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Local government: Time for a change?

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A GOVERNMENT White Paper released on Tuesday set out plans for a massive re-organisation in Local Government, and paved

Leighton Andrews AM: Spoke of need to recast the relationship between National and Local Government’.

Leighton Andrews AM: Spoke of need to recast the relationship between
National and Local Government’.

the way for increased Welsh Government involvement at a local level.

In the foreword to this paper, Leighton Andrews AM spoke of the need to recast the relationship between National and Local Government in Wales’.

A series of mergers is planned between county councils, some of which will be voluntary. The salaries of executives and councillors will also come under scrutiny and the Welsh Government will have greater powers to audit County Councils.

These mergers will be overseen by a national Statutory Public Services Staff Commission, which will play a major role in overseeing the transfer of staff between authorities, as well as playing a role in the recruitment and remuneration for senior positions in those authorities. The Welsh Government paper claims that this is necessary in order to ‘build an engaged, motivated, and high performing workforce’.

Certain services will be subject to what the paper describes as ‘a clearly defined leadership role for the Welsh Government’, leaving Local Government to ‘determine local priorities’. This will lead to greater involvement by the Welsh Government in education, social services, economic development, and the environment. It is unclear how this will affect budget provision for Local Councils.

Significant alterations are planned to the structure of Local Councils. The report questions both the number of directors and the salaries that they command. It also recommends that some cabinet positions become part-time. Also under consideration is the £13,000 annual salary paid to Councillors for a three day week. The report claims that this figure ‘is a significant extra income’ to people of retirement age, which ‘may help explain the over-representation of councillors over 60. On the other hand, it may only partially compensate someone whose ordinary job is higher paid, or disadvantage a single parent with a part-time job by moving them into a higher tax bracket’.

This announcement comes at the same time that a proposed £10,000 salary increase for AMs is under consultation.

The Paper also criticises the induction and training received by Leaders and Cabinet Members, describing it as ‘patchy and inconsistent at best’. A development scheme is recommended for all new and existing Council Leaders, potential Cabinet Members, and Leaders of the Opposition. This scheme will be run by the Welsh Government’s Public Service Academy.

Fixed terms of office will be introduced. A councillor will only be able to serve for five five-year terms, while Cabinet members may only serve two consecutive terms. While the paper claims that this will lead to more competitive elections and a more diverse pool of candidates, it has yet to be considered at Assembly or National level. The Chief Executive, an appointed rather than elected position, would also be subject to a maximum term.

The role played by Community Councils is set to increase. However, many smaller Community Councils could be forced to merge. These councils would then have to pass a number of ‘competency tests’. For example, two-thirds of the councillors must have been declared elected, and the minimum annual budget must be £200,000. Community Councils declared competent will ‘acquire a number of privileges over other Community Councils, including being able to raise money by charging for discretionary services’.

Community Councils will also be encouraged to work in conjunction with public services and volunteer groups. Land and leisure facilities currently under Local Authority control will in some cases be transferred to these groups in a return to the ‘cooperative’ methods currently being reintroduced in areas of London and other major cities.

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Eligible unpaid carers encouraged to register for COVID-19 vaccine

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UNPAID carers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire who are not already registered as a carer with their GP practice are being asked to complete an online registration form if they wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that unpaid carers are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine as part of priority group 6, subject to certain eligibility criteria.

Revised national guidance from the JCVI describes unpaid carers as those who are eligible for a carer’s allowance, or those who are the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of COVID-19 mortality and therefore clinically vulnerable.

Those clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 include children with severe neuro-disabilities, those who are designated Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), adults who have underlying health conditions, and those who need care because of advanced age. Eligible carers should be vaccinated in priority group 6.

Anna Bird, Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Unpaid carers play a vital role offering care and support and it is in everyone’s interest that they are supported.

“For many years now, the health board has built strong links with unpaid carers across our three counties through initiatives such as our Investors in Carers scheme, designed to help organisations focus on, and improve, their carer awareness and the help and support they give to carers.

“There are over 10,000 unpaid carers registered with GP practices or the local authority across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire but we know there are many more people out there who may not recognise themselves as an unpaid carer and are unaware that support is available for them, including their eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine.”

If you believe you may be eligible, are aged 16 or over and are not registered as an unpaid carer with your GP, please complete this online form https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/services-and-teams/carers-information/covid-vaccine-for-unpaid-carers/covid-vaccine-for-unpaid-carers/ to register your details. People without internet access can contact the health board on 0300 303 8322.

Those already registered as an unpaid carer with a GP will be contacted directly to receive a COVID vaccination and do not need to do anything further.
Please wait to be invited for your vaccination and do not contact your GP or health board to ask about your vaccine appointment. You will be contacted when it is your turn, thank you for your patience and understanding.

To find out more about the support available for unpaid carers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire please visit https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/services-and-teams/carers-information/

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Welsh pet food company launches new pet store in Haverfordwest

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FRIDAY (March 5) Carmarthenshire based pet food company, Burns Pet Nutrition, launched a brand-new pet store in the stunning town of Haverfordwest. The new shop will sell a variety of pet goodies, such as food, toys, and accessories, and even provide a wellness service offering advice and guidance to local pet parents.

The Haverfordwest location will be the sixth pet store to-date for the beloved Welsh pet food brand, who are known for their award-winning, natural and healthy pet food, along with their generous support of rescue centres and shelters, charitable donations and community projects.

The shop launched officially on March 5, as a welcome addition to the personality of the local area. Haverfordwest Mayor, Alan Buckfield, says: “I’m very pleased to welcome the opening of the Haverfordwest Pet shop. This new business in Withybush Road adds to the range of shopping available in our Town and obviously fills a gap in the market as well as providing new job opportunities.”

Burns Haverfordwest store offers toys, treats and accessories, and of course, plenty of Burns Natural Pet Food to keep local pets happy and healthy. Burns pet food is renowned for its use of natural, holistic and simple ingredients in hand-cooked recipes, which is why they’ve sold over 2 billion bowls to date and received numerous awards and accolades, including an incredible 92% in the latest Which? Consumer poll of best pet foods.

With stores in Llandeilo, Carmarthen, Cardigan, the new shop is a benchmark in the efforts of the company to champion the local high street and support communities in Wales. The company has launched a variety of charitable campaigns and initiatives in Wales over its long history, mainly to support community initiatives, help local rescue centres and give back to pets and their owners in every part of Wales and beyond. On the launch of the new store, John Burns, veterinary surgeon and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition, says:

“Launching a sixth pet store in the stunning location of Haverfordwest is very exciting for us. We believe it’s important to invest in our highstreets and communities, as they can be the lifeblood of a local community. We hope that the new Burns Haverfordwest Pet store will become a favourite amongst local pet owners.”

Burns new shop has opened on The County Showground, Withybush Road in Haverfordwest, and for one week only lucky customers can get a free 2kg bag of dog food for every 12kg bag they purchase.

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No deaths of people with coronavirus in Wales in the last 24 hours

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THERE have been no further deaths of people with coronavirus in Wales reported in the latest 24-hour period, Public Health Wales (PHW) has confirmed.

A further 164 positive cases were also reported.

The total number of PHW reported deaths remains at 5,403.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, added the dashboard is designed to be a “rapid reporting tool which is subject to ongoing reconciliation” and that “official data are provided by the Office for National Statistics”.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said stay at home rules could be revised, following a review of lockdown measures this week.

Wales’ overall case rate has fallen to 45 cases per 100,000 people.

PHW said it should be noted there is often a lag in reporting deaths following the weekend.

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