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Shadow Minister speaks

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Owen Smith MP: We must try and maintain high quality jobs

Owen Smith MP: We must try and maintain high quality jobs

AFTER the shock news of the collapse of the Murco takeover deal, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales joined local councillor Paul Miller to meet with Herald Deputy Editor Jon Coles and discuss the buyout’s traumatic failure. With rumour and counter-rumour swirling about the cause for the Klesch Group’s abortive acquisition of the refinery, we asked Owen Smith about what had gone wrong. He told us: “My understanding is that this is a problem that has occurred on behalf of the buyer in this group, Klesch Group. The buyer couldn’t come through with a deal now.

That’s what the unions at the plant told us; that’s what the management at the plant we met today told us at the plant. I will take their word that is the case.” Rejecting ideas that either the UK or Welsh Governments were at fault, Owen Smith pointed out the generous funding arrangements that both governments had made and told us: “Governments at both ends of the M4 have been doing all they could to make sure that the funding that they were going to provide was in place We will want to get to the bottom of what went wrong and I am going to be writing to David Cameron and to Stephen Crabb as to why Klesch didn’t come through.”

Acknowledging the shattering effect on the economy, Owen Smith said: “The deal’s failure is a devastating blow for this community. These are high quality jobs, well-paying jobs and they will not be replaced easily. There are wider implications for the entire Pembrokeshire economy and the West Wales economy.” Owen Smith was hopeful that all parties would strive to put steps in place to soften the impact of the blow: “The Welsh Government – Carwyn Jones, Edwina Hart and others – will absolutely put their shoulder into the wheel.

They will be under no illusions as to how important this closure would be. They know precisely the nature of the economy in Pembrokeshire and I they can be relied on to do or within their power to make sure whatever happens. “We must try and maintain high quality jobs in this area. Westminster has to play its part. The Westminster parliament is a government for Pembrokeshire as well in London, and we need to make sure that they understand their role. A very large amount of money was supposed to come from the government in Westminster to support the takeover bid. We now to make sure that the UK Government plays a full part not only in supporting those workers who may lose their jobs, but also trying to replace those jobs.

Warming to his theme, he continued: “We need to make sure that we pull out all the stops on this because, I say again: these jobs are so important for this community; established jobs; high skilled jobs; high paid jobs. Whether the government is Labour or Tory, we’ve got to do all we can to try and make sure that the bits of Britain at the fringes, a long way from London and the south-east, don’t have to see our children, our sons and daughters leave to find good work when it could be right here, on our doorsteps.” On the broader elements of how to sustain jobs in primary industries, Owen Smith was clear as to where he saw Labour’s priorities lying: “There are key things that governments need to do in order to support industry especially in more peripheral parts of Britain.

“The next Labour government, in my view, will have to have a really solid infrastructure plan, but more importantly a very strong industrial strategy. I think you could argue that successive governments have not had a powerful enough industrial strategy, especially for key industries like refining, steel and chemicals. We need to get back to that. We need to get back to supporting manufacturing jobs – jobs in high skilled, perhaps old, but still vital industries. Those are the jobs that we have got in communities like Milford Haven.

They’re some of the jobs we’ve got in steel producing areas of Britain and they are still going to be hugely important part of our industrial mix for the next twenty years, more hopefully. “We need to be looking into the jobs for the future but we also need to remember what we have got now and what governments can do right now to make sure that we maintain and sustain those industries and those jobs.” Paul Miller put a personal perspective on the collapse of the refinery deal: “My family’s been supported by that particular site for the last few decades. My brother still works there; so I know just how important that site is and just how difficult a period it is for the families working there.

“I want to make absolutely sure that everyone on the Labour front bench being in Cardiff or Westminster are under no illusions of how important this site is, how important those jobs are and how difficult a period this is going to be for the Pembrokeshire economy. No stone must be left unturned in finding the solution for this particular problem. “I’m delighted that Owen accepted the invitation to come to see what was happening on the ground. We needed to hear from management and from staff about what’s going on and if there’s anything at all we can do to help them.”

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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent

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A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to a Herald reporter Callum Hicks said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, he said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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