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Shadow Minister speaks

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Owen Smith MP: We must try and maintain high quality jobs

Owen Smith MP: We must try and maintain high quality jobs

AFTER the shock news of the collapse of the Murco takeover deal, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales joined local councillor Paul Miller to meet with Herald Deputy Editor Jon Coles and discuss the buyout’s traumatic failure. With rumour and counter-rumour swirling about the cause for the Klesch Group’s abortive acquisition of the refinery, we asked Owen Smith about what had gone wrong. He told us: “My understanding is that this is a problem that has occurred on behalf of the buyer in this group, Klesch Group. The buyer couldn’t come through with a deal now.

That’s what the unions at the plant told us; that’s what the management at the plant we met today told us at the plant. I will take their word that is the case.” Rejecting ideas that either the UK or Welsh Governments were at fault, Owen Smith pointed out the generous funding arrangements that both governments had made and told us: “Governments at both ends of the M4 have been doing all they could to make sure that the funding that they were going to provide was in place We will want to get to the bottom of what went wrong and I am going to be writing to David Cameron and to Stephen Crabb as to why Klesch didn’t come through.”

Acknowledging the shattering effect on the economy, Owen Smith said: “The deal’s failure is a devastating blow for this community. These are high quality jobs, well-paying jobs and they will not be replaced easily. There are wider implications for the entire Pembrokeshire economy and the West Wales economy.” Owen Smith was hopeful that all parties would strive to put steps in place to soften the impact of the blow: “The Welsh Government – Carwyn Jones, Edwina Hart and others – will absolutely put their shoulder into the wheel.

They will be under no illusions as to how important this closure would be. They know precisely the nature of the economy in Pembrokeshire and I they can be relied on to do or within their power to make sure whatever happens. “We must try and maintain high quality jobs in this area. Westminster has to play its part. The Westminster parliament is a government for Pembrokeshire as well in London, and we need to make sure that they understand their role. A very large amount of money was supposed to come from the government in Westminster to support the takeover bid. We now to make sure that the UK Government plays a full part not only in supporting those workers who may lose their jobs, but also trying to replace those jobs.

Warming to his theme, he continued: “We need to make sure that we pull out all the stops on this because, I say again: these jobs are so important for this community; established jobs; high skilled jobs; high paid jobs. Whether the government is Labour or Tory, we’ve got to do all we can to try and make sure that the bits of Britain at the fringes, a long way from London and the south-east, don’t have to see our children, our sons and daughters leave to find good work when it could be right here, on our doorsteps.” On the broader elements of how to sustain jobs in primary industries, Owen Smith was clear as to where he saw Labour’s priorities lying: “There are key things that governments need to do in order to support industry especially in more peripheral parts of Britain.

“The next Labour government, in my view, will have to have a really solid infrastructure plan, but more importantly a very strong industrial strategy. I think you could argue that successive governments have not had a powerful enough industrial strategy, especially for key industries like refining, steel and chemicals. We need to get back to that. We need to get back to supporting manufacturing jobs – jobs in high skilled, perhaps old, but still vital industries. Those are the jobs that we have got in communities like Milford Haven.

They’re some of the jobs we’ve got in steel producing areas of Britain and they are still going to be hugely important part of our industrial mix for the next twenty years, more hopefully. “We need to be looking into the jobs for the future but we also need to remember what we have got now and what governments can do right now to make sure that we maintain and sustain those industries and those jobs.” Paul Miller put a personal perspective on the collapse of the refinery deal: “My family’s been supported by that particular site for the last few decades. My brother still works there; so I know just how important that site is and just how difficult a period it is for the families working there.

“I want to make absolutely sure that everyone on the Labour front bench being in Cardiff or Westminster are under no illusions of how important this site is, how important those jobs are and how difficult a period this is going to be for the Pembrokeshire economy. No stone must be left unturned in finding the solution for this particular problem. “I’m delighted that Owen accepted the invitation to come to see what was happening on the ground. We needed to hear from management and from staff about what’s going on and if there’s anything at all we can do to help them.”

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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