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Huge 12.5% council tax hike backed by cabinet

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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.

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Have your say on the council’s Gambling Policy

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PEOPLE living in Pembrokeshire are being asked for their views on proposed changes to the County Council’s Gambling Policy.

The policy explains how Pembrokeshire County Council handles the licensing of premises and issuing of permits for gambling.

The policy is currently under review and the County Council is keen to find out what local people think about issues such as the prevention of crime and disorder, and protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Sarah Johns, the Authority’s Public Protection Manager (Public Health, Housing and Licensing), explained: “The review will give people the chance to make their views known about our policy and how we deal with gambling matters.

“We are carrying out an extensive consultation, asking a wide range of people and groups for their views including the Police and the licensed trade. All views will be considered carefully and will help shape our policy for the next few years.

“We urge people who have an opinion on this to get in touch and let us know what they think.”

Councillor Pat Davies, Cabinet Member for Housing and Regulatory Services said: “This is an opportunity for businesses and residents of Pembrokeshire to respond and be part of influencing policy that will ultimately affect their communities. Please use this consultation to have your say.”

The gambling policy can be viewed on the Council’s website: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/licensing

Alternatively, contact the Licensing Team on 01437 764551 to view the policy at County Hall, Haverfordwest.

Comments must be received by 5pm on Friday, September 28.

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RSPCA ask public to not return unwell dolphins to sea

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THE RSPCA has issued a warning about how to respond to finding unwell or beached cetaceans, after two dolphins were inappropriately returned to the sea by members of the public in west Wales in recent weeks.

Officers say ‘well-meaning’ beach-walkers have sought to help beached dolphins by moving them back into the water, but that this is the ‘wrong thing to do for the animals, and their welfare’.

Last Sunday (Aug 5), a dead striped dolphin was found on Coppet Hall beach in the Saundersfoot area.

The RSPCA had previously responded to calls in the local area about the troubled striped dolphin – who had been beaching on a member of the public’s property. Unfortunately, in seeking to help the dolphin, members of the public refloated the unwell, thin and emaciated dolphin.

An RSPCA officer inspected photos of the dolphin and could ‘clearly see’ that the dolphin was suffering and should not have been returned to the wild in this way.


In a separate incident, the RSPCA was alerted after a washed-up, skinny dolphin was found on a Newgale beach last Tuesday (Aug 7). The animal welfare charity arrived to find a dolphin in poor bodily condition, which had recently died. Unfortunately, well-meaning members of the public had tried on several occasions to return the dolphin to the water.

RSPCA Cymru say dolphins tend to beach for a reason – often because they have major welfare complications, or even because they are dying. A summer plea has been issued urging anyone who finds a beached cetaceans to contact the RSPCA immediately, and not seek to refloat the animal.

Ellie West, RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO), said: “In many ways, it is a source of great pride that people across West Wales love wild animals and want to help.

“But returning a beached cetacean to the sea can be hugely counter-productive. People are obviously well-meaning in doing this – but usually it is the wrong thing to do for the animals, and their welfare.

“We were called out recently to help a striped dolphin, but this was returned to the water by members of the public.

“However, pictures of the poor thing – emaciated and thin – showed how this wasn’t the right thing by the animal. Later, we were alerted that the poor dolphin’s fate had been sealed – found dead in Saundersfoot.

“Similarly, in Newgale, we attended an incident where a very unwell dolphin had died. However, members of the public had spent some while trying to return the body to the sea – clearly kind-hearted, but sadly doing the wrong thing.”

RSPCA is also warning of the zoonotic risks of handling creatures like the dolphins found at Saundersfoot and Newgale.  

The charity works with the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) – in part funded by Welsh Government – which investigates whale, dolphin, porpoise, marine turtle and basking sharks stranded across the UK’s coastline.  Post-mortems to these animals can help establish a cause of death, and provide important insights into the health of populations living in the sea in a specific area.

ACO West added: “If anyone sees a beached cetacean, they should ring the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999, and provide as much information as possible about the location of the animal, and their condition. We can then do whatever we can to help – or at least alleviate the animal’s suffering as quickly as possible.

“It is a very distressing fact that often these animals are found on land with severe welfare problems, or have moved there to die. Returning them to the sea is not helping them however well-intentioned someone may be.

“There’s also substantial zoonotic disease risk of handling the animals in this way. This could be serious for human health.

“We work closely with CSIP, who do very important work in deciphering the cause of death for many cetaceans and other marine mammals. This work is vital – and where a beached, emaciated, troubled marine mammal sadly has to be put to sleep, we will often work with them so the cause of death can be established, and knowledge help support the wider population in the future.”

If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations.

 

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Woman thanks strangers for helping her during County Show incident

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A WOMAN who, along with her husband, was knocked down at the County Show on Wednesday (Aug 15) when a horse broke loose and went on a ‘rampage’ has thanked those who came to her aid.

Eight people were injured in the incident and five were hospitalised, including a 12-year-old boy and an 83-year-old man.

Jane Armitage, who was visiting Pembrokeshire with her husband and three dogs, posted a message on Facebook thanking those who helped her, her husband, and her pets.

She said: “My husband was one of those injured today at Pembrokeshire Show. He was knocked down by the horse and is now in hospital; I was also knocked down, but I got up!

“The reason for this post is to thank those people who I will probably never meet again. The local store owner who came straight out to ask if I was okay when my husband was on the ground; the paramedics who did such a wonderful job and looked after him so well; but most importantly in this post, at least, is those dog lovers at the show.

Air ambulance: Landing at the County Show

“When I fell, I was holding three labradors. Ellie the senior Labrador stayed close to me, but the two younger ones, black and yellow labradors, ran. I don’t know the name of the lady who caught Lottie, a black Labrador, near the cattle rings, also the lovely lady judge who picked up Dolly, a yellow labrador, and carried her to me, she was too scared to walk.

“I don’t know your names but I just wanted to say a huge thank you. Your kindness will never be forgotten.

“I also want to thank the couple who came to the paramedic’s area and offered to hold the dogs for me so I could go in and be with my husband.”

Despite being involved in the freak accident, Jane

“They waited with our three stressed dogs, calmed them and I can’t thank you enough for your kindness at such a difficult time. We look forward to coming to the show again next year.”

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