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Badger and the appliance of science

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badger84imageECONOMICS, readers, was described by Thomas Carlyle as “the dismal science”. Of course, the fact he coined the phrase in the context of a pamphlet supporting the reintroduction of slavery in the Caribbean demonstrates that one has to have an eye on the context in which they were originally offered up to posterity when considering the wisdom of aphorisms. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” is often handed down as though it was an immortal truth: one carved in stone; one to be heeded at all times and in all circumstances. Its appeal to authority is often followed by a nod to its origin in Shakespeare. Polonius, the character who offers the advice in Hamlet, is generally regarded as being as thick as mince and his counsel of as little use as a chocolate fireguard. So, readers, bear in mind t h a t wh e n e v e r you hear someone q u o t e t h a t line; their advice should be given as much weight as Hamlet ends up giving to Polonius’. By the way, and while Badger does not want to spoil the surprise, Hamlet stabs poor old Polonius by way of a farcical mistake resulting from Polonius own idiocy.

But it is of economics that Badger wants to write this week readers. In a way, it is inevitable that Carlyle, who subscribed to the dictum above. He believed in the “great man” theory of history which persisted for a surprisingly long time in scholarship. Economics, and more particularly economic history, is less about the individual poised at the moment of decision than about demography and long term trends. Badger is prepared to concede a great deal to those who think that the answer to the questions of the past can be divined from financial history and the study of markets and the masses. Much can be learned about the way in which some countries rise to positions of pre-eminence less because of the individual genius of its inhabitants than by their ability to exploit and more efficiently organize resources.

But when it comes down to it, readers, there are far fewer artworks devoted to the heroism of Keynes, Friedman and Galbraith t h a n there are to Napoleon, Frederick the Great or Churchill. Badger prefers to consider that there is a form of synthesis between the approaches of the different schools of thought. Otherwise how can one go about explaining the economic illiteracy, foolishness and pig-headed ignorance of Pembrokeshire’s county councillors – and more particularly the IPPG – when it came to Bryn Parry-Jones. Badger had hoped that the Brynmeister had made his last appearance in his column, but the eagerness of the national media to suddenly discover details of Bryn’s work car revealed in this paper over six months ago, thrust him and Pembrokeshire County Council’s profligate pay policy for senior officers into pin sharp focus.

That, combined with the news that the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales wants to cut his successor’s pay by a third to a measly £130K all in, behoves Badger to once more return to the longest running punchline to the longest running joke in Welsh local government. £195K readers. Toy with that fi gure. Roll it around in your head. £195,000 of our council tax paying pounds is what was bunged to Bryn by way of an annual remuneration package. How did anyone, let alone people charged with custody of public money, come to believe that one man was worth so much? Badger has a theory. It is only a notion borne out of Badger’s observations of the way you lot behave up there on the surface, but he offers it for your consideration. Hard as it might be to believe, readers, Bryn was regarded as a bit of whizz kid in his past.

He had been the youngest chief executive of a council in Wales (Llanelli) before the great local government shake-up that returned unitary authority status to our county eliminated Llanelli Borough Council and merged it with Carmarthenshire. So it was to Pembrokeshire – pretty much the last resort – to which Bryn turned. One fl ashy presentation later and Bryn jumped on the gravy train and rode it right up until it ran into the buffers. Thereafter, all Bryn had to do was to consolidate his grip on power and then play up to councillors’ vanity and insecurity to ensure that his pay escalated from the merely very comfortable to the stratospherically lunatic. Councillors, it has been written elsewhere by this newspaper’s deputy editor, were encouraged to believe that they were clever because they had appointed Bryn, who appeared clever.

Councillors, particularly those from the so-called Independent Group, liked feeling clever – or at least possessed of the secret knowledge of their own cleverness. But their misplaced self-confi dence was accompanied by insecurity. If Bryn left, their cleverness would evaporate; worse, their brilliance would be revealed to be as illusory as the emperor’s new clothes. So it was, readers, that slowly but surely Bryn was put into a position where he could apply the screws and chisel more money out of his employers. The vanity and insecurity of a few councillors, over time allowed Bryn to grab more and more. But it is worse than that, readers. The corollary of paying the Grand Panjandrum a large sum of money, means that all his subordinate mandarins’ pay becomes inflated simply to stay in step.

They are all worth more, because the Grand Panjandrum is worth more. The senior offi cers – heads of service – become less likely to proactively act on problems. There are two pressures at play here. There is the risk of killing the goose that has laid golden eggs. And, of course, if the Chief is clever they must also be clever. That is the species of thought that allows heads of service to re-write care home fees without reference to rational external criteria and allow the use of punishment cells in our county’s schools. They cannot be wrong, because they are clever. They can show how clever they are by reference to their pay cheques. Readers, what we have there is a perfect storm of wilful ignorance and self-interest fuelling grotesque pay infl ation. Every chief officer and senior officer in Wales wanted Pembrokeshire’s gravy train to keep on running to maintain the South Sea Bubble of senior staff’s pay.

But no more: the Remuneration Panel has decreed that Pembrokeshire’s size and staff complement cannot support a wage more outrageous than the £130,000 a year it proposes. Such is the infl ated pay that the Council pays to its individual heads of service, a new chief executive could end up being paid less than those notionally their underlings. So, Jamie Adams has a problem, readers. Whether he settles for what the Panel proposes or insists that £145,000 is the minimum to attract someone who will make his friends on the “Independent” benches feel clever again, he will be acknowledging that it was under the “Independent” group’s stewardship that this council (our council, readers!!) not only threw away hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on overpaying its chief offi cer and his lackeys, but continues to do so. The economic science the “Independent” group understands, readers, is the economics of the madhouse. It’s dismal, indeed.

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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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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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