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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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Haverfordwest: Pupils collected by parents after feeling unwell in school following Italy ski trip

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THREE PUPILS from Haverfordwest High School have been collected by parents after feeling unwell today (Feb 25). It is understood that all the pupils involved were on a half term skiing trip to Italy.

This has been confirmed by a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson.

No case of COVID-19 has been confirmed.

The Pembrokeshire pupils were in the resort of Fanano, the council said.

In a letter to all staff, head teacher Jane Harries said: “The ski trip which returned from Italy on the weekend did not travel to the two areas of lock-down in Italy affected by the corona-virus. Advice is for staff or pupils who have returned from Italy (not the quarantined areas of Lombardy and Veneto) should they develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, they should immediately please follow this advice: stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would the flu, and call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country.
“They do not need to follow this advice if they have no symptoms.
“Staff who have any symptoms have been sent home and we are in the process of contacting all parents and pupils on the trip…”

A school statement released at 14:31 HRS on Tuesday reads: “We do have two pupils who were on family holidays in these areas and they have gone home.

“Three staff have been sent home as a precaution and we are in the process of contacting all parents of pupils on the trip. If they then feel that their son/daughter has any of the above symptoms they can come to collect them and follow the advice above.

“At the time of making this statement 15 parents have collected pupils although many of these are parents who are collecting pupils due to concern over messages on social media.  There are no confirmed cases of corona-virus at Haverfordwest High VC School.

“Over the border in England, one school has closed, and another has shut its sixth form today after students returned from half-term ski trips in Italy. The two schools, both in Cheshire, made the decision on Tuesday and comes as Italian authorities struggle to control an outbreak of COVID-19.

“A message to parents from Richard Pollock, the headteacher of Cransley School in Northwich, said the closure would remain in place for the rest of the week in order to “completely minimise” the risk of infection. Sky News reported that this comes after a number of students and staff at the school had visited Bormio – 350km from where the Pembrokeshire pupils were skiing – and had since been advised to self-isolate.

“Regardless of the current Public Health England advice (that the school should remain open to all other pupils) I have decided… to completely minimise possible spread of infection and close the school for the remainder of the week,” he wrote.

“During this time, the school will be able to conduct a deep clean and monitor the results of tests amongst those pupils who are currently showing flu-like symptoms.”

Meanwhile, Brine Leas Academy in Nantwich said on Twitter that is had decided to close its sixth form “due to staff shortages.”

 

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Folly Farm’s giving away 5,000 free places to primary school pupils

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IN CELEBRATION of the birth of a critically endangered Eastern black rhino in January, Folly Farm is offering primary school pupils in Wales the opportunity to visit for free to learn more about its conservation work.

The free school visits week will take place between Monday 01 June and Friday 05 June 2020 to coincide with World Environment Day on Friday 05 June. Folly Farm’s zoo keeping team will be running activities each day to highlight conservation work, breeding programmes and sustainable initiatives at the attraction to educate and inspire school children.

Tim Morphew, zoo curator at Folly Farm, said; “The birth of our critically endangered Eastern black rhino, the first rhino to be born in Wales, is such a significant event, not just for us here at Folly Farm but also for the breeding programme and the species. We wanted to use this amazing opportunity as a catalyst to highlight our conservation work and motivate the next generation to act.
“We’re delighted to be offering free school visits to primary schools across Wales for a week of organised activities designed to educate and provide school children with some key takeaways about how they can make better decisions for the environment.”

5,000 free places will be provided for the week, up to a maximum of 1,000 visits on each day. The successful schools will be chosen on a first come first served basis and notified by the 27 March 2020.

Primary schools in Wales need to apply for the free places by filling in an application form on Folly Farm’s website indicating their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of day and total number of pupils.

The application form can be found here: https://www.folly-farm.co.uk/news/free-school-visits/

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Stephen Crabb MP calls for an end to Cawdor closure plans  

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THE IMPORTANCE of Cawdor Barracks will be debated this week in Parliament thanks to Preseli MP Stephen Crabb.

In a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday (Feb 26), the local MP will discuss the importance to Pembrokeshire of the army base at Brawdy before urging the Minister for Defence to reconsider its closure.

The facility was first opened as RAF Brawdy in 1944 and, over the years, has provided a base for all three branches of the armed forces. During the Cold War, the US Navy also resided at Brawdy, to monitor underwater listening devices in the Atlantic Ocean. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, large-scale changes to NATO armed forces resulted in both the US Navy and the RAF leaving Brawdy.

The British Army’s 14 Signal Regiment, specialists in Electronic Warfare, took up residence in 1995. It is the only British Army Regiment capable of conducting sustainable electronic warfare in support of national operations worldwide.

Intended as a temporary base for the Regiment, Brawdy has proved a popular location for the soldiers and their families with many putting down deep roots in the County.  With the Regiment used heavily on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other overseas locations, Pembrokeshire people have turned out in their hundreds for local Homecoming parades. The Regiment has been awarded the Freedom of both St Davids and Haverfordwest.

With nearly 600 troops at Brawdy and over 120 children from forces families in Pembrokeshire’s schools, the barracks play an important role in the County. Economic analysis of the closure of Cawdor Barracks estimated the effect at £26-£30 million.

However, for more than 10 years there has been uncertainty over the future of Cawdor Barracks with plans for full closure put forward and then changed. The year 2024 is the current date for closure of the base.

In the lead up to the debate, Stephen Crabb said: “For over 75 years, Brawdy has played a hugely important role in our national security, and those who have been based there have become an important part of the Pembrokeshire community.

“The uncertainty surrounding its future, with its closure date being pushed back time and time again is unsettling for those soldiers and their families who have made Pembrokeshire their home.

“In securing this debate, I hope to highlight the importance of Cawdor Barracks to Pembrokeshire and I’ll be calling on the Government to end the uncertainty over the base, putting an end to the on-off closure plans that have caused so much confusion for the soldiers and for the local community.

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