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Council’s cabinet meets

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Council Tax to rise by 4.5%

Rattling through the agenda: Jamie Adams moved matters quickly on

Rattling through the
agenda: Jamie Adams
moved matters quickly on

THE IPPG CABINET nodded through a financial report on Monday, January 5, which contained details of a 4.5% rise in Council

Tax. The proposed rise for 2015/16 would raise Council Tax for a Band D property to £801.44 per year. A meeting of the Cabinet at County Hall on a Monday morning is, perhaps, not the best way to revitalise yourself after a fairly long Christmas break. A heavy agenda loomed, including receiving a report from the Welsh Social Services Inspectorate (CSSIW) on the Council, an interim financial statement setting out the challenges caused by an ever more constrained budget, car parking changes, a new housing finance settlement, and a new location for the County Library. As agendas go, it was weighty: detailed enquiry – particularly on departmental budgets and cuts to them – could have been expected.

Positive steps in Social Care

No comment on cuts to its budget: Simon Hancock

No comment on cuts
to its budget: Simon
Hancock

First up was a presentation of the type you might reasonably expect any person to like. Significant progress had been made by the

Council in meeting the requirements of CSSIW in relation to social care. Where concerns lingered, they were few, compared to the overwhelming number of positives to be drawn from the presentation by Lesley Stubbs, Area Manager for CSSIW, and the report accompanying it.

Cabinet members Sue Perkins and Simon Hancock, responsible for the portfolios covered by the report, expressed their pleasure with the report and praised staff for achieving a high standard. Ms Stubbs reported that CSSIW had been greatly assisted in the preparation of the report by the stability among the officer cadre and service heads who managed social care and children’s services.

She was hopeful that the current situation, in which key officers – including the former Head of Children’s Services, Jake Morgan – had left the authority would be addressed, so as to ensure progress achieved could be maintained.

Rents rise, but more money for housing

Concerned: Rob Summons was unhappy with planning proposals

Concerned: Rob Summons
was unhappy with planning
proposals

In the coming year, the Council will revolutionise the way it manages its social housing. To comply with Welsh Government legislation it will begin the process of raising council rents to harmonise with other authorities across Wales. The Council has been forced into this step by the Welsh Government, which has insisted on mandatory rent rises of inflation plus 1.5% for the next four years, plus a further £2.

The Council has cushioned the blow as best it can by reducing the £2 surcharge to £1.50 for the year 2015/16. The change means that Council tenants paying a weekly rent of £70 will be £4 a week worse off from April 6. Tenants in sheltered properties will be required to contribute to sheltered warden costs. Other service charges linked to communal areas in Councilowned properties will follow in April 2016.

While the authority exits the existing financial arrangements with the Welsh Government for social housing, it will have additional monies made available to it as a result. The additional money will be used by the authority to improve its existing housing stock and develop new social housing schemes in the County. The Council’s aim is to deliver initially ten additional properties for social housing a year in each of the next five years, initially by acquiring properties in strategic locations around the County.

No questions about budget cuts

Agenda Item 5 was the medium term financial plan for the next two years. Describing the financial settlements for the current and preceding year as “the two most difficult financial settlements since the Council’s inception in 1996”, the report made grim reading.

Over £2m to be cut off the education budget, just under that amount off adult social care, almost £1m off social care for children, and hefty cuts from already slashed budgets for highways, culture and leisure, and environmental services. A total of over £12m in cuts coming up in 2015/16 and no end in sight for the foreseeable future.

The details behind the headline figures were equally startling: residential care is to be reviewed with a projected saving of £1/4m and a review of commissioned services for adults with a projected saving of over three times that amount. The figures are challenging, to say the least and it is clear that having trimmed low-hanging fruit from the budgetary vine, more serious root and branch surgery is on the way.

The Cabinet, however, possibly stricken by the bleakness of the financial picture, raised not one question on the figures. Nobody offered even a murmur before the topic was closed and the next agenda item addressed.

Concern over planning reforms

The Council gave a frosty response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on a proposed new planning regime. Expressing concerns that the policy did nothing to address the importance of protecting the Welsh language in areas that might be affected by future housing development, Pembrokeshire County Council echoed views expressed both by Carmarthenshire County Council and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg.

The Cabinet collectively endorsed the view that so-called ‘front-loading’ of the planning process would produce problems, especially when combined with what was described as ‘an overly-prescriptive’ initial approach to the planning process. The response reflecting those concerns, and prepared by officers was unanimously endorsed.

Cabinet debates Riverside library

Back in three months: Keith Lewis wants fast library decision

Back in three months: Keith Lewis wants fast library decision

By far the longest discussion of the day was devoted to the relocation of the County Library from its current temporary accommodation to new premises. As revealed in last week’s Pembrokeshire Herald, the current Riverside market site has emerged as a strong favourite for the development. While some concerns were expressed about the current stall holders in the market, those were swept aside as a wave of enthusiasm for the site swept around the Cabinet.

The possibility of regenerating Bridge Street by relocating business sited in the market was nodded about with every sign of approval. The fact that those businesses, each of them with leases and some with the benefi t of goodwill and locationrecognition built up over many years, had not been consulted about the grand scheme was rather brushed under the carpet. This was a chance not only to do something but to be seen to do it. The disclosure in the discussion documents that the vacant offi ces at Cherry Grove, acquired only recently by the authority, needed structural work to the floors was all forgotten about.

The thought that they had brought this on themselves by moving the library with NO clear or properly-costed plans for an alternative location, similarly did not engage their notice. ‘Back in three months with a fi rm proposal’, was the call from Councillor Keith Lewis. Having nodded through everything else, his fellow Cabinet members nodded along with that.

Best of the rest

Having managed the rare feat of keeping the platitudes going for almost an hour and a half, the last few items on the agenda were clattered through at a fearful rate. The opportunity given to the Development Directorate to mismanage yet more public money was dealt with on the nod; library opening hours littledetained the Cabinet, save for Neyland councillor Simon Hancock mentioning Neyland library and Pembroke Dock member Sue Perkins doing likewise for Pembroke Dock’s.

A swift trot through car-parking charges, including a brusque disposal of Pembroke Town Council’s objections to charging for coaches on the Commons Road, and the fi nal item on the agenda arrived. Perhaps chastened by the realisation that there had been decidedly little actual debate, there was a marginally more detailed discussion about the Council’s plan to charge a £10 fee for Blue Badge applications.

The fact that Pembrokeshire Council was one of the last hold-outs to charging has done the Council great credit; the fact that they have been compelled to move to charging by legislative changes further up the political food chain is a matter for regret. In a concession, the Cabinet agreed that it would look at ensuring that those on the lowest incomes would not be adversely affected by the charge.

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Pembroke Dock: Two in hospital following Fort Road car accident

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EMERGENCY SERVICES dealt with what has been described by a witness as a “horrific car accident” in the Pembroke Dock area on Wednesday night (Jun 12).

A 23-year-old woman, driving a black BMW, travelled down Fort Road at speed, hit a low wall, catapulting the vehicle some considerable distance across a picnic area. The vehicle ended up irreparably damaged on the beach – which was luckily not in use at the time – landing next to the old Cambridge Gun Tower.

No other vehicles seem to have been involved, police said.

The driver has been arrested but remains in hospital, one passenger is in a critical but stable condition, in Cardiff, and a second passenger sustained only minor injuries.

A spokesperson for Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.45pm on Wednesday night (Jun 23), to reports of a road traffic accident near the Fort Road car park in Pembroke Dock.

“We attended the scene with one rapid response vehicle, two emergency ambulances and our Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service.

“Two people were taken to University Hospital Wales, Cardiff for further treatment.”

The police are appealing in the media for information following the crash.

An official statement from the police reads as follows: “We were called to Fort Road, Pembroke Dock, at around 10.45pm on Wednesday night to reports of a single-vehicle collision. Ambulance and fire service also attended.

“A 19-year-old man was taken to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff and remains in a critical but stable condition.

“A second passenger attended hospital for minor injuries but has since been discharged. A 23-year-old woman was arrested, and currently remains in hospital.

“Anyone who witnessed the collision but who has not yet spoken to us should get in touch by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, visiting our website, or calling 101.

UPDATE: 24.06.2021, 15:47HRS

On Thursday (Jun 24) said that the female who was arrested was de-arrested because of the need for medical treatment, and is “no longer under arrest at this time.”

The police also added that their investigation was “still active”.

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Pembrokeshire call handler helps deliver Llanelli couple’s new baby

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A 999 CALL HANDLER from Pembrokeshire has helped deliver a Llanelli couple’s baby.

Father-of-two Chris Bassett, from Hook, answered the call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen, and whose instructions on loudspeaker enabled the pair to deliver their 8lb 1oz new arrival safely.

Thanks to Chris, Troy Smith, 34, and partner Abigail Jones, 33, delivered baby Arabella Dilys Smith in the bedroom of their Llanelli home.

Troy said: “I’ve never felt adrenaline like it but I knew I had to focus on the situation for Abigail and the baby’s sake.

“It all happened so quickly, but Chris’ voice on the other end of the phone kept us calm.”

Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Carreg Hir in Briton Ferry, went into labour at around 10.00pm on Thursday, June 3, and made a trip to hospital, where nurses confirmed she was in the early stages.

The couple returned to their Pwll home, but their soon-to-be daughter had other ideas.

Troy said: “At around 4.30am, Abigail developed a lot of pain and said she had an urge to push.

“I thought, ‘Right, this is happening’ and phoned an ambulance because I knew I’d be delivering the baby right there and then.”

It was Chris, a former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, who picked up the call in the early hours of Friday, June 4.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for 18 months, said: “As soon as I answered the call, it was obvious that Troy and Abigail were in distress, as anyone would be in that situation.

“The priority was to get Abigail in a comfortable position to deliver the baby safely.

“For me, it was about giving them clear instructions while trying to keep them both calm.”

Troy added: “I just did what came naturally. When you’re in that situation, you just do it.

“As soon as Arabella came, I felt this wave of relief and I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was.

“Chris was so professional and handled the situation really well.

“He gave us all the information and kept us calm.”

Ambulance crews arrived soon after, and took Abigail to Carmarthen’s Glangwili General Hospital, where she was treated for shock before being discharged the following day.

Abigail said: “The whole thing was petrifying because I just never expected to be having the baby at home, but we’re so grateful to Chris for helping us to deliver Arabella safely.”

Chris added: “In your role as a 999 call handler, you’re helping people in their darkest hour, but I’m just glad this call had a happy ending.

“This is the third baby I’ve helped to deliver during my time at the ambulance service, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

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Covid causes partial school closure at Haverfordwest High VC

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A PARTIAL school closure is in force today at Haverfordwest High VC school after a pupil in year 9 has tested positive for coronavirus.

All students in year 9 must stay at home , isolate and await further instruction while the school completes all of the necessary Track and Trace processes.

In a statement released by the school, they said: “We have been informed that a Year 9 pupil has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We wish them a speedy recovery.

“As a precautionary measure and to enable us to complete all of the necessary Track and Trace processes, the school will be closed to Year 9 Pupils today.

“The school remains open to all other year groups.

“Until further notice, Year 9 students should stay at home and isolate until further instructions are given. Lessons for all other year groups will continue as usual. Unless your child is in Year 9 they should attend school.”

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