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Badger and the legend of Leighton’s gold

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badger84imageTHIS Friday is an important one for Pembrokeshire, readers. It may seem like any other Friday at this time of year, marking time to the inevitable twinkling of sleigh bells and relentless smuggery of Christmas, but this Friday is different. For this Friday, local authorities across Wales are due to answer to the call of Welsh Labour’s Local Government Minister Leighton Andrews and tell him exactly how they intend to throw themselves on the bonfi re of democracy that he wants to take place sooner rather than later. Now, after all that has happened over the last few years, readers might expect Badger to face the potential dissolution of Pembrokeshire County Council with equanimity. You would be wrong readers. Badger believes, fi rmly believes, in the ability of Pembrokeshire’s people to govern themselves. You can say what you like about the incompetence and fatuity of members of our current council. Badger has. Often. But we can at least say that, whatever their manifest shortcomings, those governing us from County Hall were elected by and are accountable to us. That is the nature of representative democracy.

Now, however, without a democratic mandate of any sort, Welsh Labour in Cardiff Bay has decided that it needs to sweep away local democracy and replace it with – well – readers, there is the question. For all Leighton’s big words and posturing, he is very thin on detail. In short, he is asking council’s to mortgage their futures not on a false prospectus but on moonshine and moon beams. Let’s look at some basic arithmetic, readers. Welsh councils face carving out £900m from their budgets in cuts over the coming years. Those are cuts that follow on from the Welsh Government’s decision to slash the grants it gives to councils so they can pay for essential services. Like education, bin collections, and elderly social care. We have already seen the effects of those cuts in the last couple of years, and there is a long way to travel down that path of pain yet. More and deeper cuts are the order of the day. But Labour will do nothing to ease the burden of cuts: Instead – and in a moment of blind panic – Ed Milliband signed up to a cross-party promise to keep in place a funding formula that costs Wales (very conservatively) £400m A YEAR in grants from the UK Treasury.

Into that toxic mix, Leighton has decided to throw in a fundamental shake-up of Welsh councils for no better reason than it suits Welsh Labour in Cardiff Bay to emasculate a tier of government and raise the Senedd above the level of a glorifi ed County Council. Think about it readers: Do you seriously see Mark Drakeford and his ilk as people with the nous and ability to outwit a stunned herring, let alone get to Westminster and occupy senior stations on the Labour benches? But to return to our fun with sums. On top of £900m in cuts, Leighton wants to burden councils with a shakeup that could cost as much as £268m.So: While services are slashed and burned, Leighton thinks it a jolly good idea to get councils to fund their own dissolution by fi nding another quarter of a billion pounds to go with the near billion they are expected to find already.

Leighton has given heavy hints that he expects councils to fund all of this from their reserves. Readers, there is fi scal illiteracy and blind stupidity. Badger would not seek to burden Leighton and Carwyn et al with an accusation of crass stupidity. Let’s just settle for fi scal illiteracy. If county councils dump capital onto the market – for example, commercial properties and assets – in a fi re sale to realise Leighton’s levy, what do you think will happen to property and fi nancial markets, readers? And what about the duty of councils to realise the best commercial price for their assets? Leighton doesn’t care. In his prison of fi scal illiteracy he does not think of consequences just of grand schemes. Like Del Boy in Peckham Market he will knock it off on the cheap to get it off his hands. So, with Welsh local government, in the hole to – say – £1.1bn, how much does Leighton think will be saved? £80m a year.

Maybe. He has not got a clue. Nobody does. In ten years, possibly, 12, the cuts and the costs will be made up for by alleged savings in local government. Maybe. He has not got a clue. Nobody does. Leighton’s gold is without substance because it has no basis in reality. He has not got a clue. Badger has a word for the idea that changing local government a la Leighton will deliver meaningful service improvements at a lower cost. Bulls***. Shedding a few Chief Offi cers will save bugger all in the grand scheme of things. Their scalps are just a convenient peg upon which Leighton can hang his hat. Emperor Leighton has no clothes. He is trying to bully councils with unspecifi ed penalties and even more nebulous (and probably) unlawful intervention if they do not bend to his will.

‘No change is not an option’, is Leighton’s call. Badger has heard that before, from Mark Drakeford, Carwyn’s Health Minister. Remember that one, readers? Consult on proposals and then press ahead anyway with a policy already determined by a panel appointed by the Welsh Labour Government. The Welsh Government carved up the Welsh NHS in such a way as it could force through its programme of cuts and closures in the teeth of public disapproval. That is what the Welsh Government wants to do to Welsh local government. Having centralised health policy in the Bay, the Welsh Labour Government wants to do the same with local democracy. There are those who might think it couldn’t be worse than what we have at the moment. Badger invites them to consider whether turning the Welsh NHS into an unresponsive, centrally run, bureaucratic mess operated by placemen and hacks is a template for success or failure. Put another way, do you trust Leighton enough to leap into the dark holding his hand in yours? Badger doesn’t. After all, Leighton was too gutless to be interviewed by The Herald.

What faith could you have in a man who will not subject himself to even the gentlest of quizzing? If you are still nodding along with Leighton at this point, readers, please bear this in mind: Leighton was in Carwyn’s Cabinet before. He resigned from his role as Education Minister after campaigning in his own constituency against a policy he was enforcing on the rest of Wales. This is the man Carwyn has charged with ramming through local government change. This is the man who tells us he is doing this not for party advantage but to deliver the best local government for Wales. ‘Hypocrisy’ is a terrible word, readers. But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks… And don’t forget to ask your Labour candidate their views. After all ‘hypocrisy’ is a terrible word, readers.

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Return of Walk and Talk group for Dementia Action Week

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Walk and Talk Group will make its return next week, coinciding with Dementia Action Week which runs from May 17-24.

Several events are being held across Pembrokeshire and the UK and PAVS has announced two Walk and Talk sessions.

One will be held in the South of the County in Begelly on Wednesday, May 19, and one in the North of the County in Newport on Thursday, May 20.

Walk and Talk is a dementia supportive group. The group provides the opportunity to socialise, improve your physical and mental wellbeing and at the same time enjoy the wonderful Pembrokeshire scenery. There will be walk and talk groups every week starting from next week.

Places are limited and will be on a first come first served basis,  to book a place on these walks please contact Cherry Evans on 07849 086009 or email cherry.evans@pavs.org.uk

Dementia Action Week aims to promote and make people aware that with the right support, people living with dementia can live a good quality of life doing what matters most to them for as long as possible.

One in fourteen people over the age of 65 are living with Dementia and approximately 42,000 people in Wales have Dementia. 65% of people living with dementia are women and 35% men

The covid-19 pandemic meant that many groups and clubs had to shut down and that has made things difficult for those people living with dementia.

People were left isolated and feeling lonely but thanks to modern technology they have been able to keep many in contact with those groups and their loved ones.

Throughout Dementia Action Week there will be daily interviews on the radio station Pure West Radio with lots of information about the activities and points of reference for support across Pembrokeshire.

These daily interviews will cover everything from diagnosing dementia, support, carers perspectives and even the power of music. You can listen to these each day at 11.15am Monday to Friday and at 2.15pm on Saturday and Sunday

If you fancy trying out a ‘tea and natter’ session on Zoom on Tuesday, May 18, at 2.30pm please contact Cherry Evans on 07849 086009 or email cherry.evans@pavs.org.uk

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Cllr Mike James is new Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has a new Chairman.

Cllr Mike James became Chairman at the virtual Annual Meeting of Council today (Friday, May 14) following an extended period as Vice Chairman due to the Covid-19 situation.

Cllr James, who represents St Dogmaels, moves into the Chairman’s seat vacated by Cllr Simon Hancock.

Cllr Pat Davies was appointed Vice-Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council.

At the same meeting Cllr Hancock was appointed Presiding Member for the coming year.

Cllr James joined Pembrokeshire County Council in 2010 and has previously served as Chairman of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Chairman of National Park Wales.

Cllr James said: “I feel very privileged to be appointed Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council.

“I always try to achieve the best in my life and this is right up there at the top.

“I hope I can achieve the high standard set by Councillors who have been Chairman before me. Councillor Simon Hancock most certainly accomplished that standard.”

Cllr James is married to Sian and they have two daughters, Fern James and Rhiannon Lloyd.

Born and bred in St Dogmaels, Cllr James attended Ysgol Llandudoch and Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.

He worked for 32 years at Slimma/Dewhirst Cardigan and for four years as an LSA in Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn.

Cllr James has also served as Clerk to St Dogmaels Community Council, as the Carers Champion for Pembrokeshire County Council and as a representative on numerous other committees and sub-committees.

A member of Cardigan Rugby Club Male Voice Choir, Cllr James also sits on the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Cllr James added: “The last 14 months have not been easy for many people. I hope there is a light at the end of a long tunnel where we can meet and speak to loved ones again.

“I am a people’s person and I hope, if I am allowed, to have the opportunity to meet and talk to as many residents in Pembrokeshire as possible.”

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New international travel rules for Wales confirmed by First Minister

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International travel will restart for people in Wales from Monday 17 May, the Welsh Government has confirmed today.

As part of changes to Wales’ coronavirus regulations, people living in Wales will be able to travel to some overseas destinations without the need to quarantine on their return.

But additional safeguards will be put in place to help prevent new cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales.

A traffic lights system, aligned with England and Scotland, will be introduced. Countries will be classified as green, amber and red, depending on their rates of coronavirus.

Mandatory quarantine is in place for all people returning to the UK from countries on the amber and red lists. All people returning from overseas travel must have a PCR test.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

 “Wales, like other parts of the UK, will be restarting international travel. But protecting people’s health continues to be our top priority and we want to do everything we can to prevent coronavirus from being re-imported into Wales.

 “This will not be like travel in the past. Everyone travelling abroad will have to have a test when they come home and for many people, they will need to quarantine when they get home. There are significant fines in place for those who do not follow the legal requirements.

“Some countries are not yet opening up travel to people from the UK. It’s my strong advice that this is the year to stay at home and enjoy all that Wales has to offer.”

Under the international travel rules:

• People arriving from green-list countries are not required to quarantine on their return to Wales, but they must book and pay for a mandatory PCR test on or before day two of their return. All travellers and members of their household will also be reminded about the availability of additional lateral flow tests to continue to monitor their health.

• People arriving from amber-list countries are required to quarantine for 10 days at home on their return. This is a legal requirement. They are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and on day eight. Unlike in England, Wales does not operate a test-to-release scheme where an additional test can be taken on day five to reduce the period of quarantine. This is because some 30% of people who develop Covid-19 do so after day five.

• People arriving from countries on the red list are required to quarantine for a full 10 days on arrival in the UK at a designated UK port in a government-managed facility – a ‘covid hotel’ – at their own cost, starting from £1,750 per person. All UK entry points for arrivals from red-list countries are in England and Scotland, which means Welsh residents returning from those countries will need to quarantine outside Wales. Travellers are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and day eight.

All those who do not follow the rules for red-list countries face fixed notice penalties of £10,000.

Welsh residents must also consult the requirements for visitors for any country they plan to travel to. Restrictions may be in place, including proof of vaccination, tests, quarantine and reasons for entry.

Vaccination status certificates will be available for people in Wales who have had two doses of their vaccination and need to urgently travel to a country that requires covid vaccination proof from Monday 24 May.

The First Minister added:

“We call on people to think about whether they need to travel overseas at this time. We should be cautious about going abroad in light of the ongoing risk of coronavirus and the presence of variants of concern in many countries.

“My clear message to everyone is make Wales your destination of choice this year.”

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