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The Welsh Government: ‘Inconsistent’ on councils

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leightonLEIGHTON ANDREWS’ apparently haphazard approach to ramming through radical change to local government in Wales has come under heavy criticism from opposition AM’s.

Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies told The Herald: “Leighton Andrews’ Local Government white paper is certainly looking to make some bold and interesting changes. There’s certainly a need for fresh blood and greater diversity in local government, but a ban on some candidates standing again may not be the fairest or most effective way to introduce younger candidates. Indeed, it’s a bit rich that the Welsh Government with some of the world’s longest serving ministers is proposing a limit on cabinet tenure of 10 years.”

Mr Davies continued: “However, there are some reforms which are also welcome. Pay levels for the most senior officers in Welsh councils have been raging out of control for some time now, at taxpayers’ expense and without any intervention from the Welsh Government to exercise restraint.”

He concluded: “A change in Labour’s local government culture is well-overdue and I, along with my colleagues at the Assembly will be monitoring the proposals in this white paper very carefully.”

Plaid Cymru Local Government spokesperson Rhodri Glyn Thomas observed: “Attempts to address the issue of senior officer pay in Local Government are long overdue and Plaid Cymru welcomes the Labour Government’s decision to heed Plaid demands for action. The wider issue of reorganisation of Local Government should be focused on improving the delivery of services and enhancing democratic accountability. I look forward to considering these proposals in more detail.

Sounding a note of caution, he concluded: “There is a danger that we see the Minister for Public Services jumping from one thing to another. First we had the Williams Commission, then he called on Local Authorities to propose voluntary mergers, they were turned down, now we are given a new introduction to look at management performance. This Labour Government needs to offer a clear vision of the future of Local Government and the delivery of public service delivery in Wales.”

Angela Burns said: “The Local Government White Paper raises some interesting proposals which will need rigorous scrutiny. However my concern is that it is yet another raft of potential changes on top of the Williams Review of boundaries and the many other initiatives currently set in train by Labour. I am not sure that the White Paper have time to be turned into a draft Bill then final Bill before the next Assembly election so it will be another costly exercise resulting in nothing.”

She suggested, however, that Labour and other parties were Johnny-come-latelies on pay restraint: “I thought it was ironic that one of the ambitions in the White Paper is to give Welsh Government tighter controls on the remuneration of Chief Executives and other Chief Officers. Given the scandals that have rocked Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire that is to be welcomed. However the Welsh Government, Labour backbenchers, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats all voted down a Welsh Conservative amendment to the 2013 Local Democracy (Wales) Bill which could have protected the Taxpayer from such behaviour.”

She concluded: “I find their current protestations and their actions inconsistent!”

Among the more startling proposals is the prospect of the Welsh Government time-limiting the time that Chief Executives for Welsh Councils can stay in post. A senior Pembrokeshire councillor has suggested that the idea is a non-starter and that far from broadening the diversity of the pool from which senior management can be drawn it would significantly constrict it, not least as such a policy inherently assumes that it is only older managers within local government would look to occupy such a post on such terms.

Former Pembrokeshire Chief Executive Bryn Parry-Jones, who is perhaps not the best example to rely upon, was in his mid-30’s when appointed to the post of Chief Executive of the then Llanelli Borough Council in 1991.

WLGA spokesperson Bob Wellington responded: “The WLGA recognises and supports the need to tackle the widespread challenges around diversity and disengagement in democracy generally in Welsh society. The principle of extending more power and a greater say to local people will be central to democratic renewal in Wales.”

Mr Wellington continued: “We need consistency across public services in Wales and equal treatment within the democratic sphere. The WLGA wants to see the difficult role of councillors properly valued.”

He concluded: “Any future changes to the role of local government must acknowledge the hugely challenging financial climate it operates within. Councils will also push to ensure local communities are offered a full say when it comes to developing a shared vision for the future of local public services in Wales.”

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Appeal from Fire and Rescue Service to install working smoke alarms

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AT 01:17am this morning, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, crews from Milford Haven were called to a property fire in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to a pan on a stove in the kitchen area and extinguished by firefighters using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

Crews also ventilated the property and fitted smoke alarms within the property.

The Fire Service left the incident at 02:00am.

Watch Manager Alun Griffiths, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said “This fire was the result of cooking left unattended. It is so important to remove all pots and pans from a heat source when you are called away from the cooker.

“Thankfully, the occupiers of the property managed to exit the property before our firefighters arrived, but it could have ended very differently as there were no smoke alarms fitted in the property.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of installing working smoke alarms in your homes and testing them regularly. In the dreadful event of a fire, they can alert you to the danger sooner and could mean the difference between life and death.

“As a Fire and Rescue Service, we provide Home Fire Safety advice which is free of charge. We also offer Safe and Well Visits which you can arrange by phoning us on 0800 169 1234 or by visiting the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone us on 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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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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