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EXCLUSIVE: Council documents cast doubt on school re-organisation plans

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County Hall

County Hall

THE MINUTES of a meeting of the Council’s own Corporate Management Team (CMT) throw a new light on the local authority’s plans for the future of Pembrokeshire’s schools.

The Herald can report that significant fears exist about the viability of plans to transfer 6th Form education away from local secondary schools should the financial position of Pembrokeshire College change.

A report considered on November 19, 2014 appears to have anticipated the funding crisis that has engulfed Further Education Colleges across Wales. Such is the importance of Pembrokeshire College’s involvement in the scheme that the CMT sounded a warning note about whether the Council’s preferred scheme for secondary education could proceed without it.

“As [the Welsh Government] has withdrawn Match Funding for FE Colleges, the affordability of the scheme will be a key component of the Business Case. In the (hypothetical) scenario that Pembroke College withdraws from the scheme, the Project would, in effect, be a school building replacement Project – and may be less well supported under the terms of the WG 21CS (21st Century Schools) policy.”

The meeting minutes disclose that the person preparing the authority’s business case is on secondment part-time from Pembrokeshire College and “is doing a good job of co-ordinating the dossier of Projects currently within 21CS.”

Rather surprisingly, the CMT were told “Young people of the County, parents, teachers and community groups appear to be well engaged and consulted and the Review Team heard pleasing anecdotes about the behaviour of local residents in their support for the new schools.”

Which rather begs the question, in light of subsequent protests: to whom were the Review Team speaking?

The Herald has a confidential source close to the schools reorganisation programme

The Herald has a confidential source close to the schools reorganisation programme

The CMT considers the engagement of the Full Council in the matter as “a risk”, which suggests its members were rather depending on not too many probing questions being asked. Had they been asked, the minutes reveal that the Council has embarked upon a deeply divisive consultation – which even those behind it concede is now out of date – without waiting to establish the Welsh Government’s position in respect of the type of projects proposed in the consultation document

The fact that the Council has been working hand in glove on the provision of the 21CS programme with a member of the College’s own staff seconded to assist; with the College as a key partner; and with all indications being that the public are being presented with Hobson’s choice on the future of secondary education, the open consultation that the public have been assured would take place appears to be – as we said last Friday – nothing more than a fix.

A confidential source involved with 21CS told The Herald that ‘the College’s continued involvement hinges on how it responds to the current challenges to its budget’.

Letter from the Chairman of the Trustees of Tasker Milward and Picton Charity

Dear Councillor,

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman of the Trustees of Tasker Milward and Picton Charity.

Following the Extraordinary General Meeting of the Council at the end of January 2015, the Trustees met with officers of the Council to discuss the Council’s proposals insofar as they affected education in the Haverfordwest area.

It became immediately apparent at that meeting that the officers were under a misapprehension as to the ownership of the land at the site of Tasker Milward School.  It was their understanding that the land on which the old Taskers School for Girls was built (and which under their proposals would form a new Welsh language school) was in the ownership of the Council.  In fact, both sets of buildings that formed the old Taskers school and the old Haverfordwest Grammar School and the land on which they stand (together with other land) are owned by the Charity.  The Council’s officers and solicitors have now acknowledged this to be the case.

It follows that any proposals which the Council may have to utilise some or all of that land and buildings will need the consent of the Trustees and the Charity Commission. 

The Trustees are bound by the terms of a charitable scheme approved by the Charity Commission in 1983.  That scheme stipulates that the old Taskers and Grammar School buildings should be used for the purposes of Tasker Milward School.  The income of the trust is to be applied for the benefit of former pupils of Taskers, Haverfordwest Grammar, Tasker  Milward and Sir Thomas Picton Schools. 

Accordingly, if Tasker Milward School were to close it would be incumbent on the Trustees to formulate an alternative scheme for applying the assets and income of the Trust.  That scheme would have to be approved by the Charity Commissioners. Such a scheme might, for instance, include the provision of educational or recreational facilities for Haverfordwest or the sale of the Tasker Milward site and the investment of the capital thus arising, which would be a substantial sum.

The formulation of the scheme would be a matter for the Trustees who would need to consult widely with those affected.   That would include not only the Council but also the Governors, staff and parents of Tasker Milward and Sir Thomas Picton Schools.   The outcome of that consultation obviously cannot be forecast. 

There are further legal difficulties in that the present Trust is effectively confined to the Haverfordwest area.  The proposals which are the subject of statutory consultation would require the use of the Charity’s assets to benefit the whole of the County.  Furthermore, it is not permissible to use the Charity’s assets for the fulfilment of the statutory obligations of the Local Authority.

Resolving these issues will be time consuming.  The Trustees have sought to engage at an early stage with the Officers of the Council but our attempts to do so have been rebuffed.   External solicitors acting for the Council have unhelpfully written to the Trustees to say that no discussions can take place until September. 

It may be that these issues are incapable of resolution in a way that accommodates the present proposals which are out for statutory consultation.  Even if they can be resolved, the discussions and negotiations and the subsequent consultations and preparation and approval of the scheme by the Charity Commission are likely to take a considerable amount of time.  It is unfortunate that six months will have been lost due to the unwillingness of the Council’s Officers to engage with the Trustees. 

It would have been preferable for the Council and the Trustees to have a common set of objectives for secondary education in the Haverfordwest area rather than the Trustees having been excluded from the negotiations between the Council and the Pembrokeshire College.  It is in our view not too late for the Council to rectify this, but that does require the withdrawal of the present proposals and inclusive discussions between all interested parties. 

 Yours sincerely,

 Maurice Hughes, Chairman of the Tasker Milward and Picton Charity

 

 

 

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Business

Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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