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Minister sets out new vision for Wales’ fire and rescue services

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Wales’ fire and rescue services could be given a wider role in keeping people safe as part of the Welsh Government’s future vision for the service, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn announced today.

Wales’ three Fire and Rescue Services continue to succeed in reducing both the incidence and severity of fire.

Wales has the most extensive programme of home fire safety visits in Great Britain, which focuses effectively on people most at risk of fire. The Welsh Government provides the service with £660,000 in funding to ensure these visits, and the safety devices which are supplied as part of them, are completely free to householders.

This success means the demand on the service is now so low, the service is increasingly under-occupied in many parts of Wales.

Many rural fire stations now respond to only a handful of fires a month. This is making it difficult to recruit and retain the on-call firefighters on which most of Wales relies, and risks jeopardising the sustainability of the Service in rural areas.

In addition, the Fire Service continues to attend a high number of false alarms – which outnumber actual fires, accounting for around 40% of all incidents the Service attends, and consume significant resources for no benefit at all.

The future vision for the service being outlined today involves the possibility of giving Wales’ fire and rescue services responsibility for responding to a range of threats to people’s health and safety, both in terms of prevention and emergency response.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:
“I would like to thank our Fire and Rescue Services in Wales for their continued success in reducing both the incidence and severity of fire. I have little doubt that this success is partly due to the great emphasis that the Fire Service places on preventing fire and improving awareness of fire risks.
“Firefighters are highly trained to deal with a wide range of incidents besides fires, and have the expertise and respect to raise awareness of and prevent non-fire threats too. There is clear potential for the service to make a real contribution to supporting the NHS in particular, whether in terms of responding to medical emergencies or helping to prevent accidents like falls at home; and clear evidence that this can secure better outcomes and significant savings. There are many impressive examples of this happening, but they are often
small-scale and piecemeal.

“I believe we need to go further, and to do so more consistently and strategically. I want to see a Fire and Rescue Service which deals with a range of threats to people’s health and safety, both in terms of prevention and emergency response, complementing not duplicating the work of other professionals. Only by doing so can we maximise the Service’s public value and secure a sustainable future for it.
“There is real potential to capitalise on the success the Service has already achieved and to maximise its value to the people of Wales. I will make a further announcement in due course on the way ahead.”

To deliver the vision:
There needs to be an agreement on firefighters’ pay and conditions which fairly reflects a broader role. Bilateral UK-level negotiations on this have been very slow. While Welsh Ministers have no wish to step outside the current negotiating machinery, they believe setting out a clearer and more tightly-defined set of requirements for Wales could give the negotiations the impetus they need. The Deputy Minister reiterates the Welsh Government’s commitment to consider providing financial support to a pay deal that meets the needs of Wales and Welsh firefighters.

There needs to be a robust and strategic agreement between the Fire Service, the NHS and other partners, so that the former’s resources can be deployed where they are most needed. There are already constructive discussions on this at senior management level.
The Welsh Government will work with the FRAs to ensure they have the necessary funding and governance mechanisms to support this broader role going forward.

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First coronavirus (COVID-19) case confirmed in Wales

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THE FIRST coronavirus case confirmed in Wales, in a patient who had returned from Italy – taking total UK cases to 17.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton, has confirmed that a patient in Wales has tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dr Atherton said: “I can confirm that one patient in Wales has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

“All appropriate measures to provide care for the individual and to reduce the risk of transmission to others are being taken.

“I can also confirm that the patient had travelled back to Wales from Northern Italy, where the virus was contracted.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to assure the public that Wales and the whole of the UK is well prepared for these types of incidents. Working with our partners in Wales and the UK, we have implemented our planned response, with robust infection control measures in place to protect the health of the public.”

No further information is being released at this time to protect patient confidentiality.

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Monkton: Large fine for trader found illegally carrying scrap metal

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A PEMBROKESHIRE man pleaded guilty to illegally carrying scrap metal.

Edmund Thomas Paul Boswell, of Castle Quarry Road, Monkton, has been fined a total of £2,250 by Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Courts.

Boswell’s lorry was stopped in the Llawhaden area during a joint operation between Dyfed-Powys Police and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on 21 June 2019.

The lorry was full of scrap metal loaded in a dangerous manner.

NRW officers carried out checks and found that Boswell was not a registered waste carrier.

He was given advice on how to register officially as a waste carrier with NRW and as a scrap metal dealer with Pembrokeshire County Council, but failed to do so and was summonsed to court.

He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay NRW and legal costs bringing the total to £2,250.

Gavin Bown, South West Operations Manager, of NRW, said: “Mr Boswell refused to cooperate and become a registered waste carrier.

“We’re taking a tough stance against waste crime and illegal operators. Waste crime puts people and the environment at risk and undermines legitimate businesses and the investment and economic growth that go with it.
“Waste regulation is necessary to make sure every effort is made to eliminate or reduce waste, prevent pollution and protect people, nature and the environment from hazards.”

Anyone who transports waste as part of their business needs to be registered as a waste carrier.

Those who arrange for waste from other businesses or organisations to be transported, disposed of, or recovered, need to be registered as a waste broker.

Anyone who buys or sells waste, or uses an agent to do so, needs to be registered as a waste dealer.

Gavin Bown added: “I would encourage people to report any concerns they may have about illegal waste carriers operating in their area to NRW on 0300 065 3000. All reports are confidential and the incident line is open 24 hours a day.”

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Haverfordwest High School ski trip updated statement

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Haverfordwest High VC School is closed for a pre-arranged Inset day today (Wednesday, 26th February) for staff training.

The school is intending to re-open tomorrow (Thursday) in line with guidance from Public Health Wales.

The family of two pupils who went on a family trip to Northern Italy over half-term have also sought advice from Public Health Wales. Although the family visited the region of Veneto, they did not visit the quarantined town of Vo. The advice for them is the same as for other people who have visited Northern Italy – that they do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath or fever. Neither of the pupils have presented any symptoms.

To view the statement released by the school yesterday (Tuesday), please visit https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/haverfordwest-high-school-ski-trip-statement

* For the latest advice on coronavirus, please visit the Public Health Wales website at https://phw.nhs.wales/news/public-health-wales-statement-on-novel-coronavirus-outbreak-in-china/

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