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Search for travellers sites to go ahead

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COUNCILLORS have voted unanimously for a search to be conducted to find homes for travellers at an extraordinary general meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council last Friday.
The meeting was called after a planning Inspectorate permitted a traveller family’s home to be sited on land at Clayford Road, Kilgetty.
It was called by East Williamston Councillor Jacob Williams and supported by Cllrs Tony Brinsden, David Bryan, Tessa Hodgson and Gwilym Price.
The inspector blamed Pembrokeshire County Council for its failure to meet demand for travellers’ pitches in the county.
Councillor Adams stated that the inspectorate should give more information as to why he allowed the travellers to pitch in Kilgetty.
Councillor Sue Perkins, who once had a large travellers site in her ward, said: “Gypsies have every right to have somewhere to live”.
Another councillor, who currently has one of the biggest travellers sites in her constituency, Pearl Llewellyn said: “Many sites are being refused and that’s why they’re buying their own land and trying to set up on their own”
It was also agreed that land would be acquired adjacent to Kingsmoor Common by agreement or by using compulsory purchase powers in order to facilitate exchange in common land with authority delegated to the Director of Development for this purpose.
Councillor Jacob Williams also highlighted the fact that “the main thrust of the policy’s weakness was that of small parcels of land”.
In the meeting it was argued why the matter could not be discussed at an ordinary council, but the EGM decision last Friday means that this issue will be dealt with much quicker.

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Crabb defies government over free school meals

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STEPHEN CRABB, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, says his abstention in a vote on extending free school meals during school holidays to English students eligible for them was a protest against the UK Government.

Although the Welsh Government decided to retian provision for children who qualify for free school meals to cover half terms until Easter 2021, Pembrokeshire’s two MPs have endured a huge social media backlash for their voting record on a similar scheme for England.

Simon Hart MP has been ‘named and shamed’ by The Daily Mirror for voting with his Government to remove the free school meals the holiday for 1.4 million of the most vulnerable children in England.

Stephen Crabb MP, abstained from voting on the bill – a decision he says was done in protest to let his government know he did not agree with their views.

Mr Crabb has spoken previously of his background. He came from a single parent family, was raised in a council house and receivws free school meals.

Many social media users took Crabb’s decision not to vote as a decision that was just as bad as voting with the government with some branding him a hypocrite.

Taking to his Facebook page, Crabb defended his decision.

He told his constituents: “I took a decision to abstain on the vote, which is a well-recognised form of protest. I have made it very clear to the Government that I do not agree with them on this issue.”

Even though Crabb abstained from voting, he told his followers that the free school meal provision wasn’t the way to tackle the problem of child poverty.

He added: “I am supportive of the holiday provision of free school meals but I think we also need to be looking at solutions that go beyond just vouchers. The main poverty charities I speak to have different views about whether vouchers are effective or not.
“I did not like the nature of the Labour Party’s debate in the Commons last Wednesday and I think some of the abuse being thrown around is appalling. The vote last week would have had no material impact on provision even if it had passed.”

Mr Crabb added: “More widely, whilst the issue of free school meals is important, ultimately we should be aiming to lift people out of poverty so that they no longer need this support. I have spent much of the last few months working hard on the campaign to keep the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
“The UK Government introduced a much welcome per-week increase in UC at the start of the crisis but this measure will expire in April, unless the Government commits to an extension.”

Mr Crabb assured his Pembrokeshire constituents he will continue to try and tackle child poverty.

He added: “I have spent a large proportion of my time in Westminster over the last few months campaigning on the issues of child poverty and pushing for more support for families on low incomes. I will continue to make this a priority.”

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Webpage details penally camp information

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A WEBPAGE has been set up to keep residents of Penally and the surrounding areas up to date with key information relating to the housing of asylum seekers at the MoD base in the village.

The web page here includes a list of frequently asked questions relating to the site.

Residents are urged to check the page for updates.

People will also be able to find links to virtual community meetings held on the issue, Pembrokeshire County Council press releases regarding the camp and a contact email address for further information.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson said: “It is important for residents to be able to find information about the camp easily and to know that information is accurate, collated by the Council, Dyfed-Powys Police and the Home Office.

“Hopefully the FAQs will answer some of the questions that are being asked and we will have the ability to update and add further information to the page as required.”

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Welsh Health Minister defends retail restrictions

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THE WELSH Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, faced stiff today (Monday, Oct 26) questioning over retail restrictions during the current ‘firebreak lockdown’.

The Minister ducked a question from ITV Wales’ Adrian Masters.

That question asked whether trust in the Welsh Government’s handling of COVID-19 had been harmed by the row over supermarket chains sectioning off areas of ‘non-essential’ goods in their stores.

Instead of answering directly, Mr Gething carefully set out what he termed ‘a balance of harms’.

Vaughan Gething explained that the Welsh Government accepted the lockdown would cause some harm to Wales, to Welsh businesses, and individuals. However, he said, those harms had to be offset against the harm to public health and longer-term more adverse economic outcomes if the Welsh Government did nothing.

The BBC’s Dan Davies tackled Vaughan Gething again on the topic. In response, Mr Gething claimed that ending the rules on non-essential retail would both penalise small retailers and lead to greater community transmission of the virus.

Asked about remarks made by Lee Waters MS, Wales’ Deputy Economy Minister, that a further lockdown was ‘likely’ in the New Year, Mr Gething could not guarantee that one would not happen.

He said: “Measures are possible for the future but that depends on how successful we are in coming together as a nation to act in a way which means coronavirus is less likely to spread in the future.”

The Minister next received direct questions about the Government’s communications and messaging following a row over what were essential and non-essential goods.

This morning, Andrew RT Davies capitalised on a mistake by Tesco, which claimed the Welsh Government classified period products as non-essential. By the time Mr Davies tweeted his outrage and released a statement to the media, Tesco confirmed it was in the wrong and deleted its tweet. As Tesco has since acknowledged, period products – which are for sale in pharmacies – are classed as essential goods.

However, by then the damage had been done to the Welsh Government’s image.

Mr Gething said meetings had taken place with major retailers last Thursday, between ministers over the weekend, and there would be a further meeting this afternoon.

“The conversation we’re having with supermarkets today [about non-essential retail],” said the Minister, “will discuss limited circumstances [in which sales can take place].”

However, Vaughan Gething continued: “Much of what we have seen over the weekend is about the ‘what-if scenarios’ unlikely to come up over the next two weeks.”

Mr Gething continued to try and get the message over about a balance of harms and tried to explain why the Welsh Government imposed the retail restrictions it chose.

He stressed the Welsh Government decided to stop supermarkets selling goods otherwise available in small retailers who were compelled to close during the current lockdown.

The Welsh Conservative Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM, asked Mark Drakeford for a specific reassurance on that point – to protect small businesses compelled to close – last Thursday (Oct 22).

Loud Conservative voices, particularly those of Simon Hart and Andrew RT Davies, have condemned the Welsh Government for doing what their own Shadow Economy Minister asked.

The impression, however – of a ban on the sale of books and baby clothes – does not look good for the Welsh Government.

And neither does the confusion among large retailers.

That criticism was the subject of further direct questioning by journalists who asked Mr Gething how, if major businesses could misinterpret the guidance, how the public could possibly interpret it.

Vaughan Gething remained adamant guidance was clear but would be further clarified with major retailers.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said: “The important thing for the Welsh Government to acknowledge is that they have made a complete mess of the messaging. Humility is important in admitting that you have got it wrong. They should have focused very clearly and very simply on the public health message.

“The objective of closing non-essential retail for this period is to try to limit the number of contacts so they can limit the number of infections – and that’s somehow got completely lost in the messaging which has then eroded public trust over the weekend.”

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