Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Carmarthenshire hits rock bottom

The Executive Board of Carmarthenshire County Council has published proposals for budgetary cuts for the next three years, and they make for extremely grim reading. The report can be found here (with thanks to Caebrwyn for digging it out).

For some time now council leaders have been warning about the escalating cost of social care provision, and that combined with cuts in central government grants and Carmarthenshire's obsessions with prestige development schemes and various pet white elephants mean that the elderly, the disabled, children, motorists, parents struggling to make ends meet, the Welsh language - in fact everyone in the county with a few privileged exceptions will now have to pay a high price indeed for the reign of Meryl Gravell, Kevin Madge and Mark James.

The report is very poorly formatted, and you need to scroll quite a long way down to find the detail.

What the detail shows is not just council job cuts across all departments, except of course for the top brass, but a long litany of cuts to all kinds of services along with hikes in charges for just about everything from transport, school dinners and car parking to rent increases on homes, shops, farms and anything else owned by the council.

School dinners will, the report admits, be the most expensive in Wales, with above inflation increases and a reduction in choice in Year 1, to be followed by more rationalisation and "regionalisation" in following years. Here are a few more turkey twizzlers, in the council's own words:

Childcare for children on the at risk register in Carmarthen:

(3 fte staff) A centre in Carmarthen offering support and childcare to children on the child protection register and/or are vulnerable Children will be less protected and one in 4 childcare places bought back from the private sector - will result in a much poorer service to the most vulnerable families in Carmarthen town and potentially additional care proceedings as children at risk receive less support and monitoring. (saving just £30k over three years).

Reduction in holiday schemes for breaks for children with disabilities (saving of £66k over two years)

Close one Respite Home with up to 30 children with disabilities no longer having respite care. In the long term may result in greater family breakdown and an increase in costs as children become looked after permanently at an earlier stage (saving of £375k).

The list goes on and on - reductions in spending on coastal defences and drainage; reductions in basic bridge maintenance; reductions in basic road maintenance schedules; a 50% cut in grants to Mentrau Iaith; cuts in youth club provision (already very poor); massive cuts in adult education schemes; cuts and outsourcing in the care of people with mental health problems, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, etc.

Only last week councillors voted through a further £270,000 of financial support to Towy Community Church's bowling alley project, and the capital budget shows continued high spending on a whole range of council office developments and refurbishment schemes. Money continues to flow to the Scarlets in Llanelli.

Pastor Mark Bennett was understandably very pleased to secure the additional funding for his project; I wonder if he and his congregation will be sparing a thought for the vulnerable children, the frail and the disabled who face a very bleak future now as work commences on the bowling alley, and later the subsidised new church premises.

Shame on the councillors who voted it through.

Shame on the Labour group and its discredited and shambolic leader, Kevin Madge, for continuing to prop up his Tory Independent chums. Most of the Labour group have travelled so far from their roots that they have taken on a distinctly blue tinge. Without Kevin Madge's unswerving support for Meryl and Mark, things would have looked very different.

Wake up Plaid Cymru. For too long you have stood wringing your hands from the sidelines, and too often you have voted along with the Independent/Labour coalition. It is time to set out a different vision for the county.

Of course every local authority is facing cuts, and some will emerge with more credit than others. Anti-democratic, officer dominated, bureaucratic, arrogant and wasteful Carmarthenshire will not be one of them.


Anonymous said...

kevin madge propping up the tories? well well, i always remember kevin madge in the press saying he doesn't want a repitition of what thatcher did and doesn't want tories in carms.. you are the second person in less than a week who mentioned tory independents in ccc...

if the independents were so concerned about spending say from 2006 onwards, why didn't they say anything at the time instead of allowing things to get way out of control? hmm

mismanagement, almost to a pint of negligence, lack of vision, paper over the cracks culture indeed.

i hope meryl, kevin and our excellency have the decency to pay back all the money they got ;-) i'm sure napoleon was short as well ...(anon2)

towy71 said...

mismanagement is a word that increasingly comes into my mind

caebrwyn said...

@towy71 'calculating' is a word that springs to my mind. I remember, just before the budget proposals were published last year, the Executive Members and officers rushed through a deal to throw more money at the Scarlets stadium, resulting in three quarters of a million in lost revenue. They've done it again this year,(all year in fact) with the Towy Church (and the Scarlets)It's a wonder they can all sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

after today's unusual but mildly amusing episode, is it me or wondering what is going on anymore and simly giving up because things are getting too farcical and ending up in cirles?

something slightly out of the ordinary was spotted and wondered what or who is doing some work? then it was dawning that these are signposts. why are they erecting these and who? then it clicked almost straight away, communities first via the council. what was noticed that for some unexplainable reason that ccc imposed a dog ban near ammanford. ok, hardly the most important news but surely the residents would have been consulted about plans in their locality? as this sign states no dogs on a patch of land in front of peoples houses, where else are they putting these? a total ban. no dogs means no dogs - prohibited. as from what i gather, a handful of dogwalkers in that area that can be counted on one hand in a reasonable size area.
other signs were to be erected in other parts of this area. as it was sprung as a suprise, it has been looked up, ccc can only work on wales assembly guidlines. without going to deeply on the subject, a council can impose a designated ban area, usually based on the factors such as beaches, childrens play ares, parks etc. which was starting to become a bit unusual, why that patch of land? it's on top of a grass embankment, an open area approx 40m by 10m. rarely people walk on it, maybe occasionally children would gather around at the bottom of it during summer holidays. what amaed me was that the adjacent grass verges where children play more on the opposite side of the road, plus the grass area of the embankmnet edge was not prohibited or gives the impression of being so. so, there is a sign at the bottom but no sign at the top part of it, and it could give the impression that either it is prohibited in the whole lenth or just around that area where the sign is

Anonymous said...

at the top of this street, is a very small grass area, apparently approx 6m by 4m, rooghly the size of a small lawn. they installed another pole with a large sign this time saying pick up the dog mess. there is no prohibition in this piece. i can imagine alarge sign on a tiny patch and it well maybe visually duanting. however, approx 4m down from here is another patch of grass roughly the same size with no sign, thus giving the impression counts for both patches. further down the street, there are more small grass verges halfway down the street which is more like halfway between the two signs. is this no mans land. a tad confusing. on the other side of this estate, is another patch of land which is a bit amusing. if someone is walking down the street, they cannot see the sign. when they are walking up the street, they can. anyway, this sign says no fouling. this little piece of land is where children play. across the road from this is another small piece of land and no sign. so the circle is complete.. not quite. approx 300metres back up the street is a large field, a little bit larger than a football pitch. there are two entrances to this via the top end and the bottom end. to get to the bottom someone has to follow the road around. there are no signs on the top end. however, on the bottom end are three signs which is somewhat quite ludicrous. baffling as it seems, there are conflicting and confusing signs. one sign states clearly keep dogs and a lead, yet the other says no dogs allowed - meaning prohibited.. the point is, if this is the council organising and leading the way, i do not know what to say... but there is more

Anonymous said...

what could get worse? after the complete muck up of the signage, procedures must have been applied to lead to a ban anyway, and it gets a tad baffling on the word ban and keep dogs on a lead. how did they arrive at this?

the 3rd sign is somewhat equally baffling. next to the field is little quiet road seperated by a fence. if someone is driving down this road, they will not see this sign. how can this be? the signs are inside the field, about 5 metres from the fenced edge. the sign which says arafwch slow-children playing.. why cannot a driver see the sign? because it is not facing towards the traffic, it is literally outward facing flush. the only way a car driver can see the sign is by being distracted that something is catching the corner of the eye, and the visually read what it says on the sign is to move the head ninety degrees for few seconds whilst driving.. the signage cannot be read on approach and it would be very lucky for someone to spot the signpost never mind the sign. but to read a sign whilst driving and rotating the ead to the left and reading and looking whilst driving is somewhat negligent. who planned this? i suppose it will be the same in the opposite direction, a driver may look right to read what the sign says. therefore a distraction

Anonymous said...

so, we have a sign that can be a distraction if it is noticed at all. further down this road is another slow sign-children playing. it is a council sign, and this is infrnt of the other dogsign. this is why someone walking down cannot see the dogfoul sign because the post is shared with the slow sign. nw the slow/dog sign is about halfway down the grass area so someone with a dog may not even see the sign at all if the dog ventured onto the grass before approaching the sign. as this sign is slightly before a bend on this estate, after turning into this bend and about 20 metres is a junction and on this junction is where children do play on the pavement and often on the road junction itself as many a time a car coming up the hill has had to stop r manoevre around children on the road. the next sign is slightly after the junction, not far off from the first no dogs sign - so it's come full circle again. as there is no sign coming up the hill giving the same warning, it seems a bit strange having one going down but nothing coming up. planning?

the other concern is the grass verge on the hill on the way up, there is no sign whatsoever whether dogs are permitted or not, plus the grass verge area behind this large stretch of grass. and more alarmingly, the council playground 40 metres or so away where there is a large grass area where children do play has no prohibition or dog fouling signs.

at first nobody knew what was going on and how far this was extending to.

as it is a generally quiet area, it has come as a shock having all these signs springing up and de-enhancing a neighbourhood almost to a point of mild oppression, and visual annoyance

Anonymous said...

if communities first instigated this, it is not the first time residents have not been consulted.

ccc had resurfced the estate's roads sometime last year and did not do a very good job. it was not tarmac. the previous road was laid sometime in 2000 and they didn't do it right at that time and cracks and crumbles were evident soon after and for years the edges corroding and potholes formed etc

Anonymous said...

communities first. work was commisioned and started last summer. it was some environmental ehnace scheme via ccc. the residents had no idea what was going on. they were digging up the facing edge of the embankment and removing the pre existing retaining wall.

nobody knew nothing, then questions were asked but it was too late, the daamge had been done.

a lot of money had been poured into this project. the work they did is oppresive and visually damaging to the area. communities first were saying not to worry, it will look nice when it is finished. the wall they built extended all the way up the hill wheras the old wall stopped halfway. the new wall is too high amonsgt other hiccups.. the top half is priceless, they built a new retaining wall on the top half when there was nothing to retain. the reason why the old wall stopped halfway was because only the bottom half needed some tetention from the earth behind. the top half didn't because it was lower at this point and there was no pressure. so they created a retaining wall that was retaining nothing and got paid for it

Anonymous said...

how was it that the residents were not consulted. this was baffling. then the penny dropped which was almost forgotten about.

2 years or so ago, apparently communities first went around some people's houses knocking on doors asking people for suggestions on what could be donne to enhance the area. as not much really could be done, small suggestions were mentioned, things like replacing the seating the council took away.

for some reason, this questionairre was the consultation.

so, who approved this consultation and how was it decided what work was going to be done?

the residents meeting came up with a plan. maybe 6 people were at the meeting initially, but this was not fed back to the people who took part in the questionairre.
they decided to go ahead with this project, apparently some sketch was placed on a noticeboard inside communities first but nobody knew about it except them. they didn't tell anyone about the plans.

if it was fedback to the residents, they would have been in a postion to object or suggest amendments etc.

so, here we have the organisation that counts a questionairre as the consultation, did not advise residents who took part but there is worse..

as the questionairre acts as the consultation and permission, there is nothing anybody can do and are stuck literally with whatever plans they have and have no say on matters in their wn community.. sounds scary??

it was mentioned that community first next project has been approved. where are the drawings? unavailable.. so they are building with no visual plans for the public to view.

this is their next project which is due to commence at the end of feb 2012. they are building inside a council public childrens park. what has been mentioned is a gymnasium and a wirerope slide. this area is about 40m by 40m, maybe slightly less, inside this area is a childrens playground, items such as swings, roundabout and a slide are pr-existing plus the protective matting.. we had concrete in our days. what was mentioned that items are going to be removed first. what is not clear and not certain is what is happeneing with the pre-existing park equipment. but the words removal were mentioned.

for a wire rope slide to exist, a tower has got to be constructed. this is inevitable as to gain the height for the slide to operate. as the length and width of the park is very restricted, it could be achieved by creating a 15m to 20m tower with an angle to create a run of about 25m, falling short of the metal railings. there seems to be an extra 10 metres in one corner of the park which runs to the right of the play area, as i used the other dimensions that were away from the play area. and if the tower was built in this corner, it would miss the main play area and not go through it, it will go alongside of it, but the chute is an obstacle that could hinder free travel for the wire ride.

what is going to happen is, that as there is a grass area in the park where people play or have a kick about, this looks like green area is going to be swallowed up.
as for gymnasium, doesn't this require planning permission. and since it is public land, how does that work? how is it possible for ccc to grant planning permission for someone to build on public owned land?

where is the democracy in the consultation? as things were hidden or virtually unknown, that is not democracy.. democracy is participating in the questionairre that mysteriuosly acted as the consultation, and even in that cae, the democracy ended there as there was no notification of the next stages..

so, if 5 or 6 voted to go ahead with these projects, does 5 or 6 represent the remaining 400 residents who were not consulted? oh, they were consulted acording to communities first, they say people were consulted through the questionairre 2 years ago.


Anonymous said...

news is work has commenced on this park. outsized zip wire ride has been erected in a small area, and looks out of place. where have the original features vanished to? parts of the protective play area have been dug up and appears to have been filled in with 'cement' trenches and a general mess.

a few thousand pounds going into this communities first project building onto council land. don't zip slides have to be supervised?

Anonymous said...

another day goes by, another piece of equipment has been installed. no information is forthcoming regarding the equipment that was taken away - shades of secrecy i'm afraid to say. a slight taint of cloak without the dagger.

unusual thing about it is that the equipment installed, comprising of some sort of padded walking and balancing ring about a metre or so high fixed onto support poles has now gone. presumely removed in case someone else takes it during the night. then again, the supporting poles have gone too, so they maybe setting it up and dismantling at the end of the day for safe keeping.

as far as anybody is concerned, they are not returning the childrens and toddlers rides which consisted of swings, a roundabout, playhorse and the like. to be replaced by gym equipment for an unknown age group.

i don't envisage a 5 year old climbing up onto this metre high balance ring unassisted, presumed it is aimed at eight year olds and over. as for the zipslide itself, i do not know if planning permission is required. it is quite high at around 10 metres.

it seems that locals are kept in the dark and maybe losing an amenity and being replaced by something that doesn't cater for them anymore. if it is a case of toddlers losing something that has been there for 30 years or so and does get used by children of all ages, and if they lose that, they have knowhere else to go except ammanford's main park which seems to be around a mile away.

so who is this gym aimed at? are the council or whoever is behind this scheme saying that residents are unfit. appently communities first published an article in one of their magazines. it mentions pantyffynnon communities first partnership group received an award of £46,000 by WREN to refurbish the park/ the redevelopment will have an assemble of equipment for all ages and includes an excercise area with an outdoor gym suitable for adults and disabled people. the younger children will benefit from a climbing frame, swings and a natural playmound, whilst there will be a larger climbing frame, zipwire slide and an assault course for the older children. also provided are picnic tables.

Anonymous said...

communities first co ordinator said the park will cater for all ages. the benefits that a green gym can bring to the community are just not through physical exercise and improved mental health, but greater community cohesion. i envisage the park to become a thriving hub of activity providing opportunities for volunteer groups to run fitness sessions.

mrs cadman a councillor says there is a substantial contribution from wren towards a project that will cost just over £55,000. we have received fantastic support from carmarthensjre county council who will manage the delivery and ongoing maintenance of the project

Anonymous said...

so, how did this all come about again? it is a nice little park, or should i now say 'was' a nice little park.

when a co ordinator says the park will cater for all ages, and since the previos equipment that catered for 2-6 and up to 8 year olds, and if the equipment is not re-fixed as it was, then they have obviosly lost an amenity. after finding out, the equipment was in good condition and was recent. the protective flooring was recent too.

it could well be that a swing has been replaced, but the other items do not seem to be so far.

the childrens slide has gone, the roundabout has gone, the rocking horse has gone. these were for the kids.

what is meant by a natural playmound will remain to be seen.

as for an assault course, that is anybodys guess.

so how is it that this organisation can tap into council land and change the equilibrium of it and morph it into something that is on their agenda when people had no idea what was going on? it is public land that seems to have been handed over to communities first to do whatever it wants to do with it.

once it was pleasant to look at, now it isn't

Anonymous said...

just for confirmation.

next hing is, how come park enhancing isn't occuring all over carmarthenshire? then again, don't let communities first in, they'll wreck the place

Anonymous said...

after doing a bit of research, this park falls under ammanford town council. electorally they are different wards. it is unsure who owned the park back in the 1960s and 1970s - presuming it was the old ammanford urban council which would have made sense. and it leaves the question, how was it that somehow passed into communities first and the pantyffynnon communities first. it is not for the residents to take control. were ammanford town council consulted? which leaves the other questions of who and what was initially involved at the beginning of this?
it could hardly be the pensioners idea to set up a zip slide. as communitied first seem to have connections in that area, who had they been lobbying. a clue is in the photograph illustrated in the ccc website.

apparently, who is featured in the photograph are members of communities first and a pantyffynnon ward councillor who just happened to be the ex treasurer of pantyffynnon action ward group.. and a buch of school kids from parcyrhun school - which of course has absolutely nothing to do with the park itself directly so why were school children used to publicize this grant funding as an excercise (assuming they had their parents permission to be photographed this way). it's possible that one of the two on the right are teacher could it be possible that commumities first consulted school kids who do not live near the park and their parents, and used those results to present their case to get the funding and bypassed the residents? could it have been a case of hidden agenda? if the school couldn't get it on their patch, where else could they get it? there is a school playing field that parcyrhun school use (unsure of ownership) but communities first have had some involvement there as they state in their website that they organised the painting of fences. which is another interesting story. apparently it was erected a couple of years ago. a pleasent green wood stain. there was fencing on the top end but nothing on the bottom end. the council were involved in the bottom fencing. they even supplied a nice green meshing to put in front of the new fencing, and a gate was constructed. last year, communities first decided to ask the police if they can get hold of some community payback offenders, and quite a lot of them came to ammanford and they decided to paint a lovely green stained fence into a sickly light shade of 'light brown' which of course was splashed all over the nice green meshing. normally people would paint a woodstained fence with another woodstain but no. they used some cheap paint and makes it look tacky.

and funny enough, quite a lot of work has gone on in that area - what with a new road around that counciul estate which isn't that good. the previous tarmaced road was replaced by a cheaper surface which pools of water are evident in areas around the place. and apparently they even covered the drains whilst applying this thin tar and didnt bother taking it off after believe it or not. plus the awful looking gateway and a park. somehow over 100k has been diverted into that area. value for money? not likely.. so why is that other deprived areas cannot get their funding to spruce up their area?

Looking into the future we would like to work with our partners to:

communities first website -

-Develop Community Allotment provision,

-New recycling provisions across the community e.g. in the school and pensioners hall,

-Re-develop the local park to enhance the provision,

-Spruce up the community by painting the fences around the field.

Anonymous said...

aha, some news has come my way.
sometimes appearances can be decpetive, and unusual in some cases which is quite unusual and could have been possibly overlooked (if it was looked at in the first place but it will never be known now).. the curious zip slide frame actually looks the correct height at ground level when standing inside the park itself. from a further distance at the houses 40 metres away and as the houses are some 20 metres or so above the road on top of a raised embankment, it actually does look bigger than it does when closer up.. they further away, the larger it looks. how odd!!

anyway, the pre-existing equipment that was taken away by the council, assuming it was ccc, apparently they are due to be redistributed to another park, somewhere in carmarthenshire i hope.

what was removed was a swing, a zebedee bouncer, a roundabout, a hobby horse and a slide.

Anonymous said...

they are all being replaced with new equioment. the swing is being replaced by a swing. by the looks the same size. in addition, there is another swing being constructed what is knwon as a birds nest.

the zebedee has been replaced by another zebedee.

the roundabout is not being replaced by another. what is going there instead is a curious piece of statinary equipment, and the best way to describe it is a ring approx a metre and a half wide, the ring is padded and about 30 centimetres wide supported on top of four metal legs and slightly sloped at an angle. the purpose of this is to walk on it and balance whilst walking. it starts off at a lower point and a slight incline. so if someone falls off at the highest point, they have two directions to fall, inward and outward. or if unlucky, get caught between the legs and end up anywhere.

one piece of equipment they had to cancel because it did not fit as they would have ended up running out of room.

the hobby horse has gone and so has the slide
an intersting feature is the earth mound but there is no tunnel to it, which is a shame as kids would have liked that as that would have been the main feature. without it, it's just a small mound that gets walked over. pity. i would conclude that the age group for this play area will be 2 - 8 years

as for this assault course, it's still a bit vague. and seems to be aimed at older children maybe 6 or 8 - 12. the main feature is the zipslide, and in adition to this are crawl and climb nets, and a rope feature. which maybe a bit baffling as the flow of the zipwire is around this area inbetween the slide frames. maybe it is possible that netting will be attached to the outer frames of the zip slide, and providing there are no gaps at the apex of the frame where someone can easily get their hands crushed inbetween the ropes and the frame, as it is common sense that netting stretches up and downwards all depending if someone is using it on the other side when someone is climbing up. they don't tend to use the old fashioned wooden stretching chocks these day as they were the cause of people getting their hands caught, so safety here is paramount.

s for the gym equipment, this is where the last remaining natural grass area will disappear. as another company is installing this equipment, what exactly is going in is unsure.

i do commend the playground area, as many areas should have some place for kids to recreate, even though the rides seem to more static than before and an exercise endurance than a playground.

as for the assault course, it just is too much crammed into a small area, and in the wrong location. it ws a recreational and relaxing park now turned into a micro theme park. either way it's looked at, part of the amenity has already been lost on two parts.

maybe they are trying to tell people they need exercise. as kids were already excersising there anyway, as football etc was being played on the grass, only to be replaced by a combative recreational assault course. maybe some kids will become more aggressive.

which still leaves the question how were they able to build this on public land. it seems like a project that was aimed at combating anti-social behaviour, keep the kids off the streets and hanging around or riding around on pushbikes.

localresident01 said...

in most walks of life, a precious gift of nature is around, and it's free. some people don't know it is there because of the way they live. it's around in the hills, it's in the towns, it is in the homes and it's in the cities, even if there is hustle and bustle.

it is a tragedy if one of the most precious gifts disappear.

tranquility. if a body takes away this, it upsets the balance of nature. once it is gone, it is gone. and when people have been working hard to sustain an environment, up comes along with an organisation such as communities first who haven't been here 6 minutes, urbanising a rural area and creating an inner city feel to the surroundings, and only seem to be serving their own self interests.

i'm most definately not a stick in the mud, and i would definately agree that this project or part of it most definately is horrible to look at, and has an oppressive look about it.

communities first? no thank you. i wouldn't want to have anything to do with them. too many of their hair brained schemes are 3rd rate.

exactly the same principle as these wind farm companies. they just build and build regardless how people feel, and if a turbine is in your face half a mile away staring at you everytime you look out of the window, it is all because they thought it was a good isea at the time. and it's pointless them apologising for the inconvenience because by that time comes, it is too late.

peace and tranquility.. oh how i wish this gift was available to all