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Fears bus network could drop by a quarter

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bus networkMANAGERS claim the Welsh bus network could reduce by a quarter in the next few months, with deprived and rural communities hardest hit.

Councils are already warning they have no money to rescue services which bus operators will halt if the Welsh Government goes ahead with a planned 37% cut in its payments for each passenger carried under the free travel scheme.

Swansea-based First Cymru, one of Wales’ biggest bus operators, said it would have to look at reducing its services by 25% to 30% if the Welsh Government decides to reduce the concessionary reimbursement from 73.59% of the average fare to just 46% from April 1.

The proposed cut follows a 25% drop in grants to bus operators and councils over the last two years, resulting in First Cymru reducing many services in the greater Swansea area.Stagecoach South Wales – the main operator in the deprived Heads of the Valleys region – said the company had applied the future 46% reimbursement rate to its costing model.

“The end result would be that we would be operating 25% less on commercial routes from the end of March than we are currently doing,” said managing director John Gould.

Commercial routes are ones which operate without subsidy, other than a long-standing partial rebate on fuel duty. Stagecoach also operates many services on behalf of councils, for prices which presumed continuation of the reimbursement rate which has always applied since the free travel scheme began in 2002.

“As far as tendered services go, that’s subject to us going to each local authority and negotiating with them,” said Mr Gould.

Legal challenges to the cut are likely, because the law requires the government to reimburse operators by an amount that leaves them no better or worse off than they would be if the scheme did not exist.

However, the Welsh Government did not mention the 37% cut to operators until October, more than six months after the bus industry asked to start negotiations over the scheme’s future. That now leaves too little time for legal challenges to be resolved before the deadline when bus companies must notify the Traffic Commissioner and local authorities of the service cuts they will make by 1 April.

A Welsh Government spokesman said:

“We are currently in negotiation with bus operators and local authorities on the terms for concessionary bus travel reimbursement for 2014-15. No decisions have yet been taken.”

First Cymru’s main services in south Pembrokeshire – linking Haverfordwest to Milford Haven and Tenby – are now in the firing line, because high proportions of the passengers are pensioners on free passes. This means the 37% cut in reimbursement would tip those services into the red.

“Many of the places that have a problem are going to be the more remote communities and more deprived communities,” said Justin Davies, managing director of First Cymru.

“That just seems weird to me. I wouldn’t have thought that’s what the Welsh Government wants.

“We will be handing back tendered services to local authorities, because when we bid we took the revenue risk. The pensioner will still be turning up at the side of the road but they will be worth a lot less in reimbursement. We will say to the local authorities, ‘We can’t do this any more’ but they’re already reducing services anyway.”

The Association of Transport Coordinating Officers Cymru, representing council officers, warned that town halls were unlikely to increase bus spending.

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Meet the Pembrokeshire Mower Doctor

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A NEW Pembrokeshire business is proving to be an inspiration for young people after its recent launch.

The Pembrokeshire Mower Doctor is the brainchild of Ewan Griffiths, who turned his dream into reality thanks to the advice and support of Cam Nesa.

The project aims to reduce the number of young people aged 16-24 who are not in education, training or employment.

Before signing up to Cam Nesa, Ewan was out of work and struggling for direction, and anxiety was preventing him from maximising his potential.

Throughout his journey with Cam Nesa, Ewan worked closely with youth worker Donna Wright to devise a plan that provided support and guidance to improve his confidence and self-esteem, and provide mechanisms for coping with anxiety.

In addition, the project provided Ewan with opportunities to gain qualifications and obtain information that would help him with starting his own business.

Ewan’s message to other young people is simple, “If you find yourself struggling, there is help.”

“Cam Nesa supported me in all aspects of my plan, and working with Donna was fantastic.”

“I would definitely encourage others to reach out for support.”

Donna Wright, who supported Ewan throughout his Cam Nesa journey, said that the launch of his new business is a great source of pride for Cam Nesa and Pembrokeshire Youth Service.

“Ewan has come on leaps and bounds, and it was his engagement and determination that has made his outcome with Cam Nesa so successful and inspiring”, she said.

“Congratulations Ewan on your achievements, and we all wish you good luck with your new business.”

The Pembrokeshire Mower Doctor provides repairs and servicing for mowers, strimmers, hedge cutters, and most agricultural engines, with the mobile service providing collection and returns.

For more information, search ‘Pembrokeshire Mower Doctor’ on Facebook.

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Milford Haven: Mount estate death not being treated as suspicious say police

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POLICE have confirmed that following a welfare visit to a property in Mount Estate, they discovered a male occupant, in his 30’s, in need of medical help.

Despite the best efforts of medical staff he sadly passed away on Sunday.

A spokesperson for the police confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Dyfed-Powys Police attended a property at the Mount Estate, Milford Haven on Friday 30th April 2021, following a report of concern for the welfare of the occupier.

“A male was taken to hospital where he died on Sunday 2nd May 2021.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious.”

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Polling station changes in Pembrokeshire

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POLLING STATIONS in Pembrokeshire are open today (May 6) but a small number may have changed from the last time you voted.

In Neyland, the polling station will be at the new Community Hub building on John Street.

St Katherine’s Church Hall will be the new host for the station in Milford Haven, having previously been held at the Murray Suite in the town hall.

A polling station will be placed at the leisure centre in Haverfordwest while one at Trecwn has been moved to the Gate, Scleddau.

Voters in the county will be electing for the Preseli Pembrokeshire and the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire constituencies.

People will also be able to select five MSs to represent the Mid and West Wales Region.

The candidate with the most votes will win the constituency but the ballot for the region will be decided by a different process.

People will be elected according to their share of the vote, using a mathematical process, and gives parties who may have won fewer or no constituencies a better chance of winning regional ones.

It will also be a big day for 16 and 17 year olds as they will be able to vote in Welsh elections for the first time.

The ballots will be counted on Friday (May 7) with results expected to come in from the afternoon.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.

All those who vote will be required to stick to Covid-19 safety measures including wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

Clean pencils will be available but voters can bring their own pen or pencil.

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