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Jamie Adams: “Something’s got to give”

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got to giveCONTINUING our interview with Council leader Jamie Adams about the County Council’s 21st Century Schools programme, we spoke about the Council’s plan for funding the scheme and future of secondary education in Pembrokeshire.

The question of funding

“We are lucky in Pembrokeshire,” begins Jamie Adams. He pauses. “No, not lucky: we have been very well-managed. As I said before, we are looking at using our assets more efficiently and disposing of part of our estate to release capital and reduce expenditure. The requirement for funding the schools programme has significantly increased in cost after the Welsh Government reduced its own input into it

“Our plan as a Council is to get one third or so of our funding from the Welsh Government, to raise one third of the funding through efficiency savings and asset sales, and to raise the rest by prudential borrowing. We are not looking, at this time, at models like the Private Finance Initiative or Public Private Partnerships.

“We are able to access prudential borrowing, because of the way we have managed the Council’s finances and thought strategically about the future. In the long-term prudential borrowing is likely to cost us a good deal less than other finance options

“While I am confident about funding the schools programme that does not mean there are not challenges we need to face: particularly about secondary education.

Populating the classrooms

“When we look at our schools provision for the 11 plus group, we have to look at the population of Pembrokeshire, more particularly its distribution.”

He gestures to the large map of Pembrokeshire on the wall to underline his point:

“We have eight secondary schools in Pembrokeshire and 1,000 spare spaces. In the future we are projected to have greater additional capacity. We have an unsustainable secondary education provision and it is clear something has to give.

“As to how our future provision will look: that is a matter for consultation. But we will have to make tough decisions and they should not be put off. The Welsh Government has given a very clear lead on reducing the amount of the education budget spent on spare capacity within the system. In a time when public finances are stretched we cannot afford to maintain underused buildings, under-occupied classrooms and excess school places.

“With those surplus places, we are spending a disproportionate amount of scarce resources in circumstances where there can be no positive return for that money in terms of outcomes for students. As an authority, our focus is very firmly on getting the best outcomes we can for investing in the education system.

“I understand the concerns of local communities. Other Cabinet members and I went out to listen to them and to get the views of Pembrokeshire’s people on how we could improve our services and deliver them more efficiently. As part of that exercise, I went to Saint Davids. There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Ysgol Dewi Sant and very strong local feeling has been expressed in the press and at public meetings. People who spoke to me there: well, it was not all about “don’t close the school”. Parents and other members of the community in Saint Davids were concerned about putting viable options forward for the future.

“It would be nice to have a federal structure with different parts of the curriculum delivered on different sites,” he gestures at the map again, “travel times between the scattered sites make that unsustainable and impractical.

A new plan for Pembrokeshire

“Of course, as a Council we have to make decisions in relation to the County-wide provision of secondary education. We have to consider what opportunities exist to improve our secondary provision and offer a broad and enriching education to kids.

“We have to be straight here: some pupils do not achieve academically in the current system. We want to provide opportunities for varied training and education post-14 in conjunction with Pembrokeshire College. Again, this is focussing on outcomes for all Pembrokeshire children.

“Traditionally, in my view, education in Pembrokeshire has been a ‘comfortable’ place to be. We’ve achieved ‘comfortable’ outcomes. My personal opinion is that for too long there has been a focus on obtaining a degree as the be all and end all of education. I profoundly disagree with that position, there has to be a good pathway for those who wish to follow vocational or career-based education and for those who are less-academically inclined.

“We have been in discussions with Pembrokeshire College about what we can do to improve the situation for 14-19 year olds. Those discussions have been frank on both sides: we have acknowledged and the College has acknowledged that there are things we do well and things we do not as well.

“That honesty and those discussions mean that we are in the process of forging a partnership that will substantially change the provision of education in Pembrokeshire for pupils after the age of 14. That partnership is based on us complementing what each other do.

“Every pupil deserves the chance to make the best of their abilities. I want to make sure that we improve the outcomes not only for those academically gifted students who progress on to higher education and go on to well paid, professional careers. We will continue to encourage those students and be pleased for their success. Outcomes exist, however, that cannot be measured simply in terms of only academic success. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a successful vocational education.

“What I want education in Pembrokeshire to achieve is to enrich learning, to motivate teachers and to achieve outcomes that bring out the very best in all of our children, be that in terms of academic success or otherwise. We want our children to be motivated to succeed wherever their strengths lie and to give them chances to do so, whether those strengths are academic, entrepreneurial, arts, or skilled trades.

“We are thinking for the medium to long-term: not quick fixes or fiddling around the edges. Some other local authorities have gone for easy solutions. I believe, in the future they will regret not taking the opportunities that the 21st Century Schools programme has offered them.”

It is time to go. We exchange pleasantries, shake hands and head our separate ways. As I head down the stairs, I thank the Council’s press officer who arranged the meeting.

Here at The Pembrokeshire Herald, we are sometimes critical of the Council and its IPPG leadership. We have occasionally suggested that they have got things wrong. But Jamie Adams has been brisk, professional and thoughtful – especially about some of the left-field questions thrown at him.

As I head out into a December evening, I reflect that Jamie Adams’ attitude to the future of Pembrokeshire’s education system is in marked contrast to the squally weather. He seems very certain, very confident.

Driving off into the rain, I can’t help thinking about the storm of public opinion as schools programme unfolds. It will be interesting, to interview him again when consultations have concluded, decisions have been made and the public have given their reaction to see how events have influenced the Council’s vision.

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Plaid’s Dafydd Llywelyn re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner

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THE NEW Police and Crime Commissioner for the Dyfed Powys Area has been announced.

Incumbent, Dafydd Llywelyn, of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales, has been re-elected for a second term.

The election was held Thursday, 06 May 2021, at the same time as the Senedd Cymru elections.

In order to follow all coronavirus regulations, the count for this election was held on Sunday, 09 May 2021.

The announcement was made in Ceredigion, at the Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul.

Dafydd Llywelyn, was first elected as one of the two new Plaid Cymru PCCs during 2016’s election and is the PCC for Dyfed-Powys Police. 

The force covers over half the land mass of Wales and during the PCC elections had the highest turnout of all PCC elections at 49%.

Mr Llywelyn is a former Principal Intelligence Analyst and worked within Police Intelligence for many years before, in 2014, moving to Aberystwyth University to lecture on Criminology. His career has provided him with considerable insight into core policing issues as well as an understanding of what the public want from the service. He has pledged to reinvest in CCTV and prevention activities and has refused to appoint a deputy.

Standing against him were three other candidates – Jon Burns (Conservative); Philippa Thompson (Labour) and Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats).

The results for Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner’s elections were as follows:

1st Round

Jon Burns (Conservatives); 69,112

Dafydd Llywelyn (Plaid Cymru); 68208

Philippa Thompson (Labour): 48033

Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats) 17649

2nd Round

Jon Burns: 8209

Dafydd Llywelyn: 26280

This was the third time police and crime commissioner elections have been held. The election was originally due to take place in May 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new PCC term begins on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:

  • secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

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Counting underway following police and crime commissioner vote

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COUNTING is under way to find out who will be the four police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in Wales today (Sunday, May 9).

Polls were held on Thursday for South Wales Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, North Wales Police and Gwent Police alongside the Senedd election on Thursday (May 6).

With the exception of the North Wales Commissioner, all the incumbents are running again.  

The rules of the election are that unless a candidate gets more than 50% of votes in the first round of counting, then all but the top two candidates are eliminated from the election, and secondary votes on the ballot paper are then counted.

In Pembrokeshire the count is taking place for the Preseli constituency and the West Carmarthenshire and South Pembrokeshire constituency at the County Show Ground.

When will the news Commissioner be sworn in?

The swearing of the oath will also take place today, Sunday (May 9), and the elected Police and Crime Commissioner’s new term in office will start on May 13.

“The Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Declaration of Acceptance of Office) Order prescribes the form of words that the elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be required to declare before they take office,” said a PCC spokesperson.

“The term of a person elected as a PCC at an ordinary election begins on the seventh (calendar) day after the day of the poll, and ends with the sixth (calendar) day following the subsequent poll.

“The term for incumbent PCCs should cease on May 12, and the newly or re-elected PCC will commence in office on May 13.

What is a Police and Crime Commissioner?

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were elected In 40 force areas across England and Wales. Every force area is represented by a PCC, except Greater Manchester and London, where PCC responsibilities lie with the Mayor.

The role of the PCCs is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.

PCCs aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area.

PCCs have been elected by the public to hold Chief Constables and the force to account, effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.

PCCs ensure community needs are met as effectively as possible, and are improving local relationships through building confidence and restoring trust. They work in partnership across a range of agencies at local and national level to ensure there is a unified approach to preventing and reducing crime.

Who are the candidates?

Standing again: Dafydd Llywelyn

The incumbent, Dafydd Llywelyn, was elected as one of the two new Plaid Cymru PCCs during 2016’s election and is the PCC for Dyfed-Powys Police. 

The force covers over half the land mass of Wales and during the PCC elections had the highest turnout of all PCC elections at 49%.

Hoping to be re-elected, Dafydd is a former Principal Intelligence Analyst and worked within Police Intelligence for many years before, in 2014, moving to Aberystwyth University to lecture on Criminology. His career has provided him with considerable insight into core policing issues as well as an understanding of what the public want from the service. He has pledged to reinvest in CCTV and prevention activities and has refused to appoint a deputy.

Standing against him are three other candidates – Jon Burns (Conservative); Philippa Thompson (Labour) and Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats).

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:

  • secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

How the voting works

If there are more than two candidates, the Police and Crime Commissioner is elected under the supplementary vote system: 

  • A voter can vote for a first and second choice candidate they want to elect.
  • If a candidate obtains more than 50% of the first choice votes, they will be declared elected.
  • If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the first choice votes, all candidates except for those in first and second place are eliminated.
  • The ballot papers showing a first preference for one of the eliminated candidates are checked for their second preference.
  • Any second preference votes for the remaining two candidates are then added to their first preference votes and the candidate with the most votes is elected.

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Multiple RNLI lifeboats launched to aid yacht in distress

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THE NEW QUAY RNLI lifeboat has rescued a stricken yacht, with the casualty evacuated by helicopter. 

On Saturday (May 8) New Quay lifeboat ‘The Frank and Lena Clifford of Stourbridge’, was paged at 9.06am by HM Coastguard to search for a yacht in difficulty 10 miles west of Aberystwyth with two persons on board. 

The Mersey class lifeboat launched at 9.20am with seven volunteer crew members on board to search for the 9m vessel, which had travelled up from Pembrokeshire, in a moderate south-westerly wind. 

The yacht, on passage from Fishguard to Aberystwyth, was experiencing mechanical and communications problems, and had failed to berth in Aberystwyth marina due to the tide. The severely fatigued crew had raised the alarm by mobile phone when they realised they were in trouble, struggling with the winds and poor visibility.  

Daniel Potter, New Quay RNLI Coxswain said, “We proceeded to the position given but on arrival another position was given 10 miles further north, and then again 5 miles north east. We searched for over an hour for the vessel as they had become lost in the deteriorating weather conditions. Barmouth lifeboat was also requested to launch but stood down as we located the vessel.  

“When we located them, we had to act quickly as we found her close to shore and in danger of going aground on the reef near Tywyn. I had one opportunity and we took it, we set up a tow and pulled her into deeper water.  

“We then requested to launch Aberdyfi’s lifeboat to assist us with getting crew on board as we had concerns over the health and wellbeing of the stricken vessel’s crew. Two volunteer crew from Aberdyfi and one from New Quay boarded the yacht. They assessed the casualty and it was decided as a matter of urgency to evacuate one of them. We requested an immediate helicopter evacuation, and HM Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 936 arrived and transferred the casualty to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. 

“It was quite an ordeal for the yacht, but it wasn’t over as we had to get the last of the crew members and the boat to safety. Aberdyfi lifeboat then transferred another one of our crew onto the yacht when they took theirs off and returned to station, and we began the tow to Aberystwyth.  

“On approach to Aberystwyth we requested assistance from Aberystwyth lifeboat who launched and met us outside the harbour to transfer the tow into the marina, and to deliver us much needed supplies, fish and chips! 

“We then headed home and returned to New Quay by 6pm, nine hours after launching. It was a very long day in difficult conditions. However, it was a fantastic effort by everyone, and we want to say a big thank you to all lifeboats and crew involved, and the helicopter. It was an amazing team effort by all.” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Operations Manager added, “We would like to give our thanks to all the lifeboat stations involved. It was a great joint endeavour by Cardigan Bay lifeboat stations. The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea and our volunteer crew are on call 24/7. Remember if you find yourself or see anyone else in trouble at sea or on the coast call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

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