County ‘los­ing its young­sters’

Con­cern at num­ber of youths leav­ing

Llanelli Star - - Front Page - Richard Youle @Youle­Post [email protected]­di­awales.co.uk 01792 545553

RU­RAL ar­eas in Car­marthen­shire are haem­or­rhag­ing young peo­ple as well as los­ing shops, banks, post of­fices and pubs, a lo­cal Govern­ment leader has said.

Coun­cil­lor Cefn Camp­bell said around 1,000 young peo­ple per year were leav­ing the county, and that a large num­ber of these were Welsh speak­ers from ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

“De-pop­u­la­tion is an enor­mous chal­lenge,” he said.

Mr Camp­bell, ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber for ru­ral af­fairs and com­mu­ni­ties, also de­scribed Brexit as the “ele­phant in the room” which could be the “most dam­ag­ing event” to hit the agri­cul­tural sec­tor since the Sec­ond World War.

“We are still six months away and we are still, at this mo­ment, no closer to know­ing what kind of deal we will strike with the Euro­pean Union,” he said.

“One thing is ab­so­lutely cer­tain. If we crash out with no deal or a bad deal than the reper­cus­sions for the ru­ral econ­omy are likely to be dis­as­trous.

“Forty per cent ex­port tar­iffs on beef and lamb. That would be ab­so­lutely cat­a­strophic for up­lands farm­ers.”

He said 90% of Welsh food and drink was ex­ported to the EU and that Wales re­ceived £600 mil­lion per year in direct pay­ments from Europe, which equated to 80% of Welsh farm­ers’ net prof­its.

Mr Camp­bell was ad­dress­ing a ru­ral af­fairs con­fer­ence at the Univer­sity of Wales Trin­ity Saint David, Car­marthen, where he ex­plained that a ru­ral af­fairs task group set up by the coun­cil had been re­search­ing the is­sues fac­ing the county over the past year.

The pri­or­i­ties that emerged were the need for more ru­ral jobs, en­sur­ing the fu­ture of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, and im­proved broad­band, pub­lic ser­vices and pub­lic trans­port.

“These are the is­sues which we will be fo­cus­ing on in the com­ing months,” he said.

Mr Camp­bell said around 120,000 peo­ple lived in Car­marthen­shire’s ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties – around 60% of the pop­u­la­tion – but that it was an age­ing co­hort.

“As older peo­ple move into these ar­eas, that puts ad­di­tional strain on ser­vices,” he said.

In­come lev­els in ru­ral ar­eas were low, he added, and af­ford­able hous­ing like in many UK ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties – was lack­ing.

He added: “It means that young fam­i­lies are un­able to buy homes in ru­ral ar­eas.”

Mr Camp­bell also said Car­marthen­shire has been hit hard by the “aus­ter­ity pol­icy” com­ing from West­min­ster, with mul­ti­mil­lion pound sav­ings forced upon it.

“Hedges are not be­ing cut, roads are not be­ing re­paired as of­ten as they used to, but the fi­nan­cial lim­i­ta­tions are hav­ing a great ef­fect,” he said.

“Shops, banks, post of­fices, pub­lic houses are clos­ing in our mar­ket towns. I know there are other fac­tors – but it is sad to see the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.”

He also said broad­band speeds needed to im­prove, and told the au­di­ence he reg­u­larly had to leave his of­fice at home and pop down his lo­cal Star­bucks for bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity.

He said that 86% of Car­marthen­shire, ac­cord­ing to BT’s in­fra­struc­ture arm Open­reach, had ac­cess to su­per-fast broad­band against a 96% tar­get.

“There is a sec­ond roll­out that’s sup­posed to hap­pen in the next few months,” he said. Mr Camp­bell said jobs could be cre­ated if more food pro­duced in the county was pro­cessed there rather

than

“Shops, banks, post of­fices, pub­lic houses are clos­ing in our mar­ket towns. I know there are other fac­tors – but it is sad to see the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion

Coun­cil­lor Cefin Camp­bell

be­ing ex­ported, and that tourism and leisure op­por­tu­ni­ties could be de­vel­oped.

The new Towy Val­ley cy­cle path be­ing built by the coun­cil, he said, was ex­pected to gen­er­ate £8 mil­lion per year for the lo­cal econ­omy.

He said the county had a prob­lem with agri­cul­tural pol­lu­tion, but that it could be al­le­vi­ated by a new slurry project in­volv­ing Co­leg Sir Gar and Swansea-based pu­rifi­ca­tion ex­perts Power & Wa­ter.

He said the au­thor­ity was com­mit­ted to re­tain­ing own­er­ship of its farms, but that the threat of a Brexit no deal or bad deal loomed.

“There would be a triply whammy – re­duced sub­si­dies, in­creased tar­iffs, and more im­ports of low-qual­ity prod­ucts,” he said.

“I am sure for most of you in this room that this is not a fu­ture you want to see.”

Mr Camp­bell said a pos­i­tive as­pect of Brexit would be a change in pro­cure­ment reg­u­la­tions, which would mean more sourc­ing of lo­cal prod­ucts for pub­lic sec­tor in­sti­tu­tions like schools and care homes.

He added that the coun­cil had pledged to build 1,000 af­ford­able homes, and that around half of them had been com­pleted.

Mr Camp­bell, who stud­ied land man­age­ment at univer­sity, de­scribed Car­marthen­shire’s ru­ral ar­eas as unique.

“To­gether we can en­sure we cre­ate sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties for our chil­dren and chil­dren’s chil­dren,” he said.

There are fears Car­marthen­shire is haem­or­rhag­ing young peo­ple at the rate of around 1,000 per year.

Pic­ture: Jo­van Mandic

Coun­cil­lor Cefin Camp­bell (right), Si­mon Wright, Ger­allt Llewe­lyn Jones and Pro­fes­sor Janet Dwyer at the ru­ral af­fairs con­fer­ence in Car­marthen on Septem­ber 7.

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