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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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Man ‘lucky to be alive’ after lorry crash

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THE CHAIR of the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats says that he is lucky to be alive after a freak car accident in Burton last week.

Andrew Lye was driving towards the Cleddau Bridge when his car was hit by lorry’s stabiliser which had come loose and was protruding into the road.

The collision, which happened at 2.45pm on Friday (Dec 7), left Mr Lye’s car written off, and he was badly shaken.

Mr Lye was thankfully not injured.

The police are investigating the crash between his Kia Picanto and a DAF LF lorry.

Mr Lye, who is the former Council Leader in the West Wiltshire District Council, told The Herald: “I consider myself to be lucky to get out of the car in one piece.

“I didn’t see the stabiliser bar as the lorry came towards me and the first I knew of the collision was the sound of my car being torn apart and glass and plastic flying over me.

“I am glad that I wear glasses as this protected my eyes.”

The police have been contacted for a comment.

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Pembroke: School to be closed tomorrow due to ‘major leak’

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Closed: Due to a 'major leak' (pic. Martin Cavaney)

A ‘MAJOR LEAK’ has closed Ysgol Harri Tudor / Henry Tudor School in Pembroke this morning (Dec 13).

The electrical system has been affected by the leak and the classrooms are not usable.

The council have said that the school will remain closed on Friday (Dec 14) as well.

A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson said: “Ysgol Harri Tudor / Henry Tudor School in Pembroke is closing this morning (Thursday, 13th December) at 10.30 am because of a major leak in one of the buildings. This affected the electrical system and rendered classrooms unusable.

“All staff and pupils are safe and transport arrangements are in place.

“Please monitor Pembrokeshire County Council’s social media pages for information as to whether the school will be open tomorrow (Friday, 14th December). A decision will be taken later today.”

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Santa dog parade raises money for Greenacres

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FRIARS VAULTS in Haverfordwest hosted a Santa dog parade to raise money for Greenacres Animal Rescue on the weekend.

The event, which took place on Sunday (Dec 9), included a catwalk for dogs, hunt for treats and a raffle.

The total amount raised on the night was £110 with a further £45.50 collected through the donation box.

The winner of the best-dressed Dog was Deb and Steve Bunston with Pip, in second place was Danielle Boswell with Badger and in third place was Caitlin Davies with Denzal.

Greenacres Animal Rescue said on their Facebook page: “A huge thank you to all at Friars vaults Haverfordwest & Jamie Sid Williams for holding the fabulous fancy dress pooch party yesterday.

“A very welcome £158.50 was raised for Greenacres. Thank you all”

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