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Council goes ahead with 12.5% council tax rise



PEMBROKESHIRE residents will see a rise of 12.5% in council tax after Councillors gave the go-ahead on Thursday (Mar 8).

A recorded vote was called for by Cllr John Davies after a lengthy debate and the 12.5% rise was supported by 40 votes with 18 voting against.

Thursday’s Full Council meeting was tasked with making the difficult decision of increasing Council Tax by 5%, 8% or the unpopular 12.5%.

Lengthy consultation has been carried out on the proposed rise with the Council hosting live Facebook sessions and the Budget has also been before all Overview and Scrutiny Committees.

A Facebook Group, entitled ‘Reject the PCC Council Tax rise’ was also set up and gained over 8000 members in just a couple of days.

Of the three options, the 5% rise would generate an extra £2.2 million but would still result in further cost reductions of £3.5 million.

The second option of an 8% rise would generate a further £3.6 million and would also result in further cost reductions of £2.1million.

The final option of 12.5% would generate an extra £5.7 million but there would be no need for further cost reductions.

At a meeting of the Cabinet in February, members unanimously voted in favour of the 12.5% tax rise and Cllr Bob Kilmister, Cabinet member for Finance, stated that they either needed to do something or services would be reduced to a level that most people would see as unacceptable.

On Thursday, Cllr Kilmister said: “Which politician would be prepared to propose such a rise? Well, I am and I am prepared to face the consequences in the future. I believe it is the right thing to do. If you ignore my advice, you will also be ignoring the advice of officers and, more importantly, the facts. If we don’t we will face the same situation in future years.

“We have to do something and we have to do it very quickly. We are too large an organisation and we have to reduce in a planned manner to make us stronger.

“We are doomed to fail unless the magic money tree arrives in the nick of time. We must be the most efficient Council in Wales.

“The response rate is far too large to ignore. There was a considerable amount of criticism for making the decision before the consultation had ended. Today is the final decision. There were 1992 responses online and by post. We had two Facebook live sessions which were viewed by 5887 individual users and we had 308 comments. We will be using this method again.

“I want to start going forwards and at a pace, 2018/19 is going to be a critical year and in 12 months time I want to show hard evidence that the plans are working.”

Cllr Tessa Hodgson added: “If we do not agree to the 12.5% we will have to find even more cuts and they will affect the most vulnerable.

“This time last year we were hoping to get elected or re-elected, no one came in looking to increase Council Tax but if we don’t we will not be able to deliver services. We simply have no choice, this is the reality of the situation we face.”

Cllr Tony Baron said they had a legal and moral duty to the Well-being of Future Generations Act to ensure that young people across the county are given the best start they could possibly have.

He went on to say: “I cannot see how, if we don’t go for 12.5%, we would be able to avoid redundancies and cutbacks in opportunities for young people, that is unacceptable.”

A number of councillors commented on how the council had been running for a number of years with the lowest council tax in Wales and Cllr Reg Owens said that they needed to look amongst the authority before they thought about asking the people to pay more money.

Cllr David Bryan said he had asked constituents in his Priory Ward who, to his surprise, were in favour of the 12.5% rise if it meant that services would be kept.

Cllr John Davies suggested a compromise of 8% adding: “We need to do what we can, we are here to make difficult choices and 8% is a bridge that can be built.”

Former Council Leader Jamie Adams stated he had ‘some difficulty’ in supporting the 12.5% rise and suggested going with a 5% rise this year before going for a larger rise the following year. He added: “We are simply proposing to consume more of the public’s money.”

Cllr Josh Beynon said he could see no other option but to go for the 12.5% rise while Cllr Neil Prior said the current position was ‘not sutainable’ adding that the 12.5% rise was the ‘right thing to do’.

Council Leader David Simpson said: “Not one of us in this room wants to give 12.5%. Do we need it? Yes. We are £14.8m adrift, we do need the extra money.”

Cllr John Davies proposed that a recorded vote be taken on the proposed rise and that was supported.

Forty councillors voted in favour of the 12.5% rise with just 18 voting against it.

In a statement, Pembrokeshire County Council said: “Pembrokeshire County Council approved a Council Tax rise of 12.5 per cent for the financial year 2018/19 at a meeting of Full Council earlier today.

“This means that Band D Council Tax levied by the County Council will be £993.54.

“This represents an increase of £2.11 a week or £110 a year.

“The final amount which Council taxpayers will be required to pay will include sums for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys and their local town or community council.”

Council Leader, David Simpson, said after the meeting: “Despite this big increase, Pembrokeshire will still have the lowest Council Tax in Wales and indeed the third lowest in all of England and Wales.

“By voting through this rise, Elected Members have enabled the Authority to close a critical £16 million funding gap and therefore protect from cuts essential services such as education and social care.

“If we had voted for either a five of eight per cent increase in Council Tax – which were also options – then those services would have been badly hit, consequently affecting the most vulnerable members of our society.

“I would remind our householders that Pembrokeshire remains one of the leanest and most productive local authorities in Wales and we actually currently deliver services at £14.8 million less than the Welsh Government say we should.

“I firmly believe that Council today has made the right decision. It allows us to continue with our transformation programme and to deliver services in the most cost-effective way.”


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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