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I am very concerned indeed that Llanelli is 499th when we should be at least 308thbut preferably better – we have a mammoth task ahead. But let’s not pretend that there are easy answers – even the so-called expert Mary Portas and the generous funding given to her selected towns struggled to make a difference. We need to separate out the problems we share with comparable towns across the UK such as the dramatic increase in internet shopping from those that are specific to Llanelli, like having Trostre and Pemberton on the doorstep.

Westminster policies under the current Government have dramatically reduced the money people have to spend in the town centre – the 20% hike in VAT, the failure to curb rampant energy costs and the failureof income to keep up with the cost of living – all mean less money going into local businesses. That’s why we needLabour’s plans to freeze energy costs for both householders and businesses, and measures like raising the minimum wage to put money back into our local communities.

I have already had talks with Peter Williams of The Means to Change Places for the Better, who is bringing his expertise gained elsewhere, back to his home town to spearhead the Llanelli Business Improvement District, and I will certainly be working with him, local business and relevant authorities to help bring improvement.

Here are a few ideas for starters

–          Listen to local businesses and act on their concerns – re rents, rates etc

–          Do a better sales job of the assets we do have, such as the market – even some simple signposting could make a difference

–          Identify realistic new reasons for people to come into the town centre. Office and residential development above shops can help increase the number of people spending money there, but what else will bring people in?

–          Revive the idea of bringing a doctors’ surgery into the town centre, complete with blood test facilities

–          Put frontline council services in the town centre

–          Where money has been invested such as in Llanelli House or the Furnace Theatre, we need to ask NOT how many Llanelli people visit your facilities but rather how many people has YOUR offer brought in from outside Llanelli, and what are you doing to make sure that you encourage those visitors to explore more of Llanelli.

–          Admittedly a harder task, but we should also ask the out of town facilities like the Scarlets, Machynys Golf Club,& Ramps to direct their visitors to the town centre

–          Make sure that as Carmarthenshire County Council sheds jobs, the current number of posts continue to be housed in Llanelli, and offices elsewhere are disposed of.