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Badger and the legend of Leighton’s gold



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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Wales embarks on floating wind energy venture with £180,000 commitment



OFFSHORE RENEWABLE ENERGY (ORE) Catapult, in association with Floventis Energy, is set to boost the floating offshore wind sector in Wales. The partnership aims to prepare Welsh businesses for this rapidly growing industry.

This initiative, termed the Fit 4 Offshore Renewables (F4OR) programme, is tailored exclusively to propel the floating wind market in Wales. It marks the debut of such an initiative in the region, reflecting the nation’s progressive stance on renewable energy.

The joint venture sees a promising £180,000 committed by Floventis Energy towards the 12-18 month floating wind specific development scheme. Welsh businesses are set to benefit extensively with unique access to the team developing Llŷr 1 and 2 in the Celtic Sea. This, in combination with the forthcoming Celtic Sea Round 5 projects, promises lucrative prospects for local ventures.

Vaughan Gething, Wales’ Economy Minister, expressed his enthusiasm: “The offshore wind sector has an incredible potential for our economy and its people. By bolstering the awareness of Welsh firms, we aim to pave the way for them to harness the opportunities of the green future.”

The programme, commencing in 2024, will kick-start with an initial group of three companies. Since its inception in 2019, the F4OR initiative has flourished across the UK, boasting five successful regional programmes and aiding over 100 companies. Many of these beneficiaries have seen a significant surge in their turnovers.

Andrew Macdonald from ORE Catapult commented on the potential of the sector: “Our goal is to ensure a top-tier supply chain developed in the UK, ready to cater to the world. With the proven success of F4OR in other parts, we’re eager to tap into the vast opportunities that Wales, particularly in floating wind energy, presents.”

The Celtic Sea in Wales is poised to be a frontrunner in the UK’s net-zero ambition, targeting a deployment of 4GW of floating wind by 2035. Early estimates suggest the potential creation of over 3,000 jobs, injecting a staggering £682 million into the supply chain of Wales and Cornwall by 2030.

Cian Conroy of Floventis Energy, noting the importance of the programme, stated: “Initiatives like F4OR, in tandem with projects such as Llŷr, are vital for building a robust industry. Our end goal is to fortify the UK’s offshore renewable energy supply chain, both domestically and on the global stage.”

Applications for the programme are open for firms employing over ten individuals and boasting turnovers exceeding £1 million, provided they cater to the offshore wind sector. Interested companies can apply at F4OR – ORE ( by 10 November.

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Pembrokeshire identified as having too many empty properties



PEMBROKESHIRE has been identified as the third major empty home hotspot in the UK.

The recent study on the UK’s housing market, conducted by Alan Boswell Landlord Building Insurance, disclosed a startling fact – the country has 4,331 vacant properties. This figure contradicts the popular belief of a fully occupied UK property market, especially given the weighty 5.1% rise in rent over the last year.

Gwynedd, in north-west Wales, tops the list with a staggering 5,286 vacant properties per 100,000 residents, an actual number amounting to 6,204. Surprisingly, a significant 77% of these are second homes or holiday residences. This has consequently resulted in escalating house prices, pushing the average up to £136,095.

Following closely is Argyll and Bute, which, with its historical splendour and breathtaking vistas, now has 4,887 empty homes per 100,000 people. This makes up over 10% of the area’s households. Furthermore, to address the increasing number of vacant properties, the Scottish Government has augmented The Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) to 6% of the property purchase price for individuals who already possess one or more residential properties, anywhere in the world.

However, it’s Pembrokeshire’s standing at third place that’s turning heads. Despite its reputation as a sanctuary for nature and history aficionados, the county is grappling with a surge of holiday-home ownership. A vast 74% of its vacant properties are owned by individuals possessing second homes. The data indicates 4,331 empty homes for every 100,000 individuals in the county, summing up to 5,346 overall.

Concluding the top five are the Isle of Anglesey and Ceredigion, both in Wales, with 3,752 and 3,595 vacant properties per 100,000 residents, respectively.

This overwhelming number of vacant homes across these areas not only affects the local housing market but also impacts the native residents, many of whom find it increasingly challenging to own a home in their own community.

Methodology: The analysis used government data, StatsWales website information, and the Scottish Government’s figures. Data utilised spanned from 2021 to 2023, considering population and house price figures.

More info here

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Pembrokeshire restaurant fined for employing illegal workers



A PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED restaurant, Panache Indian, located on Queen Street, Pembroke Dock, has been slapped with a hefty fine after being found guilty of employing illegal workers over the past year.

The authorities acted on intelligence provided to the UK government, leading to raids at the Panache establishment earlier this year. Investigations uncovered that several staff members employed there had no legal right to either reside or work in the UK. The exact number of illegal workers discovered on the premises has not been disclosed.

As a consequence of these findings, the restaurant, owned and managed by Fahinoor Rahman, has been penalised with a fine amounting to £30,000.

Furthermore, Panache Restaurant now features in the Government’s quarterly report, which lists companies penalised for the use of illegal workers. This data is publicly released by the Home Office four times annually, with the most recent data spanning from January 1 to March 31, 2023.

The UK government underscores the severe repercussions awaiting companies or individuals found employing those without the right to work or live in the UK. According to, guilty parties could face up to five years imprisonment, alongside an unlimited fine, particularly if they knowingly or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ they were employing individuals without the right to work in the UK.

This category comprises:

  • Individuals lacking the leave (permission) to enter or stay in the UK.
  • Those whose permission to stay has expired.
  • Individuals restricted from certain job roles.
  • Persons providing incorrect or fraudulent information.
  • In a related incident, the Nehar Indian Restaurant in Lampeter, owned by Ruhul Amin Choudhury, has also been penalised with a £20,000 fine for employing illegal workers.
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