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Demands for police to be reimbursed for Penally

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· A million pounds spent on policing to December
· Protests for and against cost police £685,000
· Crime panel: “Government must fully reimburse Dyfed-Powys Police for all costs”
· Home Office: “We have already agreed to provide £2.5million”

POLICING Penally camp has cost more than a million pounds and taken up more than 8,000 policing hours in the first six weeks after it was opened.

Housing asylum seekers in Pembrokeshire have placed a “significant financial burden” on Dyfed-Powys Police, the force’s Police and Crime Panel have said.
Between September 25 and November 11, more than 1,000 officers were called to attend the asylum camp in the village of Penally on the outskirts of Tenby.

ONE MILLION SPENT

At the panel, chairman Alun Lloyd-Jones said policing the Penally camp involved 13,919 hours of officer time, including 9,681 overtime at a cost of £297,000, up to the end of December.

The total costs of policing protests at the camp were £685,000, the panel said, totalling just short of a million pounds at £982,000.

Obviously, with costs this year well over a million pounds has been spent – mostly in overtime payments.

The panel is calling on the UK Government department to reimburse the force for the additional costs.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys Police Dafydd Llywelyn said he wanted additional funding from the Home Office to support local resources that have been put under pressure as a result of the decision to utilise the camp as an asylum centre.

Last month there were two protests by the asylum seekers themselves in Tenby over conditions. Mr Llywelyn said: “I’m aware that police were in attendance during protests that have taken place this week, and I was pleased to hear that the protests were peaceful with no disorder reported.

“These are extremely difficult times for all of us. I have seen first-hand the difficult circumstances encountered by individuals that are residing at the centre and I have met with the Chief Inspector of Asylum and Immigration who gave me assurances about an independent inspection that will take place in the near future.

“However, now is not the time to be gathering to hold protests, and I can understand the frustrations of the local communities when observing such activities.

“Officers will and have been acting accordingly when Covid-19 regulations are breached, and I’m reassured that the Force have been liaising with the site management team to educate them of the Force’s four E principles’ approach – engage, explain, encourage and enforce.

“In the meantime, we remain in regular contact with local partners and service providers, monitoring all situations around the facility,”

The Penally training camp began to house up to 250 asylum seekers in September, including men from Iraq, Iran and Syria.

As the Herald has extensively covered, it has attracted multiple protests – some by far-right groups and some by concerned locals.

There have also been other protests in support of the asylum seekers, and some from asylum seekers themselves protesting against the conditions in the camp.

SPECIAL FUNDING INSUFFICIENT

The panel states that under Home Office police funding rules special grants can be given to cover additional pressures, but only if the total cost of these pressures exceeds 1% of the force’s net revenue expenditure for the year.

According to the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel, this would mean it would not be able to claim any additional grants from the Home Office to cover costs unless extra costs exceeded £1.129 million.

The panel said it is calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse and MPs in the area – including the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart – to encourage the UK Government to fully reimburse Dyfed-Powys Police for all costs incurred in policing Penally camp – even if the costs are below this Home Office threshold.

The UK’s Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has begun an inspection of the use of hotels and army barracks as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers and is calling for evidence.

The Home Office spokesman told The Herald that it had agreed extra funding and said: “We have already agreed to provide £2.5million of Special Grant funding to Dyfed-Powys Police in relation to these costs up to September 2021.”

Dyfed Powys Police said it had a number of officers dedicated specifically to the Penally Camp to undertake regular patrols both inside the camp, around the village and to respond to calls for the camp.

These duties took up 8,264 hours of police time in the six-week period, not counting officers who have responded to incidents on occasions where the officers undertaking the Penally camp duties have not been working.

Although these officers would have been working anyway and are therefore not an “additional” cost, it does not take into account any overtime to help replace the reallocated officers.

HIGH NUMBER OF ARRESTS

A number of arrests were made in that same period as protesters gathered outside the camp during September and October calling for the camp to be closed.

In total, 13 arrests were made for offences. These included: racially aggravated Section 4 public order offences; obstructing and/or resisting a constable in execution of duty; racially or religiously aggravated intentional harassment/alarm/ distress; arson; use of threatening abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent or likely to stir up racial hatred, affray; and actual bodily harm.

The force would not divulge how many of those arrests involved protesters and how many were men living inside the camp.

The operational demands were originally thought to be in the region of £3 million but have since been projected to cost Dyfed-Powys Police in the region of £1.2m as lockdown has forced protesters away.

In a report at a recent finance meeting Dafydd Llywelyn, the police and crime commissioner, wrote that he had estimated operational costs for policing the camp to be around £1.2m for the year.

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‘Reach out to friends and family’ says Council Leader

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THIS week’s update from Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council:

‘Hello everyone, I hope you are all keeping well and safe.

‘I’d like to highlight that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

‘I’m very aware that the last 15 months has had a huge impact on our lives and, in some cases, our wellbeing.

‘Mental Health can be a hidden issue and we all need to be aware that some people may need some extra support.

‘On a personal level the lockdown restrictions have reminded me of the importance to talk to people and to ensure people are supported.

‘Supporting your friends and family can be as simple as a phone call to say hello. A quick hello can ensure people are ok and managing and can give someone a huge uplift.

“Our communities have done a fantastic job of supporting each other so please, Team Pembrokeshire, continue these efforts.

‘I urge you all to pick up the phone and say hello to your friends and family, as we all need to play our role in everyone’s wellbeing – talking about issues does make a difference.

‘If you are suffering from Mental Health or general wellbeing issues please reach out, do not struggle on your own, your friends and family can help and make a difference.

‘Please also take the opportunity to also view the website at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week which has much more information and support.

‘I now want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in last week’s elections.

‘Elections take a phenomenal amount of organisation at the best of times but even more so in a pandemic situation.

‘To all those who ensured the smooth running of the elections process, thank you.

‘Congratulations to all the successful candidates and I look forward to working with them to further improve the lives of Pembrokeshire people.

‘We have now had further updates from Welsh Government and the next phase of the unlocking road map has been unveiled.

‘From Monday, 17th May, indoor hospitality can re-open.

‘Up to six people from six different households will be able to meet indoors in pubs, cafes and restaurants.

‘We have so many fantastic hospitality venues in Pembrokeshire who we know will be giving their customers a big welcome after so long away.

‘The opening of indoor hospitality will be a major landmark in our emergence from the pandemic and towards recovery.

‘While out and about please remember social distancing rules are still in pace, consider your actions on others, remember your footprint has an impact on our communities, so please tread lightly.

‘When you go home, leave with a smile – enjoy your days out, enjoy seeing your families and most importantly enjoy our beautiful county and please support us in keeping Pembrokeshire special – play your part and please be responsible.

‘I want to wish you all a lovely weekend and I look forward to talking to you all again next week through my update.

‘Thank you everyone.’

You can keep up to date with all the Council’s press releases here: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom

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Plan to rescue rare butterfly from extinction in Pembrokeshire

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Coast National Park Authority is stepping up efforts to save the marsh fritillary butterfly, which was once widespread in Wales but is now close to extinction in Pembrokeshire.

Funded by the Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership, the new landscape scale strategy aims to improve the fortunes of the rare species, which relies on networks of flower rich marshy grasslands across the landscape.

Much of this habitat, which is home to the favourite food of its larva – the devil’s bit scabious (succisa pratensis), has been lost due to drainage, inappropriate tree planting and the neglect of traditional management of grasslands through light grazing with heavy animals such as cattle.

National Park AuthorityBiodiversity Officer, Sarah Mellor said: “The marsh fritillary in Pembrokeshire is now in a very precarious position. We think it has already become extinct in a number of areas in its former range and it has not been seen on the St Davids Peninsula since 2013. The population around Keeston and Tiers Cross is also now thought to be extinct.

“We must find a way to make space for wildlife in our landscape to ensure that nature can thrive for future generations. It is quite sobering to think this species could disappear from Pembrokeshire in my lifetime. We have a responsibility not to let this happen on our watch.

“Even in those areas where it remains we have seen dramatic declines, for example around Mychanchlogddu it used to be recorded from 32 sites, but since 2015 it has only been seen at seven sites.”

The National Park Authority has already stepped up its action to rescue the rare butterfly by assisting landowners to bring sites into suitable management through grant aid and providing suitable grazing animals through the Pembrokeshire Grazing Network and the Conserving the Park Scheme.

The new strategy will include mobilising Park Authority staff and volunteers to undertake targeted surveys at sites across the county, as well as helping landowners to manage their land in a sensitive way to help ensure the future of this rare butterfly.

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Santander turns away customers due to nationwide computer glitch

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CUSTOMERS of Santander in Haverfordwest were being turned away this morning by branch staff saying that they were unable to make transactions due to a computer glitch. It is understood that branches use the same computer systems which run the bank’s other systems.

Problems arouse last night when computer updates which the bank was implementing did not go to plan.

Some Herald readers contacted the news room to speak of their surprise that they were not able to access their funds.

One reader, who had gone to the bank to withdraw funds to pay rent on his home was told that there was nothing that could be done.

Website and App transactions are also being affected at the high street bank, and card transactions are being declined

The head of money at consumer magazine Which?, Gareth Shaw, said many customers will be stressed, “with people reporting that they have been unable to make online payments or in some cases purchase food in their local supermarket”.

“Customers can incur fines, penalties and fees when they’re not able to access their finances, so the bank must offer compensation to all those who have been impacted in this way”.

Santander told customers they can “access cash from other banks’ ATMs, at the Post Office and can get cashback where that’s available”.

A service status page on its website said planned maintenance was due to be performed on the Santander mobile banking app overnight on Friday. It is not known whether this prompted Saturday’s problems.

On Twitter, a Santander spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that a technical problem is affecting our services, our teams are working hard to fix it.

“You can access cash from other banks’ ATMs. Please check back here for further updates.”

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