A former leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Kevin Madge is calling on Carmarthenshire County Council to freeze council tax because of concerns over the rising cost of living and the impact that would have on many families across Carmarthenshire.
Cllr Madge said that there were hundreds of people in his ward on a low income and that they risked being pushed into poverty. He said many of the families were now reliant on foodbanks.
Cllr Madge claims that the council has saved money because of the number of buildings that are closed. He said that councillors no longer have to travel to meetings either.
Speaking after the First Minister’s Press conference where Mark Drakeford was asked if he like Willy Wonka had a golden ticket for the children of Wales Cllr Madge said that the council have the ability to give money to the poorest families in the county.
He said: “I am on my 44th year. You can go to any of the estates here and the heating will be off in those properties. This is going to push them right over the cliffs. This isn’t just people on benefits this is also working people who are going to be pushed into poverty. Pensioners are in poverty and heating is one of the biggest payments they make. We are going to have more deaths as a result. The elderly are living at home they are not going out to day centres or luncheon clubs.
Asked if Labour politicians were shouting loud enough about poverty rather than climate change and Boris Johnson Cllr Madge said:
“I think we will have to shout about it. There will be a massive outcry. We have seen rioting across Europe. £100 is available now but prices are going up and up. I have never seen anything like this crisis. It is the biggest financial and economic crisis for families since the Miner’s Strike.”
I asked Cllr Madge if he thought that politicians blaming each other was frustrating and whether the politicians should really concern themselves with more hyperlocal issues like poverty.
Cllr Madge said: “When I was leader the last thing I did was do a deal with British Gas to put Solar panels on council houses. The next administration pulled the plug on it. Why are we not proactive in putting solar panels on council houses. They may be putting them on the new properties but there are 9,000 council houses in Carmarthenshire.
We asked Cllr Madge if he thought that Section 106 money could also be put into a fund for antipoverty in communities. Perhaps handed out as grants to the families struggling the most.
Cllr Madge said: “Section 106 money is wasted. We have the butterfly thing (Caeau Ffos Fach Reserve) in Crosshands and they get money all the time from planning applications. I think you are right and it needs to be looked at.”
Cllr Madge said that he believed that the press were also not concerned about the local stories and said that he had contacted many outlets to discuss what he called ‘front page’ stories but that they had not been bothered to publish them.
We asked Cllr Madge if he thought we needed to go back to helping people grow fruit and vegetables to save money and to get farmers to grow more local produce.
He said: “They are putting all the money into the environment and we have forgotten how to grow. I have an allotment and we have been trying to get residents to grow produce. I grow my vegetables every year. When I was unemployed what was in my garden was feeding my children. We are getting a polytunnel at the local school to teach children how to grow. A lot of people can’t cook and they are going down the chip shop for meals. We really need to teach people these skills.”
Asked whether enough was being done to help businesses especially the cost of rental premises Cllr Madge was critical of what he claimed was a lack of investment in Ammanford and Llanelli. He said: “Ammanford is dying on its feet. Nothing is being done there. They haven’t repaired around the bus station. It is like Llanelli, a dying town. It is quite depressing.
“When I was leader I had eight million pounds in for a new school in Ammanford. They have taken the school out of Ammanford to Pontamman and bought land there. People are going to be up in arms when they find out a school is going to be built opposite their homes.
“The parents of Blaenau and Mynyddygarreg think they have won the battle to keep their schools open but they (the council) are just putting off the closure until after the elections in May. The council should be putting money into those schools via the capital expenditure budget they have. I know how they (the council) work and the games they are playing. There is a huge amount of money in the capital programme they have not spent. It is all about politics for them. The children are losing out. They have to get on with it. Are they going to invest in those two schools now?”
Cllr Madge said that questions need to be asked about decisions around school closures and purchasing of land for new schools. He said: “Cllr Rob James will be asking questions at the next council meeting. One of the questions being asked relates to the schools. They have postponed the statutory notices to close them. They can bring those back after the election. Someone has got rich off the back of the sale of land for schools. They paid around one million pounds for that land. We need to have some answers.”
Carmarthenshire County Council have been contacted for comment.