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County flooding chaos follows ‘biblical’ storm

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storm special 15GALE FORCE winds coupled with unusually high tides have caused widespread flooding along the mid and West Wales coast in the past week.

Areas of Fishguard, Cardigan, Aberaeron, Amroth and Laugharne have all been affected.

Dyfed-Powys Police posted on Twitter that it had closed a number of roads in Amroth, Newgale, Aberystwyth and Borth. Drivers were also advised to avoid coastal areas and told not to attempt driving through flood water.

Rebecca Evans AM has welcomed the news that Minister for Natural Resources, Alun Davies AM, has ordered a review into the recent flooding.

Mrs Evans said: “I wrote to the minister on Saturday asking how the Welsh Government intends to review the recent flooding, so I am pleased that

the minister has responded so quickly by announcing that he has asked Natural Resources Wales to carry out a swift review with the immediate priority being to identify and assess any damage so that repair work can be prioritised.”

Mrs Evans continued: “My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the flooding. I am grateful to the staff of Natural Resources Wales, local authority staff, and the emergency services across the region for the way in which they have sought to prepare for the flooding, and keep everyone informed and safe during what has been a very tough few days for people living in coastal areas.

“I am also grateful to the many community groups, volunteers and good neighbours who have pulled together to offer shelter and assistance to residents and business owners affected by flooding along the mid and West Wales coast.”

“It is important that repair work is completed as soon as possible, before the start of the main tourist season in the spring.”

storm special 10AM Joyce Watson met with Fishguard residents and Pembrokeshire Council’s chief highways officer to discuss the on going situation this week. Councillor Pat Davies took Mrs Watson to the worst affected area of Lower Fishguard to speak to residents.

Mrs Watson said: “Mr Randal Davies, of Bridge Street, said it is the worst flooding he has seen in 47 years.

“In Quay Street, Mr and Mrs Jackson told us it is the worst storm for 63 years. Their house was flooded and Mrs Jackson, who relies on her stair lift, was stranded upstairs when the electricity was knocked out. Thankfully, the fire service and local contractors responded quickly, and the heating and power is back on.

“It is heartening that neighbours are rallying to help and support each other – strong community spirit makes all the difference at a time like this.”

On Tuesday, a specialist team from Natural Resources Wales started work at Newgale Beach, to clear the Brandy Brook from sand and shingle, which has completely blocked the brook following days of extremely high tides.

THE WORK was in conjunction with Pembrokeshire County Council, who has also started work to clear the coastal road at Newgale, which has been closed since last Friday after waves left rocks and debris blocking access.

storm special 16

Natural Resources Wales teams are also continuing work to clear large volumes of shingle and debris from the Tresilley Stream on Amroth Beach.

The Royal Voluntary Service has also asked members of the public to call on their older friends, family and neighbours to check that they are safe and have everything they need.

David McCullough, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Severe weather can have a devastating effect on the health and safety of older people, so it’s vital that friends, family and neighbours check in on older people in their town and offer to help where they can. Simple things like making sure older people have enough food in the house and offering someone a lift to a doctor’s appointment or to the shops can make a huge difference during the inclement weather.”

Royal Voluntary Service volunteers will continue to provide services in the local area through the bad weather, as well as assisting the emergency services team by offering refreshments and comfort to people affected by the storms, floods and power cuts.

Woman rescued from swollen river

A YOUNG woman had to be rescued from a river in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, January 9.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service were called to rescue the woman from Freeman’s Way near the County Hall Offices at around 1.14am. It comes as the Met Office put out another weather warning for most of Wales following more heavy rain.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 1.09am to an incident near County Hall, Haverfordwest.

“An emergency ambulance was dispatched to the scene, and a woman in her 20s was taken to Withybush General Hospital.”

Charity issues urgent warning following extreme weather

THE ELECTRICAL SAFETY Council is issuing a warning in Pembrokeshire following extreme weather conditions that has led to flooding in many areas. The charity is urging all residents whose homes have been affected by high water levels to take care when cleaning up, especially around electricity which can cause further damage or put people at risk. Water and electricity can be a lethal combination, and with more rain on its way the Electrical Safety Council wants all homeowners to be aware of the risks of combining the two. Wiring and electrical appliances that have been affected by water can at best stop working and at worst cause an electric shock.

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“When faced with flooding damage it can be tempting to jump straight in as it’s natural to want things back to normal as quickly as possible”, explains Penny Walshe from the Electrical Safety Council, “but it is important to make sure your home is electrically safe before you do anything else.

“If the water damage to electrics is relatively minor and caused by clean water, i.e. from a burst water pipe or tank, then the cables will need to be dried and affected electrical accessories such as sockets, switches and plugs will need to be replaced. But if there is major flooding damage caused by contaminated water, i.e. sewage, then there is a chance that affected parts of the house will need to be rewired. Take a step back and call in a registered electrician to assess the damage before you try and fix anything else.”

The Electrical Safety Council is urging homeowners affected by floods to follow these top tips to deal with the damage quickly and safely:

  • Don’t touch any sources of electricity – such as switches or appliances – when standing in flood water.
  • Ask your supplier to turn off your electricity and don’t turn it back on until it is safe to do so.
  • Make sure all electrical equipment affected by flood water has been checked by an electrician before you use it again.
  • Ask a registered electrician to carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)* to check the condition of electrical wiring in your home.
  • If your home needs to be rewired, ask about raising the height of newly installed electrical equipment above any future expected flood level.

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USAF and RAF fighter jets roar over Pembrokeshire

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A FIGHTER JET was most of the day on Tuesday circling in the clouds above Pembrokeshire as part of a RAF training exercise

The F-35 flew in from RAF Marham in King’s Lynn in Norfolk and while the weather made it impossible to see the aircraft due to cloud cover it was heard by many locals.

The noise had subsided by Tuesday afternoon. However, on Wednesday, it was two US F-15s from RAF Lakenheath making all the noise as part of a different training exercise.

The two USAF F15 jets have now departed Pembrokeshire to head back home to their base, with more expected later, weather dependant.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence told The Pembrokeshire Herald that the exercise was not hosted by the Castle Martin Range in Pembrokeshire. They said: “We can confirm a RAF F-35 Lightning from RAF Marham was conducting routine training in the area on the day in question (Jan 19).”

(Image by Andy Jones USAF F-15E Strike Eagle – Stock photo)

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Teachers to decide GCSE, AS and A-level grades in Wales

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TEACHERS are set to decide GCSE, AS and A-level grades in Wales after a system replacing end-of-year exams was axed, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams told The Herald in a statement that the pandemic had left her “no choice” in scrapping the classroom assessments.

It has now been decided that grades determined by schools and colleges based on the work covered would be “simple and clear”

The following has been confirmed:

Schools and colleges will now be able to use a range of evidence to determine the grades to be awarded to their learners, including coursework and mocks. The WJEC exam board will also offer a set of adapted past papers to enable schools to carry on assessing their pupils

Schools and colleges can access an assessment framework set by Qualifications Wales to help set grades and their plans will be quality assured by WJEC

Deadlines for coursework or “non-exam assessment” are being removed and will not be moderated by WJEC

WJEC will publish guidance and oversee schools and colleges’ internal quality assurance processes and will have a role in quality assuring their implementation. Teachers and lecturers will be offered training so they are applied “consistently, equitably, and fairly”

The grades are then submitted to the WJEC who will not change them. Appeals about grades will go to a school or college
Learners in Year 12 will also be awarded a “Centre Determined” grade but it won’t contribute to the final A level. It won’t apply to Year 10 unit assessments, but will apply if they are finishing a qualification

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Committee stalls on council tax rise as Covid-19 impacts discussed

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A PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL committee has decided not to commit to giving their preference on the rise of council tax in the county because of the knock on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors have been discussing the potential rise in council tax as part of their budget setting process for 2021-22.

Cabinet member Cllr Bob Kilmister explained that the settlement they had been expecting from the Welsh Government had been ‘better than anticipated’.

Prior to Christmas the council was looking at a funding gap of £25m but after the settlement from Cardiff, they were looking at a gap of £14.5m.

It was suggested that the improved figure could help the council alleviate the pressure felt by families when it came to paying their council tax.

Around 3% of the population are exempt from paying council tax but Cllr Kilmister added that they did not want to hit those people again by reducing the services that they used.

The council’s interventions with looked after children has also gone up by 50% as a result of the pandemic.

Rises of 3% and 5% have been put forward but the council’s Policy and Pre-Decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which met on Tuesday, January 19, decided not to commit to giving their preference.

Councillors said they were cautious about imposing a 5% increase as families across the county had been hit hard by the pandemic.

Cllr Tony Baron asked if a 3% increase in council tax could be fully costed adding: “We see a very dramatic improvement in the position we had before Christmas.

“Perhaps it would be useful to consider whether a fraction of that improvement should be used to take pressure off residents in the form of council tax increases.”

Cllr Tom Tudor added: “I am cautious about increasing council tax by 5%. Pembrokeshire has the second highest percentage of furloughed workers in Wales and that does not include those who are not eligible for the furlough scheme.”

“If we are in a better position than we were predicted I am rather cautious about taking on an increase of 5% at this point in time and I think families who have been affected by the pandemic have been, I think Bob said, in ‘dire straits’.”

Cllr Kilmister went on to say that he was ‘extremely confident’ that the council’s board that was set up to look at the budget would be able to deliver on its challenges.

Speaking on child poverty, Cllr Mike James said that there was poverty throughout Pembrokeshire and added that there would need to be a lot more debate on the rise in council tax before a decision could be made.

Cllr Kilmister added: “I don’t want to put up council tax. The poorest people who are not paying council tax are the ones who are using our services more. If you lower the budget you are affecting them again.

“Child poverty is huge, our interventions with looked-after children has gone up by 50% this financial year as a result of the pandemic.

“There are massive challenges. We have to make sure that those who have been affected badly aren’t affected even more.”

Committee chair Cllr Josh Beynon said: “If we don’t increase council tax and we cut services instead, what happens to those looked after children in twenty years’ time?”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett proposed that the committee should not commit to giving a preference to a rise in council tax.

Seven members voted in favour while two, Cllrs Tim Evans and Josh Beynon, voted against.

The council’s Cabinet will make a final decision on the budget on February 15.

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