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Cuts leave Pembrokeshire County Council facing grim choices

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A 0.5% cut in funding to Pembrokeshire County Council will result in significant and potentially devastating cuts to public services.
This week, the Welsh Government announced its budget settlement for Welsh local government.
While that settlement shows ‘only’ a 0.5% cut in the Pembrokeshire’s Revenue Support Grant, the reality behind that headline figure is grim.
And there is little comfort to be taken in the news that Pembrokeshire’s cut is smaller than that inflicted on neighbouring Carmarthenshire. Pembrokeshire’s budget is far smaller in proportion to Carmarthenshire’s. Our County’s resources are stretched to breaking point following years of the folly of the ‘lowest Council Tax in Wales’ policy in twenty-two years of rule by the ‘Independent’ group, most lately under Jamie Adams.
While money was washing around local government that policy was sustainable. However, once systemic cuts came in 2008 – and persisted for ten years and rising – there was no fat to trim and cuts are now deep into the bone of frontline services.
The Welsh Government funding takes little or no account of the Council’s obligation to pay wage increases negotiated centrally which far outstrips the money provided to meet them, changes in National Insurance, changes to teachers’ pensions, the effects of inflation, and the impact of regulations affecting buildings’ maintenance.
Hit seven ways from Sunday by a barrage of deep cuts to its budget delivered year-on-year for the last decade and in the teeth of the fallout of a Council Tax policy which has left the Council’s cupboard bare, there is no way for the Council to resolve its financial position without making even deeper cuts than those already contemplated and revealed exclusively in this newspaper last week.
The social care budget’s ‘protection’ by the Welsh Government has left all Councils floundering; because Pembrokeshire has a high proportion of older residents, it has been hit hard. The Council has even less money to spend on other services as the proportion of a smaller revenue ‘pie’ is taken up by protected budgets.
The devastation being wreaked by cuts is unsurprising. In 2014 dire warnings were given about the cumulative effects of continuing cuts before that year’s budget. Almost five years’ on, the situation is even worse than predicted.
With the Cabinet unwilling to ask for a further large Council Tax increase for next year, real savings will be hard to find. The timing of a request for increased pay by Directors of Service could scarcely be more ill-timed. They are, however, paid less than their equivalents across most of Wales and are mindful of slipping further behind in light of nationally negotiated pay settlements. Pay settlements over which the Council, again, has no control.
Something somewhere has to give. The hard choices are getting even harder. Cabinet Member for Finance Bob Kilmister says those councillors wishing to keep a stand-still budget are living in Cloud-Cuckoo land and ‘frankly deluded’.
The choices are stark. Increasing Council Tax will only put a sticking plaster on a haemorrhage. Maintaining the status quo is not an option. That leaves deeper cuts into public services as the only option. The only questions left is where and how much (see this week’s Politics section).
The only hope is that the UK Government actually delivers real relief from austerity instead of tinkering at the edges.

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Milford Haven: Police called to Charles Street incident

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MILFORD HAVEN police responded to an emergency call from Charles Street in Milford Haven this afternoon (May 20).

Several officers attended following reports of a man injured on the pavement.

Our reporter at the scene said that a male was conscious but nursing injuries to his head

There are over 15 officers at the scene.

A male has been arrested and taken into custody in a police van.

 

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Willy make the council fix the road?

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DRIVERS in and around the Maenclochog area are still recovering today after a hardened vandal spray-painted yellow penises along a stretch of road near Morvil.
The road, just off the B4313, was targeted with graffiti because of the number of potholes scattered along it’s length.
Locals have dubbed the cock-sure artist as ‘Wanksy’ and have discovered that whoever drew the penises also wrote ‘Follow the yellow d### road’.
Some of the penises have been drawn around more sizeable potholes, but simply pointing disapprovingly at the smaller ones.
If you want to report a pothole, the chosen method is still via the Pembrokeshire County Council website.
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Hakin: Young male arrested following allegation of assault

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FIVE police vehicles descended on a property in Hakin at lunchtime today following a 999 call reporting an assault.

Officers entered the property in Observatory Avenue and after about ten minutes a young male was brought out in handcuffs.

A spokesman from the police press office told The Herald: “Police were called to Observatory Avenue to a report of an assault at around 1pm today (Monday, May 20).”

The spokesman added: “A 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and is currently in police custody.”

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