Row after street drink problem is blamed on Poles
A POLITICAL row has broken out after a councillor blamed a rise in street drinking in Llanelli on Polish people.
Tyisha councillor Keri Thomas claimed that since an "influx" of Polish nationals there had been an increase in outdoor drinking.
His comments have now been raised in the Welsh Assembly.
Plaid AM Simon Thomas alerted the chamber to an "unfortunate incident" in which the Labour councillor made the comments at a meeting of the Safer Communities Action Group.
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During the meeting Keri Thomas said: "Since we have had this influx of Europeans coming in, there has been an increase of drinking in lanes.
"Whatever the cultural name for it is, I do get problems with Polish people.
"It's since they came into this area."
Raising the issue at the Senedd, Simon Thomas addressed Jane Hutt and said: "As the Leader of the House, could you ask yourself, as the minister with responsibility for equalities, for some kind of debate on the multiplicity and diversity of cultures that we have in Wales.
"I ask for that because of an unfortunate recent event in Llanelli where Councillor Keri Thomas of Tyisha ward blamed the Polish people in Llanelli for the on-street drinking there.
"This has undermined the work of the Llanelli Multicultural Network, as well as people, for example, in the Polish-Welsh Mutual Association in Llanelli.
"Llanelli has a huge number of Polish people, who have gone there to work, and many of them are in work.
"It would be a good opportunity to nip this kind of blaming in the bud early on."
In response Keri Thomas said: "They can say what they wish. I'm just saying what I have experienced here in the Tyisha area, and it is unfortunate that they are Polish individuals.
"I'm not against any particular ethnicity.
"I have had complaints about Polish people from constituents.
''There is an element that seem to congregate and they cause a nuisance.
"People are concerned about it and they are being pestered for money.
"I have informed the police about it, particularly in St Paul's cemetery where people take a short cut to town, they are begging, asking my constituents for money."
Speaking after the Safer Communities Action Meeting Halina Ashley, project manager at the town's Polish-Welsh Mutual Association, disputed Keri Thomas's claims.
"I don't agree with his comments.
''He is entitled to his opinion, but he should get his facts right," she said.