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Commissioner defends policing levels in Dyfed Powys

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THE DYFED-POWYS Police and Crime Commissioner has defended police numbers but confirmed work is underway to take an in-depth look at resources across the force area.

Dafydd Llywelyn was responding to a member of the public at this week’s meeting of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel, who asked if he had plans to appoint additional police officers following an increased precept for police in the recent Council Tax setting.

Mr Llywelyn said police funding should not necessarily equate to police numbers, pointing out that there are more police officers and staff employed in Dyfed Powys now, than when he took over as Commissioner in 2016.

He was also keen to point out that the Dyfed Powys precept remained the lowest in Wales – the average Band D property contributes around £250 a year to policing currently, collected as part of Council Tax.

“The Chief Constable has more resources at his disposal now since when I came in to the force,” he said.

“I’m really pleased to state that Dyfed Powys police has not suffered the level of cuts that have been seen nationally.

“Since 2009-19, the average number of police officers has been 1145 – it stood at 1186 in 2009-10, prior to austerity, and was at its lowest in 2012-13, at 1103.

“The most recent figures for 2018-19 show that there are currently 1135 officers.

“But it isn’t all about police officer numbers – there were 1859 police officers and staff when I took over and there are 1930 now. Staff have a very important role in terms of digital policing and dealing with cyber enabled crime, and as investigators and analysts – it’s not just warranted officers.

“We also have 148 PCSOs forming part of the wider neighbourhood policing teams. A special grant from Welsh Government equates to half of the cost. The ratio at present is one PCSO to 10 warranted officers.”

Mr Llywelyn explained that a large proportion of this year’s precepts was to help the force take on the unexpected burden of pension contributions, passed on by the Treasury, adding a £4.2million bill to the force budget.

He, and his Chief Constable Mark Collins, explained particular issues around recruitment in the north of the force area, saying that a large piece of work is underway to look at demand and resources.

CC Collins said: “There are problems in north Powys. We have asked for volunteers to relocate, and have offered incentives. But there are five new recruits and a recruitment campaign is about to launch.

“An agile workforce and being able to flex our resources is what we are working towards. “We’re doing a complex piece of demand work to ensure we have the right resources, but I will point out that we are very healthy in terms of our response times and are still the safest place in England and Wales.”

The Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is made up of representatives from the four counties of the force area.

It is the Panel’s duty to hold Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn to account.

The Panel meets at least four times a year, and can put questions to the Commissioner on behalf of members of the public.

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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise

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A BRITISH ARMY sergeant was killed on Thursday night (Mar 4) in a shooting accident at Castlemartin Training Area, The Herald can confirm.

The solider was training with live ammunition, ahead of a planned deployment to Iraq this summer.

Five police cars and an ambulance were seen screaming through Pembroke towards the incident at approximately 10pm towards the incident.

A coastguard helicopter, CG187, was scrambled to the scene, and hovered near Bosherston for a while, but was stood down and returned to base.

The Herald has contacted the MOD for a comment, who said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on the 4th of March.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

THIS STORY IS UPDATING

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost

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IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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