Monday, 2 December 2019

Does Plaid Cymru plan to rule Wales like their Councillors rule Carmarthenshire, I hope not ..


EMLYN DOLE TRIES TO REINSTATE "UNLAWFUL" FUNDING OF COUNCIL LIBEL ACTIONS

Carmarthenshire County Council is infamous for its Chief Executive taking the Blogger Jacqui Thompson to court for libel after she allegedly described their Chief Executive Mark James, as"Pinocchio" After a costly court case in London  where the Council spent a 6 figure sum (our money) in a civil case defending the integrity of not only the Council, but of CEO, Mr Mark James, who also won crippling damages from Mrs Thompson. All approved by senior Councillors keen to stop criticism of the Council. 

 Although he had claimed to the County Council Executive Councillors that he would return any damages to the council, Mr James instead pursued Mrs Thompson himself for the money with the threat of forcing the sale of the family bungalow to pay these damages. She is still paying him instalments and If she misses a payment her home could still be lost to Mr James.. The money she pays him, he promised to the Council, but he is pocketing the lot., Not a murmur from the Plaid Councillors who run the County Council who were clearly happy for him to get extra cash. But the Council had been forced to shelve their policy of paying out public money to defend their senior officers - the Plaid Councillors apparently did not like that! 


Jacqui Thompson

Plaid council Leader Emlyn Dole and his merry band of Plaid Executive board members have subsequently tried to reinstall the policy of funding Council Officers and allow them to take out legal actions against members of the Public using Council funds. The Welsh Audit office has already ruled this as "unlawful" but Mark James, unlike the chief executive of Pembrokeshire Council, Bryn Parry Jones, who similarly misused public funds and was asked to pay them back, Mr Mark James did not have the unlawful monies removed form his generous retirement lump sum.  Emlyin Dole decided to let him keep all the money Mr James had been given, eve though it was ruled unlawful and could have been repaid.He had been given legal fees and a secret pay rise unlawfully. Why Mr James was not asked to return the money by council leader Emlyn Dole is not known.

Far from giving up on subsidising senior Council officers to take court cases against members of the public,the Plaid Executive Councillors earlier this year instructed their chief legal office, Linda Rees Jones, to ask the Auditor General at the Senedd to reconsider and again allow  Carmarthenshire Councillors to fund senior Council officers in personal libel actions against local residents from the public purse. This is not a well publicised Plaid policy but clearly popular with current Plaid councillors.

This is the Auditor General's reply sent to Linda Rees Jones, Head of the Carmarthenshire legal department, on the 10th May 2019:

"Thank you for your letter of 28th March 2019 in which you ask whether I accept that it is open to local authorities to indemnify their officers to bring defamation proceedings.

"I have reviewed all of the material that you presented and, in addition, taken fresh independent legal advice of my own. After careful consideration of this body of material, I find the legal argument previously described by [redacted] the more convincing. I remain of the opinion, therefore, that it is unlawful for a local authority to indemnify their officers to bring defamation proceedings.

"While I will consider any situation on the facts, I am mindful of the power provided to me by section 36 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 to make a claim for judicial review in respect of decisions that would have an effect on the body's accounts. If the council departs from its previous decision to remove provision for indemnity for defamation proceedings, I request that the Council gives me at least 21 days' notice of any proposal to consider granting an indemnity to a member or officer to bring an action for defamation

Yours sincerely

Adrian Crompton
Auditor General for Wales

My Personal Translation : "I don't think this is legal and if you Councillors are going to try this on again I want at least 21 days notice so I can deal with you thoroughly before you finance a court case unlawfully again".

It is disturbing that Council Leader Emlyn Dole approved that the Council should  reinstate  this libel clause into the council's constitution. Since the whole purpose of taking residents to court in libel actions using the public's own money is to discourage open dissent with the actions of senior officers, all of whom act with the consent and under the instruction of the Executive Councillors. Carmarthenshire has had a Plaid Cymru Administration.

 The policy of bankrupting the critics has had the added bonus, as we've seen, of the officers also winning damages from the original complainant which not only financially cripples the resident but add to the bounty of the senior officer, most of whom have generous 6 figure salaries already. It also discourages criticism of the Councillors themselves.

I personally was a County councillor for nine years in Carmarthenshire, my observation was that many Councillors were easily manipulated and I suspected sometimes deliberately mislead by officers who were used to  "ruling the roost " without much input from the elected members. However, the practice of financing libel cases has not been the only scandalous case. There is one apalling case which stands out in that it is a clear injustice, has caused one couple massive distress and financial ruin and the problems are becoming chronic, needs to be resolved, and not swept under the notoriously lumpy carpets of county Hall!.



THE CASE THAT SHOCKS ADAM PRICE.

But the Plaid controlled County Council does nothing.



"INDEED, I WOULD GO SO FAR AS SAYING THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE WORST CASES OF NONFEASANCE, THE NEGLECT OF A PUBLIC BODY TO CARRY OUT ITS BASIC DUTIES, THAT I HAVE SEEN DURING MY TIME IN PUBLIC LIFE.

ADAM PRICE . LEADER OF PLAID CYMRU , writing in support of his constituent Patrica Breckman and describing  his opinion of her case


Of Course, it is, in theory, the Councillors who run the Council but this case makes a mockery of justice and fair play in Carmarthenshire , The case of Patricia Breckman and her Partner. This case has been described on local TV programs, local newspapers and is one of an elderly couple who retired locally and bought a cottage with the intention of opening a cattery. They soon discovered that their neighbours at Blaenpant Farm were very hostile and that council enforcement officers appeared fearful of actually enforcing planning regulations, presumably due to the hostility of the neighbours.

                                                                  Patricia Breckman 

It is Mrs Brekman who bore the brunt of the consequences of her neighbours actions. The County Council was clearly negligent but  has escaped Scott free. Emlyn Dole, council leader has invited her to take the Council to court if she is still dissatisfied. Like most of us, Tricia does not have the tens of thousands of pounds that the Council has access to, which they will doubtless use to fight any claim she makes. In fact Emlyn Dole knows she is severely impoverished by not being able to set up her cattery and having to deal with an aggressive and  vindictive neighbour running an unlawful business next door without council permission. Her home is close to repossession by her mortgage provider.

More than this, I am told Emlyn Dole has presented to the Plaid Group Councillors an instruction that they cannot even discuss Mrs Breckman's Case, in public or even amongst themselves.. Linda Rees Jones, Head of Legal for the Council, says she has a letter from the County Council's insurers, Zurich, warning her that if any Plaid councillor even discusses the case verbally, the County council will lose all of their liability insurance cover.

This letter has never been seen, apparently, by the Plaid Councillors, and seems a bit harsh, or could it be just a hoax to frighten them into compliance?. Emlyn, if Linda's letter actually exists let us all see it, please!

Council Leader Emlyn Dole seems to have agreed initially, at the suggestion of  the previous Council Chief Executive, Mark James to close the issue with an Ex Gratia payment  without admission of liability, to compensate Mrs Breckman and her Partner for the financial damage cause by the Council's inaction. 

 Now Emlyn Dole himself with the support of the new Chief Executive, Wendy Walters, has decided against this. It seems that even mentioning such an Ex Gratia  payment would also invalidate the council's entire liability Insurance with Zurich. Again, I can't find any actual evidence validating that the insurer has instructed the council to act in this way. Many suspect the Council Civil Servants run the show in Carmarthenshire but it actually seems Zurich Insurance are in charge, and can silence our elected members. Allegedly Zurich are threatening to withdraw all the council's insurance if the County Councillors even mention Tricia and Eddie's predicament!

Cllr Emlyn Dole has also  agreed to meetings with Tricia's local MP Jonathan Edwards and her AM Adam Price only to cancel them. He also has agreed to a review of her case, and then cancelled that.

 I believe that both Adam and Jonathan have probably done their best but are powerless to protect their constituents from falling foul of the supposedly Plaid led County Council as the Plaid Councillors have decided for whatever reason, to act disgracefully against Tricia and her partner Eddie.
 
.Emlyn is a clergyman and possibly ill equipped to deal with Council Officers who may be economical with the truth. But if your Party run a County Council, and Plaid fought long and hard for years to get "control" of Carmarthenshire County Council, you should act with integrity, decency and compassion and hopefully be better than those who came before. Not this group of Plaid councillors, who seem to have "gone rouge" and have decided to ignore senior figures in their own Party, including its leader.


Throughout the public services there is too much " cover up" and very little in the way of apologies. There is little justice if people are advised to get their own redress for Council failings by self financing civil cases against local authorities who go to great lengths to hide their mistakes. Abandoned by those they voted to represent them!

The excuse that Carmarthenshire County Council is an "Officer led" Council holds no water. I'm told that unlike her predecessor Wendy Walters is careful to ask the Council Leader for specific support for Council Decisions, as she should. Is Emlyn Dole  so used to agreeing with the previous chief executive that he cannot say no? Or too frightened to admit what he has done? I have heard a rumour that the Plaid Councillors actually want Emlyn to step down but none are willing to take over the poison chalice of Council Leader. Stalemate.


In a letter in September 2019 to his Party Leader explaining his failure to commission a review into Tricia's case (his explanation is that any review of the case will also totally invalidate the insurance of the council by Zurich) Emlyn touchingly begs Adam Price to confirm and acknowledge Emlyn's integrity.


Emlyn writes "In your letter of 6th august you kindly assured me that you disassociated yourself from any comments that have been made publicly about my integrity in relation to this matter (Tricia's Case) and I hope that you still acknowledge my integrity despite my having to step down from commissioning the review."


Cllr. Emlyn Dole, Plaid Cymru,, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council


In these words Councillor Emlyn Dole suggests he has a personal assurance from Adam Price that Adam will not endorse  or verify any criticism of Emlyn related to Tricia Breckman's case.  He asks that  this arrangement continues even though he has failed to commission a review of Tricia's case previously promised to Adam Price, Tricia's Assembly Member and Emlyn's party leader.

In other words, as I see it, Councillor Emlyn Dole expects Adam Price to cover up for him and not support Tricia, his own constituent, if any statement about her case  negatively effects Emlyn's integrity.

May I remind you all of Adam Price' words -

 "INDEED, I WOULD GO SO FAR AS SAYING THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE WORST CASES OF NONFEASANCE, THE NEGLECT OF A PUBLIC BODY TO CARRY OUT ITS BASIC DUTIES THAT I HAVE SEEN DURING MY TIME IN PUBLIC LIFE." 

Adam has also stated in correspondence to Carmarthenshire Council  "you are indubitably responsible". 

I believe that Adam Price fully understands what has been going on but is torn because the issue cannot be resolved by his fellow Plaid Cymru Council members who are  actually in charge of the Council, but clearly dancing to a different tune, avoiding, rather than addressing the issue. 


Adam Price, local  Assembly Member and Leader of Plaid Cymru

 Adam Price, you could be our first minister in May 2021. Please show us that  you can persuade your fellow party members in Carmarthenshire County Council to treat this couple decently. They moved here to Wales in good faith to live and work and add to our economy. Because of appalling failings in our local Council of which you are well aware, they have lost their life savings and now face losing their home. They have nothing wrong. They need kindness and justice, not continued persecution facilitated by your own councillors. please act now. 

As First Minister of Wales, you will have tougher nuts to crack than a dysfunctional Plaid Cymru  County Council Executive Board  being bullied into inaction. Show us you mettle and get this sorted.

 Siân Caiach


Extra Information : available on request

There is a full summary by the Breckman's  own County councillor. It was written to byCllr  Cefin Campbell  to Cllr Emlyn Dole and his deputy Cllr Mair Stephens They have decided to ingnore it.. It is very detailed, 4 pages long and summarises the awful experience of this elderly couple who have had their lives blighted by the neglect of duty of those who should have protected them. I'm happy to copy it to anyone who wishes to study the whole story.

Please contact me by email: sian.caiach@gmail.com if you wish a copy forwarded to you.

UPDATE 11.12.19

Patricia Breckman tells me that she has been in contact with Zurich insurance concerning the letter which is said to be privileged,  and was sent from them to Carmarthenshire County Council's Head of Legal Linda Rees Jones. Zurich assures Mrs Breckman that the letter does not refer to her personally or her case and contains only  general advice to the Council itself.
 It seems unlikely therefore, that there is any reason for Mrs Rees Jones to forbid senior councillors to have sight of the letter or indeed to forbid them to discuss the case. If Mrs Breckman or her issues are not even mentioned in  the letter, how an earth does it matter to Zurich that anyone speaks her name or mentions the case? I suspect some deception or misdirection in Mrs Rees Jones' instruction to the councillors here!!`









































Thursday, 7 November 2019

Gambling with political integrity




The Four Forsaken – the constituencies who Plaid sold out.

 Plaid's European Parliament Group
Plaid's Cymru's policy is to stay in the European Union. Plaid Cymru has one member of the European Parliament and is in a group which includes a number of parties seeking autonomy or Independence including the Scottish Nationalist Party. The Greens  also in this group .The Liberal Democrats are in the Renew Europe Group, a centrist group for Liberals and Conservative Liberals.

The plan to remain  - the Constituencies where Plaid stands down for Liberal Democrats and Greens

Plaid have decided to stand down as part of the Unite to Remain Alliance in 4 Welsh seats. The idea came from the Brecon and Radnorshire By-Election which Plaid also dropped out of, However, it was the Brexit Party standing which split the Tory vote and probably let the Liberal Democrats win

Vale of Glamorgan

2016 voted Remain
2017 General Election
Candidate

Party
Votes
Vote (%)
Change (%)
Alun Cairns
Con
25,501
47.5
1.4
Camilla Beaven
Lab
23,311
43.4
10.8
Ian Johnson *
PC
2,295
4.3
-1.3
Jennifer Geroni *
LD
1,020
1.9
-0.7
Melanie Hunter-Clarke *
UKIP
868
1.6
-9.1
Stephen Davis-Barker *
Green
419
0.8
-1.3
Sharon Lovell *
WEP
177
0.3
0.3
David Elston *
Pirate
127
0.2
0.2
* Candidate lost their deposit

This is a narrow Conservative/Labour marginal where in 2017 Plaid came 3rd with only 4.3% of the vote. Adding together the Green LD and Plaid votes they total only 7% of that vote on the day, all 3 candidates lost their deposit.Little chance of Greens winning, you might think. Are they just there to give them credibility in the Welsh Remain Alliance??

Cardiff Central

2016 voted Remain.
2017 general election results

Candidate
Party
Votes
Vote (%)
Change (%)
Jo Stevens
Lab
25,193
62.4
22.4
Gregory Stafford
Con
7,997
19.8
5.1
Eluned Parrott
LD
5,415
13.4
-13.7
Mark Hooper *
PC
999
2.5
-2.5
Benjamin Smith *
Green
420
1.0
-5.3
Mohammed Sarul-Islam *
UKIP
343
0.8
-5.6
* Candidate lost their deposit

In my day, when I stood there for Plaid in 1987, this was a 3 way marginal but now looks a “safe” Labour seat. Again, Pro leave alliance  total take between them  21.5 % ,  hardly a shoo-in. But these are weird times and anything can happen;.

Brecon and Radnorshire

2016 Voted Leave
General election Results 2017

Candidate
Party
Votes
Vote (%)
Change (%)
Chris Davies
Con
20,081
48.6
7.5
James Gibson-Watt
LD
12,043
29.1
0.8
Dan Lodge
Lab
7,335
17.7
3.0
Kate Heneghan *
PC
1,299
3.1
-1.3
Peter Gilbert *
UKIP
576
1.4
-6.9
* Candidate lost their deposit


This was the last general election.The 2019 by-election, below, is more interesting ,as it clearly the Brexit Party, not the withdrawal of Plaid who gifted the seat to the LD’s. As the Brexit Party is polling around the same level as in the by-election at the moment (11%) the LD's may not need any other help if they stand. 
 2019 By Election Results Brecon and Radnorshire
Chris Davies (Conservative): 12,401 (39%)
Tom Davies  (Labour): 1,680 (5.3%)
Jane Dodds (Liberal Democrat): 13,826 (43.5%)
Des Parkinson (Brexit Party): 3,331 (10.5%)
Liz Phillips (Ukip): 242 (0.8%) 
Lily the Pink (Monster Raving Loony Party): 334 (1%) 
Turnout: 59%.
Montgomeryshire 
 2016 voted Leave
2017 General Election Results

Glyn Davies (con)     18,075              51.8%

Jane Dodds  (LibDem) 8,790              25.2%

Iwan Jones (Labour)   5,542               15,9%

Aled Hughes, (Plaid} 1,960                5,6%

Richard Chaloner (Green)   524          1,5%


This is the only one of the seats where Plaid saved their deposit. Even with Plaid and Green votes going to LD’s, again they have not got enough to make a difference to the end result. However, Glyn Davies is retiring and standing down and Jane Dodds, having won Brecon and Radnorshire, is not available as she is defending that seat. Again, the Brexit Party might save the day for the Alliance. 
Why did Plaid join the Alliance?
Presumably Plan A was to send a larger group of Plaid MP's to Westminster and to help reverse Brexit by one means or another. Although 63% of Plaid members and supporters voted remain, the result in Wales was the highest Leave percentage in the UK per head . Plaid has clearly decided to go with what its supporters believe rather than the population as a whole. Its a strategy but it could backfire.
 But what if it the Remain Alliance after the election is not influential enough and even frozen out? There could be another hung parliament or a pro Brexit majority. In any case the number of Alliance MPs is unlikely to make Jo Swinson Prime Minister, and the Remain Alliance could end up as the junior partner of a Corbin led coalition, or the 3rd or 4th largest political group in Parliament with Boris Johnsom still in number 10. Worse still, could the LD's back Boris if the price is right? They have form.
Can Plaid increase their number of MP's and also boost Welsh Liberal democrat numbers?
The whole Welsh Unite to Remain project success relies on many variables. Plaid may have decided that their vote in the sacrificed seats is so low that their voters are temporarily expendable, Even if Plaid voters vote for non remain alliance parties they may well make little difference and Lord Ashcroft's polls show well over a third of Plaid voters voted Leave, so some may vote for Leave parties, and others may abstain The whole success of the scheme may rely on the Conservative vote split by the Brexit Party and the Labour Party not collecting pro Remain/Revoke votes in preference to the Liberal Democrats, despite their policy changes.
Success for Plaid will be a couple more seats in the UK parliament, no power except in a hung parliament and even then bit part players. Failure can be blamed on many outside factors such as those above. The extra Plaid professional politicians, office staff etc are useful for publicity and patronage, but is Westminster actually worth it?

What could change the outlook?
The ultimate success may rely on whether or not a Conservative/Brexit Party informal or formal non-aggression pact emerges. The seats where the Liberal Democrats and Greens are standing aside for Plaid  are not those where the LD's were likely to be successful, and where will their votes go?
These are interesting times and no-one can predict the election result. Whether or not you can "sell" the votes of your supporters to another party in Wales, and the favour be reciprocated is another matter. This a Brexit Election, a one off gamble for the Liberal Democrats. and I doubt their sincerity. The actual results, both  in votes and  party credibility, have yet to be seen.

Long term projections?

If all goes well will Plaid consider a longer friendship and electoral arrangements? Who knows?

Will they focus entirely on Wales or continue longing for the big time with influential mates in the UK and EU?

Will the Liberal Democrats be the king makers in the next Parliament or crash and burn? 
The Brexit issue may seem all consuming now, but it is essentially. a temporary issue, probably settled one way or another within a few years and the simmering anger within UK society may chose a different target.or a different path.  Wales is suffering neglect and exploitation .and will continue to do so under any regime which is not independence
The world's social, economic,and political unrest topped off with a climate emergency is going nowhere. I expect a rocky road and lots more surprises. Plaid need to do more than grab the coat tails of Unionists .


All to play for on December 12th 2019


Siân Caiach

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Wales of the Future - how do you feel about Universal Citizen's Income?

Wales is not a poor country, but we do have an "official" deficit which is always quoted as reason for Wales not be independent. A more prosperous Wales is probably nearer the truth. Creative accountancy by the UK does help the "deficit" - did you know that we are being charged for London's multi billion Cross Rail project, per head, on the grounds that some of us may use it in the future? We will also be billed for HS2, if it goes ahead, on the same reasoning. All western countries are in some debt  but it is how we share our wealth that is important.

HOW TO SOLVE "CHILD" POVERTY

It is chilling to see that many communities in Wales with high incidences of child poverty, including some here in Llanelli where I live. These recent figures are based on household income. Other indicators such as free school meal uptake also indicate many local families struggling to support their offspring. Many people on low incomes struggle not only with poverty but with debt as well. This not fair. We need a system where all citizens have a permanent source of income to cover basis needs.

My own political party, Gwlad Gwlad has a radical policy to reduce poverty across Wales. Poverty in Children is a sign of families having inadequate income. Many people are trapped in welfare dependency, as they are often financially “punished” by taking on a low wage job , which may actually cause them to lose so much in benefits that they are worse off. Poverty has many consequences including constant stress trying to make ends meet , substandard housing, poor diet and children brought up in a struggling household who often cannot avoid sharing the despair and insecurity of their adult carers.

A BASIC CITIZEN’S INCOME FOR ALL IS NEEDED

As the Senedd increases its powers, including tax powers, we can have real power to address poverty in Wales for the first time. Here is one idea which could work.

Our flagship social policy is to introduce a modest Universal Citizens’ Income for all adults over 18, This would be irrespective of whether they work or not and paid for by general taxation. It would replace most benefits including unemployment benefits and basic state pension. It would mean that no one needs to be destitute. Neither would any adult have to wait for their benefits after losing a job. it would be there already.We would retain a form of child benefit and special benefits for cases of major disability., etc.

No-one would need to fear sanctions or have their benefits reduced on getting a job. Everyone would be assured a basic income for life .Parents would have more choice on whether to stay home with young children or spend their Citizen’s Income on childcare and go back to work. Stress levels would reduce and all our children would grow up with a degree of financial security.

Working taxpayers would also receive Citizen’s income, but this would be balanced by removing personal tax allowances and adjusting tax rates to make the combination broadly tax neutral. Naturally, a welsh citizen would have to qualify by birth, or long term residence etc or we would have a huge influx of people claiming to be Welsh just to get our benefits! 


INCREASING THE TAX TAKE FROM THE RICH

We also plan to eliminate tax loop holes in high income workers and expect from that to increase net tax collection, i.e stop the tax evasion at the richer end of the scale.

The citizen’s income for tax payers could be regarded in practice as a tax refund. All adults, rich or poor, would get the benefit.

Our children all need a good standard of living, a good education and a future as useful citizens.

ENCOURAGING PRIDE AND CONFIDENCE IN OUR CHILDREN

Our children all need a good standard of living, a good education and a future as useful citizens. Pride and confidence in your nation and your national identity are positive features found in every successful country. Wales needs to teach pride in our nation, not that we are some lesser people deserving second class treatment.


Part of our education policy is to overhaul our National Curriculum to prioritise learning of our history, traditions and culture and encourage confidence and pride in our children.

We value all of the employment spectrum and will give technical and vocational qualifications equal status to University based education. We totally reject any distinction in status between the two. We need people with practical hands on skills as much and sometimes more than those with academic qualifications. At the moment youngsters, many from poorer backgrounds, are often made to feel second rate and less useful to society and often paid minimum wage. Even a degree is no guarantee of career success, but a family who can support you today financially, means you are more likely to graduate. and with less debt and more opportunity. For the poorest, a degree may mean huge debts and personal sacrifices. A universal Citizen's income means no need for loans to cover subsistence and rent, everyone over 18 will get the same financial boost.


Graduation Day at  university.  


All of our children are important. We need everyone to contribute, in reality, all are vital to our productive economy. not just those with academic career paths.Many graduates end up in the pubic sector.in wales These jobs are very necessary for quality of life in society. but a country’s income is from making, growing and selling things. Wales needs to produce goods of all sorts and we should not waste the massive talent of our people. 

SURE START PROGRAMMES, ARE THEY THE ANSWER?




Children in poverty is an emergency. We are wasting future human resources by not supporting young families in need. Partial temporary interventions, such as Sure Start programmes to give extra support to the poorest children and teach parenting skills to their mothers, often help greatly when they are very young , but they may well need educational support  given throughout school, to maintain this benefit. Few providers can afford this and not all children in severe poverty access the programme .

Data published does show that there may be health benefit in the UK of these programmes, which usually include providing food and a warm, dry classroom area. There may be less child hospital admissions in these communities. Poorer children tend to have more serious illness requiring hospital care, especially pre-school children, where serious chest and urine infections predominate. This is all largely preventable.
Other reports show benefits to parenting and , and better family relationships as well as health. However , where families have already become dysfunctional, especially those with severe poverty and poor and insecure accommodation, improvement is less. Many local Authorities have cut down on Sure Start programmes purely for cost reasons. Surely we should aim to prevent the problem occurring by supporting poorer families financially in a way where they are not singled out and stigmatised?

Giving all families enough money to support themselves will make a big difference. Not only taking the stress off individual adults but improving family life and removing the current stigma and uncertainties of benefits.

Rather than just treat the symptoms of child poverty, we plan to address the major cause, the POVERTY itself,, and give all Welsh families financial security and economic choices through a BASIC WELSH CITIZENS INCOME.


What do you think? Is this a good idea or have you a better one? Please comment.  

 Siân Caiach 




For more information on Gwlad Gwlad, the political wing of the Ein Gwlad movement, see https://eingwlad.wales

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Where are Llanelli's reparations? We need compensation for the mismanagement of Carmarthenshire County Council

For the last 2 decades Carmarthenshire County Council has been led by senior officers and complicit county councillors who have imposed ridiculous schemes on the area, some of which continue to cause harm to the residents. The last scheme, the Wellness Development at Delta Lakes, is, at the time of writing, still under police investigation as there appears to be evidence of some fraud and bribery related to the project which failed to attract the millions in City Deal funding required to deliver the scheme.

 However, senior council officer Llinos Quelch has just approved planning for the whole scheme under "delegated powers", bypassing any open discussion by County Councillors on the future of the project. No doubt senior councillors and the new chief executive, Wendy Walters, will have been consulted.

This decision to go ahead with the project happened on the 6th August 2019 .Unusually, no triumphant press release was evident from the Carmarthenshire Council that the multi million pound super project was apparently "back on track" and that new money has been found.

Carmarthenshire's chief executive officer has retired and taken with him the "unlawful" pay increase and legal fees that the Wales Audit Office declared should never have been given to him. The Wellness project is currently under police investigation, which may also involve a former Council Leader as well as the former chief executive.

But what happens to the Residents of Carmarthenshire?. County Hall has been said to have a number of spectacularly lumpy carpets where the embarrassing failures have been swept underneath. But shouldn't they now be exposed, explained and. as much as possible, put right?

Plenty of empty shops in Llanelli 
LLANELLI HAS BEEN NEGLECTED

Carmarthenshire's largest town, Llanelli , has been relatively neglected in recent years. The funding of the Scarlets Rugby Club and their new stadium has taken priority. A new Eastgate town centre leisure /entertainment development was not as successful as hoped, and the Wellness Development has been promising "up to 2000 new jobs" for some time but the public have never even seen the business case, so have no idea of how viable the scheme is or what these jobs are? The Council's Executive board decided not to release these details and the business plan itself may be under investigation.

A place to walk through rather than shop?

Llanelli town Centre has been “in trouble” for some time and like many other similar towns has become dominated by banks, food outlets and charity shops while local small businesses have struggled. More recently established larger businesses such as Wilkinsons and Holland and Barrett are leaving. There have been various local initiatives which have brought flats above shops back into use and tried to support local businesses and give temporary free parking. This has helped in several areas but not enough to turn around the decline.

OUT OF TOWN RETAIL USED TO FUND RUGBY STADIUM

The problems of the town centre are exacerbated by the existence of the large out of town retail sites at Parc Trostre and Parc Pemberton, both sites having extensive free parking and easy road access. Also, comparatively rents have been generally cheaper, with the offer of attractive deals and rates for the big companies. Many major retail businesses have relocated from Llanelli Town centre to the out of town retail parks over the years. However, in recent years even some of these large companies have failed to make a success of their units outside town and some totally failed commercially and closed.

It was clearly a tactical mistake to expand the out of town sites but the development of some of this area. Parc Pemberton, in the form of the sale of land to Morrison's, was also part of the plan to help finance and build a new stadium for the Scarlets and so arguments that there was not enough  retail capacity in the area to support it without harm elsewhere fell on deaf ears. Carmarthenshire County Councillors and their former chief executive, Mark James, were so committed to the future success of the Scarlets’ Rugby Club that little else mattered. Their scheme, along with the building of Parc Y Strade Housing Estate on a floodplain, was supposed to pay for the new Stadium and clear the Rugby Club’s debts but failed to do so  The Scarlets have been unable to make a profit ever since the move, and remain in debt years later, despite the original optimistic predictions. Full marks to Elli Councillor John Jenkins who pointed out the futility of excess retail outlets, to deaf ears in County Hall at the time. After all, Rugby Club Sponsorship was surely more important to councillors than anything else?

NEW EASTGATE DEVELOPMENT COST US MILLIONS THEN GIVEN AWAY TO DEVELOPER

The business case for the new Eastgate new town centre development was that the new theatre , hotel, cinema, restaurants and pubs would attract shoppers from the out of town shopping areas some 2 miles, away,into the town itself. They would enjoy themselves so much that they would stay and patronise the older town centre every time they shopped out of town, despite the lack of parking. Personally, after shopping out of town, I would probably go home before the ice cream melted rather than go a further 2 miles out of my way and spend an evening of culture and dining in a town , which most people can't afford anyway. The Eastgate itself was gifted by the council to the developers? why? This means we don't even own the buildings and the Council pay £250,000 per year in rent for the council offices there. The area has since been sold on to a FTSE company for £12million. 

One big obstacle to revitalising the town centre is the lack of money in Llanelli. It is not a prosperous enough town to support enough spending in the shops in and out of town, for all of the outlets to survive. Many people would love all of the County Council town parking to be free all the time. The Council could also help by reducing Business Rates and Rents of their properties. It is only right that those who caused the problem should put it right.? Millions spent on the Scarlets failed to wipe out the club debts, and impoverished the County Council, which itself is impressively in debt.

IN WHOSE INTEREST HAS THE COUNCIL BEEN ACTING?  .

 County Councils are not just for building Stadiums and giving grants and loans to privately owned rugby clubs,and giving free land and assets to developers.As well as being generous to the wealthy, they are supposed to look after the people who pay, through national and local taxation, for the Council and all its services.

I certainly agree that although the Council would lose out on some income if parking was free.But as  the County Councillors voted to build these out of town sites, give away the Eastgate, and suck the blood out of the remaining town centre, surely they should make amends? Free parking every day in Llanelli Town Centre would surely give back some advantage to our town centre!

THE COUNCIL SHOULD STOP AND REFLECT BEFORE MORE SCHEMES FAIL 

And rather than continue spending on a scheme at Delta Lakes without even a business case, why not wait before they spend more millions there?  .Council money is our money, from our taxes, and such a shame that our elected councillors have been encouraged to throw it away on dubious schemes. Much of it is borrowed and we residents are paying interest on it every day.

Hollnd and Barrett store now closed in Llanelli

 Siân Caiach,