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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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Tenby: Suspected groomer netted by paedophile hunters PH Balance

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A SUSPECTED child sex offender has been arrested in Tenby this weekend in a sting operatition set up by a peadophile hunter group called PH Balance.

The group, according to media reports, aims to catch predators on social media and in chat rooms before conducting stings and then handing evidence to the police.

A post on the group’s Facebook page has received a lot of local attention and includes a photograph of the suspect being detained by officers at Tenby railway station on Sunday (Jul 22)

A spokesman from PH Balance calling himself Taz posted: “Today the west team deployed to Tenby under the leadership to capture a ‘creature’ who had been talking to a 14-year-old girl and arranged to meet her at midday.

“The team caught him and called the police who responded rapidly and made an arrest.

“Two in two days for the PH family, and a busy summer holidays looks [to be] on the horizon.

“Well done PH Balance West.”

Dyfed-Powys Police have been contacted by The Herald for a comment.

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Keep Calm and Carry On at Carew Castle’s murder mystery events

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WOULD-BE detectives will be given the chance to catch a killer at Carew Castle on 27 and 28 July during two Second World War-themed murder mystery evenings packed with drama and intrigue.

Don’t Panic by Harvey’s Players is set in 1943 Carew, where a murder rocks the sleepy village as it gears up for the annual flower and produce show. It will be down to you to help the home guard track down the culprit and put them behind bars.

Carew Castle Manager, Daisy Hughes said: “If you’re a fan of detective dramas, 1940s fashion and good food, then join us in the Castle’s cosy Lesser Hall, where we’ll keep the home fires burning while the investigation ensues.

“Fancy dress is optional but with the cast donning authentic uniforms loaned from Carew Control Tower and a prize for the best Vera Lynn lookalike, there’s all the more reason to delve into your wartime wardrobe for afternoon dresses, hats and military outfit to fully immerse yourself in this 1940s experience.”

Tickets are £20 for adults and £18 for children (not suitable for under 12s). Doors will open at 7pm with the event starting at 7.30pm on both nights. Ticket price includes buffet. A bar will be available all evening.

To book your tickets call Carew Castle on 01646 651782 or more information visit www.carewcastle.com.

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Milford Haven: Two more arrested in Mount Estate drugs raids

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ARMED officers from Dyfed-Powys Police have carried out further drugs warrants in the Elm Lane and Willow End area of the Mount Estate in Milford Haven this week.

As a result of the raids, which took place on the morning  Friday  July 20, a quantity of drugs were seized and two males were arrested.

One male remains in custody and one has been released under investigation.

A police spokesperson told The Herald that an investigation into the matter is ongoing.

The spokesperson added: “Anyone with information on drug use is asked to report to police by calling 101, or anonymously contact Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555111.”

Police at the Mount Estate, Milford Haven on July 20, 2018 (Pic: Herald)

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