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City Deal scheme uncertainty as Port and Council argue over interest payments

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TIME is fast running out for vital funding for Pembrokeshire’s part of the controversial Swansea Bay City Deal.
The deadline for obtaining European funding, upon which the Pembroke Dock Marine project depends, is December this year, when European funding ends. The final business case for it is yet to be submitted, let alone approved.
If the business case is not approved by then, the future of the project – or at least its size – will be cast into doubt.
Next week, the County Council’s Cabinet is likely to approve the submission of the project’s business case.
The Port of Milford Haven, in partnership with Marine Energy Wales, ORE Catapult and Wave Hub, aims to develop what it calls ‘a world-class centre for marine energy research and development, fabrication, testing and deployment’.
History is not in its favour.
A key project at Ramsey Sound, Delta Stream, failed catastrophically. The submerged device claimed to be the forerunner to a major tidal power investment stopped working after three months. The company behind it, Tidal Energy Ltd, went bust. The scheme was extensively supported by the Welsh Government and EU funding.
A briefing document shows consideration of the Pembroke Dock Marine project has now become time-critical because of the probable loss of significant European funding if the project is not fully approved by the end of the calendar year.
A source close to the City Deal told The Herald getting the business case fully approved before the December deadline is ‘unrealistic’.
The Council will have to borrow up to £28m for the Pembroke Dock Marine project and will be ‘paid back’ (capital only, no interest by the Governments) over 15 years, with payments ‘theoretically linked to delivery and performance’.
The cost of borrowing for the Pembroke Dock Marine project is estimated to be £2.35m.
Wrangling between Milford Haven Port Authority and Pembrokeshire County Council over the interest on the money the Council will borrow to bankroll the Port Authority’s £76m Pembroke Dock Marine project has caused rancour between the partners.
The Port Authority says it cannot afford the interest charges, while the Council faces having to put money intended for other projects into the pot to make up the shortfall.
It is little secret Council leader David Simpson has misgivings about pouring such a large sum of public money into a single project instead of using the money to regenerate the wider local economy.
His concerns are shared by others involved in the City Deal’s governance and underlined by views expressed in the Deal’s external review that little evidence existed to show proposed projects would deliver the tangible benefits the Deal originally intended.
Certainly, Pembrokeshire will get the least out of the City Deal whether it succeeds or fails.
The City Deal, which is in the middle of reorganisation and is yet to recruit a programme director, has been plagued by governance problems and scandal almost since its outset.
An external review, by consultants appointed by the Welsh and UK Governments, concluded the City Deal’s governance system was unfit for purpose. It also found the Deal’s central control was so lax that incomplete proposals were treated as fully worked up plans.
A report prepared by Pembrokeshire County Council found failure by some City Deal participants to declare either personal or corporate interests and concluded: ‘It was evident through meetings with stakeholders that there is insufficient trust within the Partnership’.
The re-arrangement of governance and the need to build bridges left broken by internal strife across four local authorities, mean not a single penny of the millions promised by the UK and Welsh Governments has been received for any of the projects under the City Deal.
Individuals and companies formerly involved in Carmarthenshire County Council’s controversial Llanelli Wellness Village are under investigation by Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit.

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Residents invited to a Pembroke Tunnel drop-in event

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NETWORK RAIL is inviting residents to a drop-in event to find out more about essential maintenance work at Pembroke Tunnel, west Wales, which will improve the resilience and reliability of the railway for passengers.
The work includes essential vegetation management and rock netting in the area with work taking place for a week in December before the main work takes place in January and February.
Ahead of the work residents are invited to a drop-in event on Monday 18 November from 3pm to 6.30pm at the Dutton Suite, Pembroke Leisure Centre, Bush, Pembroke, SA71 4RJ.
No appointments are necessary and members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions.
Then between Saturday 14 and Friday 20 December Network Rail will carry out drilling work overnight to install rock anchors at the top of the railway cutting as Network Rail prepare for the main phase of the works.
That will then take place between Sunday 19 January 2020 and Saturday 8 February 2020 where engineers will work day and night to install rock anchors and bolts before installing the rock netting across the railway cutting using road rail vehicles and specialist machinery.
Michael Pinkerton, scheme project manager for Wales and Borders, said:
“We would like to thank residents in advance for their patience and understanding as we carry out this work at Pembroke Tunnel.
“All this planned essential work forms part of our commitment to maintain a safe and reliable railway that is fit for use now and in the future. We are working closely with our partners to keep disruption to the local community to a minimum and encourage anyone wishing to find out more about this work to come along to our drop-in event later.”

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“We have a duty to win” says Crabb at campaign launch

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STEPHEN CRABB has launched his 2019 General Election campaign, highlighting the ‘duty and responsibility’ the Party has to win.
The Welsh Conservative candidate is hoping to be re-elected on December 12, having served as MP for the last 14 years.
At the launch at Martha’s Vineyard on Milford Marina, Stephen addressed a crowd of supporters with a promise to continue being a strong voice for Preseli Pembrokeshire in Westminster.
Stephen Crabb has consistently been one of the hardest working Welsh MPs with a strong track record of standing up for the local community.
Speaking at the campaign launch, Stephen said: “This General Election will be the most important for many years.
“We face a choice between the Conservatives who have a clear plan to unblock Brexit and improve Britain – or a coalition of opposition parties under Jeremy Corbyn, who want more years of delay and division.
“That is not in our national interest nor is it in the best interests of Pembrokeshire. The Conservative Party has a serious duty and responsibility to go out and win this election.
“Over the last 14 years I have fought tirelessly for local people and local businesses and if re-elected, I will continue to work hard to give Pembrokeshire a strong voice in Parliament.”
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Christmas shopping misery for west Wales rail users

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RAIL USERS in west Wales face festive misery due to engineering works which will close the Carmarthen to Milford Haven link for almost a month.

The line will be closed from this Sunday, until the Sunday before Christmas, at a time when many take the train to Swansea and Cardiff shopping for gifts for friends and family.

Signs have already been posted at railway stations confirming the delays.

Trains will be replaced by buses; rail officials have said.

A spokesman from Network Rail said: “Due to essential maintenance work, rail replacement bus services will run between Carmarthen and Milford Haven from Monday, November 18 until Sunday, December 22.

“Pembroke dock and Fishguard services are also affected on Sunday November 24.

“On all other days of operation, the train services will continue to stop at Whitland, Clynderwen and Clarbeston Road, Fishguard and Goodwick, Fishguard Harbour and stations to Pembroke Dock.

“We apologise for any inconvenience.”

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