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Jamie Adams: “Something’s got to give”

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got to giveCONTINUING our interview with Council leader Jamie Adams about the County Council’s 21st Century Schools programme, we spoke about the Council’s plan for funding the scheme and future of secondary education in Pembrokeshire.

The question of funding

“We are lucky in Pembrokeshire,” begins Jamie Adams. He pauses. “No, not lucky: we have been very well-managed. As I said before, we are looking at using our assets more efficiently and disposing of part of our estate to release capital and reduce expenditure. The requirement for funding the schools programme has significantly increased in cost after the Welsh Government reduced its own input into it

“Our plan as a Council is to get one third or so of our funding from the Welsh Government, to raise one third of the funding through efficiency savings and asset sales, and to raise the rest by prudential borrowing. We are not looking, at this time, at models like the Private Finance Initiative or Public Private Partnerships.

“We are able to access prudential borrowing, because of the way we have managed the Council’s finances and thought strategically about the future. In the long-term prudential borrowing is likely to cost us a good deal less than other finance options

“While I am confident about funding the schools programme that does not mean there are not challenges we need to face: particularly about secondary education.

Populating the classrooms

“When we look at our schools provision for the 11 plus group, we have to look at the population of Pembrokeshire, more particularly its distribution.”

He gestures to the large map of Pembrokeshire on the wall to underline his point:

“We have eight secondary schools in Pembrokeshire and 1,000 spare spaces. In the future we are projected to have greater additional capacity. We have an unsustainable secondary education provision and it is clear something has to give.

“As to how our future provision will look: that is a matter for consultation. But we will have to make tough decisions and they should not be put off. The Welsh Government has given a very clear lead on reducing the amount of the education budget spent on spare capacity within the system. In a time when public finances are stretched we cannot afford to maintain underused buildings, under-occupied classrooms and excess school places.

“With those surplus places, we are spending a disproportionate amount of scarce resources in circumstances where there can be no positive return for that money in terms of outcomes for students. As an authority, our focus is very firmly on getting the best outcomes we can for investing in the education system.

“I understand the concerns of local communities. Other Cabinet members and I went out to listen to them and to get the views of Pembrokeshire’s people on how we could improve our services and deliver them more efficiently. As part of that exercise, I went to Saint Davids. There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Ysgol Dewi Sant and very strong local feeling has been expressed in the press and at public meetings. People who spoke to me there: well, it was not all about “don’t close the school”. Parents and other members of the community in Saint Davids were concerned about putting viable options forward for the future.

“It would be nice to have a federal structure with different parts of the curriculum delivered on different sites,” he gestures at the map again, “travel times between the scattered sites make that unsustainable and impractical.

A new plan for Pembrokeshire

“Of course, as a Council we have to make decisions in relation to the County-wide provision of secondary education. We have to consider what opportunities exist to improve our secondary provision and offer a broad and enriching education to kids.

“We have to be straight here: some pupils do not achieve academically in the current system. We want to provide opportunities for varied training and education post-14 in conjunction with Pembrokeshire College. Again, this is focussing on outcomes for all Pembrokeshire children.

“Traditionally, in my view, education in Pembrokeshire has been a ‘comfortable’ place to be. We’ve achieved ‘comfortable’ outcomes. My personal opinion is that for too long there has been a focus on obtaining a degree as the be all and end all of education. I profoundly disagree with that position, there has to be a good pathway for those who wish to follow vocational or career-based education and for those who are less-academically inclined.

“We have been in discussions with Pembrokeshire College about what we can do to improve the situation for 14-19 year olds. Those discussions have been frank on both sides: we have acknowledged and the College has acknowledged that there are things we do well and things we do not as well.

“That honesty and those discussions mean that we are in the process of forging a partnership that will substantially change the provision of education in Pembrokeshire for pupils after the age of 14. That partnership is based on us complementing what each other do.

“Every pupil deserves the chance to make the best of their abilities. I want to make sure that we improve the outcomes not only for those academically gifted students who progress on to higher education and go on to well paid, professional careers. We will continue to encourage those students and be pleased for their success. Outcomes exist, however, that cannot be measured simply in terms of only academic success. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a successful vocational education.

“What I want education in Pembrokeshire to achieve is to enrich learning, to motivate teachers and to achieve outcomes that bring out the very best in all of our children, be that in terms of academic success or otherwise. We want our children to be motivated to succeed wherever their strengths lie and to give them chances to do so, whether those strengths are academic, entrepreneurial, arts, or skilled trades.

“We are thinking for the medium to long-term: not quick fixes or fiddling around the edges. Some other local authorities have gone for easy solutions. I believe, in the future they will regret not taking the opportunities that the 21st Century Schools programme has offered them.”

It is time to go. We exchange pleasantries, shake hands and head our separate ways. As I head down the stairs, I thank the Council’s press officer who arranged the meeting.

Here at The Pembrokeshire Herald, we are sometimes critical of the Council and its IPPG leadership. We have occasionally suggested that they have got things wrong. But Jamie Adams has been brisk, professional and thoughtful – especially about some of the left-field questions thrown at him.

As I head out into a December evening, I reflect that Jamie Adams’ attitude to the future of Pembrokeshire’s education system is in marked contrast to the squally weather. He seems very certain, very confident.

Driving off into the rain, I can’t help thinking about the storm of public opinion as schools programme unfolds. It will be interesting, to interview him again when consultations have concluded, decisions have been made and the public have given their reaction to see how events have influenced the Council’s vision.

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Pembroke Dock: Man hospitalised after ‘jumping through pizza shop window’

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A PEMBROKE DOCK man has been taken to hospital after becoming injured by glass in Pembroke Dock.

According to a passing motorist a male was seen shouting and screaming in the street – he was being restrained by others.

He then jumped into the glass window of the PizzaTime take away in Meyrick Street, cutting his stomach on the glass.

Multiple police vehicles and an ambulance attended the incident which took place at around 15.30 HRS.

The road was temporarily blocked.

Once police car remains on scene (16:49 HRS)

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Welcome for rail investment pledge

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TRANSPORT FOR WALES has announced the details of the £194 million investment plan to improve all 247 railway stations across Wales.

The Station Improvement Vision highlights what improvements customers and communities can expect to see at their local stations over the next fifteen years.

The ambitious programme will deliver free WiFi, improved shelters, CCTV, improved provision for cycle storage and improved passenger information, at every station.

Where possible, Transport for Wales will also create new retail facilities, presenting opportunities for local businesses and work in partnership to develop community spaces at stations.

The improvements include expanding the Secure Station Accreditation programme, a UK accreditation in conjunction with the British Transport Police, which will make stations safer and more welcoming for customers.

Demonstrating their commitment and supporting Welsh Government’s plans to create a more sustainable Wales through deduction in carbon emissions generated through transport, TfW will create at least 1,500 additional car parking spaces across the network, making it easier for people to leave their car and use public transport.

The Vision also highlights how accessibility will be enhanced across the network with the delivery of eleven Access for All schemes by 2024, with the installation of footbridges with lifts or ramps, partly funded by the UK Department for Transport.

As part of their plans to reinvest into the communities they serve, TfW has held events and workshops aimed at small and medium enterprises in Wales, providing opportunities for them to bid for work linked to the Station Improvement Vision.

James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said: “Transport for Wales is transforming transport throughout Wales and the launch of our Station Improvement Vision indicates the start of a £194 million investment programme. This investment into all our 247 railway stations will improve the way they look, make them safer and provide more commercial and community opportunities.

“We want to improve the overall customer experience and also work collaboratively to develop partnerships with local businesses and communities.”

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport said: “I warmly welcome Transport for Wales’ Station Improvement Vision, which will see a £194 million investment in railway stations the length and breadth of Wales and the Borders. Over the next 15 years, this huge investment will vastly improve important gateways to our cities, towns and villages.

“The vision has been launched in Swansea – as it celebrates its 50th year as a City – where it will contribute to the development of a metro system ready to meet the transport needs of the future. There are ambitious plans to deliver an improved railway and public transport network across all of Wales and the investment announced today will be a significant step towards that.”

In July this year, Carmarthenshire County Council leader Emlyn Dole welcomed the announcement of a new parkway station at Felindre.

Speaking at the time, Cllr Dole said: “This is very welcome news, which will benefit Carmarthenshire businesses and residents. An initial 14-minute reduction in journey times to Cardiff and onto London will make a significant difference to passengers travelling that route.

“New infrastructure, with supporting additional rail journeys to West Wales, is essential to boost the regional economic prosperity. And with traffic continuing to grow on key trunk roads across West Wales, an improved offer from rail both in journey time, frequency and quality of service is vital to help tackle congestion and improve connectivity.

Labour Assembly Member, Eluned Morgan also welcomed the investment.

Ms Morgan said: “This is an ambitious plan from the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales to improve the passenger experience at railway stations across the Welsh network. There is a sharp focus on making railway stations cleaner and safer for passengers.

“Lighting is already being upgraded at many stations including Clunderwen and new litter bins and local area maps will be coming – in an answer to calls made to improve Pembroke Dock station.”

Carmarthen station, earmarked as an ‘interchange station’, will benefit from new retail facilities, information screens and accessible toilets for all.

Marc Tierney, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire added: “The announcement today is positive for communities across the area, bringing them up to date and maximising their potential as transport hubs in the heart of our towns and villages. There is also the prospect of a brand new station at St. Clears.

“The Welsh Government feasibility study into reopening a railway station at St. Clears has put plans for the station through to the next stage.

“Re-opening a station at St. Clears would complete a missing piece in the network in West Wales. I trust the UK Government will make the necessary funding available as soon as possible.”

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Haverfordwest’s Regeneration Plans Unveiled

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Haverfordwest’s Regeneration will be the order of the day today as Pembrokeshire County Council releases its initial plans for the redevelopment of the town centre.

The consultation event at County Hall (2pm – 7pm) today will enable members of the public to view and discuss the plans with designers and council officers, together with Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Regeneration.

The plans, which include the Ocky White site and the Riverside area of the town centre, have been created to give the public a glance of what can be achieved in Haverfordwest. The Council are also clear that the plans sit at a stage where public suggestions and contributions can influence the final outcome.

“We want to create a new Haverfordwest experience that is for everyone and one that enables residents and tourists to enjoy the experience of a revitalised County Town,” said Cllr Miller.

“Public consultation isn’t lip service – it’s about seeking opinions and feedback on the current plans and encouraging those with great ideas to come forward and contribute to the redevelopment of their town. The opportunity is there and we are looking forward to engaging with those in attendance.”

The project design team will be in attendance this evening, together with representatives from Welsh government; an example that Pembrokeshire’s regeneration plans are gaining traction and awareness on a national stage.

“We are proud of the progress now being made on our county-wide regeneration and we are finally starting to see plans become reality, delivering what we feel is a value-for-money investment in our communities, towns and marketable tourism assets,” said Cllr Miller.

“Regeneration will be inclusive of those who want to work with us to build a new, vibrant and successful Pembrokeshire.”


To attend the event, report to County Hall Main Reception where you will be directed to the Consultation Event. (2pm – 7pm, Thursday 19th September)

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