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Council goes ahead with 12.5% council tax rise

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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.”

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Drone guide to limit wildlife disturbance

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE COAST NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY has released new drone guidance for recreational users that seeks to limit the disturbance the aerial devices can cause to protected wildlife.

As well as reiterating general safety advice from the Civil Aviation Authority’s Drone Code, the guidance will help recreational users of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to understand the impact their use could have on rare species and on other people’s enjoyment.

National Park Authority Biodiversity Officer, Sarah Mellor said: “While the Drone Code focuses on safety, we have produced this simple guide to help protect the array of wonderful wildlife that attracts many people to Pembrokeshire.

“Species such as seabirds and seals are particularly vulnerable when they are breeding or nurturing their young and even low levels of disturbance can impact on them and can lead to reductions in populations.

“The guidance also highlights how livestock can be easily startled by drones, including the sheep, cows and horses that graze the coastal slopes alongside the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

“We want everyone to enjoy their visit to Pembrokeshire, so being aware of the impact drones can have on other people and the area’s peace and tranquillity is also important.”

The guidance has been prepared in collaboration with partners including commercial drone operators, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, National Trust, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Natural Resources Wales and Pembrokeshire County Council.

The information will be updated as more rules and research findings are released. The document, which is available from the National Park Authority’s website, can also be printed as a reference guide.

You can download the guidance by visiting www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/filming.

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Milford Haven: Cabins to appeal to glampers

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FOUR new arrivals are in place at Milford Waterfront offering visitors a unique on-water ‘glamping’ experience.

The Floatel Cabins were transported from Amsterdam to Pembrokeshire by road before being lifted into the marina by crane yesterday. The self-contained cabins measure 9m x 4m and feature an en-suite shower room, private balcony, WiFi and locally sourced works of art. Each will sleep two people, with one designed to cater for disabled guests in comfort and another that’s dog-friendly.

Over the next few weeks the cabins will be connected to the necessary utilities before fixtures and fittings are installed. Once ready, the accommodation will be managed by Quality Unearthed – a Pembrokeshire based holiday lettings agency that specialises in unusual properties.

Welcoming the arrival of the Floatel Cabins is Clare Stowell, Director of Property and Tourism at the Port of Milford Haven. She said “This is a fantastic milestone for us and I’m delighted to have a really unique attraction right here at Milford Waterfront. We plan to use high quality furnishings from local suppliers to create a quirky yet quality feel with a strong Pembrokeshire identity which I’m sure will be very popular with guests.”

“Milford Waterfront is fast becoming a busy, vibrant destination with attractions to suit people of all ages and interests” Clare added. “As such, the Port is investing millions of pounds into the development over the next 5-10 years to create new hotel, retail, leisure and residential facilities to complement the existing offering”.

The Floatel Cabins are part-funded by the Coastal Communities Fund. The Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estate’s marine assets. It is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government and the Devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It is anticipated that the accommodation will be ready for letting by the end of the year. More information can be found at www.milfordwaterfront.co.uk/floatelcabins

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Martletwy: Cat’s leg shattered by air gun

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RSPCA CYMRU is appealing for information after a cat’s leg bone was shattered by an air gun pellet in Martletwy.

Trilby made her way back into her owner’s house with a broken leg, and after taking her immediately to a vet, it was discovered that she had been shot with an air gun.

The incident happened in the small village of Martletwy on Monday, September 10.

Following the incident, which shattered the central joint in her front leg, Trilby, who is around five years old, endured a gruelling three-hour operation in a bid to save her leg and avoid amputation.

Her owner Laura Hayden said: “We had a brilliant surgeon who carried out the very complicated, three-hour long operation on Trilby. The vet intended to do a pin and plate operation but the pins and plates they would have ordered in were all too big as Trilby is a small, delicate cat.

“The vet had to improvise with pins he had in stock which were small enough and wires in two figures of eight to hold the bones together. During the operation he found a destroyed blood vessel and because this had supplied blood to a bone, with no blood flow to it, that bone had to be removed.

“We have since been quite concerned about her because she has been very low, but since her splint has been taken off she has been a bit brighter.”

Laura said they have lived in Martletwy for 20 years and nothing of this nature has ever happened before.

She added: “Everyone in our road is very concerned about the safety of their animals and we will be holding a residents tonight (Monday 24 September). It is just shocking that this has happened in our small community.

“What happened to our cat is horrendous enough but this cat is a rescue cat – as are our other two cats and our two dogs – and to further blight the life of a previously badly treated innocent animal makes this even worse.

“The treatment and operation have cost us £2,000. We are lucky in that we have been able to afford this, but it frightens us to think that someone else might not have been able to. It has been, and continues to be, a traumatic, stressful and deeply upsetting experience for us. It has changed our cat’s life and has had a deeply disturbing effect of our lives that I would not wish on anyone.”

RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “Trilby and her owners have been through such a distressing ordeal and it is just horrifying to think that someone may have have done this to deliberately inflict pain on this poor defenseless cat.
“We don’t know exactly where or when this happened and if this was a deliberate attack, so we are appealing for information to try and find out what happened to Trilby. If anyone has any information, they are urged to call the RSPCA’s inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018, which is in confidence.”

If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru look into incidences such as this, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and rely on public donations.

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