Thursday 2 January 2014

News Round-Up

No news is good news, they say, and there is no shortage of gloomy news around as we begin another year of council watching in Carmarthenshire.


The New Year kicked off with the publication of the Honours List, that peculiar mix of charity executives, former head teachers, tame celebrities and council bosses. Welsh Not makes some interesting observations on this year's crop of Welsh celebrities, while municipal limousines will be getting an extra buff and polish as they prepare to ferry the leader of Neath Port Talbot council, Alun Thomas (OBE), and the chief executive of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Keith Griffiths (CBE), off to Buckingham Palace.

Scandal-prone Pembrokeshire County Council goes empty-handed, while Carmarthenshire, which can normally count on at least one award to a senior officer or Executive Board member, this year has to make do with an MBE for Jim Davies, former county councillor for the "Independents" and current chair of Manordeilo and Salem Community Council.

Kev, Pam and Tegwen will have to wait.

Car Parking

The Carmarthen Journal uncharacteristically sticks its head above the parapet by quoting Cllr Alun Lenny (Plaid) on the subject of the latest increases in car parking charges. Cllr Lenny warns that there is more bad news in store for visitors to Carmarthen, with plans to introduce charges for evening parking and blue badge holders, and he points out that revenue raised from car parking can only legally be spent on the car parks themselves.

What happens to the money raised nevertheless remains a mystery. Newcastle Emlyn Town Council, for example, has been wondering for some time why the town's car parks are in such a poor state despite making a substantial profit each year.

In its response the council's press office claims that Carmarthenshire has the "most reasonably priced" car parks in Wales. Clearly, they don't get out much.

Over on Twitter MP Jonathan Edwards pointed out that the annual hikes in charges were serving only to drive business out of town centres to retail parks and supermarkets, while Caebrwyn noted that last year car parking revenue actually fell by 7% despite an inflation-busting increase in charges.

Budget Cuts

Carmarthenshire County Council's consultation on proposed budget cuts is due to end on 3 January. 51 different proposals have been put up on the council's website. Bearing in mind that this is a Labour-run council, the first proposal up is to abolish trade union facility time, while the second is for further swingeing cuts to the small budget allocated to the Welsh language. The package includes further cuts in the council's contributions to the Mentrau Iaith, which carry out immensely valuable community-based work, reductions in what the council calls "excess" translation costs and ending external monitoring of how the council lives up to its commitments to promote and safeguard the language. All of that would save just £60,000 over three years.

Why the unions and the Welsh language head up the list of cuts is not at all clear. The list is certainly not in alphabetical order, and so it is hard to escape the conclusion that these are simply soft targets selected to appeal to Daily Mail readers, with the real meat, such as cuts to school transport, coming much further down.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has attacked the proposals as damaging and irrelevant (Golwg 360).

The group's statement points out that we are still waiting for the publication of a report by the Census Working Group which the council set up to look at the position of the language in Carmarthenshire, and it seems that there is a distinct possibility that the council will move ahead with the cuts before the report is published.


If the council's top brass is not losing any sleep over car parking charges and plans to clobber the Mentrau Iaith again, two other stories are likely to be of rather more concern.

Debenhams has announced that it had a dire Christmas and has issued a profits warning.

For anyone who has visited the flagship Debenhams store in Carmarthen's St Catherine's Walk this will hardly come as a surprise. There are almost permanent "Sale" signs up, and staff often seem to outnumber shoppers.


Readers can hardly have failed to notice that a bitter civil war is raging between the rugby regions and the WRU, with the WRU now threatening to set up alternative teams if the regions carry out their threat to join forces with English clubs.

This should worry everyone except perhaps a few boardroom fat cats, and it is anyone's guess what the impact will be on Parc y Scarlets. Good news it certainly ain't.


Anonymous said...

usual cheery self Cneifwr I notice that you never pass comment on Ceredigion - why Plaid well run or just the usual blinkers from you ?
Everything so well run nothing to report ?

Anonymous said...

Kev OBE ... One Bruised Ego

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @12.30 Believe me, it was depressing enough writing it. As you have noticed, this blog does not stray much into Ceredigion - mainly because Carmarthenshire provides more than enough material. Ceredigion may not be perfect, but it's a world away from the farce we put up with in Carmarthenshire.

The other week listeners to Radio Cymru could hear Ellen ap Gwynne being questioned at length and in detail. She gave good,coherent answers and was not partisan. Our lot could not manage that in any language.

Anonymous said...

Interesting you mention Debenhams. I heard that Newport Council (Labour run) are to borrow £90 million, against quite heavy local opposition and then lend that out to a private developer to build a new shopping centre on the basis that Debenhams will be the flagship store.

Anonymous said...

You could not fail to see the nonsense going on in
Carmarthenshire if you had a blindfold on let alone