Saturday 22 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Llannon (Updated)

Llannon is a two member ward, currently represented by Emlyn Dole (Plaid), the council leader, and Kim 'Apartheid' Thomas.

Joining the battle are Phil Williams for Plaid; Dot Jones for Labour; Rob Owens (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and Alun Owens (Independent).

Someone's got to do it, but leading a county council at a time when local government finances are under huge pressure is a thankless task, and the legacy left by previous Labour and Independent administrations does not help matters. One of the most toxic gifts bequeathed by Meryl and Kevin Madge is the Jacqui Thompson case.

In the recent court case in which the chief executive, Mark James, was hoping to be given the green light to force an immediate sale of the Thompons' family home, his counsel told the court that Mr James's damages were his to do with as he pleased. He was not bound by an agreement to pay the damages over to the council, and could stuff the money in the gutter if he wished.

The report presented to the Executive Board when it met back in January 2012 included the following words:

The Head of Paid Service has confirmed that he is not motivated by a wish to benefit financially and that accordingly should his action be successful any damages awarded to him will be paid over to the Authority and will not be kept by him.

It is hard to reconcile that commitment with stuffing the money in the gutter, and Private Eye has picked up on this, erm, slight discrepancy.

Emlyn Dole will have been as surprised and dismayed as anyone when he heard the "gutter" remarks, and earlier this week issued the following statement to the Western Mail:

"The decision made by the previous council administration five years ago to indemnify the Chief Executive’s counter-libel action indicated that he would pay any damages awarded over to the council. Having investigated the matter, I understand that this undertaking is not legally binding. However, once the Chief Executive has recouped the substantial costs which he personally incurred in pursuing the damages awarded him by the judge in the counter-libel hearing, he may wish to consider what should happen to the money awarded in damages – including paying it over to the council. One thing is certain, the money will not be “thrown in the gutter” – an insensitive off-the-cuff remark made on the spur of the moment by his legal counsel in reply to an inquiry by the judge.”  

The BBC is understood to have been interested in following this story up, but was prevented from doing so by the rather daft purdah rules which apply during an election campaign.

Unlike public service broadcasters, the rest of the media is not bound by purdah rules, and you might think it would have been picked up by the local press, the story being of more than passing local interest.

One of the newest arrivals on the Carmarthenshire scene is Llanelli Online, which also markets itself as Carmarthenshire Media and Carmarthenshire Online. To describe this rabidly pro-Labour website as a news outlet would be pushing things a little too far, as much of its output rather obviously comes straight from Labour's campaign team.

Who is funding Llanelli Online is not known, but with diddly squat in advertising and no subscription income, plus start-up costs, it is hard to see how Alan Evans, the editor (and everything else) is managing to put food on his table.

Alan, a fervent admirer of Saint Tegwen and her daughter, Sharen Davies, was until recently employed by the Herald group, and it is an understatement to say that he is not a fan of Emlyn Dole.

A couple of months ago a short snippet appeared in the pages of Private Eye alleging that there had been a mysterious caravan fire in the grounds of Emlyn's home. This took many of us by surprise, not least because there had been no mention of the story in the local press.

It turns out that some of the local papers had looked at it and decided not to touch the story with a bargepole because it was fake news dreamed up by Alan Evans. A picture purporting to show the burned out remains of the static caravan was in fact an old rubbish tip.

Whether Alan was also behind Private Eye's cockeyed report on the Llangennech school row is not known, but friends of the satirical magazine have advised it to wear rubber gloves when handling material submitted from Llanelli in future.

Incendiary rubbish

Also hoping to retain a seat on the county council is Labour's Kim Thomas who briefly acquired notoriety when she described plans to phase out the English stream in Llangennech as apartheid. She subsequently went on to make even more extreme comments in an edition of S4C's Y Byd ar Bedwar, questioning the value of Welsh-medium education, despite being governor of a Welsh-medium school.

This was by far Kim Thomas's most spectacular contribution to local government during the last five years; normally she sits in complete silence in the council chamber. Strange then that you will not read a single word about any of this in her election leaflet which is notable for a few vague and questionable claims about her achievements and some very badly written and edited Welsh - perhaps she should have asked the pupils at Ysgol Cross Hands for help.

First up on her list of "achievements" is a claim that she successfully stopped an incinerator from being built on the outskirts of Cwmgwili.

This relates to a bizarre application submitted by a company called Clean Power Properties. As this blog noted at the time, there were major flaws in the application:

Hooking up a plant of this size to the National Grid would not come cheap, but perhaps the biggest question hanging over the project is what would happen to the heat, not least because the site is miles from the nearest centres of population, Ammanford being the nearest.

In reality, the project was never a flier, and it was rejected by the council's planning committee, never to be heard of again.

Kim also says she has campaigned for jobs for local residents in Lidl and a new retail complex at Cross Hands, where jobs stacking shelves and operating tills would presumably otherwise have gone to Oompa Loompas flown in every day to Pembrey Airport.

Rather more vaguely, she supports local business (though not all local retailers might agree with that one), and affordable housing. As well as motherhood and apple pie.

Update 29 April

The comment below was posted on the Llanelli Online site run by Alan Evans in response to this blogpost. The author, who gives his name as Kevin Francis, is a member of CUSC SOPAP. To save time and effort, Cneifiwr's response to the comments are highlighted in bold.

Kevin has been complaining that Cneifiwr was refusing to publish his comment. It would have helped if he had sent it in the first place.

Otherwise the text is exactly as it appears on Llanelli Online and Twitter.

" To clarify a few points for you and your readers on the piece in your Blog on Saturday 22nd April.
Alan Evans was never employed by the Herald Group. He is and always has been a freelance journalist. He placed many high standard pieces with the Herald who currently owe him over £5,0000 for this work . He is pursuing the  Herald  for that money so that he can indeed “put food on his table for the four children.” Perhpas you could mention that to your readers.
[Cneifiwr has never mentioned Alan Evans' children anywhere. The use of inverted commas implies that this was a quote taken from the blog, and as such it is a crude attempt to smear the author of this blog. Ed].
One thing is for certain if it were not for Alan the Herald would be unknown in the Llanelli area. The quality and bite of the pieces Alan wrote were an asset to the paper.
The Mr James business.
In the Western Mail article Cllr Dole who was not in court  said that the ‘gutter’ comment was an off the cuff remark by James’s counsel.
Is this true as far as you know and if so what is your source for such a remark?
[The remark was contained in a statement Cllr Dole made to the Western Mail, and was published by that newspaper. Cneifiwr verified the statement. Ed]
Alan has clearly stated that the judge asked the barrister Mr Spackman to go away and speak to Mr james and clarify where the money was going to. His return and response was the gutter remark. One can justifiably assume that that remark had been related to Mr Spackman by Mark James himself.
Llanelli Online was the only outlet to pick up on this as they were the only outlet in court on the day apart from the BBC. The others stayed away. Why do you think that was?
[You should direct that question to the BBC and other media organisations. However, Alan Evans' apparent sudden interest in the Thompson case is interesting given his close links with people such as Tegwen Devichand and other senior Labour figures who approved the unlawful libel indemnity and went on to defend Mark James to the hilt. Perhaps Alan has changed his view of the case and will now start asking Tegwen Devichand why she acted as she did. Ed].
You state the story on Cllr Doles Caravan has taken many of you by surprise, and no mention of it in the local press. That is because the local press would not print it, including the Herald. If you want to see the evidence then why not give Alan a ring. I am sure he would be delighted to share this with you as he tells us he is sharing it all again but with more detail and bigger pictures.
[We wait with bated breath. Rather than publish more dubious photographs, why does he not publish the e-mails he says he has from the county council and MAWWFIRE? Ed.]
 Is your attack on Alan bourne out of your bias toward Plaid Cymru? An accusation you have made against Alan in regards to the Labour Party,also your attack on his integrity and his family life are pretty defamatory and no one would blame him for taking you on given that he has the evidence to the contrary, we have also been told, The Herald was party to this including emails from the fire service and the council. Perhaps you should print that.
[Printed. Again, at no point has this blog ever mentioned Alan's family.Ed]
You also make assertions about Private Eye and Llangennech. It was other Herald reporters who fanned the flames there. Look back at Alan’s article and you will see a different reporting style. It gives both sides not a nationalist rant.
[See Jon Cole's response to these accusations on Llanelli Online. Ed].
I can assure you and your readers that Alan has given Plaid in Llanelli every oppurtunity to react to accusations made against them. There continued silence is very strange.
[Plaid Cymru and other non-Labour sources are free to respond or not, as they see fit. Cneifiwr's understanding is that many of them view Llanelli Online as pure Labour propaganda and will have nothing to do with it. Ed]
Alan is working tirelessley to get News and Sport to the people in this area and welcomes everybody no matter what there political views are to get in touch with him and share there opinions and stories.
Alan has no one backing him,he is doing this on his own and should be applauded for this work.
Kevin Francis.
[Good luck on that one. After a couple of months of relentless Labour propaganda and some frankly ludicrous reporting, including suggestions that Carmarthenshire has been hit by a plague of rats since Emlyn Dole was appointed leader of the county council, he's got quite a lot of bridge building to do if he wants to be seen as a credible and trustworthy source. Ed]



Anonymous said...

County hall will miss Kims sweetie bag this term .

Anonymous said...

Very unfair comments about Llanelli Online and Alan Evans. Probably the most unbiased around with this online publication and when at the Herald. Doesn't suffer any political party gladly. A good investigative reporter who persists in trying to find out the facts and gives those who are criticised a chance to reply which is something you don't do.
It really is full of unsubtantiated innuendo as far as I can see.
He has some great reviews on his Facebook page. Good luck to him.

Cneifiwr said...

Llanelli Online unbiased? You are joking.

Anonymous said...

Alan Evans/Llanelli Online 'unbiased'? Are you from CUSC, Llangennech or Llanelli Labour?

Unknown said...

Reporting at Llanelli Online is solid, in my view, and the venture deserves to be supported. A great deal of hard work goes into it.

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks to those of you who have commented about Llanelli Online. There is rather more than meets the eye to the disagreement with Llanelli Online. For the record the criticism above follows various attacks on this blog by Llanelli Online itself and people associated with it.

Also, for the record, nobody has been "banned" or blocked by this blog. Apart from anything else, that is not technically possible. To date four comments submitted by one individual have been spiked (i.e. deleted without being published)because they amounted to rather creepy one line abuse with nothing to say on the story they were supposedly commenting on.

Two Twitter accounts have been blocked, and two only. Cneifiwr's Twitter feed has, for the most part, nothing to do with the blog, and it was to spare followers from being subjected to trolling from Llanelli that that decision was taken.