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Protestors lay empty plates outside local MPs’ offices following school meals vote

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY has staged an ‘Empty Plates’ protest outside the constituency offices of both Stephen Crabb MP and Simon Hart MP following what The People’s Assembly describes as “The scandal of their free School Meals votes”

Due to current Covid restrictions, the protests were carried out by just two protestors at each location “who lived locally enough to each office to enable them to carry out the demonstrations whilst on their daily exercise round or while out purchasing essential items”, organisers said

The messages written on each of the plates were all sent in by local ‘would be’ protestors following a call out on social media.

Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly told us: “We have had a huge amount of support for this demonstration and under normal circumstances would have called for a conventional style demo on the streets to go along with the ’empty plates’ stunt. With the level of support that we have received and the visceral anger that is out there following Crabb and Hart’s votes, we know that this would have been very well attended, however, these are not normal times so this called for a more creative Covid-appropriate response.

The protest comes following a flurry of announcements from pubs and restaurants around Britain stating that they have barred Tory MP’s following their votes against protecting free school meals during School holidays, including two pubs in Fishguard who have now banned both Crabb and Hart for life.

A spokesperson at PPA told us: “The Tories, as ever, are determined to make the poorest and most vulnerable in society pay for the crisis. This latest move shows the utter contempt that the Conservatives hold for those people who work all hours to keep our society afloat in times of crisis. The vast majority of those who claim free school meals are those families who are working yet on low incomes, this is an issue of poverty pay, not benefits.”

“Simon Hart voted against the amendment which would have protected free School meals during holidays for children in England.”
Stephen Crabb, who was himself brought up on benefits, and who has almost never voted against his Party whip and certainly never voted against austerity ‘abstained’ from the vote -he says “in protest”, however, a true ‘protest vote’ would have been to vote against the government not just sit on the fence and pretend to have a backbone. In our eyes, Crabb’s abstention is actually a worse indictment of his character as it shows he will not stand by any political convictions he claims to hold!”

“Fortunately for the children living in Crabb and Hart’s own constituencies, the Labour led Welsh Government has ensured that children will get free School meals over the holidays.”

“Empty plates protests have taken place outside the offices of Tory MPs all around Britain and we expect to see many more, there is also a growing movement of Pub owners barring Tory MP’s from their premises’ which we think sends a clear message of disapproval to the Government and a clear warning to the MP’s who voted to keep children hungry over the School holidays.”

Máiréad Canavan, NEU National Executive member for Wales, added: “As an educator, I know first-hand how poverty limits the life chances of children and significantly affects their educational experience and outcomes in school. As coronavirus continues to impact families across the UK, It is reprehensible for any MP to vote against or abstain from a vote to allow children in need to access free school meals.

Empty plates outside Stephen Crabb’s office in Haverfordwest on Saturday (Oct 31)

Marc Tierney – former Labour Party parliamentary candidate for CWSP said: “Time and again both local MPs have voted to cut the help available to those who need it most. Consistently, Simon Hart fails to recognise the extent of poverty in our communities. He has put his Party and now his government job ahead of those who may have voted for him.

Thanks to the Welsh Labour no child will go hungry in Hart’s constituency because our Welsh government has already extended free school meals during the holidays. But poverty blights the lives of millions across Britain. If our MPs are blind to this, we must remind them that it is their duty to do more to help the 31% of children in Pembrokeshire and 29% of children in Carmarthenshire living in poverty today.”

Philippa Thompson, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Dyfed-Powys, and former Parliamentary candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire said: “No child should go hungry at any time, and it’s essential we help especially during this crisis. Over a million people have signed Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s petition, which shows the strength of public opinion. Ensuring the continuation of free school meal provision has been a key priority for the Welsh Labour Government, in stark contrast to the Tory vote against struggling families in England”.

Alistair Cameron – former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for CWSP said: “Simon Hart has shown a 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.”

Cris Tomos former Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate for Preseli said: “The issues associated with increasing levels of child poverty in the 21st century is a sad and worrying reflection on our society and the lack of priority that the current Conservative government is placing on children’s wellbeing. Children should not have to go hungry in any of the 4 nations of the UK, but as we see increasing levels of rents and mortgage repayments hitting household budgets form one month to the other the amount remaining for the weekly food shopping is falling to worrying low levels. The levels of working families that are now experiencing food shortages is totally unacceptable and there needs to be a complete rethink of how wealth is distributed within the UK. The cost of living will only become notably tougher as we see the onslaught of Brexit increasing the costs of our groceries and food supply chain increases. Action needs to be taken now to protect our most vulnerable children from experiencing the devastating effects of hunger.”

Simon Hart said on his Facebook page: “Free school meals, a debate that impacts only England. The “opposition motion” last Wednesday was 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 the 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.”

Stephen Crabb MP, abstained from voting on the bill – a decision he says was done in protest to let his government know he did not agree with their views.

Mr Crabb has spoken previously of his background. He came from a single parent family, was raised in a council house and receivws free school meals.

Many social media users took Crabb’s decision not to vote as a decision that was just as bad as voting with the government with some branding him a hypocrite.

Taking to his Facebook page, Crabb defended his decision.

He told his constituents: “I took a decision to abstain on the vote, which is a well-recognised form of protest. I have made it very clear to the Government that I do not agree with them on this issue.”

Even though Crabb abstained, he told his followers that the free school meal provision wasn’t the way to tackle the problem of child poverty.

He added: “I am supportive of the holiday provision of free school meals but I think we also need to be looking at solutions that go beyond just vouchers. The main poverty charities I speak to have different views about whether vouchers are effective or not.
“I did not like the nature of the Labour Party’s debate in the Commons last Wednesday and I think some of the abuse being thrown around is appalling. The vote last week would have had no material impact on provision even if it had passed.”

Mr Crabb added: “More widely, whilst the issue of free school meals is important, ultimately we should be aiming to lift people out of poverty so that they no longer need this support. I have spent much of the last few months working hard on the campaign to keep the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
“The UK Government introduced a much welcome per-week increase in UC at the start of the crisis but this measure will expire in April, unless the Government commits to an extension.”

Mr Crabb assured his Pembrokeshire constituents he will continue to try and tackle child poverty.

He added: “I have spent a large proportion of my time in Westminster over the last few months campaigning on the issues of child poverty and pushing for more support for families on low incomes. I will continue to make this a priority.”

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Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin

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POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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Tenby’s famous walrus ‘Wally’ has been spotted again

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TENBY’S most famous marine animal has been spotted again after fears she had been scared away.

Wally was spotted on Friday evening by the seaside town’s Lifeboat station.

Thought to be a two-year-old male, the walrus’s return comes after it was feared she had been disturbed by people flocking to catch a glimpse of her and “getting too close”

The animal has attracted hundreds of people to the seaside town now that the travel restrictions with Wales have been lifted to coincide with the Easter school holidays.

Wally was last seen on Monday, but  members of the public were warned it was in the animal’s “best interests” to be “left alone” as much as possible and they were urged to “avoid the temptation to get near and disturb” her.

A joint statement was issued by the RSPCA, Tenby harbour master Chris Salisbury, Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Tenby lifeboat coxswain Phil John, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Natural Resources Wales and CSIP Marine Environmental Rescue said that they were concerned to hear that people had tried to get close by using personal watercraft or paddle and surfboards.

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Police plan to deter badly behaved youths from gathering in Tenby

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POLICE in Tenby responded to community concerns over antisocial behaviour and groups of between 15-20 youths gathering and clashing over the Easter bank holiday weekend. They moved the youths on, seized alcohol from them and stopped matters escalating when there were clashes between the groups. And they have a clear message ahead of this weekend – there will be extra police patrols and presence in Tenby, including on the trains, so this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers used powers under the Antisocial Behaviour Act to disperse groups of youngsters meeting to drink alcohol in and around Tenby, many of whom had travelled by train to the area to meet up.

Based on these scenes from last weekend, plans are in place as part of a joint operation with Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers and British Transport Police, to address and prevent any further gatherings.

A Section 34 Order is in place covering Tenby, which allows officers to move people out of the area and prevent them from returning for up to 48 hours.

Sergeant Stuart Wheeler said: “Following last weekend we had some concern from the community of Tenby, due to antisocial behaviour related to the groups of youths from Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Tenby, and subsequently those groups clashing. Alcohol consumption by these youngsters was a factor.

“Proactive action was taken, and we are keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour this weekend, and have therefore put plans in place. Additional resources have been allocated, which will allow us to respond quickly and prevent matters from escalating.

“Tenby Neighbourhood Policing Team and response officers, will be carrying out high visibility patrols in the area, covering areas known to be popular with youngsters. Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers will be assisting us in ensuring youngsters can’t buy alcohol in the area by visiting shops and reminding them of the laws around selling alcohol, and if they bring it with them it will be seized. And our colleagues in British Transport Police will be patrolling the train network to prevent problematic groups getting to Tenby by train.”

Police are also appealing to parents and carers to know where their children are, and what they are doing.

Sergeant Wheeler added: “We would like to appeal directly to parents to be aware of where their children are, and prevent them from gathering in large groups. This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby, and we are urging you to be accountable for your children’s actions.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only 6 people from 2 households can meet outdoors still. Please do your best to ensure they are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”

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