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Jamie Adams : ‘I am confident in the future of Pembrokeshire

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cllr jamieJAMIE ADAMS is confident and well-briefed – if a little tired after a night looking after his young twins. 

Discussing the Welsh Government’s plans to scrap smaller authorities and merge them he offers a robust critique and criticism of Cardiff Bay’s plans. “While the process has been going on for some time, it seems like the Welsh Government has now come to a snap decision. Very often the justification for it is the fact that they consider small authorities are unable to meet their statutory obligation.

The First Minister has pointed out that six authorities have been in special measures. But the credibility of his position is somewhat undermined by the recent good news in Pembrokeshire and also in Anglesey and Rhondda Cynon Taf. “The obvious person to consult with when you are considering change is the person affected by the changes you propose. The Welsh Government has set out its stall and its aspiration. I do not for one minute think that is the finished article. The Welsh Government will have to give evidence to justify its position. “With respect, the Welsh Government has to understand the pressures and complexities of local government. I pay tribute to the staff of local government who deliver critical services to the people of their counties.

Against that, I set the fact that apart from a few direct services, such as the Trunk Road Agency, the Welsh Government delivers no direct services. If you take an overarching view like the WG has done, it is difficult to understand the detail of the processes you are trying to change. “The Welsh Government has a tendency to categorise councils in one of two ways. We are badged as a rural authority but we have pockets of urbanization and real deprivation. Nevertheless we are obliged to deliver services over a wide geographical area.

The details of service delivery are not well understood by Welsh Government.” And in Pembrokeshire? “Pembrokeshire is unique in many ways and we are often accused by the WG of being different. I don’t mind being different. We are very resilient as a county and as a people. We have a sense of community spirit and identity that is second to none. “I would fight in the last ditch for Pembrokeshire.

I believe we have the ability and talent within this authority and within Pembrokeshire to deliver local services for Pembrokeshire. We have had a glowing report from the Wales Audit Office on our progress and performance this year, education is moving forward. “But it is not only about the administrative side of things, this Council. It is something more than that. The brand of Pembrokeshire, for tourism, business, agriculture and produce is extremely strong. In most parts of the UK the Pembrokeshire name is synonymous with those and it is hard to think of another county with such a strong brand identity.” Is Williams a challenge to local democracy? “The proposal from Welsh Government does not include a proposal for district councils and there is a danger of making decision-making too remote from the people we serve.

There would be real issues with that. Look at newspapers, for example, if the decisions are made miles away how are you going to be able to hold the decision-makers to account? “We have sixty councillors who are out, about and contactable within their communities. They can be held to account. There is a considerable advantage to the fact that if you make a decision you believe to be right but is unpopular then you can be voted out. So, if I thought I did the right thing and lost an election, I would not be delighted but I could at least say that I did the right thing as I saw it. “But many professional politicians are in the position that they want to cling to their livelihoods.

We have an increasing number of democratic representatives who have not worked outside of politics and they are remote from those they represent. Increasing numbers of Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay is something we need to be wary. I question the need for additional assembly members. “Having said that, there are in my opinion too many county councillors. It was very strange thing to go so far down the process of re-assessing the number of county councillors and then changing direction. Discussing the complexities of local government funding, Jamie Adams believes that economies can be made by reducing bureaucracy: “My outlook is simple.

I want to deliver the best services we can within the budget we have. “There is a need for the process of funding services to be streamlined by the Welsh Government. There are around 120 grants for education from the Welsh Government. Now those schemes may have been set up with the best of intentions, but it increases the burden of bureaucracy. You have people in councils applying for these grants and another tier of people at the Welsh Government administering them.

So much of the funding that should flow down is instead being filtered down and sticking to the sides. “Local Government is far better placed to understand the needs of their communities and address those needs as we can provide a little bit of initiative or entrepreneurship rather than just follow a prescription from Cardiff Bay. In a way, I am frustrated by what can appear like box-ticking, but I know there have to be checks and balances to ensure we provide value for money. “The relationship with Welsh Government must be developed to build trust to allow them to consider more bespoke ways of delivering services with the funding provided.

The governance arrangements could be simplified. The simplification can begin between the WG and us, and the WAO could oversee and verify the process to ensure our services are continually improving.” Addressing the challenge of potential further administrative upheaval, Jamie Adams responds: “I think Williams has been a long time in the coming from Welsh Labour. It is a reaction to some very disappointing results for Labour in 2008’s elections. We are now in a different place in the local government family.

We don’t have that many disagreements, really and Labour functions in coalition in councils across Wales. “The proof of the pudding is the fact that no other parties in the Welsh Government are signing up to Williams. It is untested that Welsh Labour’s proposals will either improve services or reduce costs. And I am not convinced that it is best to sign up to a process that can show neither of those things. “That said, I am not afraid of change. I am very relaxed that in the future a council such as Pembrokeshire will not provide all of the services we do at the moment. But in terms of being held to account for their delivery, you have to have a touchable, reachable democratic body. As a council, perhaps we do not need all the tools in the box.

Greater fluidity about service delivery might be a way of reducing costs or delivering them more efficiently. “We already work in consortia with other councils to support improvements in our schools. We work on support and challenge with Carmarthenshire for our schools and we are already grouping together with five other counties within ERW, the regional education authority. We are already working together. But strangely, the Welsh Government broke down the transport service back to individual authorities and that seems inconsistent with what it is now saying about wanting to join things together to save money.

“It’s a very difficult thing to resolve as no evidence has been put forward to support what is simply an assertion made by the WG. The Williams Report provides NO cost/benefit analysis for anything and to proceed without it is pure folly. It grabs the headlines to reduce the number of CEO’s. As an easy sell, what could be better? But it is an argument that is not followed through. With Dyfed previously we ended up with a lot of substructures and increased bureaucracy and any savings could be swallowed up by that factor.

“Looking at Williams: we are potentially facing a 9 to 12% rise in Council Tax depending on whether we are merged with Ceredigion or a reconstituted Dyfed. People in Pembrokeshire are worried about the potential rise in Council Tax and do not see why they should pay more for their services. And I agree with them.” Looking at the number of controversies involving it, is Pembrokeshire County Council worth saving? “I appreciate that people are frustrated with what is reported in the papers about the Council. Some of our problems have arisen from the way we have dealt with issues in the past and a lot of them have arisen from the last term of council. “In terms of the evidence, I can say look where we were in 2012 and where we are now.

We have had a great outcome from Estyn and a very positive annual assessment from the WAO. We have renewed confidence in our governance arrangements and in scrutiny to hold the executive to account. “We have the ability to plan for the future. In that future, we will not look as we do now. We will have to change to reflect the cuts in budgets that are likely to continue for some time ahead. But in terms of our ability to deliver good quality services, we are beyond a doubt well placed to do that. “Where we have to work hard is to develop trust amongst ourselves: between councillors and officers and amongst councillors. We have to ensure our focus is on managing the budget, delivering services and not scoring political points for the sake of it. With that in mind, I am confident for the future of Pembrokeshire.”

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An experimental nuclear fusion reactor could be built in Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE could be the location of an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, which could produce abundent clean energy, if the council backs plans for a site on land owned jointly between Valero oil refinery and Pembroke Power station.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked next week (May 17) to support the project, which it is hoped could create limitless energy.

The officers of the council are recommending to Cabinet that members approve the nominated site being included on the list of UKAEA candidate sites.

Elsewhere in Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan Council is bidding for it to be built at the Aberthaw power station site.

Communities had until the end of March to nominate locations.

If approved the nuclear fusion station, the council’s officers say, could position Pembrokeshire at the international forefront of the clean energy revolution, bringing visibility to the community on a global stage. It was also recommended that the project will bring long-term and enduring environmental, employment, skills and economic benefits to the host community.

However, Greenpeace believes that nuclear fusion is an expensive distraction from the real agenda of providing environmentally benign, reliable energy supply. The campaign group gas also written to Parliament saying that the deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel mixture used in nuclear fusion produces four times as many high energy neutrons per kilowatt-hour of energy produced than sandard nuclear fission.

Council officers recommend approval for a nuclear fission reactor near Valero refinery (pictured)

Nevertheless the government has a concept programme called STEP, which is an ambitious programme for the conceptual design of a fusion power station. It is a UKAEA administered programme, currently with £220 million funding to produce a phase 1 concept design by 2024.

Beyond 2024, it is claimed, phase 2 intends to move into the engineering design and build phases to deliver the prototype of a commercially viable fusion plant. The prototype will hopefully demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion. The learning from this will enable the future development of a UK fleet of commercial fusion plants, the government said. The target date for the first fully operational plant will be 2040.

In November 2020, the UK Government released an open call to communities across the UK to identify sites that could accommodate a STEP power station, with the site near Valero being chosen.

A report to councillors sitting on the Cabinet states that unlike with conventional nuclear power, there is a benefit of limited risk of nuclear materials proliferation. This is because nuclear fusion doesn’t employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium. There are no enriched materials in a fusion reactor that could be exploited to make nuclear weapons.

The STEP programme said that it seeks to maximise the recycling and re-use of materials and only use disposal routes where there is no other option.

It said to this end research is being carried out on suitable materials to minimise decay times as much as possible. Any radioactivity of the components in the tokamak structure is classed as low level and relatively short lived.
Fusion is regarded by Government as being carbon free, safe, low land use, low, manageable waste, reliable energy baseload with unlimited fuel.

What is nuclear fusion?

Fusion is the process that takes place in the heart of stars and provides the power that drives the universe. When light nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus, they release bursts of energy. This is the opposite of nuclear fission – the reaction that is used in nuclear power stations today – in which energy is released when a nucleus splits apart to form smaller nuclei.

To produce energy from fusion here on Earth, a combination of hydrogen gases – deuterium and tritium – are heated to very high temperatures (over 100 million degrees Celsius). The gas becomes a plasma and the nuclei combine to form a helium nucleus and a neutron, with a tiny fraction of the mass converted into ‘fusion’ energy. A plasma with millions of these reactions every second can provide a huge amount of energy from very small amounts of fuel.

One way to control the intensely hot plasma is to use powerful magnets. The most advanced device for this is the ‘tokamak’, a Russian word for a ring-shaped magnetic chamber. CCFE’s goal is to develop fusion reactors using the tokamak concept.

Advantages of fusion power

With increasing concerns over climate change and finite supplies of fossil fuels, we need new, better ways to meet our growing demand for energy. The benefits of fusion power make it an extremely attractive option:

  • No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small amounts of helium, an inert gas which can be safely released without harming the environment.
  • Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium will be produced inside the power station from lithium, an element abundant in the earth’s crust and seawater. Even with widespread adoption of fusion power stations, these fuel supplies would last for many thousands of years.
  • Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel could provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel. A 1 Gigawatt fusion power station will need less than one tonne of fuel during a year’s operation.
  • Less radioactive waste than fission. There is no radioactive waste by-product from the fusion reaction. Only reactor components become radioactive; the level of activity depends on the structural materials used. Research is being carried out on suitable materials to minimise decay times as much as possible.
  • Safety. A large-scale nuclear accident is not possible in a fusion reactor. The amounts of fuel used in fusion devices are very small (about the weight of a postage stamp at any one time). Furthermore, as the fusion process is difficult to start and keep going, there is no risk of a runaway reaction which could lead to a meltdown.
  • Reliable power. Fusion power plants will be designed to produce a continuous supply of large amounts of electricity. Once established in the market, costs are predicted to be broadly similar to other energy sources.
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Graffiti damages area of scientific and historical interest in Pembrokeshire

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GRAFFITI painted on stones of historical and environmental importance at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has caused environmental damage that could take decades to recover.

The white paint had blighted a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Carn Ingli, which is home to a diverse range of rocks, springs and scarce plants including lichens and rare damselfly coenagrion mercurial.

Staff from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority carried out the careful removal work taking every precaution not to cause further damage. They followed an NRW-approved method statement to minimise the risk of further damaging the lichen flora.

They attempted to remove the spray paint with wire brushing, but with limited success. They had to resort to the use a solvent, carefully catching the paint and solvent residue and removing it from the site, to prevent any further damage. Special care was also taken not to trample any important flora growing on the ground around the stone. 

Ross Grisbrook, Environment Officer, Natural Resources Wales, said: 

“Not only is graffiti illegal and unsightly, but can also be very damaging to the environment. An area that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest is somewhere that should be nurtured and respected.

“Graffiti can damage the lichen flora that grows on stones. Once damaged, they can take decades to recolonise because they are slow-growing.

“I would urge anyone tempted to do such a thing again to think about the impact it will have.”

Tomos Jones, Community Archaeologist, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, said: 

“As a national park authority, part of our remit is to safeguard the special qualities that make up the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

“It is disheartening when graffiti appears that could damage scientifically important sites and their ecology, and also the setting of landscapes that are of historical significance.

“The removal of this particular graffiti proved challenging and required careful thought.

“We hope that this case highlights how damaging graffiti can be and also leads to its discouragement.” 

Report any sightings of graffiti to Dyfed-Powys Police online or by calling 101.

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New charity partnership represents a step into the wild

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Corgi will donate 20% of all sale proceeds of their Pembrokeshire Coast National Park collection of men’s and women’s socks to the Trust.

PEMBROKESHIRE COAST NATIONAL PARK TRUST is delighted to announce a new charity partnership with Corgi Socks, a Carmarthenshire-based family-run business that’s been specialising in handmade luxury socks and knitwear since 1892.

As part of this partnership, Corgi will donate 20% of all sale proceeds of their Pembrokeshire Coast National Park inspired collection of men’s and women’s socks to the Trust. The funds will enable the Trust to support the vital work of improving access to the great outdoors, boosting diversity and conservation, promoting outdoor learning and supporting jobs and skills.

Chris Jones, Corgi CEO, said: “With this beautiful iconic landscape right here on our company’s doorstep, it is a daily reminder of the importance of sustainability and environmental issues. We are delighted to support a charity helping to keep the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park special now, and for future generations.”

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust is dedicated to preserving all that is special and unique about the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park landscape for future generations to enjoy. Since the Trust was established in 2019, it has raised over £100,000 for projects in the National Park that support conservation, community, culture and the Pembrokeshire Coast. 

Corgi’s Pembrokeshire Coast inspired socks can be found at www.corgisocks.com/collections/protecting-pembrokeshire-coast-national-park, and a discount of 10% is available to those who sign up to the Corgi socks mailing list.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust is a charity registered by the UK Charity Commission. Its registered charity number is 1179281.

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