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Huge 12.5% council tax hike backed by cabinet



PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Cabinet has recommended that Council Tax should go up by 12.5% at its meeting on Monday (Feb 12).

At the meeting, councillors unanimously supported the rise which would see the council achieve a balanced budget.

A 12.5% rise would equate to an extra £2.11 per week or £110 per annum.

The Council has been holding a number of consultation exercises including two Facebook Live sessions to gauge the views of the public.

It was also pointed out that they had received over 1300 responses to its consultation, whereas it only received just over 100 to its previous exercise.

Cllr Bob Kilmister reminded members that the funding gap for 2018/19 was £16.4m and that of that they had identified cost reductions of £10m.

The 60 members of Council will meet on Thursday 8th March to make the final decision on whether to approve the Cabinet’s recommendation of 12.5%, or alternative increases of 5.1% or 8.1%.

The meeting of Council on 8th March will also consider the proposed 2018-19 budget, and the ongoing public consultation to consider the proposed 5%, 8% or 12.5% Council Tax increases. The consultation closes on February 16th.

The financial pressures on the Authority were detailed in a report to today’s Cabinet meeting by the Director of Finance, Jon Haswell.

His report read: “Due to Pembrokeshire having the lowest Band D Council Tax in Wales since 1996, it was £15m worse off in 2017-18 than it would have been if its Council Tax was at the average level for Wales.

“Pembrokeshire has the largest shortfall between its actual
spending and what Welsh Government predicts it needs to spend to deliver services, its Standard Spending Assessment (SSA).”

The report continued: “The Welsh average Band D Council Tax for 2017-18 was £1,162 – £279 more than Pembrokeshire at £883.”

Cabinet members heard that a 12.5% increase for Band D properties (equating to a rise of £110.39) would still mean that Pembrokeshire would have the lowest Council Tax in Wales – even if all the other Authorities had no rise in their Council Tax.

Cllr Kilmister said: “If we go with a council tax increase of 12.5% there would be a £5.7m contribution from council tax and that would give us a balanced budget.

“There is £1.3m that has come out of the cost reduction figures in terms of the schools budget.

“People will see that there is a change and that’s because there is a constantly moving scene in terms of the budget, it almost moves by the day and we’ve had decisions by Cabinet on the IT strategy, alterations to the council tax reduction scheme and we’ve made alterations to the schools budget which is why the original figure of £11.2m in cost reductions has now gone down to £10m.

“In terms of where we are, the budget has been debated at all the Overview and Scrutiny Committees and the majority view from those was that 12.5% or option 3 was the correct choice. There was one committee were two members voted for 8% and for some reason nobody else took part so it wasn’t a unanimous decision.

“We’ve also conducted four finance seminars to members across the year and I honestly believe there has been more scrutiny and more information has been provided to members than ever has been before.

“We’ve conducted two Facebook live sessions since the last Cabinet meeting which were extremely useful and the numbers viewing those has been quite exceptional and I think we learnt an awful lot from doing them and very valuable.

“We’ve still got a public consultation which is carrying on that doesn’t end until February 16, and that’s going to be much more meaningful than we’ve ever had in the past.

“As of Friday night (Feb 9), we’d had over 1320 responses to that consultation, the last consultation produced 135 so I’m looking forward to seeing what that consultation says.

“I’m determined that we should do the right thing and not dodge the issue. We have to make a step change on our council tax levels.”

Cllr Kilmister stated that they either needed to do something or services would be reduced to a level that most people would see as unacceptable.

He moved the recommendations and added that option 3 (12.5% rise) should be put to the next meeting of full council.

Cllr Phil Baker said it was ‘not going to be easy’ to sell the 12.5% rise but added that in his ward people would prefer to see the rise rather than cuts to services.

Cllr Neil Prior added there was a ‘grudging acknowledgement’ that this was what they needed to do while Cllr Paul Miller said he could not see ‘any other option’ for them to take.

The Cabinet unanimously supported the recommendation from Cllr Kilmister that a 12.5% council tax increase be suggested to full council.


Funeral of Kiara Moore to take place on her birthday



Jet Moore: With his daughter, Kiara

THE FUNERAL of Kiara Moore, the two-year-old who tragically died in the River Teifi in Cardigan on Monday (Mar 19), will take place on Tuesday (Mar 27).

The date would have been her third birthday.

Announcing the funeral on Facebook, her father, Jet Moore, said: “Kiara’s funeral and party will be held on the 27th March.

“Myself, Kim and family would like to invite you all to either the funeral and party for her happy life and birthday! (or just be have a thought for her on this day and make some one happy).”

“Please bring kids if you can! We are keeping it a happy celebration.”

The funeral will take place at Parc Gwyn Crematorium in Narberth, then the Fostrasell Arms in Llandysul.

Jet went on to say that the family want to set up a trust in Kiara’s name to ‘support people who are sad (metal health) and the outdoor environment’.

He added: “So please do not buy flowers but donate money to this and we will make happy experiences for 100s and 1000s I hope!”

Dyfed-Powys Police have said that enquiries are ongoing into the incident, and have warned online ‘trolls’ to be aware of what they post.

A spokesperson said: “Enquiries are continuing to fully understand the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident.

“Examination of the vehicle will form part of these enquiries.

“We can also confirm that the vehicle had not been stolen.

“We are aware of potentially malicious comments relating to the incident on social media. These are being reviewed and action may be taken where appropriate.”

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Audit Committee will not make police response public



MEMBERS of the Audit Committee have given an undertaking not to disclose a letter from Dyfed-Powys Police relating to the Commercial Property Grants Scheme in Pembroke Dock.

The Committee met today (Mar 23), where it discussed the response from Dyfed-Powys Police after they agreed to write to them, complaining about the delay in the investigation.

At their previous meeting in January, the committee also resolved to ask a member of the police force to attend the next meeting to give an update.

Detective Super Intendent Shane Williams attended the meeting and asked members not to disclose the letter to the wider public as it may prejudice the criminal proceedings or the right to a fair trial.

However the Council’s Head of Legal Services, Mrs Claire Incledon, told the committee that, in her opinion, the letter was in the public domain and that they would not be able to withhold the letter should an FOI request be made.

Members of the committee resolved that they would not make the letter available to the wider public.

DSI Shane Williams told the committee of a number of interviews that had taken place and said: “Fraud is sometimes complex and does take some time. I am not saying that 25 months is acceptable.”

He went on to say that a meeting was held with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in November 2017 when they asked for further work to be done.

DSI Williams said that the work was nearing completion and that another meeting would be arranged ‘sooner rather than later’ to discuss whether or not to press charges.

He added: “The investigation has taken longer than anticipated but we will be putting some impetus behind this. This is a CPS decision but it is public money and there has been an indication dishonesty or fraud and there should be prosecution.”

Cllr Jacob Williams referred to the letter on several occasions which states that WEFO are the victims in this case but DSI Williams added that Pembrokeshire County Council were also the victims.

When pressed for a response as to why only WEFO were included as victims, DSI Williams said: “From the initial complaint WEFO were the victim but we became aware that that PCC were paying back grant money and therefore had a claim as the victim.”

Audit Committee chairman Tony Baron said it was his impression that they were weeks away from a conclusion and that they should take a view that the letter should not be published until that time.

Chief Executive Ian Westley said it was an ‘option’ for members as there might not be a robust legal defence if they were asked to circulate the letter and they refused.

Cllr Cris Tomos moved that a vote be taken on keeping the letter private but members indicated they would not be prepared to take such a vote.

The Committee resolved to thank DSI Williams for attending and gave an undertaking that they would not make the letter public.

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Milford Haven: Police appealing for information after window smashed



POLICE are appealing for information after a glass window was smashed at a Milford Haven property.

On Tuesday (Mar 20) at approximately 7:30pm, an object was thrown at the front ground floor window at a property on Priory Road, Milford Haven, causing the outer glass panel to smash.

Police say a large number of youths were seen in the area when the incident occurred.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “Anyone with information is asked to contact Milford Haven police station via 101.”

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