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Delyth Evans: Business and young people a priority



As part of a series of interviews with local parliamentary candidates standing at the general election in May, Deputy Editor Jon Coles spoke to
Delyth Evans, Labour candidate for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire.

42 DIMOND STREET at 2pm, Pembroke Dock was the appointment. And I was late. Having abandoned the idea of Fish Week, the delythevanscouncil had instead elected to host the International Festival of Road Works across Pembrokeshire.

Through the door of the campaign office, which used to be a shop, and there are some bare tables a few chairs and Delyth Evans on the phone trying to find out where I am. Quick introductions and apologies are in order. Time is a precious commodity for an election candidate and she has places to be.

The purpose of the interview is to find out more about the person who wants to unseat incumbent Conservative Simon Hart. Bearing in mind the time constraints, we move briskly to business.

“I was brought up in Carmarthenshire.” Delyth opens: “I was a journalist who worked for the BBC and HTV for ten years. When I felt I could no longer be politically neutral in my job, I left to join the Labour Party. I was very lucky to work for John Smith when he was Labour leader. I was John’s speechwriter for two years, he was a very good man, who died very suddenly. I left politics before returning to sit in the Welsh Assembly during its first term. I had very young children and it was tough combining a political career with being a parent. After the Assembly, I worked for a charity focussing on helping women from difficult backgrounds access employment and other services.”

The challenges facing a candidate – any candidate – in the current climate are well-known and we asked Delyth Evans her view about them: “The main challenge is that people think politicians are the same. There is a cynicism about politics and disengagement by the electorate. The biggest challenge for politicians is dispelling the notion that we are all the same. Someone said to me recently that politicians never seem to have had any work experience outside politics. I would say that I certainly have a lot of work experience and a broader life experience upon which to draw.”

Looking at Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire, Delyth was clear as to the task that would face a new member: “For this constituency, the major challenge is the regional economy. I am convinced that what is needed is a government that is prepared to intervene to help businesses. The market alone, which is the current government’s approach, cannot and will not work. There are different choices the government could make that would make a positive difference to their lives.”

On local businesses and issues that affect them Delyth Evans had spoken with them about their priorities: “I spend a lot of time talking to local businesses and try to find out what local businesses need from government to help them grow. As an MP, my role will be to support and help businesses get the best deal from government.”

On the European issue, Delyth is eager to make a clear statement about the importance of Europe to local businesses: “Europe – and our future trading relationship with Europe – is often raised with me. Businesses are clear about the importance of European markets to them. The Tories are, in my view, playing fast and loose on the issue. Businesses need certainty and, for their own reasons, the Conservatives are creating uncertainty.”

On her personal priorities, she expresses a similarly clear viewpoint: “Young people are a priority. It’s about helping them find opportunities in their own areas without moving away. It’s about things like apprenticeships, training, housing – on which Labour has very good proposals: it is important that young people’s voices are heard and that they are engaged in the political process and on political issues. One of the things I am very keen on is to get young people to vote and to participate. It is not just about getting them to vote for me, but to vote.”

On the thorny issue of voting, the measure of the challenge is not lost on her: “Most of the people I speak to tell me they haven’t made up their mind about how they are going to vote. An awful lot of people have an open mind and are waiting to be persuaded. My job, if you like, is to persuade them to vote for me. I’ve been the Labour candidate here for over a year. It has become a lot easier to engage with people on the issues as the election has drawn nearer. People are now focussed on May’s election.”

As for what would come after a possible Labour victory, she told The Herald: “The main challenge a Labour government would face would be how to get real growth back into the economy. Austerity is making harder for new businesses to succeed and for the economy to grow. That is why we cannot afford another five years of a Conservative government. In Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire the focus needs to be on encouraging high skilled jobs in new technologies. Labour is talking about creating a regional investment bank to support new businesses. For young people it is very much getting those apprenticeships and training opportunities. Labour is looking at vocational training equivalent to A Level and beyond. It is vital the building blocks are in place to help us capitalise on economic growth and be ready for the future.”

The difficult ground in the constituency was not shirked: “The issues that come up most often are jobs and health. That’s what comes up on the doorstep. People do not like it when English politicians, like David Cameron, run down the NHS and the NHS in Wales. Any other party in power in Wales would have had to make similar, if not the same, decisions about the health service in Wales as those decisions were based on clinical guidance. I agree with the idea that part of the problem is the failure of the Health Board to communicate properly about its strategy. I spoke with Bernadine Rees, the Chair of the Health Board this morning, and we discussed that point. I know that the Board is currently holding a series of public engagement events across the area and that the feedback being generated from those is being taken on board in terms of how the Board can better communicate. There was always going to be huge opposition to services being moved and I completely understand that. What we need to know now is that there will not be continuous revolution; that Withybush’s future is secure; that the right model is in place for the future. There is a job to be done to reassure people about that.”

Read part two of this interview in next week’s edition of The Herald.

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Green hydrogen electrolyser and car refueler arrive at Milford Waterfront



PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says it is leading the way in renewable energy with a collaborative £4.5 million project exploring the vital role hydrogen could play in a decarbonised energy future.

Milford Haven : Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) is a two-year ‘detailed design’ project, completing in 2022, exploring what a renewable energy based Smart Local Energy System could look like for the Milford Haven Waterway – including the concept of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (HFCEV).

The aim is to gather detailed insight into the whole energy system around the Waterway, looking at how to make, using and distributing hydrogen financially viable within the different energy sectors of buildings, industry, power and transport.

The MH:EK team will investigate the potential of local renewable energy, including solar, onshore wind, future offshore wind and biomass for decarbonised gas transition.

One element of the project involves a consumer trial of two Riversimple ‘Rasa’ HFCEV’s. The MH:EK team is building a green hydrogen electrolyser and refueler on Milford Waterfront – and this will be used to produce green hydrogen on site to fuel the two trial HFCEV’s.

The project will demonstrate the practical application of hydrogen technology. The aim is to test the feasibility of two hydrogen powered Rasa cars. They will be built by Welsh company Riversimple, and operate as fleet cars in and around the Haven.

Pembrokeshire County Councillor Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Welsh Language, said: ‘We welcome the progress made by the partnership, particularly in view of recent news that new petrol and diesel cars will not be sold in the UK after 2030. This innovative approach will help us to switch to a low carbon future and promoting sustainable transport as we respond to the climate change emergency.’

Work is underway and should be operational for the trial in July. A hydrogen-ready smart hybrid heating system is also being designed and will be installed and tested in an operational Port building.

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Council’s building maintenance teams to resume non-emergency responsive repairs



THE HOUSING Building Maintenance teams within Pembrokeshire County Council are now able to re-commence non-emergency responsive repairs to customers’ homes around the County.

Lockdown has prevented tradesmen and women from entering homes to carry out anything other than emergency repairs for many months but the PCC Contact Centre is now able to take calls from customers to request a non-emergency service in their homes once more.

The Contact Centre receives around 38,000 building maintenance related service requests each year and even throughout lockdown Building Maintenance have proudly maintained a 99.2% success rate in responding to emergency repairs within 24hours since restrictions came into force.

Covid has caused a large disruption to the service and while the authority is now in a position to re-open phone lines to routine responsive repairs, a delay in providing that service is inevitable as the backlog is worked through but the authority is working hard to meet the demand.

Backlog is likely to take several months and is dependent on a number of factors including the numbers of repair requests received, availability of materials and contractors.

PCC currently employs 64 tradesmen and women directly and has a considerable number of contractors on its framework to undertake a wide range of maintenance works and Building Maintenance are in the process of tendering a New Minor Works Framework.

All maintenance employees and contractors will continue to work under strict guidelines in people’s homes to ensure that all safety and social distancing measures are adhered to.

The Housing Building Maintenance service is also in the final stages of implementing ‘Repair Finder’ which will enable Contact Centre staff to diagnose the faults in customer’s homes far quicker and more accurately than before, which will in turn ensure that Building Maintenance are better informed and resourced ahead of arriving at the property to carry out the repair.

This is expected to reduce the length of calls to the Contact Centre and subsequently reduce call-waiting times.

The ‘Repair Finder’ tool is expected to be available later in the year and will soon offer residents direct access to an online version which will enable them to report responsive repairs themselves.

Once trialled and released, service requests can be logged by the tenant via the Council’s ‘Housing Online’ portal.

When residents report a problem within their home via the Call Centre or ‘Repair Finder’, they will receive text message alerts informing them of the timescales within which they can expect the repair to be made.

Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Bateman said: “We’re under no illusion that lockdown measures have caused a major disruption to the building maintenance service.

“We’re receiving new requests now on top of those that have been on standby during the Covid restrictions. Pembrokeshire residents have shown tremendous patience and understanding of services that have been stretched throughout the crisis so we’re counting on their ongoing support and we hope they appreciate that it will take a period of time to get back to where we were.

“People can be assured that we are working very hard to bring back the outstanding levels of service we provided before Covid and it’s things like ‘Repair Finder’ that will help make this possible going forward.

“With one in every six employed people in Pembrokeshire working for the local authority, it’s important to remember that we are very much in this together”.

If you wish to report a repair to your home you can call the Contact Centre on 01437 764551.

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Leader’s update: Keep doing your bit to prevent Covid-19 spreading



THE LATEST from the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr David Simpson.

Hello everyone, I hope you have had a good weekend and enjoyed some of the lovely weather we have had.

Pembrokeshire is beautiful in all weathers but there’s nowhere quite like it when the sky is totally blue and the sun shining. Fingers crossed for more lovely weather this summer.

Let me firstly apologise for the late message this week but our focus has been working hard on the situation with a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Tenby.

It is not a surprise that we are starting to see a rise in cases following the easing of restrictions but the cluster of 22 confirmed cases as of yesterday (Monday) shows just how important it is for us all to keep following the rules to prevent further spread.

Council Leader, Cllr David Simpson (Pic PCC)

Our Test, Trace and Protect teams have worked tirelessly to contact close contacts and break the chain of infection in a complex situation.

Working closely with Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board we have now got a mobile testing unit in place at the Salterns Car Park in Tenby.

The full address is Salterns Car Park, Marsh Road, Tenby, SA70 8DU.

If you have symptoms of Covid-19 – even if you have had the vaccine – please arrange to get a test.

Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test.

But across Pembrokeshire, people with any of the following wider symptoms that are persistent and/or unusual for should also get a PCR test:

  • Mild summer cold type symptoms – including sore throat, runny nose, headache
  • Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known Covid-19 case
  • Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test

If you have any of the above symptoms, please stay home and book a test by calling 119 or through the UK portal

There are also a series of walk-in clinics for both first and second doses of the vaccines continuing this week.

See Hywel Dda Health Board on Facebook for more information.

As you will know, the First Minister on Friday set out further information on the ongoing Covid-19 situation.

Mr Drakeford paused further plans to relax restrictions as cases rise across Wales.

This should underline just how important it is for us all to maintain social distancing, keep washing hands regularly, meet people outside whenever possible and wear face coverings where required.

All these things work to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point, let’s not let it slip now.

Stay safe everyone.

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