Jonathan's Herald Column - 'Silly Season'

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The month of August is probably the most creative political month of the year. Free from institutional constraints politicians find the liberty to express themselves openly.

We are treated to stories that range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Unfortunately, for the Labour party in my home town of Ammanford, they have stumbled on the former as part of their great political ‘summer offensive’.

We have been bombarded to two weeks of a deliberate attempt to sow fear and resentment over alleged plans to move jobs and services from Ammanford as part of a covert Council centralisation project. Vulnerable people are being told that they will no longer be able to pay their rates in the town or access basic Council services. They suggest council employees will be forced to work in Outer Mongolia or even worse, lose their jobs.

This sort of fearmongering is deeply irresponsible in terms of the anxiety it creates, and also serves to undermine confidence in Ammanford itself as a town and the wider Amman Valley. The last thing anyone with an ounce of civic responsibility would seek to do.

How did we get to this? Labour has based its great deception on a draft report prepared by officers under the ‘Agile Working Policy’ strategy which aims to save ratepayers’ money by relocating staff to more suitable premises and offering working flexibility to increase efficiency. The draft report recommended moving jobs down the road to Parc Amanwy in Pantyffynon. Not a single job loss was mentioned. The draft report was thrown out by the Plaid-led Executive Board because there was not enough detail on relocation of services. As I write this article there are no recommendations being brought forward by the Council Executive.

As someone who bases his political decision making on fact, I have to be honest and say I’m perplexed by the actions of Labour. Tomorrow they will be holding a protest in Ammanford, protesting against a fantasy in their own heads.

As it is silly season, let’s entertain the Labour position: Perhaps at this stage we should remind ourselves that the Labour Welsh Government is passing on savage Tory austerity to Carmarthenshire. Over the next three years the Council budget is being cut by Labour by £24.6m resulting in savings of £8.8m having to be made this year. When Plaid was in opposition challenging Labour party cuts (and the 300 jobs that went during the Labour leader’s term of office) we outlined alternative proposals. What is theirs? Labour’s politics is about opposing any change, throwing as much mud as possible and hoping as much of it as possible sticks. Labour aren’t fit to be in opposition in Carmarthenshire let alone an alternative national government.

One of the biggest challenges we face in town is increasing footfall in our town centres. In Llanelli, the Council has very successfully located services from Ty Elwyn to a ‘Hwb’ centre in the middle of the town. Furthermore, in Ammanford it’s not so long ago the Library was moved to the centre of town. Is it really the Labour position that we shouldn’t investigate the possibility of moving front desk services to the middle of the town? If their policy was consistent they would close the Library in the town and relocate it back to where it was.

Moving services to the centre of town, if done properly, not only improves access but could be a key public investment in helping regenerate the town. Surely it would be negligent to not consider it.

Aneurin Bevan once said “the language of priorities is the religion of socialism”. Well, my priorities in these austere times are jobs and services. What’s your comrades?


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