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Look out for fake spirits this New Year

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Glen's Vodka: Fake on the right, original product on the left.

Glen’s Vodka: Fake on the right, original product on the left.

REVELLERS celebrating the New Year have been warned to watch out for deadly fake vodka being sold in the local area.

Party-goers are being asked to be vigilant after thousands of bottles of counterfeit vodka containing chemicals that could prove lethal have been discovered in several locations across the UK, including in South Wales. The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that high street retailers are now being alerted to the proliferation of fake drink on sale at bargain prices over the Christmas and New Year period.

The new warning comes after Trading Standards watchdogs seized 166 bottles of counterfeit vodka from three Luton shops.

And a raid on an illegal factory in The Midlands recently uncovered 20,000 empty bottles, filling equipment and empty cans of anti-freeze, according to police.

In Weston-super-Mare, fake bottles of Smirnoff found to contain a chemical used in anti-freeze were confiscated by the authorities.

In the Luton case, officers removed vodka branded Glen’s from shop shelves after noticing the label on the bottle said “Botteled” rather than “Bottled”.

Other vodka was found to have fake duty-paid labels. Three samples were found to contain dangerously-high levels of isopropanol, commonly used as an industrial solvent, and butanol which is used in paint remover.

A public health officer said: “Drinking these chemicals could cause serious illness or even death in extreme cases.

“Many unsuspecting consumers may think they are buying cheap duty-free alcohol, when they are actually buying fake and dangerous products.”

THE DANGERS

Properly produced and certified alcoholic drinks are made with ethanol – alcohol that’s safe to drink in moderation. But fake alcoholic drinks can be produced using other cheaper types of alcohol which can have serious adverse effects on your health.

Drinkaware’s Chief Medical Advisor Professor Paul Wallace explains: “Commonly used substitutes for ethanol include chemicals used in cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and automobile screen wash, as well as methanol and isopropanol which are used in antifreeze and some fuels. These other types of alcohol can produce similar effects to ethanol in terms of making you feel tipsy. But they are also potentially very dangerous.”

Drinking alcohol containing these chemicals can cause nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness and dizziness. Drinking it can lead to kidney or liver problems and even coma. Methanol, the substance which has been found in fake vodka can cause permanent blindness.

HOW TO SPOT FAKE ALCOHOL

Illegal: Vodka bottling plant in the Midlands

Illegal: Vodka bottling plant in the Midlands

Jeremy Beadles, former Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, believes most consumers won’t come across fake alcohol and says that it’s important to keep the problem in perspective. “The vast majority of alcohol in the UK is produced and sold legitimately,” he says. “Most pubs, corner shops, off licenses and other retailers are completely legitimate businesses and wouldn’t get involved with it.”

However, it’s important to know how to spot—and avoid—fake alcohol if you do come across it.

According to the Trading Standards Institute, people need to remember ‘the 4 Ps’: Place, Price, Packaging and Product.

1. Place: Make sure you buy from a reputable supermarket, off licence or shop. 2. Price: If a deal looks too good to be true, it most probably is. 3. Packaging: Look out for:

  • Poor quality labelling, including things like spelling mistakes.
  • UK duty stamp—spirits in bottles 35cl or larger and 30% ABV or higher have to have a duty stamp, which indicates that tax has either been paid or is due to be paid on the contents of the bottle. They’re usually incorporated into the label or stuck on the glass. If it’s not there, it’s illegal
  • Properly sealed caps. If the seal is broken, don’t drink it. Even if it’s not illegal, it could have been tampered with.
  • Fake bar codes. If you have an app on your mobile that scans bar codes, scan it and see if it’s listed as the correct product.

Product: Look out for fake versions of well-known brands and be wary of unusual brand names you haven’t seen before. Vodka, the most commonly counterfeited spirit, shouldn’t have any white particles or sediment in the bottle. If you see this, the vodka could have been diluted with tap water. If any alcohol tastes or smells bad, don’t drink it. Particularly look out for the smell of nail varnish.

If you come across what you think is fake alcohol contact the Pembrokeshire County Council trading standards team on 01437 764551.

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Proposal to give firefighters a council tax discount to go to Cabinet

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PEMBROKESHIRE on-call firefighters could enjoy a reduction in council tax “in recognition of the vital work performed” by them if a call is backed by senior councillors.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, a Notice of Motion submitted by Newport and Dinas county councillor, and leader of the Independent Group, Cllr Huw Murphy was heard.

Cllr Murphy’s call stated: “There is currently a significant and severe shortage in suitable applicants coming forward to be on-call fire fighters (retained) for the Mid & West Wales Fire Service.

“Currently there are vacancies for on-call fire fighters at all fire stations throughout the region, which impacts considerably upon the safety of both residents and visitors who may need the assistance of the Fire Service. Pembrokeshire is heavily reliant on our on-call firefighters.

“In recognition of the vital work performed by our on-call fire fighters (retained not full time employees of the service) and to encourage others to consider undertaking this vital role within our communities this Notice of Motion proposes that Pembrokeshire County Council offers every retained fire-fighter working and living in Pembrokeshire a 10 per cent reduction in the council tax they pay after achieving a qualifying period of service annually, to be determined by the Chief Fire Officer.”

At the July 18 meeting, members agreed Cllr Murphy’s call be considered by the council’s Cabinet at a later date.

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Newly elected Labour MP reveals how she was raped, age 15

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NEWLY elected Labour MP Natalie Fleet has bravely revealed how she was raped at the age of 15.
In a harrowing GBNews.com interview to be broadcast this Sunday (July 21), Ms Fleet says she still has “weekly nightmares” about what happened two decades on from the attack.
After being raped, Ms Fleet fell pregnant but says the daughter she gave birth to is now the “love of her life”.
Sitting down with GB News’ Gloria De Piero in an exclusive interview she explains that she’s decided to speak about what happened because the actions of her attacker – who told her to have an abortion – were “not ok”.
Ms Fleet also fears many women are suffering and unable to get the support they need.
That’s why she plans to use her platform in Parliament to use her teenage experiences, which also saw her spent a period homeless, as a catalyst for change.
Reflecting on what happened to her two decades ago, Ms Fleet, now a mother-of-four, said: “Today, 23 years later, I look back and I think, it wasn’t ok. That was an older man. I didn’t know we were having unprotected sex. I was a child and (it) is statutory rape. At the time this isn’t something that we were talking about. It’s not how I saw myself. I still have weekly nightmares about it.
“I have a huge privilege and advantage to be in Parliament and I’m thrilled to be here. But what happened in my childhood still has a massive impact on me, which is why I’m so excited about what the next Labour government is going to do.
“At 15, you definitely think you’re old enough to do all these things. I wanted to give my daughter the best life. But another thing that I can do now I’m in Parliament is I want to be a voice for all of those people, all of those women that have children in far from ideal circumstances.
“That’s why I wanted to talk about where my daughter came from and about what happened. It was really difficult for me to say to her, ‘I don’t think this was entirely consensual, and I think I might have been groomed, and I don’t think this is an appropriate relationship’. She took it really well. I Googled in advance f0r some tips, just a fact sheet or ‘how to deal with this’ and I found nothing.
“I found absolutely nothing. I found there were fact sheets about rape being used as a war crime. But there was nothing else. There’s no acknowledgement that it happens in the UK. And the more research I’ve done, I’ve found that there are over 3,000 conceptions every year from rape. But there’s no charity to support those women.
“There’s no help, advice, or support helpline that you can go to. No help on ‘how do I tell my child, that I love, that is everything to me, that this is where they came from?’”
Explaining why extra support in this area is so desperately needed she continued: “It is biologically very clear what happened to me because I was 15 years old, and he was older. I can prove where she came from, so that’s statutory rape. But there are so many women that this happens too who don’t speak about it.


“They dare not speak about it because they know they won’t be believed. And then even if by some miracle, we move to a society where women are believed, once you say this is your child, then that man can come and have access to that child.
“Even if you prove it’s rape, that man can have access to that child and help bring it up. And that’s absolutely terrifying. This is a perpetrator that has hurt the mother, who can then have access to the child.
“He told me to have an abortion at the time. He’s never met her. He never wanted anything to do with it. And he was very dismissive. He told me many times that he knew lots of ways that he wouldn’t have to pay a penny towards her, because all his friends had already evaded the CSA.”
Describing the relationship she now has with her daughter, Ms Fleet said: “So she’s 23 now and is the absolute love of my life. I am so proud of everything she is. I am thrilled. She makes me proud every single day. But at the time, when I was 15, I felt full of shame and guilt and responsibility. And all I was determined to do was make sure that she had a life that was as good as she would have had to any age parent. That was what I was determined to do.”
Outlining how she plans to use her role as an MP to push for change, she said: “I am a product of the last Labour government. It wasn’t a perfect Government, but it changed my life and it was transformational. When I was younger, things were tough and I had a Labour government.
“When we were homeless, the Labour government made sure that there was enough housing stock for us to be rehoused. And then when I had my first child at a very young age, I could send her to a Sure Start nursery. I could carry on, go to university with a first in the family scholarship.
“I could work in a minimum wage job. I could send my children because I’d got two by then, to a Sure Start nursery, and it just felt like I needed the support of the state. And my God, I got it.
“And, before I became an MP, I worked for a trade union and I was absolutely desperate to give back to my teachers. My teachers had invested in me. The Labour government made sure that my teachers had time to teach me and look after me, and I then saw that I was paying taxes and they weren’t being invested in young children like me or teachers. That’s why we needed a new Government?”
“On my estate, the estate where we were rehoused, I looked around and people struggled. And I see now there are people that I was close to when I was younger who are now suffering with addiction and poverty scars.
“What poverty has done to me has meant that I work and work and work and work and work. If somebody knocks on my door, I won’t answer it because I’m still scared it’s the bailiffs. That’s what happens to you in your childhood, it stays with you. In areas of Bolsover it’s absolutely heart-breaking.
“But I could either be angry about what’s happened over the past 14 years, sad and feel powerless, or I could come into Parliament and try and do something about it. I mean, what an honour.”

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Second home numbers in Pembrokeshire drop after council tax hike

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THE NUMBER of second homes and self-catering holiday properties in Pembrokeshire has declined year-on-year, while those seeking council tax exceptions have, in one class, gone up 255 per cent.

A call for an update on Pembrokeshire County Council’s position on a potential relaxation of the ‘182-day’ rule, allowing self-catering accommodation to avoid paying a council tax premium was heard at the July meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Last year, the rules on holiday lets in Wales changed; Welsh Government criteria saying holiday lets must be filled for 182 days a year – up from a previous 70 – in order to qualify for business rates rather than pay second homes council tax.

In Pembrokeshire, second homes, and self-catering businesses not meeting the criteria, are now paying a 200 per cent council tax premium in the county, effectively a treble rate of council tax.

At the July 18 meeting of full council, a question was submitted by Cllr Huw Murphy was heard, a follow-up from a previously unsuccessful notice of motion where he had called for a relaxation in the ‘182-day’ rules in the county down to 140 days.

After that notice failed last year, it was agreed the position be reviewed in 12 months, with Cabinet agreeing to write to Welsh Government to highlight concern over the 182-day occupancy rule.

In his question, Cllr Murphy said: “Can council be provided with an update of what data has been obtained since Dec 2023 to examine the impact of the 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering properties in advance of a review to be completed by December 2024 prior to any decision over what level of second home council tax to be levied for 2024/25 as it may be necessary to consider a reduction to support an industry under pressure?

“Have PCC received a reply from WG with regards to the concerns raised with regards to the 182-day rule and its impact on the Pembrokeshire tourism industry?”

In response, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance and Efficiencies Cllr Joshua Beynon said a decision on future council tax premiums would be made by full council at its October meeting, after earlier committee discussions, adding that the council is currently undertaking a consultation on the second homes and long-term empty property premiums and has included questions on using its discretion on properties which did not meet the 182-day rule.

“In the interim, the Revenues team are monitoring the movement in second homes and self-catering units and the number of properties receiving an exception to paying the council tax premium,” he told members.

Members heard, as of July 1, the main increases in the level of exceptions related to Class 1 exceptions, properties that are up for sale, which had increased by 97 in the last 12 months, a rise of 255 per cent, and in Class 6 exceptions, properties that have a planning condition prohibiting year-round occupancy, which had increased by 78, or 21.6 per cent, with an overall increase in the seven classes of exemptions of 37.45 per cent.

Councillors were told the number of second homes had dropped year-on-year on that date from 3,364 to 3,271, roughly a 2.7 per cent drop; self-catering units dropping from 2,621 to 2,425, roughly 7.47 per cent.

Members heard, in response to Cllr Murphy’s second question, the-then leader Cllr David Simpson had received a response in May.

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