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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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Roy

    September 3, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Jamie must be talking about a different Pembs! Perhaps there is such a thing as a parallel universe after all. Overpaid officials, illegal pension payments and a “Porsche on the Council”. Bullying, child abuse, it goes on.
    Cardiff doesn’t understand Pembs is the only bit he has got right – they don’t understand how £250,000 of public funds ended up with a property developer and Jamie fudges every attempt to explain it.

  2. Tomos

    September 5, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Jamie – I’m a good dog, I’ve learnt verbatim what mister jones told me to say, so I’ll get my doggie biscuit, a walk and keep my job and the special allowance – that’s good isn’t it? 😉

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Former Chequers nightclub to reopen

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AN APPLICATION for a new premises licence for the former Chequers night club succeeded at a meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Licensing sub-committee on Thursday (Aug 22).

The former nightclub closed its doors for the last time in 2003, when it ran as a private members’ club, having had an application for a full on-licence rejected.

After failing in an attempt to close the club on that occasion, Pembrokeshire County Council became the only local authority in Wales to classify mobile homes as permanent residences in an effort to shut down the club once and for all.

The new applicant, Mrs Carmen Clemas applied for a new premises licence in respect of the club, which will be renamed the Queen of Clubs.

The Committee heard objections to the licence from local residents and heard representations from both the Police and Fire Service which pointed out that the building would need significant remedial works to it before it could re-open.

While Penally Community Council objected on the basis of events and problems at the premises almost twenty years ago, neither the Police nor Fire Service had an objection to the Club’s re-opening in principle.

Both emergency services emphasised that, even though they had no objections, they had concerns that had to be addressed.

The Committee granted the application, refusing permission for licensable activities at the Club on Sundays, apart from Sundays before Bank Holidays, and imposing strict noise control measures.

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St Davids RNLI to feature in new series of a popular TV documentary

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THE volunteer lifeboat crew of St Davids RNLI will be taking to the small screen next week as they will feature twice in the first episode of the BBC TV series Saving Lives at Sea.

Now in its fourth season the documentary series, which showcases the lifesaving work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), will be aired on BBC Two on Tuesdays at 8 pm, as well as being available on the BBC iPlayer following the broadcast. The new 10-part series features real rescues carried out by the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards around the UK and Ireland – including St Davids RNLI.

Each programme gives a unique insight into the lives and work of the charity’s lifesavers who are needed more than ever before, rescuing thousands of people and saving hundreds of lives around our coastline and on inland waterways every year. The new series features more dramatic real-life rescue footage, accompanied by emotive testimonials from the volunteer crews, lifeguards and the people they rescue and their families.

This forthcoming episode, on 27 August, sees St Davids RNLI launch to a crashed plane in one shout, and tow a yacht stranded in a shipping lane in another. These shouts are shown alongside rescue stories from their colleagues at other stations and beaches around our coasts.

Judd Kohler, Station Mechanic at St Davids Lifeboat Station, said: “The first episode of Saving Lives at Sea shows two very different shouts that St Davids RNLI responded to. The programme is a great chance for RNLI supporters to catch a glimpse of the work that their kind donations go towards. We want to say a huge thank you to supporters of the RNLI, who help us to save lives at sea.”

Filming took place over the past year, with lifeboat crews and lifeguards carrying special cameras and welcoming film-makers into their day-to-day life. Rescues from the RNLI’s archives are also revisited, and we get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the thousands of men and women who give up their time to save lives.

Last year alone, RNLI lifeboat crews around the UK and Ireland rescued 9,412 people, saving 211 lives, while the charity’s lifeguards aided 32,207 people and saved 118 lives on some of the UK’s busiest beaches.

Saving Lives at Sea begins on Tuesday 27 August at 8 pm on BBC Two, and will continue throughout August, September and October.

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Pembrokeshire schools celebrate GCSE results

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S schools are celebrating students’ success in this year’s GCSE exams.

 

“On behalf of staff and governors at Milford Haven School, I would like to congratulate all Year 11 pupils on their GCSE results, reflecting the efforts and commitment they have shown over the last two years and also thank their parents/carers for their support and cooperation,” said the Head Teacher, Ceri-Ann Morris.

 

“We are pleased with a number of individual successes, in particular, our top performers include, Izzy-May Solomon (10A*, 3A’s and B), Megan Owens (12A* and A), Megan Clarke (8A* and 4A’s), Finlay Ryder, Gareth Maclachlan, Evan Price, Molly Griffiths, Elanor Evans, Beth Lewis and Lucie Mathias.

 

The school is pleased to say that all pupils left school with qualifications which will help support them to follow the path of their choice, whether that be into the sixth form, college, apprenticeships or employment.

 

We wish you all good luck in your future careers.”

Among those receiving their results was Joseph Jenkins, a 14-year-old Year 9 student, who achieved a Distinction in Advanced Mathematics.

At Ysgol Y Preseli 100% of pupils achieved qualifications equivalent to 5A*-G; 91% 5A*-C and 37% achieved at least 5A*-A grades.

Across the core subjects, the pupils achieved the following results at A*-C – Welsh 86%; English 91%; Mathematics 82%; Science 84%.

The Head Teacher, Mr Michael Davies, commenting on the results stated: “We are very proud of all the young people who have worked tirelessly to achieve these results. I would also like to thank the staff for their willingness to go the extra mile to ensure that all pupils fulfil their potential at Ysgol y Preseli.”

Amongst the top performers were: Seren Allen – 13 A*, 1 A; Nuala Camplin – 8 A*, 4 A, 2B; Cerys Chadwick – 14 A*; Annest Davies – 6 A*, 4 A, 1B; Thomas Elliott – 9 A*, 4 A, 1 B; Gethin Greenhalgh – 9 A*, 5 A; Cara James – 5 A*, 8 A; Casey Lambert- 7 A*, 7 A; Alexander Larsen – 10 A*, 4 A; Tom Palfrey – 9 A*, 3 A, 1 B; Kate Thomas – 5 A*, 5 A, 3 B; David Varney – 7 A*, 4 A, 3 B
Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has congratulated GCSE students on their results, as overall performance across Wales has improved.

This summer’s results mark the end of the significant GCSE reform journey undertaken in Wales. The last seven of reformed GCSE subjects are awarded this year including History, Computer Science and Welsh Second Language.

Speaking during her visit to King Henry VIII School in Abergavenny, Kirsty Williams said: “Today we have seen an improvement in overall performance across Wales. I would like to congratulate all learners receiving their results today and to thank the teachers who have worked so hard to deliver these new qualifications.

“Last year we saw a dramatic increase of 50% in entries for science GCSEs. I am pleased to see that entries and results are continuing on the upward trend, with more pupils gaining A*-C and more achieving the very top grades in Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

“This increase in learners being entered means more young people are accessing qualifications that lead to greater opportunities for further science study and careers, paving the way for the future scientists of Wales.”

Following the publication of yesterday’s GCSE and Welsh Baccalaureate results David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union said: “We congratulate all students who have collected their GCSE and Welsh Baccalaureate results from today and wish them all the very best for the future. It is particularly pleasing to note that overall GCSE performance in Wales has improved by 1.2% especially given the fact that all examinations have been subject to reform in recent years. This progress is a testament to the time and effort put into their studies by pupils across Wales and the unstinting dedication of education professionals in our schools.”

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