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Council ‘is doing its best’

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‘WE are still doing our very best with a very tight budget’.council

That was the message from Cllr Sue Perkins at Monday’s Cabinet meeting as councillors discussed cuts to the Learning Pembrokeshire service.

The service, which provides essential skills and support for adult learners, has seen a huge drop in funding over the last couple of years.

In January 2015, the Welsh Government notified authorities that the funding would be reduced by £85,600 from April 1 this year with the possibility of a further cut for 2016/17.

The council has therefore been forced to reduce its learning provision and a plan has been put in place to maintain the service.

Cllr Sue Perkins said: “As you can see, last year the Learning Pembrokeshire grant was cut by 25% by the Welsh Government and this year there have been further reductions.

“Our Adult Education has had a huge amount of money removed from it so what we are trying to do is to provide all the adult education that we do now without cutting courses in the best way possible.

“We are trying to manage with the cuts we have had to make. We’ll still provide the basic skills courses and the courses that help in areas of deprivation like Spirngboard. So we are still doing our very best with a very tight budget.

“To move this forward we have two phases. In phase one, we are talking about rationalising the central part in Haverfordwest, we’re moving the education facility in Pembroke Dock to another location that is only 200 yards away. In Fishguard we are talking about relocating the delivery into other community venues.

“In phase two, we’re talking about ceasing to maintain the centres in Haverfordwest and Tenby. In Tenby it will have a knock on effect with the library and the youth centre so it’s going to take a lot longer.

“We’re trying to provide these facilities in a very shrinking budget”.

Cllr Pat Davies had also emailed members of Cabinet about her concerns for the Fishguard area and the Head of Performance and Community, James White, was asked to comment.

He said: “The maintenance and custodial costs of the four buildings total just over £170,000. If the money was to be saved then the only other option within Learning Pembrokeshire would be to stop doing the courses. To stop doing £170,000 worth of courses would have a major impact on the opportunities that we offer.

“In terms of the Fishguard building itself, the cost there is just over £25,000 and so there is a significant amount tied up in maintenance of these buildings.

“Until this paper is agreed we haven’t done anything in terms of conversations with stakeholders or the head teacher at Bro Gwaun School or anything like that, we didn’t have clearance to do that. Clearly, Councillors will be aware that consultation is about to start following a decision of full council about the future of education provision and changes that are being consulted on in the Fishguard area and it may well be that the future of the building there would probably be considered as part of that”.

Council Leader Jamie Adams said: “We either maintain the service or if we carry on as we are, the service will fall apart. There may be other areas in the community that would benefit from an element of service provision”.

James White added: “Learning Pembrokeshire is the second largest deliverer of adult learning after Cardiff in terms of the council. The Council runs/provides just over 80% of the totality of adult learning in the county. We’re very close to the point where Learning Pembrokeshire costs the council nothing. If you think that putting Learning Pembrokeshire somewhere else will save money then it won’t”.

Cllr Huw George said: “Let’s make sure that the services are out there, what the people want, it doesn’t matter who does it but now is the time to have that look”.

Cllr Keith Lewis said: “The Public consultation meeting we held in Fishguard in November (2014), one of the points that came up was that the people of Fishguard felt that they would prefer to maintain the services but that if building had to be rationalised they would go along with that. People do appreciate the situation we are, if it means we can maintain the service by moving and perhaps getting rid of some, I think that’s a good way forward”.

James White concluded: “Although the location of the youth centre may well change, we will still have a youth club in Tenby”.

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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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‘We don’t want it’: councillors object to HGV tanker park plans

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PEMBROKE DOCK town councillors have objected strongly to plans to build a HGV tanker park in the town.

The tanker park would be located on the south-western side of Criterion Way, behind the ASDA petrol station.

However, at a meeting of the town council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, April 13, councillors were in agreement that it would create more problems for the town.

Councillor Jonathan George said: “I’ve noted the public input on this and they don’t seem very happy about where it’s going to be put.

“It is close to a small park area and I don’t think it’s suitable to put this here. I won’t be supporting this.”

Cllr George Manning added: “There are many aspects of this which are totally inappropriate for Pembroke Dock. There are many other sites available but they haven’t looked at any of them.

“This does not do anything for the Future Generations act and it will bring more disruption to the town.

“This does not bring about any improvements to the existing transport infrastructure. There are lots of things about this, we don’t want it. I don’t think they have looked into it in enough detail.”

Cllr Gordon Goff said that the impact it would have on the public and wildlife would be ‘astronomical’.

He went on to say he was not happy with one of the statements in the application and said they ‘don’t want to be blackmailed’.

One of the documents submitted with the application states that if the development was not approved it would mean that the applicants, Certas, ‘will either have to find a different site’ or ‘will have to cease operating in the area’.

Cllr Terry Judkins said that the Port Authority wanted to ‘use Pembroke Dock as a dumping ground’ and added that he could not support it.

Cllr Maureen Colgan added that she was ‘totally against’ the application and said that the area should be kept for leisure and be developed as an area where people can sit and enjoy themselves.

The application is due to be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council at a later date.

Cllr Paul Dowson has already called in the application for it to be debated by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

In his request he states that it is too near habitation, it is within the Pembroke Dock conservation area and that children have been using the area near the bandstand as play area for over 20 years.

The area had also previously been the subject of an application for a marina and other leisure facilities but that investment was written off in 2017.

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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