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.”