Thursday, 27 April 2017

Election Tour 2017: Local News and Parc Howard

A prerequisite for any democracy to function properly is a healthy and diverse media, and what we have here in Wales is neither healthy nor diverse. We rely overwhelmingly on right-wing British newspapers with little or no interest in what is happening in Wales, and the remnants of the traditionally Labour-leaning local press. What Alun Davies (Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language) terms our "native" media are growing weaker, although it is far from clear what he thinks needs to be done to address the problem. More accountability, but on no account should broadcasting be devolved to Wales and be made accountable, would seem to sum up the minister's latest pronouncements.

Increasingly voters rely on social media to find out what is happening locally and in the wider world, and all too often what they are served up is the same toxic mix that you get from the Daily Mail and even less reliable sources.

But the political parties themselves have a responsibility to try to ensure that local issues are aired in local government elections. With easy access to the social media, which is where most voters will after all come into contact with the parties and their candidates, there is no excuse for not engaging with the public on genuine local issues.

But not if you are the Labour Party in Llanelli, it seems. Tribal to its fingertips, the only thing that matters to Labour in Llanelli is the Labour Party.

Take a look at the party's official Twitter account, for example (click here).

A striking feature of Llanelli Labour's output, its message to voters, is how little the party has to say about Llanelli or issues of local concern. An analysis of the last few days shows that 60% of the constituency party's output relates to places in England, with the north-west of England featuring most heavily. Out of 50 tweets which feature a place, Llanelli received only 8 mentions, and nearly all of those were pictures of Labour activists out canvassing.

Here is a breakdown of places featuring in the constituency party's Twitter feed and the number of times they have occurred:

The Wirral 3
Oxford 2
Nottingham 2
Calder Valley (Yorkshire) 1
Moss Side (Liverpool) 1
West Ham (London) 1
Llanelli 8
Leeds 1
Pelenna (a ward to the east of Neath) 1
Flintshire 1
Tredegar 1
Ashfield (Nottingham) 1
Swansea 5
West Lancashire 2
Cardiff 1
Merthyr Tydfil 1
Anglesey 2
Tyneside 1
Leicester 4
Stalybridge (Manchester) 2
Manchester 3
Worcester 1
Lancaster East 1
Salford 1
Norwich 1
Scotland 1
Oldham 1

Llanelli is on level pegging with Greater Manchester. Strangely, nowhere else in Carmarthenshire gets a mention, not even - or especially not - the Labour Party in the Amman Valley, or the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Constituency Labour Party, to give it its official name.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Labour Party (Twitter account here) is a rather different beast. Apart from a few tweets in support of Ammanford United RFC, the bulk of its output is re-tweets of messages put out by Dyfed Powys Police and generic stuff put out by 'Welsh' Labour telling us that Carwyn is wonderful. Again, there is almost nothing in the way of original local material, which is perhaps not surprising given that the account is run by someone who lives in London.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire does not get a look in either, although all three Labour constituency parties would, you might think, be working together to try to get Labour candidates elected to the county council.

Not a bit of it.

If you think the last 48 hours were unrepresentative, go back further in time, and you will see that the picture is no different.

The mayoral election in Greater Manchester gets almost as much attention from the Llanelli Labour Party as do the council elections on its doorstep.


One of the very few local issues to have featured in Llanelli Labour's campaign, after it decided to go quiet about the bigotry and division it had stirred up in Llangennech, is the future of Parc Howard where the party has been trying to create the impression that the park will be closed to the public and flogged off.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is worth remembering that debate about the future of Parc Howard began when the Labour Party, in coalition with the Independents, put the park on the council's Asset Transfer List, and covert discussions took place with some mysterious potential investors.

In fairness much of the credit for uncovering this rather shady business has to go to people like Bill Thomas (deselected by Labour for his pains). Remarkably, it was going on while Labour was running the council.

But Labour lost control of the council after the coup against Kevin Madge less than two years ago, and Llanelli Labour has since been busy trying to rewrite history, most recently using Llanelli Labour Online to trumpet its new alternative "facts".

One of the first things Emlyn Dole did as Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council was to pledge and promise that the Parc would be retained in public ownership, but he was unable to abort the asset transfer process initiated under Labour until the date for expressions of interest on asset transfer in Llanelli had passed.

That happened eventually with the Labour led Llanelli Town Council stating that they had no interest in taking on Parc Howard. 
Parc Howard used to be a pretty vibrant placed with a cafe and a community farm, etc., but by now it has lost much of its former glory. Plaid first put a budget in place to ensure restoration works on the Mansion House, and the council began a series of meetings with interested parties to consider a means for creating an income for the Parc which would help to realise the £100,000 plus that is required annually to maintain the Parc. 

Those meetings are said to have gone well and have generated many proposals, including setting up part of the mansion as a Wedding/Events Venue, reopening the Cafe, making the Mansion House a home for the Heritage Six project, relaunching the Museum and strengthening the ties with Llanelli House and Library.

Under Emlyn Dole, the council decided that it should also invest in the Parc itself and set aside £150,000 for two new attractions, namely a new children's play area already installed and widely welcomed, and a new Web attraction for the youngsters the first of its kind in the UK.

But to err is human, as they say, and the council messed up work on the Web attraction. Council sources say that it was placed too near to the Taylor's house situated on the edge of the Parc, and thanks to an administrative cock-up, no planning application was submitted, even though it was required. 

The Web attraction will now be moved to a more suitable location, and it is the council's intention to use the very small site where the groundworks are already in place for another attraction more suitable to its location.

The council has also proceeded to ask for expressions of interest on the Wedding/Events venue. Part of this is the long overdue requirement for a car park, and the council says it has shown those plans to interested parties, including the Parc Howard Association, the Friends of Parc Howard, the Cultural and Historical Committee and members of Llanelli Town Council. 

Council sources say that the intention now is to bring forward a planning application after the election which will allow full public consultation on the car park, and to further pursue plans for the Mansion House itself. 

The parc will remain open to the public and in public ownership.


johnsouthwales said...

what other location where earthworks are already in place.... oh

Anonymous said...

Good grief you do seem to have a lot of your time on your hands if you are spending your time, which I am sure is precious, on analysing the contents of the Llanelli Labour Twitter feed for the last 48 hours. You call us Tribal? We belong to a party which is UK wide and we are supporting each other during it. What is tribal is having a narrow and insular attitude which we haven't Perhaps you forget there are local and a general election on the way shortly. Naturally we will be all out canvassing. One thing we don't do though is slate the opposition.
We try to keep it positive whilst receiving personal insults about our members frequntly, mainly from members of one particular party
The pinned tweet is our manifesto and pledges. There are also retweets of local photographers, police alerts, Punks 4 mental health and Youngs Minds with reference to mental health recently. I do not see that it is any different to the Plaid Llanelli Twitter feed except that that they mainly cover Wales which is natural for them and no critiism of that.
I suspect your real reason for having a go is because we retweeted a criticism about you from an unlikely source here;
Maybe you need a holiday? Don't like the twitter page - you don't have to visit it. You are a very grumpy shearer indeed.

Anonymous said...

We don't seem to have had much of an election tour this time Cneifiwr. Has the bus broken down ha ha?

Jac o' the North, said...

No doubt Llanelli Labour would make a virtue of having more interest in disparate parts of England than other parts of the county. It would be 'outward looking'.

Though I was unable to check for myself as I'm blocked from the Llanelli Labour Twitter account - can you believe that!

Anonymous said...

Bull ! Your candidates are out constantly . They are running scared because of llanellis support of corbyn and previously brown (dafen dolly and daughters house guest)
Then openly goes against the mp for Corbyn .
Now trying to discredit a paramedic . And the stories spread around the areas are degrading . But the electorate are now accepting its human nature to them to discredit anyone who stands against them and anyone who is popular as joking made up professionals , theives , grasses etc i could go on but its boring me now all these years of gossip are tiresome . Lets look foward to next weekend when if its accurate on what the electorate are saying on the doors these people are out .

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@16.53 - you sound uncannily like Rosemary!

Don't worry, trawling through 50-odd tweets didn't take very long. I have to confess that I don't look at the account very often, but when I did it struck me how little it had to say that was relevant to Llanelli.

I think that what you are trying to say is that Labour has a broad view of the world, but your world seems to stop somewhere around Oldham. Where's the news about PSOE, the SPD, Die Linke or Syriza? Or Ammanford, come to that?

And I don't see what difference it makes that there is now a general election campaign. Voters in Llanelli surely have a right to hear what Labour is planning to do differently in Llanelli after almost a century of failure.

Richard Powell said...

Whatever plans are pursued for the mansion house itself, I hope very much that the collections there will remain on public display. The modest art collection is a small-scale delight, and the museum of the history of Llanelli is a model of its kind. It's a great pity that so few people go to see them - especially as there are so few other things to see on rainy day in Llanelli.

Jac o' the North, said...

It seems pretty obvious now that the Labour Party in Llanelli and its various mouthpieces on Twitter and elsewhere are controlled by a bunch of rather nasty and vindictive women, not averse to spreading ugly rumours (wasn't that Tony Blair's band?) and sullying reputations. But at the end of the day the real damage is being done to the reputation of the Labour Party itself. Which is entirely fitting.

Anonymous said...

The Llanelli Labour Twitter feed is stuffed with content from elsewhere as they have run out of ideas after decades of taking the electorate for granted. Negligible retweeted Jeremy Corbyn tweets - a sign of local division. How Nia pitches her support for Corbyn on the doorstep will be of great interest.

Anonymous said...

Jac you are right . It is RUN by nasty vindictive women . You see they have nothing else in their dull lives if not for labour or bullying . Im MY OPINION they need to go back to ogmore porth or torfaen . Oh no they cant they have no friends there either . On saying that the foundations are down to move house anyway .

Anonymous said...

Jac ? are you bothered about being blocked from nasty , vindictive , back stabbing Labour's Twitter account .
They just Tweet lies & re-tweet other higher up Labour Party tweet's .
They are not worth the read , trust me .

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr is the people's Voice not the Labour Party as they claim on their expensive lying leaflet's .