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Councillors query budget

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county hallLAST THURSDAY’S full council meeting discussed the budget for 2014/15.

On top of everybody’s minds were the effects still being felt by the recent storms that have battered the county in the first few months of this year.

Many councillors took the time to thank workers for their efforts during the clean-up period. Querying the budget, councillors had questions about the roads, tourism, care services and fees and charges. At the start of the debate, discussions resolved around the budget for Highways and Transportation.

Concerns were expressed that the budget for this service had dropped by almost £1.8m from the previous year.

Former Council leader, Councillor John Davies said: “Our carriageways have taken a consistent battering because heavy rain leaves its toll and whether we like it or not, the way we maintain our carriageways is important to maintaining the living and breathing assets of our roads”.

Cllr Michael John added: “The roads are getting particularly poor in some areas”.

Cllr Jacob Williams then also gave his views on the matter: “The budget for the highways really concerns me; by and large the county’s roads are really good. Repairs that are made are done timely, so I think to cut the budget by such a large amount and we need to be careful about that. The roads are so important to such a rural county”.

Councillors then discussed how the Council could encourage economic growth with Pembrokeshire.

Cllr Peter Stock: “It’s important for us to be talking about the quality of services that this county is going to provide. We’re spending money, we’re looking at the future, and the one thing that I do feel we lack on is planning with a vision for the future of our town centres. I do believe we are lagging behind on that. A vision is important. The Welsh Government has said ‘The local authority will have a clear vision of the role and functions of the town centres within their control’.”

Cllr Mike Evans said: “We’re obviously in difficult times as a county. We must use the LDP to help and not hinder local businesses and also to allow growth where there is local need through building”.

Speaking about social care services, Councillor Rhys Sinnett said: “The people are important too. Whilst we are supportive of most of the cost savings proposed within this budget, it’s only right that we raise concerns about how those within the adult social care budget lines will be implemented. At the moment we are being asked to agree these changes without really having the details of how they are going to impact upon some of the most vulnerable in our community. If we do accept this it would have to be with the full assurance of the leader that the outcomes of these consultations will be referred to the relevant committees for their consideration”.

Members then gave their responses to some of the questions that had been raised.

Cllr David Simpson said: “In the past 12 months we have been awarded the Welsh Housing quality standard, we’re one of only three authorities in Wales that actually attained it on time and within the budget and I think that is a tremendous achievement”.

Cllr David Pugh added: “To maintain the level of commitment, we’re now working closely with communities first and we have a better working relationship with planning powers and Pembrokeshire College to deliver these some of these services so although there is a significant cost reduction to the council, the amount of grant that we hope to get is still the same”.

Cllr Pugh went on to say: “Tourism is being taken very seriously and it is a major part of the economy in Pembrokeshire”.

Cllr Sue Perkins said: “We have now got a full complement of social workers. We always need to be careful but in the future we need to carry on working to build on this and to retain our staff; we have to always be on our guard”.

Speaking about leisure facilities, Cllr Elwyn Morse said: “I would always take up the opportunity to improve leisure facilities. I am pleased to report that the cultural services of sport and leisure are committed to continuing the delivery of these valuable services despite having to make cost reduction within their operating budgets”.

Cllr Rob Lewis added: “We have had to take some of these decisions in a very short space of time. We have suffered from cuts in Welsh Government support for the bus service but we have carried out a substantial review with bus users as to how we will move forward in the future. The feedback is that residents would rather have some service than no service at all.”

Cllr Jamie Adams said: “This council, since its inception, has not increased the charges on the Cleddau Bridge.

“With regards to pay and display and car parking, I have been to Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire where I was shocked to be shelling out the sort of sums to park in the high streets of those two counties. I give the assurance that fees and charges in Pembrokeshire are considerably lower than others.

“I give the absolute assurance that any changes to adult social care provisions will be the subject of full equalities impact assessments”.

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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent

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A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to Herald reporter said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, Callum Hicks said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

“The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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