Friday, 24 November 2017

A fisheries' tale Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

Introduction by Siân Caiach 
At the end of the 1990's a disastrous decision was made to "upgrade" the sewerage treatment in the Llanelli and North Gower areas which discharged  into the Burry Inlet.(Loughor Estuary) The small settlement plants were closed and all sewage pumped up to Bynea and Gowerton where the foul discharge was treated by UV light. Unfortunately the plants were designed to take "dry" sewage, the assumption was that only sewage was in the sewers. In fact, massive amounts of surface water drained into the sewers and very soon the sewage plant was overwhelmed. Untreated and partially treated sewage was released into the natural waterway in increasing volumes. Huge attenuation tanks were built into the system to try to hold back the huge volumes after rainfall. After a few years the shellfish fishery was severely affected with mass cockle deaths every summer. The most likely cause of this was eutrification, too much fertiliser in the water causing algal blooms and killing the animals by asphyxiation. Not only cockles but other animals who could not move away from the sand banks such as sand eels and lug worms, were decimated. Fearful of  admitting that this was a man made disaster, convinced by the  Carmarthenshire County Council that massive house building was the only development possible in the area, and assured by Welsh Water that they could not  afford to put things right, a Welsh Government led cover up was organised to convince everyone that although there was incontrovertible evidence that the sewage was not being treated, there was some other reason that the cockles were dying.  As a  County Councillor 2008-17 I was told on several occasions that the protests were only about getting compensation for the cockle gatherers and I should not be supporting them. When the Stradey Residents Association reported the matter to the European Commission is was hoped that the  environmental protection of the EU directives would save the day.
Here is Robin Burn's excellent summary of events.

A Fisheries Tale

The Loughor Estuary and Burry Inlet, that part of Carmarthen bay, bounded to the north by the southern coastline of the county of Carmarthen, and to the south by the north shore of the Gower Peninsular is identified by Natural Resources Wales as being environmentally sensitive. To be precise designated as the Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries special area of conservation (SAC),site of special scientific interest (SSSI), the Burry Inlet special protection area (SPA) and is an internationally important wetland site (RAMSAR).

Of  importance for the local economy, the Burry Inlet supports a cockle fishery and  has supported this for many years. So important that  Sian Jenkins Hughes, Fisheries Technical Officer of Natural Resources Wales went so far as to announce that “ Our environment in Wales is the most valuable natural asset we have and we have the potential to generate more for our economy if we use it sustainably”.

This was for the occasion of the launch of Seafish’s Risk Assessment for Sourcing Seafood (RASS) website.

Careful analysis of the content of the website casts doubt however on the viability of the fishery, from the mixed messages delivered in the text .Quoting from the overview of the fishery, it states that “Burry Inlet cockles have been subject to unexplained summer mortalities in recent years(Elliot et al(2012). NRW are currently reviewing the recommendations of the 2012 report with a view to further progress this area of work subject to available resources”.

 It further states “The Burry Inlet Cockle Fishery Order 1965 Management Plan sets out Natural Resources Wales aim to develop a thriving cockle fishery in the Burry Inlet that supports, protects and enhances the needs of the community and the environment upon which it depends to:
 avoid adverse effects on the European designated site and local residents”

In the section designated Stock status quote”The Burry Inlet cockle stock has been scored a moderate risk This is because although the cockles are characterised by relatively low vulnerability (www.sealifebase.org) recent years have seen a declining trend in the population”.
In the  Habitat  subsection it quotes that”The seabed effects of the fishery are scored a very low risk. The Burry Inlet is a European Marine Site designated for nature conservation and the management plan requires avoidance of adverse effects on the site”.

In the Outlook subsection, the website script advise, a moderate stock risk status an uncertain out look on the basis of atypical summer mortality of stocks, the cause of which is still being investigated with emphasis on pathogens and biosecurity.

Following the launch of the website and press release, the September 21st edition of the Llanelli Star reports on a meeting with the Welsh Governments Environment Secretary , Lesley Giffiths, with Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and AM Lee Waters, to raise the on-going concerns about the lack of progress to tackle issues facing the cockle industry, of cockle deaths and sewage problems.
A statement from the Welsh Government spokeswoman suggested the previously commissioned investigation found no evidence to suggest pollution in the Burry Inlet waters.


The first indication that all was not well with the handling of waste water in from the urban areas of the northern boundery, the southern coast of Carmarthenshire, from the three rivers estuary at the eastern end to the Burry inlet at the western end, came from a public notice in November of 2008, of a request by Welsh Water/ Dwr Cymru to the then Environment Agency for an application of consent  to discharge sewage in an emergency situation.
At the same time a request for consent to diascharge into Dyfatty Brook from storm sewage overflow at Bryn avenue  CSO in Burry Port was lodged.
At the time emergency sewage  discharge consent was in place in Burry Port from the Heol Vaughan pumping station into the Khymer Canal.

Representations  of concern were made on the 5th of December 2008 to the Envronment Agency, a reply issued by the Agency was made on the 11th of February 2009. The Agency confirmed that “the applications were consented as they are for improvements under the AMP scheme to existing assets in the area. The new pumping station proposal is to replace an existing pumping station and will not discharge under storm conditions. The consent is for discharge in an emergency only.
The application for the combined sewer overflow is to replace two existing combined sewer overflows in the area. The new overflow will have extra storage and limit the spill frequency to one spill a year.

In the period between the 5th of August, until the 9th of November 2008 ,three heavy rainfall events occurred, that resulted in prolonged spillages of 4.5 hours in August,a 20 hour spill in September, and a 36 hour spill on the 9th of November.
In 2009 the accolade of a blue flag beach standard for Cefn Sidan was not awarded.

As a result of the November 2008 recorded spillages, Dr Lewis Keil was invited to attend the November19th. 2008 Pembrey & Burry Port Town Council meeting.
Members informed Dr Keil ,that they were very concerned, that, there had been eleven recorded spills at the Khymer Canal since January, especially as the canal is inert, and located in an area used for local events, and surrounded by properties. These spillages had occurred since the pumping station was upgraded and before completion of the new development at Chandlers Yard where there are already problems with the sewage system.
Dr Keil agreed that spillage levels were too high, he stated that, combined overflows which discharge are normal,but were not anticipated at the Khymer Canal, as models approved by the Environment Agency, had predicted one spill a year.
On the 6th of January 2009 Dr Keil, after the November 2008 meeting, wrote to the Council. In his letter he wrote” I had advised of the complete refurbishment of the Ashburnham sewage pumping that was due in summer 2008. Despite this work being undertaken, there were spills in September, October and November 2008”, he also “advised that it was difficult to see what else can be done to reduce spills.”
Finally he offers that”In the short term, the designers are checking the system to see if adjustment of the pump trigger levels can be altered to reduce the number of the storm spills. If this is not successful then a very costly alternative,such as piping storm sewage to the estuary, would be required to solve the problem.

On the 5th of February 2009, a call for a ministerial meeting on water quality, in the Burry Inlet, calling for action through the assembly, and Europe, following the disappointing news that the Blue Flag award, had been withdrawn from Cefn Sidan beach. The loss of the award had increased local concerns about water treatment, and the impact of large scale housing developments on the insufficient and over used water treatment works during periods of heavy rainfall. The local Assembly Member had arranged to meet the Minister for the Environment on the 11th of February to express concerns. A meeting with the Member of the European Parliament, had also called a meeting to discuss the level of concerns of the estuary.
On the 12th of February the then Environment Agency Wales, reacting to the February the 5th press release, in a Position Statement offered the following comments “It is important to know that combined drainage systems such as those in Burry Port pumping station are deliberately designed to allow discharges to the sea or rivers under certain controlled conditions.
During heavy rainfall, the pumps cannot pass forward all the sewage to the sewage treatment works, and the dilute sewage is allowed to overflow into the sea or the river. This storm sewage as it is called, is screened and requires a licence (called a consent), from the Environment Agency which contains conditions that Dwr Cymru Welsh Water must adhere to.
If the combined drainage system was not able to operate like this, then under heavy rainfall conditions, it is likely that domestic and residential properties, would flood with sewage.” 

Setting aside the assertions of the various regulatory authorities, whose responsibility is to maintain the directives, in reality the situation cannot be further from the actuality, that, on March the 26th 2015 the European Court ruled that the Government of the United Kingdom was in breach of the Urban Water Treatment Directive at Llanelli, and Gowerton, and is awaiting a judgement to be handed down by the Court.
The European Court judgement is the culmination of several years of investigations, discussions by various lobby groups to determine the truth behind the observations of many individuals, that all was not well in terms of fishery expectations, and that the well being of the estuary and the inlet was far from being healthy.
In May 2017the European Court finally handed down the ruling but did not fine the United Kingdom for the breach of the Urban Water Treatment directive. 

This case shows how toothless the EU environmental regulations can be.They rely on the local governments to uphold them, local people to report problems and can be soft on breaches. In this case the European Court took almost 10 years to rule on pollution in the Burry Inlet. A ruling of guilt against the UK  brought censure but no punishment. Welsh Water cannot afford to install new treatment facilities and are currently digging up central Llanelli to put in new drains to separate ground water drainage from the sewers. Spills continue and the cockles have not recovered. No wonder the people of Llanelli voted to leave the European Union!


Robin Burn

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Councillors lost daughter part 3

This final instalment has been delayed due to Carina's grandmother becoming ill some weeks ago. She is now much better and Mr and Mrs Burn, with whom I have closely collaborated in all these articles, have approved and contributed to this final part of the story. The reaction of the Social Service Department to the exposure of the allegations against the Mrs and Mr Burn as complete fantasy is extremely disturbing. Why did they have to still fight to keep their daughter after cleared of any wrongdoing? How many other vulnerable adults have been less fortunate and are still wrongly held against their will in similar situations?

 Siân Caiach

This is the last part of the story of how a vulnerable young woman was wrongly taken into care after false allegations by “carers” provided by her local authority. Carina’s parents were accused of  sexually abusing their daughter .No evidence was ever found that they did except for statements from those employed by the Council to take the 19 year old to activities. They had known her for only 3 weeks. As she cannot talk, these carers pretended that she could communicate with them via a letter board. using Facilitated Communication, a process easily faked and not acceptable as evidence in UK law. When eventually the quality of this communication was tested by an expert, no communication could be shown, Carina did communicated in the manner of a young child with the professor when properly assessed, and communicated she just wanted to go home.

The last chapter in Carina Burn’s story of being abducted by local social services is one which is disturbing even though she herself was eventually taken back by her family. The news of the results of the tests was not welcomed. The professor was asked to reconsider her assessment and rewrite the report. The motivation seemed to be to protect County Council Employees rather than swiftly return the young woman to her parents.

After Professor Howlin declined to change her mind and alter the report, she was invited to Carmarthen to explain her findings to the council officers in person. Even after this visit when the professor was cross examined as to her findings and explained what had happened, no action was initiated to return Carina to her parents. Looking at the professor's scale of fees the cost of the visit is likely to have been at least £1000 plus travel and accommodation expenses. The emotional cost to Carina's parents and herself of delaying the return was devastating.

 Mr and Mrs Burn knew there was proof that they were totally innocent but were still not allowed access to their daughter with all the emotional damage that caused .More seriously, Carina herself was still confined against her will and severely distressed.  She had no idea why she had been taken away, or where her parents were. After almost 6 months of this stress her health was deteriorating. Cruelly, her parents were told that they could not visit as she had, via the carers, refused to give consent to allow them to visit.

 At this point all parties knew that there was an expert opinion confirming no communication between Carina and her “carers”. Furthermore, Carina had been assessed by Professor Howlin as having severe learning difficulties and therefore lacking legal capacity. It appeared that the local council were going ahead with placing her with foster carers even though the Authority, and presumably the new foster carers, had no means of communicating with Carina. With her mother she can communicate not only simple words and phrases but more importantly her basic needs such as hunger, thirst and needing the toilet .All were now aware that she had been falsely imprisoned and treated dreadfully.

A sustained cover up was clearly on the cards and her continued stay at the care home was doubly dangerous. Not only was her “care” poor and resulting in unnecessary physical and mental stress, but if she was now reclassified as without capacity, it could be argued by the social work department that she was not in a position to decide where she should live. They could quite legally move her to the foster home as planned and significantly delay her return to her parents, perhaps stop it all together as the Council could afford the very best of legal representation and her family could not.

There was one short window of opportunity to take her back. If a parental visit could be arranged at this time, while the Authority still maintained that Carina had legal capacity, if it could be witnessed and she was able to communicate with her mother [the only person who could communicate with her using FC],that she wanted to go home, there was nothing in law at that point to stop her going home with her mother.

After repeated requests, Carmarthenshire County Council Social Services allowed a visit by her mother to be supervised at Burry Port Harbour. It was said that Carina staunchly refused to see her father. Carina had, of course, not actually communicated at all. The 2 carers and the social worker who claimed they were able to do so, had demonstrated with the professor that they could not. I myself and Councillor Malcolm Davies agreed to witness the meeting. The date was April 1st 2011.

Here is Julia Burn's personal account of what happened next.

Carina arrived accompanied by a social worker, Bethan Williams and a young man Julia did not know. Bethan, herself had claimed she could communicate with Carina using FC but had not been able to demonstrate this when Carina was tested by the professor.

"I arrived at the harbour and went into the cafe to secure a table near the door for a cup of tea to calm my nerves, knowing that if this didn't work, I would probably never see my daughter again.

It was supposed to be for a short walk with Carina around the harbour and into the Yacht Club for a meeting with Bethan Williams and her minder so I had to get Carina into the Cafe instead. When I met Carina I hugged, her and then suggested that she needed to go to the toilet urgently and that the Yacht Club was closed so perhaps the cafe would be the best place to go.

After taking her to the toilet, every move being watched and having to leave the door open, I bought her a cup of tea and sat at the table .I then asked her if she had anything she wanted to tell me, and, using the word board she spelt out "Take me home now". At that time I motioned to Councillor Sian Caiach and asked Carina to repeat what she had just communicated which she did. So I stood up, told Bethan Williams that Carina wanted to go home, so we were going home,and promptly left with her following me. I opened the car door, she got in immediately and we went home. Finally she was back where she should always have been- with Mum and Dad"

After this the local Authority acted with extreme hostility. They called the police who were not interested as Carina was 19 and according to CCC had capacity to make her own decisions. I advised her parents not to open the door to my own social services department - I didn't trust them. The cover up was going to be far more important that the well being of their client. They were allowed to see Carina through the living room window. I visited the family immediately after Carina's return and subsequently and would have happily given evidence of what I saw in their home - a traumatised young woman being supported by her loving parents.
.

 Here is Julia's account of this harassment.

"This should have been the end of the story but no, the Authority sent social workers around banging on the door demanding to see Carina to check that she was safe - some were built like bricks and there was no way we going to open the door to them.We were  hassled for some days before they eventually gave up on that course of action , only to be followed by demands for meetings to arrange services for Carina and an assessment - they actually expected us to put her back into the care of Perthyn (the company who had caused us all this trouble and misery) so we engaged a solicitor to act on our behalf.

We chose Sinclair Law and Caroline Goodall accompanied Robin to represent us at meetings and we had no wish to ever see or speak to any of these social workers again but after paying out thousands of pounds she let us down and sided with the Authority, querying that Carina may have adult capacity when Professor Howlin , the expert, had repeatedly told Carmarthenshire County Council that Carina did not have capacity. She then refused to act for us in the Court of Protection.

It was important for us to become legal Deputies for Carina as an extra safeguard against Carmarthenshire so we became litigants in person and with the help of the internet Robin managed to prepare the required documents and fill in the masses of paperwork required. I, of course, could not help too much as Carina needed my full time attention, love and care as she was suffering profusely from this whole travesty and required constant confirmation that this was not her fault.

We won deputy ship for her monies and financial affairs but had to agree to a home assessment. We had asked for a private independent assessment as we did not trust any of the Authority's social workers, and this was agreed. The Assessment confirmed that our home and standard of care was excellent. Carina at last had the Protection of the Court against the Authority.

The Ombusdman stated the this business "was flawed from the outset" and the private report into our complaint  against Carmarthenshire County Council  found their procedures to be lacking.

To this day there has never been an Independent Safeguarding Investigation into the actions of Carmarthenshire County Council  and the police and no confirmation that the Perthyn carers responsible [for the false allegations], Nicola Evans and Stacey Duggan have ever been brought to task. Nor have C.C.C.Social care employees Bethan Williams,Anthony Maynard,Gareth John, Jonathan Hughes, Bruce Mclernon  and other officers and social workers who have now abandoned ship and run away to other areas where they can wreak havoc!"

Robin Burn with his daughter Carina 








Thursday, 9 November 2017

"10 years of dereliction - The Grillo Site in Burry Port - Offshore Company allows pollution to continue.

The site of a chemical factory with gross land contamination is not the best construction site for homes and retail. Was the sale and planning permission just a ruse to let  Carmarthenshire County Council and NRW off the hook as toxic chemicals are likely leaching  into the Burry Inlet , the supposedly protected NATURA site and  shellfish fishery. The new owners , Castletown Estates are apparently listed offshore and have accepted responsibility for the clean up, But the company, registered in the Isle of Mann, shows no sign of actually getting on with the decontamination . A derelict site known to have chemical contamination is not what the residents of Burry Port want. Despite being informed by Llanelli Flood Forum members that indicative tests of the water leaching out of the site into the Habour shows several heavy metals, CCC have declined to test the water formally.                         

Robin Burn describes the sad saga of neglect.


Grillo Site
Burry Port Harbour

It is now 10 years since the former Grillo Zinc oxide production factory adjacent to Burry Port harbour was sold and demolished in 2007 and the site has lain dormant since then and debris remains on the site.

The site adjacent to Burry port Harbour has in its time been various metalworking establishments finally up until its demolition a site for Zinc Oxide manufacturing. 

The site is contaminated with a cocktail of toxic metal, organic and inorganic compounds all with risk to public health.
Carmarthenshire County Council were aware, that, by allowing planning for housing development on that site, would probably trigger a call in by the Welsh Government/Environment Agency.
 
In a Planning Committee on January 18 th 2011, the planning committee were advised by senior officers of Carmarthenshire County Council “ that, as the Committee was minded to approve planning application S/18723, subject to the conditions detailed within the Report/Addendum of the Head of Planning and/or reported at the meeting, the Head of Planning be granted plenary powers to deal with any outstanding matters once the Article 14 Notice is withdrawn, or the application is called-in for determination, inclusive of the Appropriate Assessment being signed off by CCW within a reasonable time period from forwarding the same, in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 43(1) of the Conservation of Habitats & Species Regulations 2010 and inclusive also of a Section 106 Agreement”

In other words Carmarthenshire County Council accepted the fact that this development was on a Classified C2 floodplain., which should not , due to the risk of flooding, have any development except vital utilities eg sewage pumps.

In correspondence from the Environment Agency Wales, responsibility for monitoring the site and its associated ground water, is the developer.  Camarthenshire County Council has been made aware of actions to be taken including post remedial monitoring of groundwater.  The Environment Agency understands that ground water beneath the site is in continuity with open water within Burry Port Harbour.
The Environment Agency Wales will continue to act as an advisor to the Local Authority for matters that could impact on ground or surface waters when requested.

In respect of the future development of the site, the site is proposed for residential purposes and some community asset, given the present economic restrictions and uncertain waste disposal system quality, should a change of use of the site be considered to one of emphasis on social and cultural asset?

The Llanelli Star has published articles based on the views of a number of elected Councillors of Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.
These views, in favour of developing the Harbour Area to the proposed planning applications and that failure to do so would be detrimental to the future prosperity of Burry Port. The views vociferously expounded  appear to be based on the principle that the proposed development area has never flooded and that the flood maps have now been changed to show, that the development areas are not on a flood plain.

Unfortunately this view, only supports a part of the facts surrounding the flood risks for these sites, and does not support the real facts as expounded by both Natural Resources Wales and Watermans .
Both organizations have submitted their assessments of flood risk to Carmarthenshire County Council and can be accessed from the County’s Planning Applications sites.

Firstly Natural Resources Wales, in their document, whilst they advise, that their Flood Map Information, updated shows the site to be flood free, they acknowledge, that Site 6 lies partially within the current C2 Zone as defined by the Development Advice Maps (DAM) referred to under Technical Advice Note (TAN)15 Development and Flood Risk (July 2004).
They qualify this statement by advising that their information does not take into consideration climate change allowances or blockages at structures through which flood water passes.

They go on to say” In accordance with TAN 15 the proposed development of up to 134 residential properties would be considered as highly vulnerable and should not be permitted within zone C2.  However, if your authority are minded to consider the application it should be shown through the submission of an appropriate flood consequences assessment (FCA) that the consequences of flooding can be acceptably be managed over the lifetime of the development.

The NRW document makes reference to a Flood Consequences Assessment “Redevelopment of Burry Port-Sites 5&6 Flood Consequences Assessment Final. July 2014 Referenced 16025/FCA02A prepared by Waterman Transport and Development Ltd”
 and submitted to the Authority forming part of the Planning Application documentation.

The document discusses Tidal Flood Risk and comments that the principle risk of flooding at the site is potential tidal flooding in the future. The principle cause is the effect of Climate Change in terms of tidal flood risk.

TAN 15 states that provision must be made for future changes in flood risk, specifically as a result of Climate Change. In this case flood risk must be considered over the anticipated lifetime  of each development.
 It is proposed to develop sites 5&6 for residential use; therefore a lifetime of development of 100 years has been assumed giving an assessment year of 2114, and as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)  has produced guidance regarding sea level rises for 2114, sea level rise is 14.5 mm/year. 

The FCA concludes that the site remains dry in the majority of the scenarios modelled, however the site is at risk of flooding during a 0.1% plus climate change annual probability tidal event and an extreme 0.5% annual probability tidal event plus climate change and with tidal levels at the upper extent of the confidence interval. The FCA therefore proposes mitigation in the form of raising ground elevations to 7.1 meters AOD to address flood risk. We accept that the proposed mitigation works effectively to create a plateau that remains flood free for all scenarios considered within the FCA.
The proposed mitigation increases flood risk on the B4311 to the west of the site and significant flood risk on the adjacent former Grillo site requiring mitigation by a similar raising of  ground elevations to 7.1m AOD 


To counteract the lack of suitable waste management facilities by Welsh Water, it should be made incumbent on the developer to incorporate all the current waste disposable systems that are environmentally sustainable and friendly into the plans for the build.

Site remediation continues to be priority, as no attempt has been made since demolition to clean up the site. This is now becoming a critical issue.
Remediation costs will be extensive, perhaps under current economic conditions beyond the means of any developer. The solution in this case is European funding backed by Welsh Government.


This solution would clear the ground for Community assets for cultural community and recreation to meet conditions of a Local Development Plan as well as creating employment opportunities for the local community. The site stands on a designated flood plain, the development called in by the Environment Agency on behalf of the Welsh  Government to restrict the building of houses. 
A buy back from the developer and clean up funded by Public Finance is a logical solution to a problem considered to be an ongoing one.

Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM


 Also see :https://westwalesnewsreview.wordpress.com/tag/grillo-site  (for further details )          

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Cities are the future, apparently. City Deal Wellness Developments in Small Towns yet to be validated

Cities are supposedly the driving force of the UK economy. So good are they at making money and improving the lot of their inhabitants that there are more and more new calls for devolution to these powerhouses of wealth generation. Cities know best, so let them get on with it is the mantra.

Cardiff, Wales' only "Core City"
But what if you are not in a city? Is there any hope?

Core Cities UK have this year produced a green paper on the City-led future of Britain. It is available on their website, www.corecities.com.

The message is that cities are the best thing that ever happened to the human race, the drivers of the economy and the true shape of the future.

Cardiff is one of the case studies you can look up on this site. Cardiff is a fair way from where I live in Carmarthenshire and I know little about its performance other than the impressive growth of our capital's city centre and its successes as the seat of government and home of many National institutions. Its Core City ambitions are clearly worthy.

There are impressive promises, the "Cardiff Commitment" seeking a coalition of change to prepare young people for the world of work. Major businesses and local public service leaders have signed an "employer pledge" committing them to working with schools and accessing skills, tuition. mentoring, apprenticeships and job opportunities for young people. It sounds wonderful, I don't know how feasible delivery is, but you can't argue with the ultimate goal of every young person in Cardiff getting a job or post education training "that allows them to be the best they can be".

The population of Wales is around 3.1 million. The three southern cities populations are roughly around 856,000 in total with Cardiff the largest with 361,000, Swansea has 246.000 and Newport 149,000. Official city dwellers on this estimate, make up 27.5% of our population, low by world estimates where over 50% of people are said to live in cities at present, set to rise to 70% by 2050.
I recently went to a presentation of this green paper in Glasgow and the enthusiasm of the core city leaders was impressive. However, at the end I could not resist asking some of the Council leaders the question which most Welsh People might ask "what is the future of areas which are not cities?"

After a meeting where all parties had criticised the UK Government for its centralisation and "one size fits all policies", the response I got was one emphasising the Cities as the new leaders in growth and economic development, and the need for everyone to work with them, preferably within them. Is that where we non- city dwellers fit in? Join them or condemn ourselves permanently to some second  rate economy, poor services and no tools to improve matters was what I understood by the responses.

The City lobby is powerful and the UK central government has responded with City Deals and the installation of elected mayors, and these policies will likely be extended to many other areas.  Will it all work out ?- I don't know. But I do know that the current trend to pretend that we, the rest of Wales are part of a city or a made up regional partnership area and will therefore share the great leadership, strength and skill claimed by the Core Cities may not be such a good idea.

The Core Cities have the begging bowl out already and are competing for UK government funds will well developed investment bids.  If a rural area funds a project as a"City Deal" will the illusion it is something to do with a city make it a success?

Delta Lakes - it certainly  has a lot of water, is a brownfield site, and belongs to the Council. When I asked why we were planning the "Wellness and Life Science Village there I was answered by Mr Mark James, the CEO of Carmarthenshire County Council "Where else would we find 40 acres of land?"Convenience clearly took precedence over careful site selection. 

Artists impression of the Wellness and life Science Village, Llanelli
Here is the description from the Carmarthenshire County Council Website:

Delta Lakes will provide a ‘world class’ Wellness and Life Science Village along the Llanelli coastline bringing together health, leisure, business and research.

The largest ever regeneration project in South West Wales, it aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the region, creating up to 2000 high quality, well paid jobs and boosting the economy by a staggering £467 million over 15 years.

The proposals include:

An Institute of Life Science with laboratory and clinic space and an incubation facility for business start-up, research and development
A Wellness Hub incorporating a new ‘state-of-the-art’ sports and leisure centre
A Community Health Hub offering a range of health and wellbeing services and facilities for education and training.
A Wellness Hotel
An Assisted Living Village, AKA £7m funds originally earmarked for a council care home.

Firm details are scarce. How many of these buildings will be built by the local authority to lease out to businesses, the university, the Health Board and the care home provider, for example? Businesses may be happy to rent units, lease hotels and laboratories etc but is anyone offering to really invest and build and own the units? If not, the cost of construction and landscaping may take up much of the loan money borrowed by the County Council. They rely on the business rates to cover the loan interest - possibly a poor position from which to negotiate the best rental deals.

Before the signing of the agreement, I never saw a proper business plan for the scheme. Neither was there any research report as to how many and where the tourists and service users would probably come from. The expressions of business interest were just that. Does the scheme stand or fall as a whole or are the proposed individual schemes viable in themselves?

How many of the "up to 2000 high quality, well paid jobs" will actually be recruited locally, where many are already stuck in entry level low paid jobs with little prospect?

Maybe pretending to be part of a city will be an advantage?  Personally, I believe our  rural areas, small towns and villages deserve the sort of economic stimuli  generally shown to help these sorts of  communities and the businesses and industries they sustain. Jumping on someone else's bandwagon may not the best strategy.

 Siân Caiach,  

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Councillor's lost Daughter part two

Carina Burn had been removed from her parent's care without them being informed. Carmarthenshire County Council Social Services, on the evidence of 2 carers who claimed to be able to communicate with Carina, that she was now a competent adult, having previously been regarded at regular assessments  as a person with severe learnng and communication difficulties. Eventually it was proved that the whole thing was a hoax and the carers only pretended communication with their client. How were they able to maintain the fraud for months? How were the police, the Council officers and a senior doctor, all professionals, completely fooled by carers with little experience or training?

The ombudsman has produced an analytical and critical report in response to a complaint against Carmarthenshire County Council by Mr and Mrs Burn. It was never revealed to or discussed with any elected councillors in CCC, to my knowledge. As a member of the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee at the time, the matter was never discussed and my personal inquiries as to the measures taken to  both prevent a recurrence and the concerns of the Burns about the carers involved still being employed locally,  were ignored. The ombudsman's report was available on request to every member of the public who knew the reference number, but not to those elected members supposedly overseeing the performance of the Council's Social Care department.

The only person concerned who stood before a disciplinary panel , was the doctor, psychiatrist  Rowan Wilson, who had been deceived into confirming Carina Burn's supposedly adult capacity and verifying her testimony. Why CCC chose an old age psychiatrist with no experience with autistic conditions to make this assessment has never been explained.

His General Medical Council hearing reveals evidence explaining how he was fooled, not only by the carers but also by a social worker.  GMC Fitness to Practice hearings have the standing of a civil court and are conducted in a similar way.

The hearing. GMC ref no: 3547955 was a public hearing conducted 12th-15th November 2012. Carina is referred to as CB in the records, which her parents have allowed me to access. There was press coverage at the time.
GMC Offices Manchester

The panel findings were that Dr. Wilson conducted an examination of CB on the 8th November 2010 at the request of  Carms CC, using facilitated communication ("FC") in circumstances where patient CB was diagnosed as autistic and when he had no prior experience or informed knowledge of  FC.

Furthermore when conducting and reporting the assessment Dr Wilson failed to establish CB's cognitive capacity, accepted FC as a reliable technique without enquiry and failed to consider the discrepancy between CB's diagnosis of autism and her apparent language competency using FC. He also failed to test the validity of CB's use of FC. He then produced a report concluding that CB had full adult mental capacity when he had insufficient information so to conclude.

Mr Climie, Dr Wilson's defence barrister did not dispute the serious clinical mistake which had led to CB being kept in Care and denied access to her family. He submitted that there was a very significant element of malice attached to the allegations and mentions the dispute between the parents and carers over the disappearance of money without receipts and CB not attending the activities agreed for her. He mentions that Dr Wilson was unaware of these details.

Dr Wilson was asked to undertake an assessment of CB. Her social worker informed him that "CB has made disclosures to the police about her parents. Her parents are in full denial of this and are disputing  that she has the capacity to make this disclosure, let alone use the communication that she has recently been using very efficiently. They also believe that she cannot make decisions on where she lives or that she has the right to choose if she sees her parents or not."

Dr Wilson's subsequent report is full of wonder that this clearly disabled, childlike young woman without speech is able to remember names, describe her care home and "speak" through FC with a clearly adult voice.He was informed by the social worker and carers that she had a "far greater mental capacity than is actually the case".Using that information he had written a report that CB had the full capacity to make her own welfare decisions. 

FC is a controversial technique and Dame Butler-Sloss, when president of the Family Division ,ruled that FC could not be relied upon in family proceeding where allegations of abuse are concerned. Through their solicitor the parents raised these concerns with CCC and pushed for a proper expert assessment of Carina which was eventually arranged in March 2011.As I have previously described Dyfed Powys Police seem to have kept the parents on police bail at the request of a social worker up to this point ,with no evidence ever found of abuse.

Professor Howlin, an expert in Autistic Spectrum Disorders and a practitioner of FC, examined  Carina on the 1st March 2011 and showed that she lacked capacity due to her autistic spectrum disability, but could use FC to make simple statements appropriate to a young child. She wanted to go home. The carers and social worker who had been "using" FC , had no communication with Carina whatsoever .Carina was 19 years old but Professor Howlin assessed her language communication  as between  2 and 4 years of age.

At the GMC hearing Dr Wilson admitted his errors. The panel affirm that he should have made an independent assessment rather than operating under a number of assumptions, that he should have been aware of the serious consequences which could flow from a mistake and that the actions amounted to serious misconduct.

Dr Wilson expressed remorse and this was considered genuine. He had also taken some training in assessing Autistic Spectrum Disorders and had changed his outlook to such assessments, Despite the serious misconduct finding, the GMC found that this had been one incident which was unlikely to be repeated and so no restriction was placed on his practice.

The panel considered that he "will always remember the distressing consequences of {his} assessment of CB" and also that it was a salutary lesson which he would not forget.

Dr Wilson accepted the opinion of international Expert Professor Patricia Howlin without question. Carmarthenshire County Council Social work department, unfortunately. did not. Carina's imprisonment continued with the same carers still "communicating" for her using FC.

How she was finally released is the next instalment.

Siân Caiach

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Councillor's lost Daughter Part one

County Councillors rarely feel they have to act against their own Local Authority but I did, and deliberately helped remove a vulnerable and helpless person from the care of Carmarthenshire County Council. This happened in 2011 but now that legal cases are completed I am free to talk about the appalling treatment of this young woman, then aged 19, by Carmarthenshire Social Services and carers provided by Perthyn, a private company paid by the council to provide "care" in this sad case.

Although Carmarthenshire County Council, Dyfed Powys Police and a psychiatrist have all accepted blame for this terrible mistaken and unlawful imprisonment of a young woman, Perthyn, whose carers made up false allegations and who appear to have given these staff, at best, poor training and supervision, have not been individually criticised. Carina has been awarded £30,000 in damages, the bulk of which comes from Carmarthenshire County Council and is held in trust for her.

 Ironically, if she had been wrongfully imprisoned by a miscarriage of justice due to false allegations about her, she would likely have been awarded more. However, the false allegations were against her parents and made by the 2 carers spelling out completely false allegations on a letter board while directing her finger to what they wanted her to "say".

For months Carmarthenshire County Council insisted that the disclosures were Carina's statements. Carina was a normal child until sudden illness caused brain damage giving her cerebral palsy and autism and robbing her of speech.  Her parents moved to Wales with her as Carmarthenshire was said to have excellent facilities for the education of such children. All of her social services assessments described her as a person with severe communication difficulties and she was assessed as having the comprehension of a young child, a person without adult capacity. At home she communicated with her mother using a letter board to express her basic needs, forming words and short sentences appropriate to the language of a young child. As her fine motor skills were limited, she needed  help to steady her wrist to move her finger between letters. This is called "facilitated communication" and has been misused to falsify communication in many cases. It is only recommended for home use and cannot be used as evidence in UK courts.

When Carina left school, it was suggested that carers take her to college and for other activities such as swimming. Two carers were allocated to her but there were problems. Money went missing . The carers claimed Carina had misbehaved and they changed her routine from the planned activities.

After 3 weeks of this. Carina's parents were not happy with the carers and her mother told them on a Friday that she would take Carina herself to college the following Monday in order to find out exactly what was going on.

 The 2 Carers then asked to take Carina swimming that day as planned,The Carers later claimed that Carina had immediately indicated to them that her parents were abusing her. In the changing rooms of the swimming pool and in the manner of an articulate adult she had disclosed that she was regularly beaten and raped by her father and, together with her mother, prostituted from their home and forced to have sex with number of strangers.

Carina's parents did not realise that the carers had found a laminated letter sheet used by Carina in her handbag and were now using it to accuse the couple of abusing their daughter and running a brothel. Carina did not come home. Social services told the parents to ask the police about why she was being kept away and it was some days before they found out about the allegations.

In the meantime Carmarthenshire Social Services had asked an Old Age Specialist Psychiatrist with no knowledge of learning difficulties or autism, Dr Rowan Williams,  to verify Carina's communication and status.

 It is a warning sign that FC is being misused when a subject suddenly becomes articulate and expressive at a level well above their assessed ability. Dr Rowan Wilson  believed what he was told by the social workers and supported the re classification of Carina as a competent adult having full legal capacity. This meant her parents now had no rights over her and she was kept in Ty Hendy care home, attended by the same carers who had made up the abuse story.

As the ombudsman later remarked, if social services had even googled "Facilitated Communication" they would have found that it has been discredited and should never have been relied on to take anyone into care or refer allegations to the police . However, the Council officers preferred to believe that they had a sensational case against her father, a local Plaid Cymru Councillor well known in the area.

Not a jot of evidence was found to support the abuse/brothel allegations despite a thorough look through the parental computers and a very detailed forensic search of the home. Carina was "interviewed" for hours by the police via her "carers" and even "retracted "the allegations several times. The police also did not seem to have any knowledge of the reputation of FC. However, finding no evidence they should have released the parents from police bail and dropped the threat of charges against them.  This social services log sheet below shows the request from Social Services to the police to keep the parents on bail to facilitate their Council's further investigations, in the hope that an expert, the renowned Professor Patricia Howlin, could finally prove that the carers were truly representing Carina's communication.





This telephone call [TC] logged by social worker Bethan Williams , first on the list above,  is an exchange between her superior, County Council Officer Anthony Maynard and police officer Detective Inspector Richard Jones.

"Anthony Maynard called DI Richard Jones to advise that the specialist assessments cannot be done until March. It will be impossible to extend the Burn's bail until that date.Therefore he will possibly shelf the case and once we get the evidence done in March, if it proves anything further and more evidence is obtained they can re-open the case.Richard Jones asked if I could find the emails Mr Burn has sent to us"

On 25th October, the couple had been informed by the police that there was no physical evidence of any wrongdoing after they had interviewed under caution, had their house searched and their computers examined. There was also evidence from the family doctor showing that there were other, medical  reasons the abuse could never have happened as claimed in the detail of the disclosures. After this the Burns were put on police bail to allow further investigation.

 Almost 3 months later the police were no further on and had no reason to keep the parents on police bail other than to facilitate the Social Services desperate attempts to prove that something had actually happened. At this point they all must have known, as the family's lawyers had informed them, on several occasions, that any evidence produced through FC (facilitated communication) would have been inadmissible anyway

.After this phone call the parents were kept on police bail which implied there was still ongoing police consideration of the case. They were prevented from visiting their daughter who allegedly communicated via her carers that she did not wish to see them. They suffered severe stress as their only information about Carina was second hand from relatives and visitors to other clients at Ty Hendy, who reported that Carina was distressed and causing difficulties at the residential  institution.

 In truth Carina was a person with learning difficulties and new, severe stress induced  behavioural problems due to being confined at Ty Hendy. She did not know where she was, why she was there,or  where her parents were? She was being prepared for a foster placement out of county where her "carers" who could "communicate" with her, would be employed to" support" her.

I would like to know why the police played this game of "shelving" the investigation but keeping the parents on police bail, in the hope that Social Services could find evidence the police could not and somehow overcome the judicial ruling on Facilitated Communication?  Why have the police assisted in a cover up to help social services? The parents were asking for a test of communication and would not have  objected to one if their daughter had been returned. They knew the allegations were untrue.

And who had any regard for the parents, or the young woman locked up and aware that she was being made to spell out things she did not understand or agree with, and was desperate to return to her family?
 
The communication test should surely have been done before any assessment of capacity, any police interviews and any decisions about Carina's future. Both parties, County Council and Dyfed Powys Police were made aware early on by the Burns and their lawyers of the dangers and limitations of facilitated communication. Perhaps the "scandalous goings on" described by the carers were more seductive than the public duty of care, common sense and proper procedure?

Siân Caiach,

Sunday, 30 July 2017

1911 - the history that should have never happened but did!

Why does Wales get a bad deal? Why is this country the poorest in the UK by far. The inference is that the Welsh deserve it. Even welsh born and raised politicians have rubbished the country's history and lack of talent. Wales need guidance and protection from the ambitions of its inhabitants. Those who live here don't deserve a fair share - if they had "real drive" they would surely have left and never come back ! Suppressing the "wrong" history is apparently a national pastime. Even recent events may be spun as something completely different.


Neil Kinnock is an example of a man who did reasonably well in the UK sphere but was not renowned for his support of Wales, the project. His views on Welsh History were not far off the sentiments my children learned at school in history lessons. Their teachers do not have had much to work with, the Romans, the Tudors and the Second World war with welsh involvement as footnotes.

Those of us old enough to have been supporting the miners in the Miners Strike of 1984-5 realised that it was primarily a successful attack by Margaret Thatcher on a troublesome are of the UK economy -a  unionised heavy industry. In Wales it was a  large part of  the economy and surely deserved preservation. There was not the environmental concern of today about fossil fuels and the destruction of the industry was political. Welsh Labour supporters through those long months were waiting for the Labour leader to support the strike, especially in his own country. A touching sentiment, but forlorn. Interesting quote above where he airs his views on what he sees as a distinct lack of history in Wales.

Remarkably a local Secondary School in Llanelli once did do a local history project on 1911 and I had not even heard of those events  before my eldest child brought it  home. Mysteriously none of  my 3 younger children who attended the same school subsequently studied the 1911 events - they must have misplaced the project documents.

You might think that history its something fixed in the past and interpretation may alter but not the facts.  You would be wrong. The events of 1911, uniquely played out in Llanelli, and the massive attempts to suppress the facts and distort the truth, chillingly shadows the modern day distortions and cover ups of government blunders we currently see all over the world. Such is the ignorance about Llanelli 1911 that after the Centenary we decided to carry on with a few events every year to keep the memory alive of what really happened.

I recently heard that a member of the public had gone to Llanelli Library to obtain some information on the subject of the 1911 Strike.  He was told that they had no books or information. The gentleman at the desk dealing with the query remarked that "We wish it had never happened".

I happened to have donated 30 books on the subject on behalf of the the 1911 committee to them 5 years ago! Where could they be? I suspect some of the hundreds of bilingual books we got printed with a Heritage Lottery Grant  and sent to every Carmarthenshire school may also have disappeared.

As someone who is no stranger to controversy I found the 1911 Centenary Commemoration strangely double edged. The first reaction against remembering 1911 I found ,was opposition on the grounds that the history was shameful and showed that the people of Llanelli were capable of rioting and looting. A less common but more deeply disturbing attitude is that a good welsh nationalist like myself should not be involved in working class history as it's an "English" subject.

The basic story is:
The first National Railway Strike was called in August 1911. Railwaymen were paid so little that they could not support their families despite 70 hour working weeks. The majority of other workers in Llanelli were significantly better off and there was a great deal of sympathy for the strikers. The UK government mobilised 57,000 troops to keep the railways and ports open.

The railway was the major transporter of  UK goods and the GWR line through Llanelli was transporting massive food imports coming in from Ireland .

Huge pickets blocked the station crossing gates despite the efforts and bayonets of police and troops. Llanelli was the  only place in Britain where the trains were completely halted. Liberal Home Secretary Winston Churchill sent in more troops. Railway still blocked. A local magistrate read the riot act and finally the troops shot onlookers, killing 2 of them. The crowds should have disbursed but instead ran at the troops who spent the rest of their trip to Llanelli barricaded in the station. Some of the townspeople took advantage of the situation  to attack property owned by the local magistrates and the Railway companies. Ironically, by this point the strike had been settled.

Grave in Llanelli's Box Cemetery of an English labourer shot in the back garden of his lodgings.
Local Historian John Edwards.who wrote the book "Remembrance of a Riot" , the first comprehensive account of the events, says the emphasis on the looting, rather than the shooting, was the political reaction from the start and the incident is still locally known as the "Llanelli riots"as if it was some random criminal event. We still have an uphill struggle.


This year's events :

August 17th  Free Entry to all at the annual 1911 Historian's Forum at Llanelli Rural Council 5 for 5.30pm  Speaker Robert Griffiths author of "Killing, no murder" book on 1911 events.

This is followed by Civic Reception for all guests by Chair of Council [Buffet and Drinks]. Venue: Llanelli Rural Council Offices, Vauxhall, Llanelli  SA15 3BD  tel. 01554 774103

August 19th  Commemorative March from Llanelli Station stopping at the site of the killings and on to the town centre.Gather 1.30pm for departure at 2.00pm. Speeches in Spring Gardens, Town Hall Square followed by wreath laying at Box Cemetery.

learn more at 1911llanellirailwaystrike.org.uk/
                                                                                                                   Siân Caiach