Wednesday 15 January 2014

News round-up

After a relatively quiet December, Cneifiwr is having to pedal very hard to keep up with events in 2014.

Here is a quick round-up of developments in some of the stories covered by this blog in the past.

Garnant Golf Club

The South Wales Guardian reported yesterday that the company selected by Carmarthenshire County Council to run Garnant Golf Club is believed to have gone into receivership, and the club has now closed its doors. Clay's Golf, which beat off competition from what was said to be a large number of other interested parties, has taken £160,000 in subsidies from the council in the last two years.

When the Plaid Cymru group on the council questioned the deal back in 2011, Kevin Madge accused them of "clueless electioneering". 

More on this very soon.


The club has now confirmed that it has indeed gone into receivership. The chair of the council's Audit Committee, Cllr David Jenkins, is to ask the other members of the committee to investigate the affair.

One of the bizarre things about this case is that when the council decided to hand over the running of the club (according to some press reports actually sell it) there was a great deal of interest. According to reports at the time up to 26 different parties contacted the council, but most were deemed unsuitable.

One of the interesting things to watch is whether the council manages to take back control of the club. Readers may recall that concerns were expressed in the Audit Committee recently about what might happen if the Scarlets went into receivership and whether there was suffient protection of the council's assets. Unfortunately the minutes of the meeting made no mention of this discussion.

Local Government Reorganisation

The BBC says this morning that a report commissioned by the Welsh Local Government Association concludes that a reorganisation of Welsh local authorities could cost around £250 million and 15,000 jobs.

Fewer chief executives, directors and managers certainly, but the vast majority of local authority employees are teachers, care staff, dinner ladies, binmen and the like. To say that the WLGA has a huge vested interest in keeping the status quo is the biggest understatement of 2014 so far.

The Williams Commission on public services is due to report next Monday and set out its recommendations for the future shape of Welsh local government. There was speculation in the media last week that we could see the number of councils halved from 22.

The South Wales Guardian has picked up on this as well, and says that there is speculation that Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire could be merged.

The reorganisation would not begin until after the next Senedd elections in 2016.


The visit last week by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, was overshadowed by protests about Uganda's  appalling record on human rights. Persecution, including maiming and murder, of gays and lesbians is rife and encouraged by the government. Carwyn Jones was accompanied on his visit by an ITV journalist who managed to file a lengthy report without a single mention of the human rights controversy.

The Welsh Government's response was that the aid projects underway in the country could help foster understanding and tolerance.

Carwyn is now safely back in Cardiff Bay, and in the next couple of weeks the President of Uganda is expected to sign into law an act which will make homosexual acts punishable with prison sentences of up to 17 years and deal severely with anyone found guilty of "promoting homosexuality" (e.g. lawyers) and failing to report people suspected of homosexuality to the authorities.

Carmarthenshire County Council is involved in one of the projects visited by the First Minister.

The Scarlets

The BBC reports that the European Commission is looking into claims that both Carmarthenshire County Council and Swansea council broke rules on state aid with their massive financial investment in Parc y Scarlets and the Liberty Stadium.


Cllr Siân Caiach has had a letter printed in the Western Mail pointing out the mysterious case of a how a designated flood plain disappeared from the maps. Once the plans for the controversial housing development had gone through, the flood plain magically reappeared on the maps.

Here is the full text of her letter:

"Dear Sir,

I have always been disappointed in the quality of our devolved government. Our assembly seems to act with good intentions but  insists on incorporating much of the bad government habits we already had, inherited from the Welsh Office and local councils. No  vision, no confidence and open to manipulation by Westminster and big business.
On the 6th of September, 2006 the secretary of state for Wales, Peter Hain, wrote to the Welsh Planning Minister, Carwyn James. He wrote concerning the proposed development of  Stradey Park, then the Scarlet's rugby stadium. The area was on a dangerous C2 flood plain. Carwyn was delaying the planning permission on the advice of his own civil servants, the Environment Agency, who advised the site was dangerous and a planning inquiry was called.

  "This is of course, entirely a matter for the Welsh Assembly" writes Peter Hain, and goes on to mention the "vital importance of Welsh Rugby" and his belief that Wales needs 4 commercially viable teams, before giving Carwyn a little lecture "The outcome of the planning application and the timescale involved could have significant financial implications for the Scarlets, and I feel these also need to be carefully considered, together with the protection of local concerns, when deliberating the application". 

At the subsequent planning inquiry, Carwyn's team, the Environment agency, gave up.They had made a mistake, the area was no longer a C2 flood plain and they withdrew their objections. Planning permission was granted. Next year the flood maps showed that the C2 flood plain had mysteriously  re-appeared, and the area of risk has been growing ever since. 
 Privately, Environment Agency Officers, have only been able to explain this remarkable event by hinting at extreme political pressure and not a calligraphy error. It looks to me like Peter Hain won the day, and compromised our Welsh Government. Despite selling the old rugby ground and receiving extensive funding through the local authority the Scarlets are still in severe debt.

Stradey Park is a complete mess as developers try to build their 355 luxury houses on a flood plain. The surrounding roads are covered in mud as trucks try to build up levels to take the  homes out of the flood plain and to drain the area, very difficult where ground water levels are so high. The site is close to many existing homes.

The neighbours, who have had flooding for decades, look forward to worse flooding. They have fought for years to protect their own homes from this development and have delayed the process but not stopped it. The current Welsh Housing Minister is trying his best and has a "stop order" on the site, but building continues.
Perhaps Mr Hain would like to come  and speak to my voters about the "local concerns" he was so dismissive of?  

Cllr Sian Caiach [People First/Gwerin Gyntaf] "


Anonymous said...

Merging Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire has been on the cards for a couple of years. A foregone conclusion! Employees will tell you that it is not a case of if but when.

Another foregone conclusion is Bruce McLernon's successor who just might be 2nd in command when Carms and Pembs merge. The clue is in the latest CCC Statement of Accounts!

Anonymous said...

Cllr Sian Caiach, you are an inspirational leader and a legend!!

Anonymous said...

Yes I totally agree. Sian Caiach gets her points over in such a dignified way Take note Kevin Madge and co.

Anonymous said...

People like her should be leader,not some idiot.