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Miller’s plans derailed

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Speaking to press before the meeting: Cllr Paul Miller

Speaking to press before the meeting: Cllr Paul Miller

AN ATTEMPT by Cllr Paul Miller, the Labour Leader on Pembrokeshire County Council, to ‘recall’ the proposed education changes in Pembrokeshire has failed. At an extra-ordinary meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council at County Hall on Tuesday (Apr 14), councillors voted 29 to 22 against the recall of the plans. This now means that the consultation process currently underway will continue.

Miller secured the signatures of fifteen councillors to ‘request a recall’ of the proposed education changes, which are to close five sixth forms on Pembrokeshire and replace them with sixth form provision at Pembrokeshire College has been met with stiff opposition by students, teachers, and the public at large. The Council’s plans were set in motion long in advance of the consultation. The Herald showed last week that both the council and the College were in talks since 2013. Cllr Miller, along with Stephen Crabb and Paul Davies AM have all called for post 16 education to be kept on school sites in north Pembrokeshire.

HUNDREDS PROTEST AT COUNTY HALL A protest of hundreds of pupils, parents and staff took place at the council offices before the meeting. A councillor took a petition into chambers signed by over 600 pupils from Sir Thomas Picton, who are angry that their school might lose its sixth form if the proposed plans go ahead. LEAKED DOCUMENTS Some of the protestors were handing out print-outs from The Herald’s website to the councillors and students.

The Herald uploaded the story, written following a leak of documents from a secret source, to it’s website at 10pm on Monday night. The late night news report revealed that the minutes of the council’s Corporate Management Team threw new light on the Authority’s plans. The story explained that the Corporate Management Team considered the engagement of the Full Council in the schools reform matter as “a risk”, which suggests its members were rather depending on not too many probing questions being asked. Had they been asked, the minutes reveal that the Council has embarked upon a deeply divisive consultation – which even those behind it concede is now out of date – without waiting to establish the Welsh Government’s position in respect of the type of projects proposed in the consultation document.

The fact that the Council has been working hand in glove on the provision of the 21CS programme with a member of the College’s own staff seconded to assist; with the College as a key partner; and with all indications being that the public are being presented with Hobson’s choice on the future of secondary education, the open consultation that the public have been assured would take place appears to be – as this newspaper reported in last week’s edition – nothing more than a fix. IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER The atmosphere was tense at in the council chamber.

One of the first to speak was Cllr Pat Davies who said that there had to be a cohesive sixth form policy, county-wide. She was also loud in her criticism of the idea of a centre for excellence in the south of the county that she suggested may not be accessible by those in the north. She also expressed a worry that pupils moving from their school of five years to a tertiary site would miss out on communal extra-curricular activities that only a school could offer. She called for a clearer vision by the council than the one on offer. Cllr Tony Wilcox also opposed the current path and said more consultation was desperately required and any decisions should certainly not be rushed and he was joined in his calls for a re-think by Cllr Viv Stoddart who stated that as far as she knew no input had come from ‘the people who matter’, the sixth form pupils themselves. She stated a firm belief that this was a fundamental flaw in the Council’s thinking, and they had to consider children’s rights.

Cllr Tessa Hodgson, went even further, stating that she believed the consultation should have started two years earlier. ‘HELD TO RANSOM’ Also speaking at the meeting, Cllr Jonathan Nutting said that Pembrokeshire County Council had “shot itself in the foot” and that the re-organisation had ‘descended into farce’ with no merit whatsoever given to children, parents and teachers. This was, he said, the ‘biggest decision we will make as county councillors’ and he went further by saying the leader was using a process of ‘moral blackmail’ and that it was ‘divisive’ and being ‘railroaded’ through. The council, he said, were ‘being held to ransom’ by the college and that the whole policy looked like it was constructed on the ‘back of a fag packet’. He claimed it was time to ‘bin the shambolic plan’. A ‘HALF-COCKED’ PLAN Cllr Thomas Tudor, who was told he was unable to vote, said it was “imperative we listen to the needs of people and their concerns”, pointing to evidence that sixth forms improve results at GCSE and A level grades and implored the Council to think about the devastating impact such a move would have on the wider school community and its success as an academic centre. He was also keen to point out how important the sixth formers themselves are to a school as a valuable human resource.

Cllr. Mike Edwards accused the supporters of the consultation, in particular Jamie Adam’s IPPG, of using a strategy of “divide and conquer to drive through a half-cock plan”. Cllr Edwards said the council was using “divisive politics.” Cllr Evans said: “The condition of education [in Pembrokeshire] is another legacy of Bryn. This is the chaos that exists in this plan and in our education department, and Jamie [Adams], you are responsible for this chaos as it stands.” HERALD BROKE THE NEWS Cllr. Jacob Williams cited The Herald’s revelations last week that the Council had been talking with Pembrokeshire College about post- 16 education a long time before the consultation began, saying he believed that was prejudiced and ‘putting things at risk’ and Cllr David Howlett, the leader of the Conservative group accused council leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, of having tied the arms behind the councillor’s backs and that any decision would have ramifications for generations to come.

Cllr Stan Hudson, another Conservative supporting Labour leader Paul Miller’s motion thanked The Herald for having brought to his attention the collusion between the council and the college. Cllr Peter Stock referred to the many criticisms by the county’s leading professionals of the current option on the table and stated: “can all these people who object be wrong? I don’t think so – many are professionals” and referring to apparent collusion between PCC and the College, he said: “It strikes me as pre-empting a decision of the consultation”. Those opposed to Paul Miller’s motion were equally as passionate in their arguments, as the issue clearly divided the chamber. Cllr Sue Perkins went on the offensive. She criticised the county’s schools performances, deriding them for not having achieved an Estyn level of good or outstanding. She believed the option that is preferred

would “present a sound strategy to improve standards – county wide”. She also said the council must make “tough decisions”, and to have “no green category schools, a measure of a successful school according to Estyn, just wasn’t good enough”. She claimed that there was no choice but for change. Perkins implored council to allow the consultation to continue, and was adamant that all parties were being consulted, including the pupils in the county. PERKINS ON THE DEFENSIVE Cllr Perkins added: “Our young people deserve better. Our young people lack choice, yes they have the choice over where to study but not the choice of courses. There seems to be an obsession of comparing schools with Pembrokeshire College – but this is irrelevant.

The proposal is for a NEW sixth form centre. It will be a new entity and will not result in A Level courses being run by Pembrokeshire College.” Cllr Perkins batted away criticism by saying that the council was “absolutely consulting with everyone” and to say that the council wasn’t is “unfair”. BINNING CONSULTATION ‘RECKLESS’ Cllr David Lloyd rubbished the idea that the process had not been thorough. He claimed that to bin the consultation now would be “reckless”. The member for St. David’s said: “The council should stay around the table and not go back eighteen months”. Cllr Mike John agreed, saying the council should see the consultation out. Brian Hall, also opposed the motion in fear that it may adversely affect any future funding for education.

Joining him in protest at the radical motion was Keith Lewis who also believed the consultation was working and to stop the process would throw the whole situation into chaos. Another member, Cllr Pearl Llewellyn, took a more Pembrokecentred view, saying she could not put Pembroke’s new school, as proposed in the consultation’s preferred option, in jeopardy, and wouldn’t support the motion. Jamie Adams, IPPG and Council Leader, who is keen to get through the preferred option and move post 16 education to Pembrokeshire College, as per discussions the council have already had with the tertiary site, commented on the many points raised from the debate. He started by saying there was an inference that the consultation was not honest or deep enough, which he denied point blank.

To say ‘his’ council weren’t listening, he said, was a fallacy, saying that for a 2nd option to the one preferred from the consultation was for the public to tell him and the council. Adamant he and his group were right in their pursuit of their preferred plan, Adams said: “Convince me the preferred option is not the right one. I need evidence. This is not a referendum. We are deciding on the best outcome for the children of this county. Consultation will allow this and provide every opportunity. This is a jigsaw and members must understand that.

21st century funding will be available to facilitate the outcome; stop the consultation and funding is at risk”. He finished by saying he wanted ‘a guarantee not a gamble’. Before putting the motion to the vote, summing up Cllr Paul Miller said that the 21st century schools programme presented a fantastic opportunity, but said the county may miss that opportunity if the current set of proposals, dominated he said by Bush school, lead to the wrong outcomes. He said: “We need a more grown up debate. We cannot just make a decision today.

Just because we have come so far it doesn’t mean we can’t change our approach. We are making a model in this county on the fly, not the right way, we are making it up as we go along. It’s not right for communities. A loud majority sixth form education. This (the preferred option) is the wrong solution for Pembrokeshire and the community. We need to get this right for the future of our county. If we get it wrong, we could leave a 50 year legacy of inadequate provision.” THE VOTE IS LOST The motion was narrowly defeated by 29 votes to 22, with an abstention from Cllr Pearl Llewellyn.

The Herald spoke with Paul Miller directly after the meeting, who said in response to the result and defeat of his motion: “I am very disappointed. The Council had the opportunity to look again at these proposals, and we understood from the debate today that they have been framed by previous decisions. Particularly around Bush school campus, that are now dictating the educational reorganisation and £100million capital programme for this authority, and they shouldn’t be. This should all be about getting the right educational outcomes for our children, getting the right model for delivering education across Pembrokeshire and we (The council) are just not getting that.

I am bitterly disappointed that councillors rejected our proposal that would have allowed them back to the drawing board”. The Herald asked if Mr Miller was heartened by Cllr Jamie Adams’ assertion that the consultation period might offer another option, to which he responded: “Well I hope it does, but the reality is if they are going to significantly change from the single option they are putting forward as part of the consultation, they are going to have to run another statutory consultation process, and I think there will be all sorts of pressure on them not to do that. Also, they are not being honest with people about the actual effects this will have across Pembrokeshire.

This is a county wide strategy they are engaged upon, it will, whatever they decide on here today, impact on Milford and Greenhill’s 6th form sustainability.” However, Cllr Owen James who opposed the motion told The Herald: “I think the consultation process is perfectly adequate as it is and we don’t need to mess around with it. We have had some full and interesting responses. We need to go through those and act accordingly.” Cllr James was also prepared to comment on the pre-consultation collusion between the Council and Pembrokeshire College, saying: “I think we do need partnerships, and they do need to be strong ones, and I don’t think that is a disadvantage in any way.”

I AM PRO-CHOICE Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies joined the hundreds of protestors outside County Hall ahead of the full Council meeting, saying: “I sincerely hope that Councillors think very carefully about the future of our sixth forms across Pembrokeshire. Pe m b ro k e s h i re County Council must find a way to deliver education services locally that also meets the needs of communities’ right across the County. Mr Davies AM added: “I strongly believe in young people having choice in the education system, and the current proposals to remove sixth form education from schools in North Pembrokeshire and Haverfordwest will eliminate choice for many students. This would lead to a postcode lottery, meaning that some students will have access to local sixth form provision, and others won’t – and that’s simply unacceptable. I hope that following today’s meeting, the Council will commit to delivering first-class sixth form provision in schools for all children and young people across Pembrokeshire.”

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Wales international Johnny Williams signs new Scarlets contract

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THE SCARLETS said this week that they are delighted to announce that Wales international centre Johnny Williams has signed a new contract with the club.

The 27-year-old joined the Scarlets from Newcastle Falcons in 2020 and after just four appearances earned his first Wales cap, against Georgia in Llanelli.

A powerful-carrying presence in the Scarlets midfield, he has since made 46 appearances, scoring six tries, including a memorable interception in last season’s Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Clermont Auvergne.

He has won seven caps for Wales, featuring at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “Johnny has been a key member of the side in recent years. He’s a player who is a dynamic carrier, is physical with and without the ball, has a good skill set and has an impact on every game he’s involved in.

“He is an important cog in how we look to play and it’s fantastic that he has agreed a new contract with the club. I know the fans will be thrilled with this news and, along with the likes of Eddie James, Joe Roberts and with Macs Page coming through, we have a lot of talent in that midfield pool for the coming years.”

Johnny Williams said: “I am delighted to have signed a new contract. It has been a frustrating season in terms of results, but I am excited by the potential of the squad we are putting together.

“A lot of young boys have put their hands up and we showed during the final few games of the season the kind of rugby we can produce.

“Pre-season will be around before we know it and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, ready for a big start to next season.”

Johnny is the latest player to recommit to the Scarlets ahead of the 2024-25 campaign, following Tonga lock Sam Lousi, Wales internationals Tom Rogers and Harri O’Connor and back-rowers Dan Davis and Ben Williams.

Scarlets have also strengthened their squad with the addition of hooker Marnus van der Merwe (Toyota Cheetahs), prop Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), full-back Ellis Mee (Nottingham), lock Max Douglas (Toyota Canon Eagles), Wales international prop Henry Thomas (Castres Olympique) and back-three player Blair Murray (Canterbury).

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Tata workers call first strikes in 40 years to stop steel destruction

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HISTORIC strikes in Port Talbot as Labour vows emergency talks with Tata after general election

Around 1,500 Tata workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will begin all-out indefinite strike action over the company’s plans to cut 2,800 jobs and close its blast furnaces.

The strike action, which begins on 8 July, will severely impact Tata’s UK operations. It is the first time in over 40 years that steel workers in the UK have taken strike action.

The escalation in industrial action comes after the workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, began working to rule and an overtime ban on Tuesday (June 17).

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs – they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.

“Our members will not standby while this immensely wealthy conglomerate tries to throw Port Talbot and Llanwern on the scrapheap so it can boost its operations abroad. They know South Wales is ideally placed to take advantage of the coming boom in green steel – if the right choices are made.

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans. Unite is backing Tata’s workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves.”

Labour has called for Tata to halt its plans and wait until after the general election to engage in talks with the government, saying there is a ‘better deal to do’. Labour has pledged £3 billion for UK steel if elected next month, a commitment secured by Unite. Labour has also made emergency talks with Tata a priority if it wins the election.

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Welsh Conservatives ask voters to send a message to Labour: ‘Enough is enough’

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES are rallying voters to use their voice on Thursday, July 4th, to signal that 25 years of Labour governance in Wales is enough. However, the question remains whether their message will resonate with the electorate amidst predictions of a near-wipeout for the Tories in Wales.

Since 1999, Labour has overseen critical areas such as the Welsh NHS, education, transport, housing, rural affairs, and job creation. According to the Conservatives, this quarter-century of Labour rule has left Wales with the longest NHS waiting lists in the UK, the poorest educational outcomes, and the lowest employment levels in the country.

Unveiling the Welsh Conservative manifesto in Kinmel Bay this morning, David TC Davies highlighted their achievements, stating, “We have a strong record of action in Wales, from cutting taxes and putting £700 back into the pockets of hardworking Welsh workers, to delivering two freeports which will create thousands of jobs and investing over £2.5 billion to support transport, tourism, heritage, and culture across Wales.

“This is just the start. Our bold plan for Wales will go further so that people in Wales keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on what they want, not what the government wants. We will continue to bring investment and jobs to Wales, so that people can provide for their families and enjoy the security of home ownership. We will make sure our children have the best start in life, with access to opportunities they never thought possible.

“Labour’s lack of ambition for Wales is clear for all to see – Labour in Westminster and Wales ruling out the electrification of the North Wales main line. Only the Conservatives will deliver for North Wales.

“It is only by voting Welsh Conservative can our clear plan, with bold action be put in place and deliver a secure future for Wales.”

Andrew RT Davies MS echoed these sentiments, calling for a change in leadership: “Keir Starmer said that Labour in Wales was his blueprint for what he would do to the rest of the UK. Here in Wales, we know that is a stark warning as we suffer with 20,000 people waiting two years or more for treatment, a 50/50 chance of an ambulance arriving in our hour of need and 20mph speed limits hitting the Welsh economy by up to £9 billion. That is what 25 years of Labour in power looks like.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. We have a plan to save our Welsh NHS, a plan to kickstart our economy and a plan to get Wales moving. On the 4th of July, it is essential that people use their voice to tell Labour that enough is enough and that Wales deserves better.”

At the heart of the Welsh Conservative election manifesto, set to be published on Friday, is the pledge to reverse Wales’ controversial 20mph speed limit policy by giving people a legal right to challenge existing zones. The policy, introduced by former First Minister Mark Drakeford’s government, has faced significant backlash despite figures showing a reduction in road injuries.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies, and Tory Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies will present the manifesto in Kinmel Bay, Conwy. Mr Sunak will describe Wales as a “great country, but a country let down by Labour,” which has led the Welsh government since devolution 25 years ago.

Additional neighbourhood police officers and a £1bn investment plan to electrify the North Wales main rail line will also feature prominently in the document. The electrification project, initially announced by Mr Sunak in October 2023 after cancelling the second leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line, aims to revitalise transport infrastructure in North Wales. However, transport experts estimate the actual cost could exceed £1.5bn.

During the manifesto launch, Mr Sunak is expected to criticise Welsh Labour’s priorities, accusing them of focusing solely on maintaining power. He will highlight initiatives like lowering the voting age to 16 in Senedd and local elections and increasing the number of Senedd members as examples of Labour’s self-serving strategies.

Despite calling the election last month, Mr Sunak has not seen a significant reduction in Labour’s lead in opinion polls. David TC Davies, expressing scepticism about Labour’s predicted victory, suggested that any Labour majority would lack enthusiastic support from the electorate.

As the July 4th election approaches, the Welsh Conservatives are emphasising the need for a dramatic shift in governance, advocating for policies they believe will rejuvenate Wales and rectify the issues they attribute to 25 years of Labour control.

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