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Private security firm hired to police general election hustings in Llanelli 

The entrance to the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli, where an election hustings takes place on Thursday June 20 (Pic: Google Maps)

A PRIVATE security firm has been hired to manage a general election hustings in Llanelli and members of the public who attend must buy a ticket to help cover the cost. Llanelli Chamber of Trade and Commerce has arranged the event at the town’s Diplomat Hotel, in Felinfoel Road, on the evening of June 20.

It said previous hustings had been free to attend but that organising security was considered sensible due to what had been a “politically-charged” atmosphere in the area. The £5 admission has been criticised, however, by Llanelli resident Tom McPhillips, who felt it disenfranchised voters.

The hustings will be broadcast live by the chamber of trade on Facebook, which Mr McPhillips said he would watch rather than attending in person. “I’m reasonably technology-minded but a lot of the electorate are not – particularly older people,” said the 68-year-old, of Emma Street.

David Darkin, president of the chamber of trade, said the room at the hotel held 80 people and that the seven candidates standing for election on July 4 were being offered five free tickets each for supporters. He said 20 of the remaining 45 tickets had been bought by members of the public, leaving 25 still available. Mr Darkin said the chamber was apolitical and that offering candidates five tickets each would help ensure a fair spread of audience support. Names of supporters, he said, must be provided in advance, and no-one who wasn’t on the list or who had not bought a ticket would be allowed in. Bags will also be checked on arrival.

Asked why private security had been arranged this time round, Mr Darkin said: “It was felt that due to the recent politically-charged climate it was a sensible precaution to put on security.” He didn’t refer to any event, but the hotel is only a mile away from the Stradey Park Hotel, where long-running and mostly peaceful protests against UK Government proposals to house asylum seekers there descended into occasional unrest and disturbance, leading to some 40 arrests.

Dyfed-Powys Police said it cost £1.16 million to police the protests prior to the Home Office withdrawing its plans last October. In May this year the owners of Stradey Park Hotel said the four-star venue would be re-opening within days.

Mr McPhillips said he thought the private security move was disappointing, and that he’d like to think nothing would happen requiring security staff to be called into action. “The Stradey Park Hotel protest was a unique situation,” he said. “I just don’t see the problems being what they (the organisers) envisage.”

Hosting the hustings will be the Reverend Delyth Richards. Also present will be chamber of trade vice-president Andrew Stephens, with Mr Darkin taking a back seat due to the fact he is also a Labour town councillor. The event starts at 7pm and is expected to last an hour-and-a-half. Three questions focusing on business and the economy have been agreed in advance and circulated among the candidates, and it’s not proposed that audience members will be able to ask questions of their own.

Mr Darkin said he urged the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Wales Green Party to get in touch to confirm their respective candidates would attend. He said the other five candidates had agreed to be there. The seven candidates for the Llanelli MP seat are Gareth Beer (Reform UK), Rhodri Davies (Plaid Cymru), Charlie Evans (Conservatives), Nia Rhiannon Griffith (Labour), Karen Laurence (Green Party), Chris Passmore (Lib-Dem), and Stan Robinson (UKIP).

A spokesman for the Diplomat Hotel said its role was just to provide a venue and that it had a good relationship with the chamber of trade and commerce.

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