A petition calling on Carmarthenshire Council to safeguard the future of Ammanford Town Hall and the Old Library has been signed by thousands of people claims County Councillor Rob James.
The joint petition by Carmarthenshire Labour Group and Unison calls on Carmarthenshire Council to keep Ammanford Town Hall and the Old Library open and retain all 67 jobs in Ammanford, engage in meaningful discussions with the trade unions and the people of Ammanford before future decisions are made and put local people first by fighting the cuts to local services.
The Council’s proposal would see Ammanford Town Hall, Old Library, Ammanford, Nant y Ci and 5-8 Spillman Street close, as part of the Council’s Agile Working policy, with over 140 staff being affected.
It is believed that petition against this policy has gained over 400 online signatures and close to 2,000 paper signatures since the campaign was launched last week, with a public meeting set to be held this Wednesday at 7pm in Ammanford Pensioners Hall. The expectation is that the Executive Board will make a decision on the future of the four buildings on the 25th of September.
Speaking in Ammanford, Deputy Labour Leader, Cllr Rob James stated ‘We are extremely grateful that residents are supporting our call for Independent and Plaid Councillors to rethink this policy.
‘It is clear that the local residents are shocked with this latest development, with many stating that this decision does not chime with the promises being made by Plaid Councillors during May’s election campaign. The closure of the buildings would have an enormous impact on local traders, with fewer Council employees working in our town centres.
‘Our focus is to ensure that we prevent jobs leaving Ammanford and Carmarthen town centres. Let us be clear, Plaid’s promise of a town centre hub in Ammanford will do little to prevent the majority of the jobs in the Old Library and the Town Hall leaving the Amman Valleys and questions need to be asked on the work needed for the building being considered.
‘The proposed annual saving of £111,000 a year with the closure of the three town centre buildings would be a drop in the ocean compared with the £12.5 million that the Plaid-led Authority aim to cut next year.
Unison branch secretary, Mark Evans, wrote an open letter the Leader of Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole stating ‘We urge the Executive Board and Carmarthenshire County Council to be more open with our members and the public and be clear about your intentions and why you are making these decisions. We call on the Executive Board to put the community and the services we provide first by keeping Ammanford Town hall and the Old Library open; retaining all jobs in Ammanford and to make this decision public.’
Llanelli Online contacted Carmarthenshire County Council for a comment.
Cllr Mair Stephens said:
“No decision has yet been taken. The principal of the report is to look to ways of working more efficiently, including more efficient use of our buildings, while retaining appropriate local access and retaining council presence in our main centres.
“All the potential properties identified in the report would be subject to further detailed assessment in terms of future use of the buildings and any movement of staff. The report has been deferred for further review, and may be subject to change.
“If Unison would like to discuss any concerns they have over any issues they are welcome to bring them to us. In this instance, they have already been advised that there are no current plans to dispose of these buildings, and that they would be fully involved should any staff movements be proposed at any point in the future. Therefore, we would appeal to them not to cause unnecessary concern to the staff they aim to support.”
The County Council also issued a press release, which reads as follows:
Leading Carmarthenshire councillors have spoken out to reassure people there are no current plans in place to sell off certain council buildings in Ammanford and Carmarthen.
The council is facing cuts to its revenue budget of £12million per year, for the next three years, and is identifying savings across all departments in order to balance the books, whilst continuing to protect the front line services people depend upon.
Officers have been researching a new way of working that involves staff operating in a more agile manner with more reliance on IT, as opposed to being based in one building.
If adopted it means that the current office provision could be reduced which could allow surplus space to be released for sale or rental, in a bid to reduce the impact of government funding cuts.
The agile working report included the potential to disposing of council owned property to demonstrate how cost savings may be achieved with examples given as Ammanford Town Hall; the Old Library; 5-8 Spilman Street; and Nantyci.
However, it did not contain details of how and where front line services such as the customer service centre and cash desk would be located.
These services have been made more accessible in both Llanelli and Llandeilo, and the council administration is committed to ensuring that people in the Aman Valley have the same access.
Executive Board members deferred the report to ask officers for resolution of this and other matters which had arisen from initial reading of it.
Members have stressed that nothing contained within the report had been or would be implemented until the revised version went before them for discussion and decision.
Human Resources executive board member Cllr Mair Stephens said: “The contents of the report are simply suggestions put forward by a working group of officers, aimed at saving the county council a great deal of money.”
Resources executive board member Cllr David Jenkins said that all council assets were continuously being looked at for ways to make efficiency savings. However, no buildings would be disposed of without discussion and consultation.
Cllr Jenkins added: “As there have been no decisions taken to date, we would appeal to those people who are alarming the public with talks of this being something that is actually happening, instead of something that has not even been considered yet, to please stop and think before causing unnecessary concern to our hard working and loyal staff.”