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Minister wants ‘facts not fl annel’

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Meeting the minister: Dennis O’Connor & Graham Warlow

Meeting the minister: Dennis O’Connor & Graham Warlow

ON MONDAY (Nov 17) representatives of the national Coastguard SOS campaign group met UK Shipping Minister John Hayes in Westminster to discuss the controversial plan to close half of the UK’s maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCC’s). Local campaigners Dennis O’Connor and Graham Warlow made the trip to the Houses of Parliament, where they were joined by colleague Lynne Gray for the high-level meeting.

After the meeting we spoke with Coastguard SOS co-ordinator Dennis O’Connor, who expressed his gratitude to local MP’s Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb, who met the group in July along with local AM’s Paul Davies and Angela Burns: “Simon Hart has been so important in helping arrange our meeting with the Minister. He has taken a keen interest in our efforts. He knows, while we are proud of our efforts to ensure Milford Haven Coastguard Station remains operational, that this is a national issue that affects people’s lives and safety on a huge scale.”

Dennis explained that the meeting was ‘an opportunity for the campaign group to relay continued safety fears and discuss the way in-which the closure programme has been handled by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA)’. Following the closure of stations at Forth, Clyde, Yarmouth, Solent, Portland and Brixham the meeting also presented the opportunity for the campaign group to ensure that the Minister, who has only been in post since the last cabinet reshuffl e, was given the opportunity to receive information that otherwise would not be given to him by the MCA or Department for Transport (DfT).

“We took the opportunity to provide Mr Hayes with an overview of how the service has suffered since the closure programme was announced four years ago,” said Mr O’Connor. “It’s unlikely that certain information would readily be disseminated by the departments who are answerable to him. There are always two sides to a story and we were of the firm opinion that as the Minister is now responsible for maritime affairs then he should be fully appraised in order to be able to manage his portfolio effectively.”

Representatives of the MCA and DfT were also present at the meeting and during a frank discussion the Minister gave assurances of his intent to carry out an indepth analysis of the closure programme, specifically the effects that the closure of stations has had so far. “Mr Hayes made it perfectly clear that he wanted all of the facts not fl annel from the MCA and DfT and we are pleased that he has underlined this” said Mr O’Connor. “We made it clear to the Minister that we feel strongly that neither the MCA or DfT could be relied upon to present balanced information to him and asked that information gathering be carried out independently of those organisations to ensure that he can take a balanced view of the process.

This would include receiving submissions from all stakeholders.” “It was evident that Mr Hayes appreciates that people have genuine concerns about the closure programme which need to be addressed. As with the campaign group, coastal safety is also his priority and he intends to ensure that the management of the closure programme is being conducted in an appropriate way which does not affect or undermine safety in any way.”

Concerns about the way the closure programme is being handled have increased since a recent freedom of information request revealed that the understaffing at stations across the UK has increased dramatically. Aberdeen Coastguard reached a peak of 97% understaffing during this year and Dover 92% other stations at Humber reached 83% and Swansea were up to 80% understaffed.

In September the MCA’s centralised centre at Fareham opened despite almost half of the staff being recent recruits with no search and rescue coordination experience. The continuing loss of experienced Coastguard offi cers has taken its toll on the service. During the meeting with the Minister, Keith Oliver, the MCA’s Head of Maritime Operations claimed that ‘there are no inexperienced officers at the Fareham centre and understaffing is not an issue because “a higher calibre of staff had now been recruited to replace those who have left the service’.

Campaigners insist that the statement by Mr Oliver is an obvious example of how the MCA are prepared to dismiss the value of its officers and the concerns of the wider public: Quite how the MCA can defend the loss of experienced Coastguards by stating that their replacements, despite having no SAR experience, are “experienced” and of a “higher calibre” is beyond comprehension” said Mr O’Connor.

“The new recruits just do not have the training, skills or service experience of those who have left therefore it is shameful for the MCA to make this statement when clearly the facts confl ict sharply with statements being made by the MCA about safety being their priority. You cannot replace years of experience overnight and it seems to suggest an element of ensuring that new staff, irrespective of their lack of experience, are being favoured because of their compliance within the future Coastguard set-up.

The statement by Mr Oliver also underlines concerns that this is not a transparent process. We welcome the decision by the Minister to take a fresh look at the closure programme. This will offer some reassurance that concerns are being addressed and it will force the MCA and DfT to fi nally admit that there have been failings in the way the process has been handled. The MCA has failed to offer any evidence to suggest that the process is safe or workable and without compelling evidence they should never have been allowed to proceed. We hope that the Minister will concur with previous concerns raised by the Transport Select Committee and fi nally emergency measures will be taken to ensure that the service is stabilised.”

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Siblings raised £600 by Walking 20 Miles for Lifesaving Helicopter Charity

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PEMBROKE DOCK siblings, Harley and Maisie McNally, put on their walking shoes to raise £600 for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.

The kind-hearted brother and sister walked 20 miles throughout March as part of the Charity’s 20th birthday fundraising challenge My20.

Seven-year-old Harley, and his little sister Maisie, 5, smashed their original target of wanting to raise £50 each.

Wales Air Ambulance marked its 20th anniversary this year and to acknowledge the milestone, the Charity created a new fundraising event called My20. The event allowed the participants to pick their own challenge, task or activity that reflected the number ‘20’.  

Harley is no stranger to fundraising for the Charity. He has previously raised over £300 by taking part in last year’s Saundersfoot New Year’s Day Swim. However, this was little Maisie’s first fundraiser.

Their proud mum, Jessica Hughes, is delighted that the children have raised so much money for the lifesaving charity, she said: “They both loved it. My20 kept them occupied and out of the house. I'm so proud of Harley and Maisie, at quite a young age they know so much about the service and have raised an amazing £600.

“Harley and Maisie understand completely why the Wales Air Ambulance is necessary for everybody and they also know people who have needed the service. This is why wanted to raise money for the charity, knowing its services have helped poorly people!”

Katie Macro, the Charity’s South West Wales Community Fundraiser, said: “A huge congratulations to two fundraising stars, Harley and Maisie, for completing the My20 challenge and raising £600! What you have both done, and the money you have raised, will help us to help others.

“It’s always wonderful to hear stories of children fundraising at such a young age and enjoying the challenge that they’ve chosen. Walking 20 miles is a lot for anyone, let alone when you’re as young as Harley and Maisie. Thank you to everyone who has support the children in their latest fundraiser.” 

There is still time to show your support to the Pembroke Dock Community School Pupils, Harley and Maisie, by donating to their My20 fundraiser via their Just Giving page Harley & Maisie’s My20  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/HarleyandMaisieWalk

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Six-year-old girl raises the alarm to a property fire

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MID AND WEST WALES FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE wish to thank six-year-old Mia, of Milford Haven, for her calm and quick thinking in alerting a neighbour to phone 999 to report a fire in a property.

On a Sunday afternoon, March, 28, 2021, Mia was passing the rear of a flat when she noticed smoke coming from the property. Having been taught the importance of reporting a fire, Mia immediately knocked on a neighbour’s door to inform them. The neighbour then called 999 and asked for the Fire Service.

At 05:52pm, Joint Fire Control received the call and deployed crews from Milford Haven to attend the property fire in Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to the kitchen area of the ground floor flat and had originated from a tea towel left unattended on an electric hob.

Firefighters extinguished the fire using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

The Fire Service left the incident at 07:03pm.

Crew Manager Rob Makepeace, Milford Haven Fire Station said “Because of Mia’s fast actions we were able to attend quickly, and the fire wasn’t allowed to escalate. She’s a local hero and an example to everyone.

The sooner you report a fire the quicker the Fire Service can attend to put the fire out and stop it from spreading.

Luckily, on this occasion, Mia was on hand to spot the fire and tell someone to phone 999 but I would urge everybody to install working smoke alarms in their homes and test them regularly. A working smoke alarm can alert you of a fire sooner and allow you to get out, stay out, phone 999 and ask for the Fire Service.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request for a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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Tenby left ‘strewn with rubbish and smelling of urine’ after hundreds party

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TENBY was left with empty cans, broken bottles and fast food wrappers strewn everywhere, after over two hundred young people gathered to enjoy the weekend – perhaps expected whilst pubs remained closed.
Licensed establishment have not yet been able to open in Wales, but they are open in England for outdoor refreshments.

There were reports of young people walking through the town with boxes full of alcohol on Saturday night (Apr 17), with other people buying takeaway drinks from licensed premises before making their way to the harbour.
The sheer number of people meant people were urinating in the streets, some residents told The Pembrokeshire Herald.

Unlawful gathering: Party in full swing in Tenby as pubs remain closed (Image: Pure West Radio)

Facebook comments from people concerned included Larry Lambert who said: “Most of these are probably around my age, have some respect for the place, you all wouldn’t like it if this happened outside your house and left all the rubbish for you to wake up to, disrespectful!”

Kyle Scourfield said : “Aw guys. We’re literally on the track where we can see light at the end of the tunnel, don’t ruin it now. More importantly, pick up your rubbish and look after our coast. I’m bloody dying for the nightclubs so seriously, take it down a notch!”

Danny Wilson who took the below photo said on social media: “This [photo was taken] after nearly two hours of cleaning up. Completely blame the government for this if pubs were open there would be next to no take outs and 20 odd doormen keeping an eye on things every weekend, but that’s no excuse to act like absolute savages with zero respect for anything.

“I’ve never seen as much broken glass like there was today! Definitely give the harbour and castle hill a swerve for a couple of days if you’ve got kids or dogs.”

Tenby on Sunday morning (Apr 18) (Image: Facebook/Danny Wilson)

Pembrokeshire County Council operatives have been working since earlier this morning to remove rubbish in various locations in the town, including piles of bottles and other litter under picnic tables at the harbour.
The Tenby Observer has reported that in correspondence sent to Pembrokeshire County Council’s licensing department, county councillor for Tenby’s North ward Clr. Michael Williams said: “From as early as late afternoon, the situation at the harbour has become threatening with residents feeling unsafe due to the considerable numbers of individuals in the area consuming large quantities of alcohol.

“Police Officers appear to be overwhelmed by the numbers and are unable to take the necessary firm action to disperse a crowd that I estimated to be about 200. These kind of events are becoming a regular occurrence and action must be taken to address it.

“We appear to have taken several steps backwards to where we were a number of years ago when Tenby was becoming regarded as party central for groups of stag and hen events.

“Certain parts of the harbour estate are being used as a public urinal causing distress to families attempting to lawfully use the area.”

One local, who did not wish to me named said: “The police operation last week, which was widely publicised, seems to have failed miserably.

“Instead of going out last week when police were out in force, the youth of south Pembrokeshire seem to have waited until this weekend and have partied twice as hard.

“I understand that resouces are stratched but where were the police this weekend?

“Something needs to be done, we don’t want a third wave.”

Over the Easter bank holiday officers seized alcohol from young people, moved them on and prevented clashes between groups from escalating.

Speaking just ten days ago Sgt Stuart Wheeler said that there was concern from the Tenby community and that police were ‘keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour’.

“This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby,” he said.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only six people from two households can meet outdoors still.

“Please do your best to ensure your children are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”
The police have been contacted for an updated comment.

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