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‘Stark’ choices for Pembrokeshire

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Cllr Jamie Adams: Simpson says he is 'a capable boy with bad judgement'

Cllr Jamie Adams: Simpson says he is ‘a capable boy with bad judgement’

A MEDIA meeting on Friday Oct 3) allowed media to quiz Council Leader Jamie Adams about the council’s public consultation of its services and budget planning. In conjunction with the council’s Finance Director, Jon Haswell, Cllr Adams delivered a ‘stark’ assessment of the choices facing local government in Pembrokeshire. Jamie Adams told the press that the effect of cuts on the grant to local government will mean around 25% of funding will disappear over the next four years.

With Pembrokeshire’s annual budget running currently at about £207m a year, that figure will shrink to £150m by 2017/18. According to Jon Haswell: “It is difficult to see how previously protected services such as education can retain their ‘protected’ status.’ ‘Protected’ elements of the budget amount to – arguably – £170m, while other services have been cut.” Jamie Adams continued by remarking that he regarded the current grants system as inefficient and bureaucratic, particularly with regard to specific grants given for defined projects.

Calling on government ministers to ease the bureaucratic burden, Cllr Adams suggested that the time had come for specific grants to be included in the total grant settlement to prevent duplication of work and waste of scarce cash. Cllr Adams stated that he was keen to strip away excess costs from the delivery of services and pointed out that he was keen to communicate that buildings were separate entities from the services provided within them. “Year on year I am pleased to have been able to announce that we are one of the few authorities without resorting to compulsory redundancies. I can no longer give that guarantee now. We are at a tipping point in local government finances.

We will consider all options, and will be looking to flexible opportunities to reduce some staff hours. We have to look at that in relation to service provision. “But I have to praise staff for the willingness and skills in delivering services outside their comfort zone, for example at Fishguard Library, where several services are delivered and more hours are now devoted to individual services than was previously the case.” He added: “Costs associated with buildings are impacting upon the level of service, in that they drain the budget.

We are looking at a rationalisation of buildings which hopefully will not mean a rationalisation of services but that the same number of services will be delivered from fewer building. “We are at a fundamental juncture in local government where we need to significantly reduce the costs of the services we provide. Taking the Youth Service as an example, 40%-50% of the cost of providing that service is tied up in the specific building. Those buildings provide nothing. People provide the service. The family centre, youth centre, older persons’ centre, adult education centre become one and instead of being used, perhaps, sixteen hours a week, they are used sixteen hours a day.

What you have in communities is an attitude that the building is the service. But that is not the case. Luncheon clubs, for example, meet in specific buildings but why not elsewhere. We need to focus our expenditure on services and people, not on maintaining buildings. It is a difficult argument to get across. I hope more communities will step forward and follow the example of Fishguard at Theatr Gwaun, and become involved in delivering services and taking on funding of them their selves. I want to be clear, however, that we will not allow communities to take on providing services which they cannot afford to maintain.”

He went on to explain: “Look at Narberth Pool: there is great enthusiasm to retain Narberth Pool within that community. I hope and think they will get there and show they have the financial capacity to maintain the Pool as a going concern.” “There will be inevitably be services which are delivered at low cost now, which will attract a higher cost in the future. Some things that are provided free, will be charged for in order to retain services. There are different ways to deliver services; there is a huge capacity in the third sector, but there is also a chance of losing uniformity across the whole county.”

Speaking about secondary education, Cllr Adams told the meeting: “There are eight secondary schools in Pembrokeshire with 1,000 empty places. In five years time there will be 2,000 empty places. Maintaining schools that are not at or near capacity is a wasted resource. “21st Century Schools is an opportunity to rebuild the school estate and provide more efficient buildings to reduce the costs of running school buildings.” In relation to the pressure being applied to Welsh councils to merge, Jamie Adams said: “We are prepared to look at the advantages for Pembrokeshire of some sort of formal arrangement with another Council.

We are to discuss this in Council on October 16. But I have not seen any evidence that larger councils to perform well financially, in fact the largest council in Wales is not doing very well at all. “Partnership working is already happening. We are already working with Carmarthenshire on elements of the education service. But there is the important matter of democratic oversight;

there is a risk of the creation of a democratic deficit if councils become too large and services too remote. “In terms of the financial carrot offered by the Minister, I have seen no detail and I suspect that councils might find it a very mouldy carrot indeed, especially if they have to find the money to fund mergers themselves out of existing budgets. “That said, I do see an opportunity for councils to become commissioners of services, rather than providing all those services themselves.

Legal services are provided via a consortium-type arrangement. “I have no problem commissioning a service from another council or another provider but I think it is important that people and councillors can hold me to democratic account about the decisions I make. “It would be quite comfortable, I think, being the head of a large authority. You can avoid direct engagement, in a way that I seem unable to at the moment!”

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MP calls for cut in beer duty for pubs

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has written to the Chancellor ahead of next week’s Budget calling on him not to increase alcohol duties and to cut the tax on draught sales to help stop pubs going out of business.

Mr Crabb is one of more than a 100 MPs calling for a cut in the ‘keg tax’ to help pubs compete more fairly with supermarket sales of alcohol. 

Currently, beer drinkers have to pay around £1 in tax for every pint they drink in a pub, which is the highest rate in Europe and nearly twelve times higher than in Germany.

Commenting on the letter, Mr Crabb said: “Pubs are at the heart of so many of our communities and when a pub closes down something special is  lost. That is why I am calling on the Chancellor to reduce the beer duty from the keg. A cut will not only bolster our much-loved pubs across our towns and villages, but also have a knock-on boost for British agriculture and employment. 

“Over a hundred Conservative MPs and I hope that after a difficult period the Chancellor will give our pubs and clubs something to raise a drink to this budget.”

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County lines intensification week sees drug supply disrupted into west Wales

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Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police carried out 11 raids during a week of action tackling county lines drug gangs.

COUNTY LINES intensification week (Monday, 11 October to Sunday, 17 October) saw officers carry out warrants, intercepting vehicles potentially involved in the supply of drugs, and working with partners to raise awareness of drug-related crime.

Seventeen people were arrested during the week, with crack cocaine (0.8grams), heroin (77g) and cocaine (6g) seized.

The value of those drugs is estimated to be around £4,500, while officers seized £6,500 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Also seized were an extendable baton and an ammunition magazine.

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Cotterell said: “The county lines intensification week was successful for Dyfed-Powys Police, and we had a number of excellent results thanks to the proactive work of officers and police staff across the four divisions.”

As well as the front-line warrants and police work, a lot went on behind the scenes, leading to:

  • More than 2,000 people educated about County Lines and exploitation during the intensification week in the community and partner agencies.
  • Some 50 letting agencies/estate agents educated about the dangers of criminality, such as County lines activity in rented properties.
  • More than 150 businesses educated about county lines, with an emphasis on those who provide mobile top-up services and the use of ‘burner phones’.
  • 50 ‘at-risk’ or vulnerable children, young people and adults received targeted safeguarding support on a 1-2-1 basis and in group settings.

DCI Cotterell added: “Few people are aware of the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to support victims, or the measures we put in place to stop people from becoming repeat victims of drug-related crime.”

“It is very important to us as a force that while we act on all new intelligence to disrupt county lines, we also take a victim-oriented approach to working with those affected by these gangs to protect them from becoming repeat victims.”

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Pembroke Dock: Pensioner sentenced to 20 years for child sex offences

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A PENSIONER from Pembroke Dock has been given an extended sentence of 20 years in prison with a further year on licence after being found guilty of historical rape of a child in the 1980s.

Barry Lake, aged 70, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court today (22 October) having been found guilty of 10 counts of rape of a child and two charges of gross indecency with a child last month.

Lake, now of Newton-le-Willows in St Helens, had denied all 12 charges relating to offences between January 1986 and January 1989.

Lake was first questioned by Dyfed-Powys Police in April 2020 in what would become an intensive and complex investigation.

Investigating officer DC Claire Lewis said: “Lake denied all charges, putting his victim through the ordeal of a trial.

“As they have done throughout the investigation, they showed great courage and dignity in the face of adversity to help us convict their abuser.

“This was a long and intensive investigation with a lot of work to achieve this outcome today.

“This sentence shows that it doesn’t matter how long ago a victim has suffered sexual abuse, we as police are here to listen and take seriously any person who has suffered any form of sexual abuse albeit a day or 35 years after.

“Please do not be scared to come forward, we are here to listen to you.

“Once again, I would like to commend the victim for their bravery for coming forward and achieving this outcome today.”

After serving 20 years in prison Lake will serve another year on licence.

He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register indefinitely and made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

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