Government.

Plaid Cllr John Edwards said, “I cannot understand why the county is rushing ahead with changes to one area only. It is obvious that changes in one area will impact on other areas, and it is madness not to consider the issues across the county as a whole. Only by doing so can we ensure that we are coming up with the best approach overall.”

The Plaid group leader expressed his shock at some of the comments which had apparently been made by Government officials in Cardiff. “It was reported to the council,” said Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, “that if the council does not rush forward with its plans, we will slip behind in the queue for funding, and not receive any money for investment. I really cannot believe that the Assembly Government would determine its strategy for investment in education on the basis of who rushes to put the first plans in, and that the last to submit plans will receive nothing, regardless of need. That is a wholly unacceptable way of allocating funds.”