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Pembrokeshire dogs in for a treat

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A LUXURY dog boarding facility in Pembrokeshire is expanding, with the success of the business driven largely by social media.

The demand for places at Millin Brook Luxury Dog Boarding, a country retreat for dogs in Wiston, has blown away owners Sian and Dave Smith, who only launched the company in April 2018.

There are no traditional metal kennels to be seen, with the husband and wife team offering complete comfort on their 10-acre property. Fully-licensed and insured, they can currently take up to five dogs at a time.

The expansion will increase this to 30 as well as create jobs. Sian and Dave are not alone in working closely with the canines that come to stay. Their sons Ben, 9, and Jacob, 7, help with walks, and their head of guest services and entertainment is Barnaby, the family’s black Labrador.

Sian, who is a retired police officer of 20 years’ service, with 13 years as a mounted police officer, said: “We wanted to create somewhere that we would be happy to send our dog. In spring, we will have 10 state-of-the-art five star suites each with a large living area, play room, luxury beds, underfloor heating, automatic-filling water bowls, and our own-brand dog biscuits. We will also play classical music and infuse the air with lavender oil to help keep the dogs calm and relaxed.

“Our guests will also have chance to use the spa and be pampered and groomed before a photoshoot in a purpose-built studio.

“This would not be possible without the amazing success of the business, which has been driven largely by Facebook. I attended a Superfast Business Wales course on digital marketing to understand more about this area of running a business and I learnt so many things that I have been able to apply to Millin Brook.

“It’s taught me all about the different social media platforms, what to use them for, how to keep branding and hashtags consistent across all channels, and how to use them to their full potential.

“For example, we used Facebook advertising to introduce the business, but we kept the cost down by targeting people by interest and location. Facebook now accounts for 70 per cent of our turnover. I also found out about Google my Business, which is very important to promote us locally in Google search results, and our website accounts for the other 30 per cent of turnover.”

Sian also uses social media to give owners peace of mind so they can enjoy their holiday safe in the knowledge their companion is having a blast.

She added: “We take the dogs on adventures around the stunning Pembrokeshire beaches and countryside and publish pictures and videos to Facebook.

“If a guest is staying with us for at least a week, we also send a postcard of them enjoying their stay. The owners often share the postcards on social media, which helps to spread the word about our brand.

“Our popularity is incredible. We even had someone re-arrange their holiday because we were fully booked!”

A follow up one-to-one with a Superfast Business Wales adviser also revealed further digital solutions to help the business during its growth.

Sian added: “We use a paper diary, which is ok when it’s just five dogs. However, when we take on more we require a more sophisticated system. We will use kennel management software, Kennelbooker, which will manage bookings as well as store vital information including emergency contact details, vet details, vaccinations, custom notes, food and medical requirements, and photos.

“We will be able to access the app remotely so if we are walking a guest on the beach and we need to know something, we have that information in the palm of our hand. We can also use it for invoicing, which will reduce time spent on admin.

“I didn’t realise how much support was out there. I’ve gained so much useful advice and information.”

To find out more about Millin Brook Luxury Dog Boarding, visit http://millinbrook.co.uk/

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10% Council tax rise supported

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IN A RECORDED vote, Pembrokeshire County Council has approved its draft budget for 2019/20, which will see a 10% rise in council tax.

The budget was approved at Thursday’s (Feb 21) Full Council meeting but was met with some opposition by some members who said other options were available.
Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Bob Kilmister described his role as a ‘poisoned chalice’ but went on to say: “We are still cheaper in Pembrokeshire than any other local authority in Wales. I have heard that increasing the council tax may have a burden on many who fit into the category of working poor.
“However, if we cut more services it will affect these people the most.”

He went on to highlight a number of outcomes should council tax not be increased by 10% and added: “An additional £1.89 a week avoids these outcomes.”

There is also an extra £1m to cover Brexit but Cllr Kilmister said he had ‘no idea’ if that would be enough.

Cllr Brian Hall asked how many redundancies would be made if certain services were changed but Cllr Kilmister said they were looking at what they have got in the council and looking to train for those people who are leaving vital jobs.

Cllr Hall said that the majority of staff were really concerned, and Cllr Kilmister said they could not start that process until a decision was made on the budget.

Cllr Jamie Adams said they needed to come up with a budget that was more ‘wider-thinking’ and said it was about ‘delivering value for money for Council Tax payers.
He said he was unable to support the budget that demands 10% and challenged other members saying: “Don’t be afraid of doing that, there are different ways to square the circle.”

Cllr Josh Beynon said that while a 10% rise was not the most popular it was the right thing to do.

Cllr Phil Kidney said he was finding it tough to get his head round the customer service centre closing and said they would ‘disenfranchise’ a lot of people by doing so.
However, Cllr Kilmister later said that the service would still be provided but in a different way.
He also said that the current administration was doing more of getting rid of buildings that the previous administration ever did. He added: “This is not something I am doing out of choice, I am doing it out of necessity.”

Cllr Pat Davies said she was ‘dismayed’ to find the previous administration had no strategic plan and said that she had done a lot of catching up over the last 18 months.
Speaking on the transformation program, Cllr Michelle Bateman said progress was being made and that she didn’t want to be part of a council that cuts services and keeps council tax low.

Cllr John Davies explained that the council does have other options and Cllr Kilmister challenged him saying he was welcome to make a new proposal but told Cllr Davies he would have to tell him where the money would be coming from.

Cllr Kilmister went on to say they could only do the budget on the information they have.
Council Leader Cllr David Simpson praised Cllr Kilmister for what he had done over the past 12 months saying he had done an ‘exceptional job’.
He went on to say that he was ‘proud’ of his whole cabinet who had the ability to answer any questions that came their way.

Cllr Simpson then said: “The staff we have in this building are superb, do we want to slash their jobs? No we don’t. We are looking at departments and making cuts where we can.”
When it was put to the vote, 37 members voted in favour of the budget, with 21 voting against.

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Councillor denies ‘bullying’ claim

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A COUNCILLOR has denied that he ‘bullied’ a senior officer of the council when he said that the Chief Executive and Dyfed Powys Police enjoyed a ‘cosy relationship’.
That was the claim made by Cllr Jacob Williams at a recent meeting of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee in relation to the delay in sending a letter of complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The complaint related to the Pembroke Dock Commercial Property Grants scheme, which is still being investigated by Dyfed Powys Police.
At a meeting of Full Council on Thursday (Feb 21), Cllr Ken Rowlands submitted a question asking if the leader agreed with his statement.
The leader, Cllr David Simpson simply replied: “No, I do not.”
In response, Cllr Rowlands said: “Would you agree that the member concerned slandered our chief executive and the police?”
He went on to say that he was far from happy for an officer to be insulted and bullied in such a way.
Cllr Rowlands felt it was a breach of the code of conduct and added that Cllr Williams should make a public apology.
Cllr Simpson responded: “I have had three communications after the Jacob Williams and Chief Executive incident. All three left a meeting with me understanding that it is not the leaders’ role to interfere with members.
“If the actions are unreasonable the chair is there to make sure members act in a good way. There are sixty members and I can’t alter their opinions. As for a breach of the code of conduct, that is a matter for you and if you think he has you have an obligation to go to the monitoring officer.”
Cllr Jacob Williams stated that he ‘categorically denied’ the claims made by Cllr Rowlands and said he understood that he did make a complaint to the monitoring officer but that it wasn’t considered appropriate to refer to the ombudsman.
At the same meeting, questions were also asked by Cllr Mike Stoddart in relation to the council’s handling of the letter of complaint.
He asked which officers were involved in drafting a letter and was told that the Head of Legal services made a decision to provide a draft which was authorised by the committee services manager.
Cllr Stoddart also asked why there was a lack of clarity as to who the letter should be sent too.
Cllr Simpson responded saying the resolution was unambiguous and that the IOPC website directed complaints to Dyfed Powys Police which was contradictory to the resolution of council.
Finally, Cllr Stoddart asked when the letter of rejection was received by then chair Cllr Paul Harries, how long after putting it in his briefcase did he rediscover it.
Cllr Simpson replied on behalf of Cllr Harries stating it was found on October 10, 2018.
Cllr Stoddart replied simply to say that it had been ‘lingering in the bottom of his briefcase for five months’.

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Haverfordwest: Pedestrian killed on A4076 at Dregeman Hill

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AT 11.10PM on Wednesday, February 20, Dyfed-Powys Police received a report of a road traffic collision on the A4076 at Dredgeman Hill, Haverfordwest.

The collision involved a car and a pedestrian. Tragically, the pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene.

The police told The Herald: “We are appealing for any witnesses that may have been travelling along that section of road at that time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Serious Collision Investigation Unit quoting message 431 of February 20.”

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