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Badger and the new broom

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badgersweepAS 2014 wends its weary way towards 2015, Badger has glanced back over it to pick out his favourite morsels of news. Rather like juicy worms, stories keep on sticking their heads up, demanding Badger’s voracious attention. There is one story above all others about which Badger wants to speak with his readers. It is one on which Badger has spoken with you on a number of occasions over the year and a story to which he expects to return in the future. The petty idiocies of our county councillors are pretty small beer compared to the way the Welsh Government, and its all too biddable flunkies and placemen in local health boards across Wales have torn the heart out of communities.

Pembrokeshire is not alone in fi nding small community facilities, which we all might have taken for granted over the years, taken away with the stroke of a bean-counter’s pen. Cardiff is not much over 100 miles distant from most of Pembrokeshire. But as far as the Welsh Government’s ministers are concerned, we – and the other parts of Wales outside Cardiff Bay, beyond the M4 – may as well be on The Moon. To technocrats like Mark Drakeford, everyone outside the drones and party hacks to which they belong are laboratory samples, whose lives are rather like that of bacteria. Too numerous to eliminate, we poor specimens can be experimented upon without fear of upsetting those in the Valleys and old industrial towns of Wales who would elect a donkey if it wore a red rosette.

And, if you look at the current Welsh Cabinet, readers, it is evident most of those places have done just that. Our communities – not theirs – are the crucible in which Welsh Labour gets to test the notion of turning a glorified local authority – the Senedd – into a malign and immanent presence in our lives. Badger is a fi rm believer in Wales’ right to determine its own future. But bloody hell, readers, the current barmy army in the Bay sorely test his resolve on the issue! The truth is that the Welsh Government is too cowardly to tell people the truth: their ‘reforms’ are cuts.

Earlier this year, Welsh Government ministers were too lily-livered meet the protesters who had travelled to the Senedd by the coach load. Neither have they dared to show their faces to the public in Pembrokeshire since. Perhaps, and Badger is giving them the benefi t of a very large doubt, they are just too ashamed. The Local Health Board is no more than the blunt instrument– oh so very blunt, readers – with which the Welsh Government has beaten down local health care in our county. The Board plays a complex game with language always saying precisely what it means while leading others to reach a separate understanding.

Then, when the proverbial hits the fan, when the Board takes an action which results in protest, it is able to say that its position has been in the public domain for ages without protest and it is all too late to do anything about it now. Trevor Purt it was, in an interview with this newspaper’s editor, who tried that one on for size. With evident annoyance, he said that if the Board lost the then pending judicial review proceedings about specialist maternity services, it would simply run the consultation process again to ensure that it got the result it wanted.

What does that attitude say to you about the good faith with which the Health Board ran the consultation process? Rather like a stage magician, Trev the Magnifi cent wanted you to pick a card – to pick any card – to pick his card. Of course, having gutted healthcare in Pembrokeshire like a fi sh, Trev the Magnificent shortly thereafter decamped to Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, there to try and perform his favourite trick of sawing a hospital in half. It worked in Rochdale, it’s working at Withybush: Trev the Magnifi cent is less an NHS executive than the grim reaper. Where he goes, service closures follow.

A new Chief Executive starts at our Local Health Board in the New Year. The question is how will he deal with Trev’s toxic legacy of resentment, mistrust and pig-headed indifference to the public? Frankly readers, such is the state to which essential services have been reduced in Pembrokeshire, will he even bother to try? Well, readers, back in the summer the Health Board appointed a new Chair: Bernardine Rees and from her actions we are well able to discern the Board’s direction of travel. There will be no more hiding away. Instead Bernadine has come out swinging with a new line. She wants to make it clear that she is a new broom determined to sweep clean. But there is a problem.

A stonking great big one right at the outset. Bernardine has deluded herself that the Board’s problem is communication. If only, the rationale goes, if only the Board could get its message through that taking child healthcare out of Pembrokeshire is a good thing. If only it could get its message through that consultant-led maternity services are unnecessary anywhere west of Carmarthen. If only all those beastly protesters and media types would stop being so beastly and let the Board tell people the good news about its slashing cuts to health services. It’s all a question of perception, see readers. And for good measure a new factor has been thrown into the mix.

The Board has now cynically adopted a plan to silence protesters by telling them that their campaigns are driving down staff morale – particularly that of the nursing staff. The Board is relying on public unwillingness to hurt the feelings of those who deliver care to throw its critics off the scent. They are using those at the sharp end as a shield to protect the Welsh Government’s blunt instrument from justifi able criticism about its past cynical double-dealing and snide manoeuvring. Look to the future, Bernardine says; judge my words on the Board’s actions. If one was judging on the message being promulgated by the Board since she took over, we can see a new aggressive and hectoring tone to the Board’s relationship with the outside world.

The Board’s claim that its problems are all the fault of the media and campaigners is self-serving tripe being dished up a body that has manag e d to lose the m o r a l argument w h i l e w i n n i n g the battle on the ground. The Board’s line is so far beneath contempt that when those who peddle it look up they see not the stars but the ceiling of the sewer. The problems Bernardine Rees faces as a new broom, readers are both that she is decidedly second-hand and that, such is the mistrust with which the Board is viewed in Pembrokeshire, it is not a new broom which is required. Rather, it will take an industrial vacuum hose to suck the poison out of the Board’s past relationship with Pembrokeshire. As a consequence, the Board had better start sincerely sucking up to Pembrokeshire very, very soon.

 

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Judith Rhead murder investigation – Detectives given more time to question suspect

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POLICE have been given more time to question a 43-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder.

The man has been in police custody since Saturday night, after being arrested over the death 68-year-old Judith Rhead.

She was found in a residential property in Market Street.

The police now have until Thursday afternoon (Feb 25) to question the suspect.

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All people eligible for vaccination will get theirs by end of July

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PEOPLE eligible for the coronavirus vaccine will get theirs by the end of July, the Health Minister has said.

Wales achieved its target of getting everyone in the first four priority groups vaccinated by the middle of February and is now working on offering the vaccine to those in groups 5 to 9.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has set out that people with severe or profound learning disabilities or with a mental illness will be among priority group 6.

Mr Gething said that they were would make sure that no one is left behind.

The latest figures from Public Health Wales show that 878,506 people had received their first dose of the vaccine.

59,279 people have received both doses of the vaccine.

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “We have achieved our first milestone of offering everyone in the first four priority groups vaccination by mid-February.

“We are now making progress in achieving our next milestone, which is to offer the vaccine to all individuals in priority groups 5 to 9.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has set out that people with a severe/profound learning disability and individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment, should be invited for vaccination as part of priority group 6.

“There are challenges with identifying individuals within these groups, particularly given the JCVI language is not generally in use in Wales, and we are working hard to make sure that no one is left behind. Today we have published guidance on identifying eligible individuals in these groups and on how to support them to take up their vaccine offers.

“The JCVI has also said that some of our invaluable unpaid carers should be included in priority group 6.

“Today we have also published guidance on identifying those unpaid carers eligible for vaccine prioritisation and the process around this. I am grateful to the national carers’ organisations for their support with this work.”

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Council want your help to keep Pembrokeshire active

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is asking residents to give their views on local walking and cycling routes.

The Council aims to make journeys on foot and by bicycle easier, safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

In order to design a network that works for all, the Council would like to get the views of as many people as possible, particularly those who don’t currently walk or cycle. This will help ensure the routes built for walking and cycling work for the whole community.

The consultation focuses on the main towns and villages in Pembrokeshire which have been selected by Welsh Government as the designated localities in the County. These are:

  • Fishguard & Goodwick
  • Haverfordwest
  • Johnston
  • Milford Haven
  • Neyland
  • Pembroke Dock
  • Pembroke
  • Tenby
  • Saundersfoot
  • Narberth

Pembrokeshire Council is currently undertaking an Active Travel Network Map consultation (ATNM) which will run in 3 stages

Consultation 1: Residents can take part in the consultation exercise online, hosted by Commonplace at https://Pembrokeshire.commonplace.is/

The interactive map allows participants to flag issues, problems and successes on a plan of the active travel settlement and add comments. Such points could be for example, a pavement that is too narrow or a newly built cycle route that is regarded as a success.

The first stage of the consultation will close on 31 st March 2021.

Consultation 2: Following this, the second step of the consultation will see the Council share the initial findings and ask people what they think of the plans
proposed as a result of the feedback received.

Consultation 3: The third stage of the consultation will give members of the public a final say on the Active Travel Network Maps before they are sent to Welsh Government for approval. These maps will have been produced taking into account public feedback and ideas from consultations 1 and 2.

By upgrading facilities and creating new walking and cycling routes, the Council plans to make Active Travel the popular choice for local journeys, to increase the attractiveness of local communities as places to live and work, improve health and well-being, and help tackle air pollution.

Cllr Phil Baker, Pembrokeshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, said: “This consultation exercise will produce an Active Travel Network Map which will be a plan of routes the Council will use to inform where improvements to walking and cycling should be made in Pembrokeshire.

“It will help to make journeys on foot or by bicycle easier and safer for everyone, particularly those who don’t currently walk or cycle often and people who use mobility aids and will build on the increased level of walking and cycling that we have seen over the last 12 months during the pandemic.”

See more information on Active Travel at: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/fitness-and-well-being/active-travel

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