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."