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Council’s rubbish plan goes ahead

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THE COUNTY COUNCIL has given the go ahead to controversial plans to cut domestic rubbish collections. The Council’s scheme, to change from a weekly to a fortnightly collection for black bag rubbish, was this week rubber-stamped by the Council’s IPPG Cabinet.
The new regime, affecting black bag and glass waste, will be introduced in October.
Irate residents and concerned local Councillors have already voiced their fears that the changes are potentially hazardous. Questioned have been raised about the wisdom of the Cabinet’s decision and the impact it will have on the people of Pembrokeshire. Some Councillors are unconvinced that the cut in services was implemented to meet Welsh Government recycling targets, as the Council has claimed.
Speaking to The Herald, Councillor Huw George, Cabinet Member for Environment and Regulatory Services, claimed that fortnightly collections would reduce costs by an estimated £500,000 a year. In response to the question of whether or not this saving would be passed on as a rebate to residents who have already been billed for this year’s Council Tax, Cllr. George stated that:
“With regards to the question in respect of a reduction in Council Tax, you should be aware that the vast majority of funding for Pembrokeshire County Council services comes through the Welsh Government and they have announced very significant cuts to our income for future years, with greater reductions likely to come. We do therefore need to take some difficult decisions about the services we deliver and how we do so in order that we can continue to operate within the reduced budget available to us.”
He went on to say, “As you will be aware, the orange recycling bags and the food waste will continue to be a weekly service. Typically, over 70% of all domestic household waste is recyclable, which actually means that if someone is fully using the recycling services they will have less black bag waste to store over a fortnight than they were previously generating in a week. There is no compunction upon individual householders to recycle but, clearly it is their choice if they wish to minimize the amount of waste they have to store for up to two weeks.”
Lyndon Frayling, vice chairman of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, supported the new policy saying, “I make no apologies for doing so. This decision will help us achieve the huge savings we need to make (like every Council in the country) and make it easier to make the tough recycling targets set by the Welsh (Labour) Government. It will mean a change of routine for people but if the rest of Wales can cope with fortnightly collections, I do not believe it is beyond the scope of Pembrokeshire householders to do so as well.”
One angry parent, who wished to remain unnamed, spoke to The Herald by stating that she would face storing soiled nappies for up to two weeks in a small flat. Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dinas Cross, Bob Kilminster picked up her point:
“My biggest concern is for the large number of adults who receive social care packages and have to use incontinence or sanitary wear on a daily basis. These people are, by their conditions, rarely mobile and rely on the refuse collection service to dispose of the products they have to use on a regular basis. Going to a two week collection for these people may well cause huge problems. We could even experience increased social care costs as a result of this.”
Castle Ward resident, Dave Chalker, expressed his fear of a return to the scenes witnessed during the 1970s during the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’, with rubbish building up in people’s yards and gardens, causing smells that could encourage scavengers and vermin.
That view was supported by Sarah Llewellyn, Town Councillor for Castle Ward, who was sceptical about the value of the policy as a cost cutting measure. She told The Herald, “I would have thought this is a real backward step. Many householders simply do not have the space to store their household waste for prolonged periods or the means to make journeys to the nearest civic amenity sites. Who is going to clear up the mess, and at what cost?”
The Herald sought a response from Keep Wales Tidy on the issue of the carbon footprint left by motorists making additional trips to municipal sites but, even though the action group’s website states they ‘research environmental issues and identify good practice at a local and national level’, they took the position that they were ‘declining to comment because it is a local authority issue’.
A Garth Ward resident, who wished to remain anonymous, was more forthcoming in her criticism of the idea of transporting waste to a municipal refuse tip, saying, “I’m so angry. How is a mother with no car supposed to just take their rubbish to a tip some miles away? In a pram? On the bus? It is ridiculous. I will simply find the nearest area for communal weekly collection and leave it there”.
On this point Councillor David Howlett, Conservative, attempted to reassure constituents by stating that, “At last week’s meeting of the Environment Committee, concern was expressed in relation to sanitary waste, and we voted on an amended proposal that will mean this aspect will be given further consideration. Also, I understand that for certain flats and multi-occupancy properties that do not currently have food and glass collections, they will continue with weekly black bin bag collections until a solution is found.”
Councillor David Bryan, of Haverfordwest Priory ward, who supported the shift to fortnightly collections, commented on this issue, saying that, “The only caveat that is needed is that there must be consideration given to the particular problems concerned with multi occupied properties and the need to collect soiled disposable nappies. It is also extremely important that weekly food refuse collections should be retained.”
Lyndon Frayling, Councillor for Garth Ward, stated that flats and multi-occupancy properties are not affected. However, when pressed on how the Council defined multi occupancy properties, in light of the fact that several housing estates have communal collection points for multiple households, he failed to respond.
Councillor Huw George further explained the need for voters to take personal responsibility, saying, “We do acknowledge that there will be varying levels of inconvenience for some households but this can be minimized by increasing the amount recycled and as we have seen from other areas across Wales, people do adapt their habits and do cope. I do not accept that if the rest of Wales can successfully introduce fortnightly collections for the black bag rubbish that Pembrokeshire cannot also do the same, but I appreciate that it will be more difficult for some than others”.
On the issue of transportation of refuse he merely stated that, “If an individual does have more waste than they can store between collections on any particular occasion then they will still be able to take their rubbish to their nearest civic amenity and recycling centre, but obviously they would have to get it there”.
Thomas Tudor and Paul Miller, from the Labour Group, both confirmed their support of the new policy, stating it was intended to encourage recycling, whilst acknowledging the resulting difficulties it would pose, promising electors that the situation would be monitored with an expectation that it should be ‘working’ in six months’ time.
Two Councillors expressing grave concerns over this issue were Vivien and Mike Stoddart, of Hakin and Hubberston respectively, who, speaking exclusively to The Herald, issued the following statement,
“We have expressed our concern to the County Council about the impact of fortnightly black bin bag collections on our constituents, particularly those living in flats and multi-occupancy properties. We have many such properties in our wards. Fortnightly collections of black bags (residual waste which, for family households, is a euphemism for nappies and sanitary waste) will bear down especially hard on our constituents, as storing this waste will be a problem for families living in flats. At the urging of a few opposition Councillors, the Council has agreed to consider the arrangements for dealing with sanitary waste, but the Council has also stated they will not provide additional collections; nor will they provide wheelie bins. So, we are not sure what these arrangements might be and if they will solve the problem for our families”.
Both Councillors, as of Wednesday of this week, were awaiting assurances from Cllr George that face to face contact would take place between flat dwellers, landlords and Council to ensure provision of suitable storage space.
Only last year, Eric Pickles, speaking as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, described weekly collections as a ‘basic right’ and accused Councils that were reducing the frequency of collections as actions which were both ‘lazy and unnecessary”.
From October 14th 2013 Pembrokeshire residents will have no choice but to see how this shift in policy affects them, their families, their neighborhood and their well-being.

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Chief inspector of Immigration to review use of Penally Training Camp

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THE CHIEF INSPECTOR of Borders and Immigration, Mr David Bolt, is to commence a review into the use of hotels and barracks in the UK, including the Penally Asylum camp.

It comes as Pembrokeshire County Council continues to seek a reimbursement for its involvement with the camp.

At Tuesday’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Jonathan Preston said it was ‘shocking’ that the home office was not engaging with the council and said that they should ‘keep knocking on the door’.

Cllr David Pugh added: “Let’s get the tanks out and start shooting some really heavy bullets at them (Home Office).”

It was confirmed at the meeting that there had still been no agreement with the Home Office on any repayments.

Camp residents protest in Penally (Image G Davies Photography / Herald )

Director of Finance Jon Haswell said that costs had been estimated at around £55,000 a month.

Cllr Pugh said it was ‘horrendous’ that the authority would be almost half a million pounds out of pocket.

Cllr Preston also questioned if Penally Community Council would be able to recover costs for the work they had done but officers said they would need to look into that matter.

The use of the camp is set to end on March 21 and it is anticipated that a planning application will be made to extend that use.

The council’s Head of Planning, David Popplewell said that if there were any breaches of planning conditions that they would be able to consider enforcement action.

He also clarified the two conditions of the use of the camp which state that the applicant must notify the planning authority after the commencement of the use and that it should be returned to its former state once it has ended.

Use of the site commenced on September 21, 2020 and a letter to the authority indicated that the applicants would be applying for a six-month extension.

Demo to support asylum seekers in Penally in 2020 (Photo Herald)

There would need to be a pre-application consultation and any application would go to the council’s Planning Committee.

Mr Popplewell added that he had been in touch with the planning consultant regularly but said that he hadn’t had a further response.

Director of Development, Dr Steven Jones confirmed that the Chief Inspector would be commencing a review into the use of hotels, barracks and asylum accommodation. He added that the call for evidence was open until February 19.

Councillors agreed that the matter should be brought back to the committee if and when the need arises.

Cllr Pugh also asked about the council’s response to the recent marches into Tenby by some of the camp users which caused some anxiety amongst residents worried about the spread of Covid-19.

Rooms in the camp are said to be too small for social distancing (Pic: Camp user)

Darren Thomas, Head of Infrastructure, Transport & Environment, said that it was a public order policing issue and that it was for them to decide how they should police it.

Cllr Pugh said he didn’t think that the council should be criticised as much as it had been on social media.

Discussions have been ongoing with other organisations about understanding and addressing the impact and rise of extremist activity upon the County.

The report to the committee also stated that there had been opposition to the camp being used by the asylum seekers and that there was also support for those supporting the asylum seekers.

Mr Thomas said that this was not a reference to any specific group and said that it was a general point.

The camp was originally set up for the use of 250 occupants but many of them complained about overcrowded conditions and some have already been moved.

At the time of the report being written, on January 8, there were 124 people still in the camp. At the meeting on Tuesday, Mr Thomas confirmed that as of January 21, that number had gone down to 118.

Transfers to and from the camp have been halted under the Welsh Government’s Alert Level 4 coronavirus restrictions, except for medical or safety reasons.

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From ‘coke to smoke’: Huge haul of contraband found in Hakin drug den

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POLICE have released a photograph of a haul of illegal drugs found during a raid on a property in Hakin in recent days.

Posting the photo on their twitter feed, police said: “A successful warrant executed by Neighbourhood Police Team and Response Teams in Gelliswick Road.

“Class A, B and C drugs and substantial cash seizures. Two arrests on suspicion of supply and two dealt with for possession offences.

Suggesting they were supplied information from locals, police said they thought this was an “excellent example of police and communities working together.”

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Police investigating missing charity funds at Narberth fire station

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Where is the cash?: Money from fundraisers was never banked

DYFED-POWYS Police have confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that they are investigating allegations of dishonesty concerning raffle and fundraising efforts involving Narberth Fire Station.

The Herald was contacted by members of the public and family members of Narberth firefighters expressing their concern that ‘a considerable amount of money’ that has been raised for charitable causes has gone missing from the station.

Alarm bells started ringing last year, after funds raised in memory of local firefighter Josh Gardener, were never banked.

Josh Gardener, tragically died aged just 35-years-old, during a training exercise conducted by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) in September 2019.

A source told us each local station took charge of their own fundraising for the cause, but it was overseen by Milford Haven Station and all raised money was to be collated together by staff there.

It is alleged that around £500 was raised by Narberth station. However, officers at Milford Haven raised suspicions, after no money was received.

A source also told us that each year, two members from Narberth’s crew don full uniform to sell raffle tickets in the town’s High Street.

One source claims that those concerned have been unlawfully fundraising, as they do not have the relevant licences in place to do so.

We asked Pembrokeshire County Council to confirm whether Narberth Fire Station had an up to date licence which would enable them to fundraise publicly in such a manner.

A spokesperson said: “Pembrokeshire County Council has contacted the organisation involved for further information and to offer advice on the rules regarding lotteries.”

It is alleged money raised from these raffle tickets, which sources tell us is also ‘a considerable amount’, is unaccounted for.

We asked Dyfed-Powys Police to confirm if they were investigating allegations of theft at the station, a spokesperson said: “We are investigating an allegation of theft from Narberth Fire Station.

We were told: “Enquiries are ongoing.”

The raffle tickets were sold on the basis that all funds raised were being donated to The Firefighters Charity and Narberth First Responders.

We contacted The Firefighters’ Charity to ask if they had been receiving regular donations from the station, they told us that they had been asked by MAWWFR not to comment.

All monies raised from fundraising is said to be kept in a locked safe within Narberth Station before it is banked, said our source.

They added that the only crew members who have keys which would enable them to have access to the safe are those who’ve sold the raffle tickets.

Due to an ongoing active police investigation into the thefts, we are unable to name the two individuals.

It has also been brought to our attention that since the investigation opened, last year, a member of staff allegedly took early retirement due to illness.

This newspaper has recontacted Dyfed-Powys Police to clarify whether they suspect a break-in or another possible explanation, we await their response.

However, the police have made no appeals to the press or public for information that would relate to the possibility that a burglary may have occurred.

The Herald asked MAWWFRS whether they had a licence in place to sell the raffle tickets lawfully, did all raised funds reach the advertised charities, and what procedures would they be implementing to ensure funds raised reached their intended target.

A spokesperson said: “Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service take any allegations around the conduct of our staff seriously and have procedures in place to deal with such concerns appropriately.

“We also take our responsibilities in terms of respecting the personal confidentiality of all employees seriously and as such will not comment further in this regard.”

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