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Cabinet backs 82p a week Council Tax rise

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CABINET Member for Finance, Cllr Bob Kilmister, delivered a blistering assessment of the ongoing row about the level of Pembrokeshire’s Council Tax on Monday, February 15.
Cllr Kilmister’s accused the Conservative group on the Council of playing electoral games ahead of May’s elections to the Welsh Parliament.

Bob Kilmister suggested that Conservative councillors were well aware of the financial issues their proposed 3% rise in Council Tax would cause. However, they were serving ‘their lords and masters’ higher up the political food chain.
The Cabinet member also attacked plans to raid the Council’s reserves to ensure a lower increase than he believes is needed.
Cllr Kilmister said: “Using reserves to reduce Council Tax, or as a sticking plaster for services, is a very dangerous route to go down. If you keep spending above your income by using your savings, you will inevitably face a crisis sooner or later.”
He said he could not recommend that course of action to his colleagues or to fellow councillors.
Bob Kilmister spelt out the difficulties the Council faces in setting its budget. He reminded his fellow Cabinet members that Pembrokeshire has a near £15m shortfall in the amount of money it should receive to the Welsh Government. That shortfall arises thanks to how successive IPG administrations depressed spending on services to keep its totemic ‘lowest Council Tax in Wales’ policy.
Pembrokeshire still has – by some distance, and by a gap which is likely to widen further – the lowest Council Tax in Wales.

Seconding the recommendation, Pembroke North County Councillor Jon Harvey said that approving 3% increase in Council Tax would be ‘disastrous’ for local services.
Cllr Neil Prior echoed his fellow Cabinet Member’s views and went further.
He pointed out that those who were the best-off had the most disposable income left due to the pandemic’s restrictions. Those with lower incomes had less money at their disposable. The people who would most directly benefit from a lower-than-needed Council Tax increase were those who could well afford to pay a 3.75% increase.
In Band I, Council Tax would rise by £1.92 a week for households.
“The people who need it most are the people who will be hurt the most if we do not raise Council Tax by 3.75%. We’re going to have to fund the services which will help people get back on their feet,” Cllr Prior concluded.
Cllr Phil Baker said that the budget process, using the challenge process to scrutinise Council’s Departments’ budget requests, was empowering and revealing in equal measure.
Cllr Michelle Bateman said that to close the funding gap adequately and meet the Council’s obligations, a 5.9% rise was needed to meet the budget strategy. The 3.75% rise would still leave a massive hole to be filled in the Council’s finances.
The Letterston councillor attacked the rationale behind a 3% increase: “I know it’s difficult. It’s in times like this you need to look to the long-term and get your head up above what’s happening now. A 3% rise now would set up a future Cabinet to fail. It would deny them the opportunity to invest in services, and it would be criminal for us to do that.
“When you explain local government finance person-to-person, they understand keeping Council Tax low hasn’t done us any favours.”

Director of Resources Jon Haswell said that although Pembrokeshire received a better than expected settlement this year, it still left the Council with a funding gap to bridge. Future years’ settlements were expected to be less generous, he said.
Jon Haswell continued: “The Council’s medium-term financial plan is based on a 5% increase in Council Tax. If Council Tax increases by 3.75% per annum, over five years will mean an extra £8.5m loss of funding. That will affect services. Services will be cut, the workforce will be cut. If we stick to 3% per annum, the loss is £13.8m. Members need to look beyond the short term.”

Cllr David Simpson pointed out demand was increasing for children’s services, He said that funding was imperative.
Cllr Tessa Hodgson said a 3% increase meant cutting services to those least able to absorb the loss. It meant the burden would fall on the most vulnerable; on those on the at risk register; on looked after children; and those most at risk of harm.
Cllr Hodgson made a heartfelt plea to councillors and the public backing a 3% raise, to look at the human cost of service cuts.
Those who were the most vulnerable, she concluded, who would pay the price of service reductions.

The Cabinet unanimously approved the recommendation for a 3.75% Council Tax increase.

FULL REPORT IN THE HERALD ON FRIDAY

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Pembrokeshire residents can quickly check symptoms for variety of conditions on NHS 111 Wales online

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NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker can save Pembrokeshire patients time by helping them find the right NHS service for treatment. Symptoms can be quickly checked for a variety of conditions and advice given on the best way to treat them by visiting www.111.wales.nhs.uk which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

The way we access NHS services has changed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more options now becoming increasingly utilised, including the NHS 111 Wales online service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be used for both health information and advice and to access urgent primary care in Welsh and English.

In a recent YouGov survey, a third of Pembrokeshire residents had not even heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker and only 19% had used it during the past 12 months.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are asking everyone to help us by reconsidering the way you access NHS services. The methods available have changed but we are still here for you. It is worth getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can be seen and treated quicker with your first port of call being NHS 111 Wales.”

According to the YouGov survey, carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign, only 67% of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker. However, 86% said they felt it was important to have access to the service.   

NHS 111 Wales online can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. The way it works is: You answer questions about your symptoms on the website and depending on the situation you will:

  •           Get self-care advice
  •           Be told how to get any medicine you need
  •           Find out what local service can help you
  •           Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
  •           Get a face-to-face appointment if you need one
  •           Be given an arrival time if you need to go to A&E – this might mean you spend less time in A&E

For those who don’t have confidence going online to seek advice, there is the NHS 111 Wales phone service. This is also a free service where patients can contact the NHS by dialling 111 to receive advice on the best way to manage their issue or gain further assistance if needed. The bilingual telephone service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Eighty-four percent of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales phone service when asked for the recent YouGov survey but only 20% had used the telephone service during the last 12 months.

 

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Trial date for son accused of killing mum

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THE SON of Judith Rhead, 68, who was found dead in her home in Market Street, Pembroke Dock on Feb 20 will now appear in Crown Court again in October.

Dale Morgan, 43, said to be a scout master, appeared in court only to confirm his name, date of birth and address – which was listed as Honeyborough Green, Neyland.

A plea and trial preparation hearing date was set for March 26 with a provisional trial date set for October 4.

He was remanded in custody.

In court papers it stated that the alleged murder took place between December 10, 2020 and February 21, 2021.

The paperwork demonstrates that the police are unsure of the exact date that Ms Rhead died. The large date range, two months, points to the likelihood that this will be a challenging case for all those involved.

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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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