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MPs should be ‘a bloody nuisance’

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simon hart

A nuisance: Simon Hart

SIMON HART arrives for his interview with the air of a man eager to get cracking with business. That does not, however, stop him from taking time to chat about his experiences as a surveyor in and around Tenby and the deep connection he feels to his home locality. With a message sent on his mobile phone to explain he would be late for his next stop on a journey that had seen him visit a trampoline factory in Pembroke Dock before heading to The Herald offices and then off to visit Llawhaden, he gives the impression of being a man constantly active and on the move.

The same habits permeate his speech: he is, by turn, measured and bubbling with infectious enthusiasm as he warms to a subject. We start off with a subject featured in last Friday’s edition of The Herald. A couple of weeks ago, our columnist Badger offered an assessment of how the local seats in the coming election would pan out. In that column he described Mr Hart, whose chances he did not fancy, “a humane and committed constituency MP of a type becoming increasingly rare at Westminster”.

Badger’s words were met with correspondence from those who wished to draw attention to their contention that Mr Hart’s past as Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance made the word “humane”, at best, moot. That correspondence was featured, as was Badger’s somewhat pithy response. Mr Hart said: “I am interested that those who are opposed to hunting are those who appear to be obsessed about it and are constantly raising it.

“My priorities in my constituency are, I hope, basically the same as everyone else: jobs, housing, health, the future of Withybush. Of course, I have never made any secret about what I did before I was an MP.I am proud to have been associated with a 200 year old Pembrokeshire institution – the South Pembs Hunt. So, I have no problems. People must make their own judgements and if they found what I did before I was an MP too much to stomach, then I have to live with that.”

He continued: “The usual thing you hear about MP’s is that we are all the same and nobody knows what anyone stands for. I personally think that voters these days would prefer to vote for somebody who has beliefs and opinions and is prepared to stand by them. “It was not my party who spent 700 hours of parliamentary time debating hunting. In this Parliament not a single hour of debate has been devoted to the issue. I am not going to be accused of devoting time to a subject which, as I say, I never raised and which I never would have raised.”

We asked Mr Hart whether he was optimistic about the prospects for economic regeneration in his parliamentary constituency. He said: “I’m always somebody with a positive demeanour. Entering 2015, and trying to be realistic about the obstacles some families face, I am immensely proud of the fact that we have great businesses around here. Some of them are long-standing and some of them relatively new. This morning, I was at Atlantic trampolines in Pembroke Dock, who have sold 50,000 trampolines over the last few years and are selling their goods across the UK and worldwide.

“There is a lot to be positive about with small and medium-sized business opening up: the manufacture of the ZANO drone based at the BIC, in Pembroke Dock, puts us at the forefront of new and developing technologies. The lists of these new businesses is endless.” Simon Hart paused to take a sip of tea and continued: “It is fantastic we are seeing unemployment fall in the area. I hate it when people talk about jobs in tourism as “not proper jobs”.

If you are working on that caravan site or in that hotel, earning your own money and spending it in your community: that’s a proper job. I did that once and I think it is condescending of people to suggest that they are not proper jobs.” Looking at the loss of manufacturing jobs, at Murco and Cambrian Windows, Mr Hart acknowledged the challenges but remained upbeat: “There are career prospects in the County: I don’t want it to seem that I am looking at things through rose-tinted spectacles. There are a signifi cant number of new jobs being created and maintained. People are fi nding Pembrokeshire is a very good place to do business.”

In terms of what he has done for his constituents he replied: “My ambition is to provide a voice for people that they otherwise would not have. I like sticking up for the small guy. I think the role of an MP is become a bloody nuisance on behalf of people in need of help. “If that means knocking on the doors of the Welsh Government, the County Council and the Health Board, so be it. I know that there are times when the phone rings at County Hall when people go ‘oh no not him again’. Good!”

Moving on to discuss Withybush Hospital and the actions of the Health Board in respect of health services within Pembrokeshire, Simon Hart was very clear: “My frustration with Hywel Dda, and that should indicate how I feel about it, is that its communication is poor. It does not think it communicates either its intentions or its decisions effectively, either its staff or the public. This creates an information void which can be alarming.”

Visibly warming to a subject upon which he has campaigned vociferously, Mr Hart continued: “We need to know what the longterm is and whether the Board sees a future for Withybush. Without that we cannot plan for our families or our businesses. “One thing the Board says is an issue is recruitment, and it has blamed a lot of things for that being a problem for it, but the real issue affecting recruitment is the lack of certainty about Withybush’s future.

How does the Board think it will attract professionals to Pembrokeshire if nobody knows whether the jobs on offer are permanent? “The Board has created a selffulfi lling position for itself in recruitment. Until we have certainty about the future of the hospital for the next ten or fifteen years, we are still going to encounter that problem.”

Discussing the Welsh Government’s role in the NHS, Simon Hart expressed concerns that the Welsh NHS had not had its funding protected in the same way as the NHS in England. Speaking of a meeting he had the previous day with Mark Drakeford he said: “Mark Drakeford made some sensible points about the treatment of patients, but it worries me that the budget has been cut and that the public is losing confidence in the NHS.

“In relation to comparisons between the performance of the NHS in England and Wales, Mark Drakeford said that comparisons were unfair, and then proceeded to make some to illustrate his argument. “Whether it is true or not, people believe that the Welsh NHS is not as good and it has a signifi cant economic impact on Wales. We are trying to encourage people to come to Wales with their businesses and families, and the negative perception of the Welsh NHS is discouraging them.” The Herald will reveal part two of this interview next week.

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Community

Pembrokeshire Lane Blighted by Illegal Dumping Incident

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OVER a dozen large plastic vegetable oil drums along with assorted rubbish were discovered discarded along a rural lane in Pembrokeshire, sparking outrage amongst local residents. The unsightly scene, strewn with 15l and 20l drums and accompanying cardboard packaging, was first noticed by Councillor Di Clements near her farm residence, spanning across the road between Martletwy and Minwear.

Upon the unsightly discovery, Councillor Clements undertook an immediate investigation into the debris, sifting through the detritus in hopes of uncovering any clues that might lead to the identification of those responsible. The presence of numerous black bin liners containing smaller containers suggested the waste originated from a food service establishment. It is believed that the rubbish was illicitly deposited sometime between 4 pm on Sunday, 25th February, and the early hours of 6:30 am on Monday.

Prompt action was taken by Councillor Clements, who reported the incident to Pembrokeshire Council. The council’s swift response was commended by Clements, as a waste advisor was quickly dispatched to the scene to further investigate the matter. By Monday afternoon, the council had successfully cleared the debris.

Councillor Clements is currently appealing to the public for any information regarding suspicious activities that could lead to the identification of the perpetrator, who she suspects may be a repeat offender in the area. Expressing her dismay, Clements remarked, “I am extremely disappointed to see this and I can’t believe someone would do this.”

The council and Councillor Clements extend their gratitude to those involved in the prompt cleanup and urges anyone with information to come forward.

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Community

Local woman honours brother’s memory by planting trees at school

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VHARI RUSSELL, founder of Creating Nature’s Corridors charity, led a tree-planting initiative at a school in Roch village, commemorating her late brother Rory Bernays from Pelcomb Cross.

Russell, driven by a profound sense of purpose following her brother’s untimely passing, established the charity with a mission to address the pressing issue of climate change by planting trees. Her dedication culminated in a significant milestone as she spearheaded the planting of 1,000 trees and hedging plants at her nephew and niece’s school on Friday, the 22nd of February.

The event, held at the heart of Roch village, witnessed an inspiring collaboration between students, parents, and teachers, as they united to expand the existing woodland and establish a new hedgerow within the school grounds. Mr. Evans, the headmaster, expressed his gratitude for the generous donation, emphasizing the joyous atmosphere as students enthusiastically participated in the planting activities.

“We are delighted to have been given this gift of over 1,000 plants,” remarked Mr. Evans. “The students thoroughly enjoyed themselves planting on Friday. It’s a wonderful legacy to have created, and our school is very lucky to have such supportive parents to make the playground such a wonderful haven for nature and students alike.”

For Russell, the initiative holds deep personal significance, as it honours her brother’s love for nature and his commitment to instilling the same passion in his children. Reflecting on the experience, Russell highlighted the importance of planting trees at her nephew and niece’s school, following previous endeavours at the Pelcombcross community playground.

“Rory loved the great outdoors and always encouraged his children to enjoy it, so it was really important to me that we planted at Ozzy & Aoife’s school,” Russell remarked. “It was such fun planting at the school; many children had never planted a tree before, and the delight on their faces was magical.”

The initiative not only serves as a testament to Russell’s dedication to environmental conservation but also embodies a poignant tribute to her brother’s memory, ensuring that his legacy lives on through the flourishing greenery at local community spaces.

For further information, readers are encouraged to visit Creating Nature’s Corridors.

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Community

Voting made easy in new video with Pembrokeshire Supported Employment Programme

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A new video has been created in partnership with Pembrokeshire Supported Employment Programme (PSEP) to illustrate how accessible voting can be for all. 

Pembrokeshire County Council Electoral Services has been working hard to ensure that everyone who wants to vote has access to all the information they need to do so, whether that be via postal vote or in person at a polling station.

The skills of film graduate Aeran Hopewell, currently working with the PSEP, were put to good use as they shot and edited the video featuring colleagues Kath Brookes and James Pugh, along with Electoral Services and Communications team members.

The video provides a run through of how to vote, including the need for photo ID in some elections, and aims to reassure anyone who has concerns about voting at a polling station.

It demonstrates that the process is straightforward and that there are always people on hand to assist when needed. 

It will be available to watch on the Council’s YouTube as well as being shared among support, community and access groups around Pembrokeshire and with other Local Authority partners.

Member Champion for people with learning disabilities at Pembrokeshire County Council Cllr Alistair Cameron said: “It is vital to address the barriers some face when it comes to voting in person and this excellent film, created with the input of those people we hope will benefit, goes some way to reassuring everyone that there is always help on hand.”

Returning Officer Will Bramble added: “The upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner election is the first time registered voters in Wales will need to show photo ID so it is fantastic to see this video explaining the process and it will hopefully encourage more people to head to their polling stations.”

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