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Simpson makes ‘right deal for County’

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council’s Cabinet committed to the funding of the Pembroke Dock Marine Project at its meeting on Monday, November 4.
Council Leader David Simpson received the congratulations of Cabinet members for obtaining substantial concessions on the vexed question of who pays the interest on the borrowing needed for the project.
Cllr Simpson’s position on forking over Pembrokeshire Council Tax Payers’ money to fund borrowing for the project is well-known: he was vehemently opposed to paying penny one of a loan facility in which the Council acted as bankers for a third party.
The deal he has struck means that the County Council will meet one half of the maximum bill for interest, with the Port Authority paying the other half.
In a rare display of public exasperation, Cllr Simpson laid into former leader Jamie Adams over the interest question. At the last Full Council meeting when the Deal came before members, the IPG leader demanded that the Council should pay the full amount of the interest to ensure the Deal went ahead.

David Simpson

Council Leader, David Simpson: Succeeded in cutting Deal’s cost to Pembrokeshire


Cllr Simpson said he found Cllr Adams’ willingness to throw around public money ‘disturbing.’
He pointed out that, had he done as the former leader wanted, the interest cost to the Council would have been a fraction under £4m, as the interest rate charged on the lending required went up the same day as Jamie Adams’ plea, and the burden would have remained unshared.
Instead, Cllr Simpson said, holding firm had produced significant concessions. Firstly, the borrowing had been secured at the original and lower interest rate and secondly, the Port had agreed to pay half of the interest.
The Council Leader observed mordantly the Port Authority were about as happy with the deal struck as he was.
As things stood, the County Council would pay £1m plus a £420k top slice, while the Port Authority would pay £1.3m. David Simpson conceded that this was not the outcome he hoped for; he had not fulfilled his aim, to secure a nil interest cost to the Council. However, Cllr Simpson said he resented the way funding’s structure meant local authorities would be lumbered with significant debt.
On a more upbeat note, Cllr Simpson commended the members of the Cabinet and senior officers who had managed to structure funding for the interest so the Council’s future borrowing cap remained unaffected. This, he said, meant that the Council could achieve its own very ambitious investment objectives for the future.
He explained that Cabinet Member for the Economy, Paul Miller, had negotiated a funding grant which would meet the top slice of £420k, while funding of the £1m remainder had been obtained through other means.
Responding to Cllr Simpson’s comments, Paul Miller set out the importance of energy generation and the associated supply-chain industries to Pembrokeshire’s economy. He pointed out as carbon-based energy generation reduced, developing alternative forms of energy would become increasingly important. Pembrokeshire, he said, was well-placed to exploit the opportunities those represented.
Following Cllr Miller’s comments, Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Bob Kilmister, chided the Leader for selling his achievement short. He had delivered the best deal he could and a better deal than that which was initially offered.
He praised the ‘superb’ outcome of negotiations led by the Leader and assisted by other Cabinet members and senior officers. He noted a lot of work had gone into ‘a really terrific job’ hammering out a deal.
Like the Leader, Cllr Kilmister doubted whether 1,800 jobs would be delivered, as claimed. He said, however, that jobs would be created and that would be good for Pembrokeshire. The County, he said, needed a balanced approach and David Simpson had delivered a deal.
He concluded: “I would love to see it run. With our contribution, we help make sure it happens.”
Cllr Phil Baker, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, observed: “It had to be the right deal at the right price. This is the right deal for the County.”
Director of Resources Jon Haswell explained how funding the interest payments would work. The funding secured by Cllr Miller covered the ‘top-slice’ payment needed. In the meantime, officers identified money held over from the financial year 2018/19 placed in an administrative reserve to meet the rest. That would be used, but only if needed.
Steven Jones, Director of Development, added that time-critical EU funding should now be secured. He noted the timeline remained very tight. Business case approval was needed before Christmas. However, he added, having got over this hurdle, the Council had a way through. The next stage, he advised, requires a WG panel to finally approve the business case.
Jon Haswell added that he hoped to improve the funding arrangements in a meeting with the Welsh Government and an officer from Carmarthenshire County Council on Thursday (Nov 7).
Cllr Simpson returned to address the question of interest payments: he wanted to reduce the amount of interest due for payment. To that end, he was still negotiating a shorter time frame for the funding’s delivery. The current funding is due over fifteen years. Cllr Simpson prefers a five-to-ten year period for delivery. If funding’s delivery was achievable over the shorter period, the amount due from the Council (and the Port Authority) in interest would fall. He re-iterated that the current provision for interest was the maximum and he would continue to work to reduce the bill to the Council.
The Cabinet unanimously approved the deal struck.
Everything is now out of the Council’s hands and depends on the willingness of the UK and Welsh Government to finally get their act together and come up with money often-promised but not yet delivered.

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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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