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Stena Line job losses

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LAST WEEK The Herald revealed online that Stena Line will be cutting up to 26 jobs in Fishguard and Holyhead.
In a statement emailed to The Herald, the company said: “Over the last number of years, Stena Line’s European ferry business has been operating at a financial loss. The company has recently initiated an extensive review of its European business to identify efficiencies and help reduce costs. Following a restructuring of Stena Line’s management and administrative teams, the company has just announced proposals to reorganise its operational shore-based staff across the Irish Sea.’’
Stena Line has now entered a period of discussions with staff and union representatives.
In Fishguard, approximately five positions are expected to be at a risk of redundancy under the company proposals. However, until detailed consultation is completed Stena Line will not be in a position to clarify the actual number of job losses.
“This decision is a necessary one for the long term future of Stena Line and we do not expect service levels to be impacted by the proposed changes,” said the Stena Line spokesperson.
More details will be released once the current consultations have been completed, the company announced.

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Webpage details penally camp information

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A WEBPAGE has been set up to keep residents of Penally and the surrounding areas up to date with key information relating to the housing of asylum seekers at the MoD base in the village.

The web page here includes a list of frequently asked questions relating to the site.

Residents are urged to check the page for updates.

People will also be able to find links to virtual community meetings held on the issue, Pembrokeshire County Council press releases regarding the camp and a contact email address for further information.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson said: “It is important for residents to be able to find information about the camp easily and to know that information is accurate, collated by the Council, Dyfed-Powys Police and the Home Office.

“Hopefully the FAQs will answer some of the questions that are being asked and we will have the ability to update and add further information to the page as required.”

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Welsh Health Minister defends retail restrictions

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THE WELSH Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, faced stiff today (Monday, Oct 26) questioning over retail restrictions during the current ‘firebreak lockdown’.

The Minister ducked a question from ITV Wales’ Adrian Masters.

That question asked whether trust in the Welsh Government’s handling of COVID-19 had been harmed by the row over supermarket chains sectioning off areas of ‘non-essential’ goods in their stores.

Instead of answering directly, Mr Gething carefully set out what he termed ‘a balance of harms’.

Vaughan Gething explained that the Welsh Government accepted the lockdown would cause some harm to Wales, to Welsh businesses, and individuals. However, he said, those harms had to be offset against the harm to public health and longer-term more adverse economic outcomes if the Welsh Government did nothing.

The BBC’s Dan Davies tackled Vaughan Gething again on the topic. In response, Mr Gething claimed that ending the rules on non-essential retail would both penalise small retailers and lead to greater community transmission of the virus.

Asked about remarks made by Lee Waters MS, Wales’ Deputy Economy Minister, that a further lockdown was ‘likely’ in the New Year, Mr Gething could not guarantee that one would not happen.

He said: “Measures are possible for the future but that depends on how successful we are in coming together as a nation to act in a way which means coronavirus is less likely to spread in the future.”

The Minister next received direct questions about the Government’s communications and messaging following a row over what were essential and non-essential goods.

This morning, Andrew RT Davies capitalised on a mistake by Tesco, which claimed the Welsh Government classified period products as non-essential. By the time Mr Davies tweeted his outrage and released a statement to the media, Tesco confirmed it was in the wrong and deleted its tweet. As Tesco has since acknowledged, period products – which are for sale in pharmacies – are classed as essential goods.

However, by then the damage had been done to the Welsh Government’s image.

Mr Gething said meetings had taken place with major retailers last Thursday, between ministers over the weekend, and there would be a further meeting this afternoon.

“The conversation we’re having with supermarkets today [about non-essential retail],” said the Minister, “will discuss limited circumstances [in which sales can take place].”

However, Vaughan Gething continued: “Much of what we have seen over the weekend is about the ‘what-if scenarios’ unlikely to come up over the next two weeks.”

Mr Gething continued to try and get the message over about a balance of harms and tried to explain why the Welsh Government imposed the retail restrictions it chose.

He stressed the Welsh Government decided to stop supermarkets selling goods otherwise available in small retailers who were compelled to close during the current lockdown.

The Welsh Conservative Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM, asked Mark Drakeford for a specific reassurance on that point – to protect small businesses compelled to close – last Thursday (Oct 22).

Loud Conservative voices, particularly those of Simon Hart and Andrew RT Davies, have condemned the Welsh Government for doing what their own Shadow Economy Minister asked.

The impression, however – of a ban on the sale of books and baby clothes – does not look good for the Welsh Government.

And neither does the confusion among large retailers.

That criticism was the subject of further direct questioning by journalists who asked Mr Gething how, if major businesses could misinterpret the guidance, how the public could possibly interpret it.

Vaughan Gething remained adamant guidance was clear but would be further clarified with major retailers.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said: “The important thing for the Welsh Government to acknowledge is that they have made a complete mess of the messaging. Humility is important in admitting that you have got it wrong. They should have focused very clearly and very simply on the public health message.

“The objective of closing non-essential retail for this period is to try to limit the number of contacts so they can limit the number of infections – and that’s somehow got completely lost in the messaging which has then eroded public trust over the weekend.”

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Public anger over MP’s ‘Hart-less decision’

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A PEMBROKESHIRE MP who backed the UK government not to extend the free school meal scheme to cover children throughout England for school closures up until Easter 2021, has experienced huge backlash on social media.

A motion on providing 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England, with a £15 a week voucher during school holidays until Easter 2021, was voted down in the House of Commons last Wednesday (Oct 21).

Simon Hart MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, stood with his Government and voted against the bill by 322 to 261, a majority of 61.

Simon Hart was named, along with over 300 of his Conservative colleagues, on The Daily Mirror’s front page, after voting to allow some of the UK’s poorest and vulnerable children to return to school ‘too hungry to learn’.

Stephen Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, abstained from the vote.

With many organisations calling the decision ‘cruel’ and ‘callous’, one Pembrokeshire pub has taken their stance on the situation further.

Taking to their Facebook page, The Globe in Fishguard has issued a lifetime ban for both Pembrokeshire MP’s, they said: “Following the decision by the Mill and Il Manilo pub in West Yorkshire to ban their local MP Rishi Sunak and other MPs in nearby constituencies over their voting against extending free school meals over the holidays, I would like it known that abstainer Stephen

Crabb and Simon Hart, who voted in support of allowing children to starve, are similarly barred for life from The Globe!

“Thank God that the WG has promised to provide food vouchers for children in need in Wales.

“Anyone who actively or passively enables children to go hungry cannot possibly possess any humanity in our opinion. Here in the Globe we only allow humans and dogs to enter the building; as

Mr Crabb and Mr Hart appear to be neither of these then we feel we have no option but to impose a lifetime ban.”

In a statement on his Facebook page rounding up the week of politics, Mr Hart defended toeing the Government line: “The “opposition motion” last Wednesday seeking an extension to the free school meal programme into the holidays was non-binding and even if passed would not have changed anything.

“The frustrating thing about these motions is that they are nothing more than political theatre. For what it’s worth, it was this Government that extended FSM’s in Easter and Summer holidays in the first place but which has now decided that families in greater need are best served through increasing benefits over a whole year, not just via food vouchers in the holidays.

“I do understand how this looks in the media though (which is exasperating for all of us) but it’s not as straightforward as just removing something without trying to offset the consequences.”

Mr Hart omitted to mention that FSM provision over the summer holidays only happened after the Westminster Government was shamed into action after a massive public outcry over its initial refusal to provide them.

His position was not helped by a series of inflammatory tweets from fellow Conservative MPs, such as Ben Bradley, who claimed over the summer meal vouchers were traded for drugs and prostitutes in his Mansfield constituency.

However, Mr Hart will be pleased to have had support echoing his point on free school meals from Carol Peett, the wife of his constituency chairman, Rayner Peett.
Mrs Peett posted the following on Facebook: “All this Marcus Rashford rubbish – momentum scam to try & destabilise the government using a thick footballer’s name as a frontman – the Government had already given money to councils to make sure these children are fed so totally pointless.”

The Welsh Government has extended free school meals for those eligible through the school holidays up to and including Easter 2021.

Commenting on Simon Hart’s vote, Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said: “Simon Hart’s recent voting choices demonstrate callous neglect for struggling families. Whilst Kirsty Williams in the Senedd has been ensuring that poverty should not mean hunger for our most disadvantaged children, our MP has chosen to deny children across the border the funding that could stop them from going hungry. I am deeply disappointed in our MP.”

The Herald asked the Conservatives’ Education Shadow Minister in the Senedd, Suzy Davies MS, to say whether or not she supported the Welsh Government’s decision to extend free school meal provision.

A spokesperson replied: “The UK Government has invested more than £4 billion in Wales to fight Covid-19 which the Welsh Government are able to use to fund support for people including free school meals during holidays.”

“While the primary duty to feed children lies with the parents, we recognise lockdowns and other restrictions have placed real pressure on family budgets, especially where people haven’t been able to access support or have to use convenience shops which can be more expensive.

“Ensuring children stay physically and mentally healthy during this time is a priority so that they can get the best out of their education and not let Covid-19 define their future. But any scheme must support those who truly need it; those that can afford to contribute should.”

The £4bn claimed to be ‘invested’ in Wales is funding the UK Government was obliged to provide to our country using the Barnett funding formula. It came as a result of the UK spending further money in other parts of the UK to tackle COVID-19.

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