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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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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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