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Bacon Butties and coffee fuelled construction of Otter’s snack bar

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THE WET weather pre-Christmas has affected the progress on the Narberth OTTERS new Snack Bar, but the plucky band of volunteers and some suppliers have rallied around in between the storms to do some of the essential work, prior to making the building fully weathertight.

In November Committee Man Macphee, chief recruiter of volunteer labour , press ganged the club Chairman Robert Lewis in to service. Rob used to be a class act wearing No 14 playing on the wing for the Otters. On this occasion Mac had him flying around the inside of the building fitting the insulation inside the walls of the timber frame. He was ably assisted by block layer Trevor Thomas alias “Tomcat” who on this occasion swapped his trowel for a saw and knife to cut the lightweight insulation panels. Kevin Pyne , all 6’4” of him, was useful in fitting the pieces in the top of the wall !

Bacon Butties and coffees were frequently sourced from the Spar minimarket by Architect Ken Morgan to keep the team replenished on cold and damp winters days. Ken commented: “I had the initial idea for transforming the way Burgers and snacks were made in a tiny hut. So I came up with the idea of creating a new purpose-built structure. I feel that supplying the volunteer who are helping in this objectives, and who give up their time so willingly, deserve a warm snack and a hot drink in such poor weather conditions” . The Chairman Rob Lewis is intending that the RFC will lay on a supper and alcoholic beverages for all sponsors, volunteers and financial donors when the project is finished. That will also include members of the local press who have given magnificent support in publicising the project.

During December Celtic Scaffold Solutions very kindly turned up to provide a scaffold around the perimeter of the building to give the volunteers safe access to work at height on the new roof. Proprietor Luke Morgan has donated his time and equipment entirely free of charge. The Rugby club is extremely grateful and proud of his sponsorship. This allowed Mac and John Evans alias “Jinko” to fit the heavy Roof Joists and the sloping fillet pieces, known in the trade as firring pieces using a nail gun supplied by builder Dorian Phillips. The timber joists were very kindly donated by Agricultural Buildings supplier John Morris.

Unfortunately, or to use the term favoured by the Prime Minister in these Covid times, – Alas, the plywood roof deck and weather-proof rubber membrane cannot be fitted until some dry weather arrives. It is hoped that won’t be too long coming.

In the meantime to finish off just before the Christmas Break, Mr Gareth Edwards of Whitland, proprietor of GNE windows and double glazing, turned up with his colleague Sid to fix all the external windows and door. Macphee said: “where would we be without the extreme generosity of such sponsors. Two windows were supplied by Merry Bros; The large corner window frames and glazing were supplied by GNE Windows and The external door and Frame were paid for by Committeeman and Youth Coach Mr Bill Ridge who was also an outstanding former player for the Otters”.

The Narberth RFC would welcome any further offers of financial help, materials donations or voluntary labour in order to move the project forward into the internal fitting out stage. It is hoped that by the Spring the building will be close to a finish ready for the start of a new Rugby Season. Let’s hope this works out.

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Committee stalls on council tax rise as Covid-19 impacts discussed

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A PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL committee has decided not to commit to giving their preference on the rise of council tax in the county because of the knock on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors have been discussing the potential rise in council tax as part of their budget setting process for 2021-22.

Cabinet member Cllr Bob Kilmister explained that the settlement they had been expecting from the Welsh Government had been ‘better than anticipated’.

Prior to Christmas the council was looking at a funding gap of £25m but after the settlement from Cardiff, they were looking at a gap of £14.5m.

It was suggested that the improved figure could help the council alleviate the pressure felt by families when it came to paying their council tax.

Around 3% of the population are exempt from paying council tax but Cllr Kilmister added that they did not want to hit those people again by reducing the services that they used.

The council’s interventions with looked after children has also gone up by 50% as a result of the pandemic.

Rises of 3% and 5% have been put forward but the council’s Policy and Pre-Decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which met on Tuesday, January 19, decided not to commit to giving their preference.

Councillors said they were cautious about imposing a 5% increase as families across the county had been hit hard by the pandemic.

Cllr Tony Baron asked if a 3% increase in council tax could be fully costed adding: “We see a very dramatic improvement in the position we had before Christmas.

“Perhaps it would be useful to consider whether a fraction of that improvement should be used to take pressure off residents in the form of council tax increases.”

Cllr Tom Tudor added: “I am cautious about increasing council tax by 5%. Pembrokeshire has the second highest percentage of furloughed workers in Wales and that does not include those who are not eligible for the furlough scheme.”

“If we are in a better position than we were predicted I am rather cautious about taking on an increase of 5% at this point in time and I think families who have been affected by the pandemic have been, I think Bob said, in ‘dire straits’.”

Cllr Kilmister went on to say that he was ‘extremely confident’ that the council’s board that was set up to look at the budget would be able to deliver on its challenges.

Speaking on child poverty, Cllr Mike James said that there was poverty throughout Pembrokeshire and added that there would need to be a lot more debate on the rise in council tax before a decision could be made.

Cllr Kilmister added: “I don’t want to put up council tax. The poorest people who are not paying council tax are the ones who are using our services more. If you lower the budget you are affecting them again.

“Child poverty is huge, our interventions with looked-after children has gone up by 50% this financial year as a result of the pandemic.

“There are massive challenges. We have to make sure that those who have been affected badly aren’t affected even more.”

Committee chair Cllr Josh Beynon said: “If we don’t increase council tax and we cut services instead, what happens to those looked after children in twenty years’ time?”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett proposed that the committee should not commit to giving a preference to a rise in council tax.

Seven members voted in favour while two, Cllrs Tim Evans and Josh Beynon, voted against.

The council’s Cabinet will make a final decision on the budget on February 15.

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Faulty Covid swabs may have led to ‘false positives’ in Wales

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A NUMBER of faulty Covid swabs may have led to false positive coronavirus test results, the Welsh Government has said.

Concerns have been raised over a “small proportion” of affected Covid-19 swabs which were used in hospital settings, health board-run community testing units, and Welsh Ambulance Service Trust mobile testing units.

The official statement reads: “As a result of the laboratory testing quality control measures in place and the diligence of Public Health Wales laboratory staff, we became aware on Friday 15 January 2021 of an issue affecting a small number of swabs used in sampling for Covid-19.

“These swabs are used to sample for Covid-19 in hospital settings, at health board-run community testing units and WAST-operated mobile testing units. These swabs are not used by the lighthouse labs and so tests undertaken through our regional and local testing sites are unaffected.

“As soon as this problem was discovered, all microbiology labs and testing centres in Wales were notified so that the affected swabs could be taken out of circulation.

“NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership is working with Public Health Wales, Local Health Boards, the manufacturer of the swabs COPAN and the UK supplier/distributor Thermo Fisher Scientific to identify and isolate the swabs potentially affected to prevent their on-going use.

“The affected swabs were shipped into Wales direct from the manufacturer COPAN between 18 November and 14 December 2020. NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership has isolated all relevant supplies as a precaution while further investigations are undertaken.

“Public Health Wales have advised that where these swabs have been used they pose little or no risk to public health. As a safeguard, further checks are being undertaken. The issue detected may have affected the accuracy of a small proportion of test results leading to false positives. However, based on what we currently know Public Health Wales is confident that this does not affect the overall epidemiological picture.

“The Covid-19 Test, Trace, Protect system continues to operate as normal and alternative swabs are being used.”

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Twenty asylum seekers from Penally Camp have been transferred out

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TWENTY asylum seekers from Penally Camp have been transferred to alternative accommodation.

There was a public outcry from local residents at the demonstrations by the camp residents which took place on Wednesday and Thursday last week during the lockdown.

The men at the camp told a Herald reporter that they were unhappy with the standard of their accommodation at the former military base and were complaining about the poor food, lack of sanitation and being told to sleep six to a room during the pandemic.

A representative from the law firm representing the group of men said that the Men housed at the camp are, understandably, becoming increasingly desperate and it is likely that a “serious incident will occur” unless urgent action is taken.

The spokesperson said: “We have brought the serious vulnerabilities of our clients to the attention of the Home Office. Their response to date has been to transfer the twenty men to alternative accommodation. We cannot, and should not have to, make transfer requests on behalf of every person housed at the camp for the Home Office to recognise that this is unacceptable.”

The news comes as a coronavirus outbreak at a former army barracks being used to house asylum seekers in Kent could now have grown to at least 100 positive cases according to an ITV News report on Wednesday (Jan 19)

Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the lack of response from the Home Office to a Parliamentary Question from Wendy Chamberlain MP who had asked about what plans there were to relocate the rest of the asylum seekers at Penally Camp to alternative accommodation.

In response the Home Office Minister, Chris Philp MP, said that a rapid review had recommended that the Home Office conducts a ‘deep dive’ on its approach to initial accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire told The Herald: “Mr Philp needs to speak in plain English and say exactly what he means by a ‘deep dive’.

The Asylum Seekers are staying in the middle of Winter in army barracks which are unsuitable as long term accommodation. They are sleeping 6 to a room and run the risk of being infected with coronavirus.
“Rather than speaking in jargon, Mr Philp and his colleagues need to take urgent action and move the asylum seekers to safer, warmer and cleaner accommodation which any of us
would expect if we were in similar circumstances.”

Regards the outbreak in the Kent camp, Chris Philp said that he was “incredibly disappointed” to learn that the actions of some residents had contributed to the outbreak.

He said: “A number of individuals refused tests and have been either refusing to self-isolate or follow social distancing rules, despite repeated requests to do so and these being national guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives.

“These individuals could face enforcement action and are not only risking their own health but the health of staff looking after them and the communities who are accommodating them.”

ITV News has reported Mr Philp’s response has caused anger among some of the asylum seekers within the barracks who say that they should not be blamed.

An Iranian asylum seeker who did not want to be named said he was “furious”, adding: “It’s 100% not our fault. Do they not think it has something to do with putting us all in one place? Putting 400 people in one place is a major risk!”

The Penally camp may be here for sometime to come an MOD notice suggests.

The notice reads: “There will be no firing at Penally Gallery Ranges until November 2021. The Ministry of Defence has ceased all firing activity at Penally Gallery for 12 months in agreement with a Home Office request.

“This is due to the range’s close proximity to the Home Office Camp, Penally Training Camp. The Home Office has raised their concern that, given some of the intended occupants of the camp will have fled war zones, housing them within earshot of a range would be potentially traumatic for those individuals.

“The range could still be used if there is an urgent operational requirement. A new firing notice will be published before any firing takes place on the range.”

 

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