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Fire service ‘in disarray’

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fire serviceCONCERNS have arisen this week over potential safety risks posed to Pembrokeshire’s refineries, as the Fire and Rescue Service for Mid and West Wales announced a possible budget cut of up to £4 million.

The proposed cut backs could mean that every full time firefighter employed at Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Ammanford fire stations would be replaced by part-time staff, sparking fears of compromised safety, of which the Fire Brigades Union secretary for Mid and West Wales, Barry Davies, said:

“These cuts will put the lives of the public and firefighters at risk. The Welsh Government must recognise fire services now face a severe funding crisis.”

Paul Miller, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Preseli, said of the crisis: “Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock Fire Stations have already been downgraded more than once.

“Last week’s proposal from the Fire Authority will mean we have no whole time firefighters on station in Milford Haven. Coupled with the same in Pembroke Dock, that’s two LNG terminals, two oil refineries and one, soon to be two, power stations, whose nearest Fire Station will be home to zero full time fire-fighters.

“People in and around Milford Haven will be put at risk and all to maintain less critical services elsewhere. The Tory and Plaid members who run the Fire Authority, plan to make savings in Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock (whatever the risk) to ensure their areas are protected.”

Mid and West AM, Simon Thomas of Plaid Cymru, said in response to Mr Miller: “I am obviously concerned about the proposals. I’ve already called on the Labour Minister to intervene, but she has refused to do so. I will be making strong representations to the Fire Authority to ensure Pembrokeshire is protected from cuts imposed on the authority by the Labour Welsh Government.

“The Labour candidate forgets that it his own party which is responsible for any changes in the fire service locally. I will be also urging the Fire Authority for their assurances that public safety will be met at all times.”

Cllr David Howlett, Leader of the Conservative Group on the County Council, had this to say in response to Mr Miller’s statement: “With Milford Haven being the energy capital of the United Kingdom it is vital that we have a fire service that is able to cope with any incidents that may occur. I am amazed at the comments of Cllr Miller who claims ‘Tory and Plaid members who run the Fire Authority’. In fact, Labour have 11 members on the fire authority compared with four from Plaid Cymru and only one Conservative.”

Delyth Evans, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, added to her colleague’s concerns, saying: “To remove full fire response cover from Pembroke Dock would expose this community to unnecessary risks. Labour will be launching a campaign this week to ensure that we are not put at risk by the worst kind of political decision making by the fire authority.”

William Powell AM, Liberal Democrat for Mid and West Wales, commented: “I am aware that the proposals are causing considerable anxiety. Clearly, there are essential services across the area which need fire and rescue coverage. There are now genuine questions over whether that will be possible should the proposed reconfigurations take place.”

However, Wynne Evans, councillor for Narberth Ward and Chairman of the Resources Management Committee, said: “We have some very difficult decisions to make. This will have implications across all six local authority areas. All that has been discussed are options, not decisions.”

The Herald contacted LNG and Valero to enquire as to what safety implications any reduction in service may have, but both companies declined to comment.

However, a spokesperson for the Murco refinery explained that, along with the other refineries, they had their own equipment and fire crews which made them self-contained operations.

Only this week the Fire Brigade Union held a one-day strike across the country. Haverfordwest firefighter and watch manager, Chris Collins, speaking on behalf of FBU members, said: “The strike is an ongoing dispute. The Government have increased our pensions contributions from 11% to 14.2% of our salary. The Government wants us to work beyond the age of 55 and, with the job and its physicality, we do not think that is a feasible way to go. The FBU have said we are going for a second ballot, but we are trying to get an agreement beforehand.”

On the issue of the potential cuts in services, Mr Collins added: “One of the initial proposals to the Fire Authority was to save £4 million over two years. The only way to do this is the downgrading of stations or maybe redundancies. A retained only station would mean that personel would be alerted from their home address, creating a delayed response.”

Milford Haven Fire station watch manager, Andy Syme, added to Mr Collins’ comments: “Firefighting is a physiologically strenuous job which necessitates firefighters retiring earlier than the majority of the workforce. Milford firefighters realise the concerns of the public and we urge them to remain vigilant and to protect their families during this difficult time. But we hope that they can find some degree of empathy towards our current situation.”

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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