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Badger and the wind of change

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badger83imageBADGER has previously spoken to you about so-called ‘green energy’. Badger is not sceptical of the value of green energy in improving our country’s energy security: far from it. Badger is not sceptical about the threat that humanity’s need to consume more natural resources poses to our planet. Nope. Badger is bang on with that. Badger is similarly, not sceptical about humanity being the prime mover behind recent climate change (either as the cause or the major cause). Badger is, however, rather doubtful that there is any real taste for the implications of adopting green energy, or even that the green energy can get to where it needs to go in the UK market without massive public investment, tax breaks, or subsidies. Let’s start at the beginning, readers, the key issue of price. In the abstract, people will express a willingness to do many things — pay higher taxes to support the NHS; pay a little more for ethically produced food; and accept that the cost of fuel and power will rise. Badger is, however, convinced that – human nature being what it is — when it boils down to pounds shillings and pence, a voter faced with the certainty of price rises and higher taxes on the one hand and the promise of jam today on the other will opt for the preserve of the status quo. The thing about doomsday readers is that it is always tomorrow, while there are bills to be paid and food to be bought today. Badger has similar feelings about France. In the abstract, he is sure France is a beautiful and fine country, rich in culture and heritage. In the particular, however, it is choc-a-block with the French. All the hot air of all Guardian writers, columnists, correspondents and readers combined crying softly

into their polenta while sipping their fairtrade herbal tea is unlikely to change a single mind about green energy; still less in an economy where people at the sharp end are facing the reality of high energy prices and low incomes. Badger believes the problem is more than one of communication and persuasion. there is a massive disconnect between the public and policy. There are several reasons for this.. but Badger wants to draw attention to two in particular. The scientific consensus is that climate change is being either accelerated or caused by humans. Climate change is a fact, even though it is expressed as ‘a theory’. but a scientific theory is not the same as just an idea that is somehow unprovable. Science is built upon the scientific method, a logical process of observation, experiment and analysis subject to peer-review. Scientists arrive at a consensus about the evidence that supports a particular set of principles about the science being researched. Arriving at a scientific consensus is not something that happens overnight. The slow process by which science arrives at a consensus keeps out poorly supported ideas, but gives strength to ideas that have lots of evidence. So, readers, when the media report on climate change and we see — for example — a newspaper columnist being given time to say that there is no such thing as climate change; we should take their assertions with a large pinch of salt. Newspaper columnists are seldom scientists. Politicians do not subject their judgements to the scientific method. if they did, you would have to ask where George Osborne fits into the tree of life. Neither politicians nor columnists even those with public school and

Oxbridge backgrounds understand the important distinction between scientific theory and rabble-musing argumentation. The second part follows closely from the first. The media presents a false equivalence between the scientific consensus and those who do not accept it.

Dr Nedwin Shellwinkle, Professor of Marmalade at the Ohio Institute of Jam-making and Chutney Creation, might be the bees knees on how to get loganberry preserve to the setting point. His qualifications as either “professor” or “doctor” are, however, most unlikely to give him insight into the complex systems of geophysics, chemistry and atmospheric dynamics to enable him to reach a considered and research-validated conclusion about climate change. Similarly, the facts that Lord Lawson has the reputation of being awfully clever and that he was once Chancellor of the Exchequer do not mean that his opinion is of equal weight to a scientific theory. The fact he can find people who believe as he does not mean that he has built a countervailing consensus of similar weight to the scientific one. So, readers, when the public are asked to think about ‘green’ energy and ‘green’ methods of power production, there is an awful lot of bag and baggage to get through. If the public do not believe that climate change is taking place or that it will affect them, they will not be interested in ‘greenness’. The other side of that is self-interest, if it will cost them more, people will cling to any opinion — no matter how facile or misinformed —to justify doing nothing. That is the expedient and selfish approach to most issues. It is human nature. And so, readers, at the point

we come to superficiality, we come to David Cameron. Funny that. If David Cameron thought there were five hundred votes in every marginal constituency that the Conservatives could get if they were a bit ‘greener’ in word and deed, you can damn well guarantee that the UK would be festooned with wind farms in such density and of such number that it could ride out any increase in sea levels by hovering over the lapping waves. That is die expedient and selfish approach to most issues. It is human nature. In Pembrokeshire of course, we are no strangers to local politician adopting expedient positions Jolin Allen-Mirehouse said he objected to one wind far development in 0 1 2 on the grounds that it would spoil his view of the peasants working in his fields (or something like that). Funny how old Johnny was rather more on board with being green when there was the chance of having some turbines on his own land. That is the expedient and selfish approach to most issues. It is human nature. All Johnny’s pompous wind-baggery cannot change that. So, if we are to proceed with a ‘green’ agenda those who favour it have to tap into the basest of human feelings. The ones that matter when folk in marginal constituencies vote Conservative but tell pollsters they voted for one of the other lot. Not abstract carbon swaps or our long-term interests. But greed: the here and the now. Persuade the people that you can satisfy their immediate desires — or sate their fear oi and there change -will be real transformation. That readers, will not take a wind of change that will take a miracle.

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Business

UK inflation falls to 2.3%, raising questions over interest rate cuts

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UK inflation has dropped to 2.3% in April, marking its lowest level in nearly three years. However, the decline fell short of analysts’ expectations, dampening hopes for an imminent interest rate cut by the Bank of England.

City analysts had anticipated a reduction to 2.1%, closer to the Bank’s 2% target. This discrepancy led markets to adjust their forecasts, now predicting that the Bank’s current rate of 5.25% may not be reduced until August, rather than next month as previously speculated.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the decrease from March’s 3.2% was primarily due to lower energy and food costs. The last time inflation was this low was in July 2021. Significant contributions to the drop included a record 27% fall in electricity and gas prices over the past year and a modest 2.9% annual rise in food and soft drink prices, the smallest increase since November 2021.

Illustrating the ongoing strain on household budgets, furniture retailers reduced prices by 0.9% between March and April, while overall goods prices dropped by 0.8% month-on-month. However, annual services inflation, reflecting inter-company charges, remained stubbornly high at 5.9%, only slightly down from March’s 6%.

Despite the overall fall in the consumer prices index (CPI), the ONS noted that higher property rents and mortgage costs kept the alternative CPIH measure, which includes housing costs, elevated at 3% year-on-year. Petrol and diesel prices rose last month, although the price of Brent crude has recently stabilised around $83 (£65) per barrel.

KPMG UK’s chief economist, Yael Selfin, suggested that the chance of an interest rate cut next month had diminished. “Falling inflation nears the Bank of England’s target but may not suffice for an early rate cut,” she stated. Echoing this sentiment, Paula Bejarano Carbo of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research noted that core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, remains high at 3.9%. Combined with robust wage growth, this persistence could compel the Bank’s monetary policy committee to maintain rates.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heralded April’s CPI figure as a “major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” asserting that it validated the government’s economic strategy. Conversely, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves argued that it was premature for the Conservatives to celebrate, highlighting the ongoing pressures of soaring prices, mortgage bills, and taxes.

In the eurozone, inflation held steady at 2.4% in April.

Separate ONS data indicated a larger-than-expected rise in public borrowing for April, with the monthly deficit reaching £20.5bn. Despite a decrease in debt payments, the high cost of servicing government debt exceeded expectations, potentially ruling out pre-election tax cuts.

Economic adviser Martin Beck from the EY Item Club described the public finance figures as disappointing, suggesting that continued higher borrowing costs would likely prevent any significant fiscal easing before the next general election.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Economy and Energy, Samuel Kurtz MS, praised the inflation drop, attributing it to the UK Conservative Government’s effective economic policies. He called on the Welsh Labour Government to support the economy by fully implementing business rates relief and reforming growth taxes.

Paul Butterworth, CEO of Chambers Wales South East, South West, and Mid, noted that while the reduction in inflation was significant, it remained above the Bank of England’s target. He expressed hope that the continued downward trend might prompt an interest rate cut soon.

Meanwhile, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) warned that despite the fall in inflation, the cost of living crisis continues to severely impact mental health. Their recent survey revealed that 74% of respondents felt their mental health was worsened by the crisis, with particularly high impacts on those with pre-existing conditions, women, ethnic minorities, and lower-income households.

BACP’s Director, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, emphasised the need for government action to address these mental health challenges. The BACP has proposed a 13-point action plan to improve access to mental health services, stressing the importance of funding and support for vulnerable populations.

As the nation grapples with economic and mental health pressures, the government’s response to these intertwined issues will be crucial in the coming months.

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Fleet Air Arm veteran donates ‘a lifetime’s research’ to heritage centre

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A CENTENARIAN Fleet Air Arm Veteran has made a nostalgic return to Pembrokeshire to donate documents, photographs and books – a lifetime of research – to Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre.

Hugh Langrishe, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday, lived in Pembrokeshire for 25 years – initially at Llanfallteg and then at Saundersfoot – with his late wife, Pam, who died last year. Since 1994 he has lived at Bromyard, Herefordshire.

He was joined by his son Jack and partner Julie Cavanagh, and friend Cliff Morris.

Hugh served as an engineering officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II and was attached to Royal Navy squadrons at air stations in Australia which supported the British Pacific Fleet. This prompted his research into many aspects of aviation history. When living locally he was a very active member of the Pembrokeshire Aviation Group.

This was his first visit to the Centre and he commented: “I did not expect to find such a professional museum. Everyone involved has done a job which is absolutely outstanding. The result is better than many a professional museum or collection I have seen. It deserves any award it might fetch.”

John Evans, of the Heritage Trust, added: “We were honoured to welcome Hugh back to the county and to be entrusted with his archive which includes a remarkable photographic collection.”

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First drive-thru Starbucks in Pembrokeshire approved

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PEMBROKESHIRE is to get its first drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop after a scheme was backed by county planners today, May 21.

An application – expected to create 20 jobs – by Magic Bean Company Ltd to site an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station and drive through Starbucks coffee shop on land adjoining Days Garage, Fishguard Road, Haverfordwest, was recommended for conditional approval when it came before the May meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee.

A report for planners said: “There are two principal elements to the proposed development. The provision of an EV charging station with eight charging points and a drive through coffee shop, which will provide 20 full time jobs.

“A further 13 parking spaces are provided to serve the development, including two spaces for people with disabilities. The coffee shop will be situated at the western end of the site opposite the proposed EV charging station, which is centrally located within the site. “

It added: “The coffee shop building will be single storey with a ‘tower’ feature in the west elevation where the customer collection point will be located beneath a timber finished pergola.”

The report said the proposal represented a more effective use of the application site than its current car parking use.

10 representations from members of the public raised concerns about the proposal, issues including: no need for additional coffee shops locally, adverse impact on existing small local coffee shops and that the planning authority should not be supporting “multinational businesses,” and littering and highway issues.

While Starbucks was not mentioned in the planning documents, Magic Bean Company Ltd, on its website, says: “Established in 2014, The Magic Bean Company opened our first store and became the first licensee to open a Starbucks Drive Thru.

“Since then, we have gone on to become Starbuck’s only national growth partner covering England and Wales, developing our green electric vehicle Starbucks platform.”

Speaking at the May 21 meeting, Magic Bean Company Ltd agent Matthew Gray said the drive-thru coffee shop would be a Starbucks, adding: “The application is driven by the requirement for Days to diversify, following a slowing of vehicle sales across the UK.”

He added: “It’s pretty well reported that car sales are slow in the UK in the past few years, this is an opportunity to boost the viability of their [Days’] own operation.”

He said the eight EV charging units would be provided by Ionity, one of Europe’s largest charging providers, with a need for more such facilities in west Wales.

After Cllr Alistair Cameron raised concerns from members of the public about potential littering, Mr Gray said Starbucks had a standard approach to litter management, with staff maintaining the area, and coffee outlets having a lower level of litter than some other drive-thrus.

Concerns were raised by Councillor John Cole on highways grounds, fearing the combination of the drive-thru and a nearby school, along with the nearby annual County Show, could create “havoc” with parents stopping off for a coffee.

Following an approval call by Cllr Brian Hall, members unanimously backed the application.

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