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."