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Cabinet member commits to improving broadband

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COUNTY COUNCIL Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, has pledged to improve Pembrokeshire’s  digital connectivity so that it becomes the best in Wales.

And he’s willing to commit Council money in order to achieve the ambition.

Councillor Miller said he agreed with the recent statement by the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, that every household in the UK should have access to a full fibre broadband connection by 2025.

“Sitting on the very western tip of Wales it is obvious to anyone that we’re never going to be the best connected county in terms of road or rail – that we accept”, said Councillor Miller.

“We could, however, be the best digitally connected place in Wales, maybe even the UK. That’s our ambition.”

Councillor Miller said the issue was the scale of the challenge facing those trying to provide it.

He went on: “When I arrived behind the economic development desk in Pembrokeshire I quickly realised that there weren’t many things I could do, that would have as big an impact on the Pembrokeshire economy as dramatically improving our digital connectivity. I also realized that it was just too important to rely on someone else doing it for us.

“In Pembrokeshire right now 88 per cent of households and businesses have access to 30 Megabits per second (Mbps) – the EU’s definition of Superfast. That not terrible, actually, by UK standards but fewer than 6 per cent of premises have access to Ultrafast (100 Mbps) and 2.5 per cent of our households are still stuck with less than 2 Mbps.

“The story in a nutshell? If you are in a town or big village, broadband speeds are, for the most part, bearable but perhaps not for long. Just outside those areas and you are probably pulling your hair out.

“The economics of rural broadband mean that without intervention, providers aren’t going be doing much to improve that position anytime soon.

“Our challenge is how we intervene in a way that actually starts to fix the problem and in Pembrokeshire we have come up with a plan that we are convinced can make a difference.

“Step one: we’re going to intervene where we can easily do so.

“We’ve applied for funding under the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN). We know the outcome of that application, but I cannot yet say. Let us assume though that we will be successful.

“That funding enables us, by 2021, to connect up a large number of public sector buildings – GP surgeries, libraries, leisure centres to full fibre broadband. It creates a great base from which suppliers will make full fibre connections available to the homes and businesses nearby.

“Step two: we have divided the county into eighty, loosely defined, project areas that cover the whole of Pembrokeshire We’ve invited providers to give us an indicative price to connect every property in those areas to full fibre.

“We’ve had some big numbers back, but, based on what we’ve seen so far, we believe it can be done.
“Step three: we’ve employed a team, funded by the Council, specifically to work with communities in those zones to draw down as many funding vouchers as possible.

“Vouchers are a UK and Welsh Government initiative that provides funding of up to £1,500 per household and £5,500 per business to support the build of fibre infrastructure.

”Step four: Cabinet will soon be considering a proposal to create a £2 million pot of Council funding to top-up the voucher money where it isn’t enough to complete a zone.

“£2 million will not be enough, but it’s a start. If the Prime Minister really wants to deliver by 2025, we will be looking to him for more. On top of that direct intervention, I am determined that we do everything in our power as a local authority to ‘get out of the way’ as we seek to have fibre provided across the County.

“Our property team have been tasked with ensuring we never refuse permission to broadband providers to use our land.

“Our highways team are exploring innovative ways of using the highways and footpaths criss-crossing Pembrokeshire to bring fibre cables to people’s front doors and our planning team are working out how we best ensure that all new development in Pembrokeshire incorporates a direct fibre connection.

“This is a big undertaking. It is going to require commitment from all levels of government but it can be done.

“I am making a start on getting the message out there – we are absolutely determined to deliver a step-change in digital connectivity in Pembrokeshire.

“I want our residents to know we are on the case. I want government to know that we are ready to get stuck in. I want business in Pembrokeshire to know that we are determined to get them better connected.

“And perhaps most importantly, I want businesses all over the UK to know, that there’s a dynamic, forward-thinking county on the tip of West Wales that’s getting itself connected and which is open for business.”

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Simon’s Hart to Hart with Pembroke constituent

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SIMON HART has got into a heated doorstep discussion with a Pembroke pensioner whilst canvasing for next week’s general election.

Michael Hart, 70, who is no relation to Simon Hart, contacted The Herald at lunchtime today (5 December) to say that he had been in a heated discussion with the Tory incumbent, who was out door-knocking on his street.

The argument was sparked by the swastika saga – as exclusively reported in last week’s Herald – in which Simon Hart REFUSES to account for the appearance of offensive Nazi graffiti on one of his election placards, two years after it was taken down from public display.

Simon Hart photographed the placard in question in 2017 – at which point the only evidence of graffiti it bore was written text. But he posted a new photograph of the same placard to kickstart his re-election campaign last month, in which two swastikas are visible where none appeared before.

The MP is still refusing to give any public explanation, and has threatened legal action against those speculating over what he says is “demonstrably untrue.”
Since being reported by his favourite local weekly, Michael Hart tells us that he noticed how Simon Hart was still keeping quiet on the swastikas’ appearance – despite being approached by journalists reporting on the matter for the Independent, Daily Mirror, iNews and Western Mail titles.

Earlier this week WalesOnline reported that, when approached, Simon Hart failed to offer “an explanation as to how the swastika signs ended up on the election board, or who might be responsible”, but he told them: “Any suggestion that I had anything to do with this is malicious, false and defamatory and lawyers have been instructed”.

Michael Hart tells the Herald that he became aware Simon Hart was out campaigning on Kingsbridge Drive at lunchtime, when the candidate’s poster landed on his doormat.

The retiree says that the swastika issue led to the disagreement – in which words were exchanged and threats of legal action were inferred made towards him by the government minister.

Michael Hart, a retired teacher and mechanical engineer, said that he tackled Simon Hart to explain how the swastikas came about. He says his prodding produced what he calls a “tentative explanation” from the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire incumbent, which he finds “hard to believe”.

“I opened my door and went out to the drive, and politely said I did not want the poster. A few moments later, Simon Hart came up the road and onto my drive.

“I complained to him about two things – the Conservatives’ illegal proroguing of Parliament, and all that I’ve read about his publishing of the photo on his Facebook page of his defaced election board with the swastikas on.

“When I asked him about the signs, he got agitated, angry, and threatened me with legal action, and said he would pursue anybody who made out that he had anything to do with it”.

“On pushing him further, he told me how he thinks they got there. He says when his signs were in storage in a shed, that the shed was broken into, and a large number of placards including the swastika placard were ‘damaged or defaced’ for a second time!

“It really is quite some theory – and if it is true now, then it was true last week when the issue was first exposed. So why didn’t he mention this before now, when the Herald and other papers started asking him questions, or why didn’t he contact the police?

“Why was it when he put the poster on Facebook did he not then explain how the swastikas got there?

“I’m not sure why but he was recording our conversation on his phone. At the end of the visit no one from Mr Hart’s party would accept the poster back – so I threw it in the road and then it was picked up.”

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Jeremy Corbyn 100% confirmed to visit Pembrokeshire this weekend

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LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn will be visiting Pembrokeshire this weekend to shore up support for Labour candidates in the area.

Although the exact itinerary has not yet been confirmed, Labour HQ in Cardiff has confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that Mr Corbyn will definitely be in attendance.

Mr Corbyn will be keen to rally votes for Philippa Thompson, who is standing in the Preseli Pembrokeshire seat – the second most marginal in the UK.

At the 2017 election she lost to Stephen Crabb by just 314 votes.

An email sent out to Labour members states: “Jeremy Corbyn will be in Haverfordwest to talk about how we win a better society, and we hope you can join him.

“This election is a once in a generation chance for us. Together we can reverse a decade of austerity. Take power from the billionaires, the bad bosses and the big polluters and give it to workers, young people, communities and everyone the Tories have failed for so long.

“We’re coming together to make our voices heard in Haverfordwest this weekend. This is about getting together, being inspired, and making a difference in the final week.”

The exact location will be sent out to those who register to attend, the email ads. The indoor rally is expected to start at 5.30pm.

Corbyn’s supporters said they hope that their leader will also attend an outdoor rally taking place in Haverfordwest town centre, at a location to be confirmed, the same afternoon.

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Haverfordwest boy caught taking drugs by officers thirty miles away

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A TEENAGE boy was arrested in Haverfordwest last week, after he was caught smoking cannabis on CCTV cameras which are monitored in Carmarthen (on Nov 28).

As part of the ongoing effort to crack down on anti-social behaviour in the town centre, known as Operation Spitfire, Haverfordwest Inspector, Reuben Palin, was at police headquarters, where the cameras are monitored, when he spotted the boy on-screen.

He saw a group of teenagers known to police, and the camera operator was able to zoom in for a closer look at their activities. After a call to local officers, they quickly arrived at the scene. The group was searched and one of the youths was arrested for possessing the class B drug.

Insp. Palin said: “We’re doing all we can to address community concerns about anti-social behaviour in Haverfordwest, and this includes putting the town’s new CCTV system to best use.

“Seeing the capability of the cameras in live-time has shown that CCTV is not just useful when an incident has occurred, but can also help us monitor what’s happening in town, and will hopefully deter bad behaviour.

“Obviously this can’t replace good old fashioned foot patrols, and we have a plan that sees CCTV complementing a visible police presence.”

The teenage boy arrested on suspicion of possessing the small amount of cannabis admitted the offence, and will be dealt with by the Youth Offending Team to ensure he gets support for his drug use.

He continued: “We are also working with other agencies, in particular the council, which has recently opened a drop-in centre for young people at No 2 Old Bridge, with the aim of offering a wide range of activities and opportunities that reflect their interests.

“While we have a strategy to minimise anti-social behaviour in this area, we would like to remind parents that the actions of their children are not the responsibility of the police. We urge you to be aware of what your children are doing, and where they are spending their time.

“No one should have to put up with anti-social behaviour and I would encourage the community to contact Haverfordwest Police to report any issues or concerns.”

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