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New ballot papers being issued to postal voters after printing error

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ballotboxPOSTAL BALLOT PAPERS delivered to voters in three counties are being reprinted after the original papers provided misleading information to voters.

The error arose in respect of the ballots for the regional Assembly election, where voters vote for a party as opposed to a candidate and affects Ceredigion, Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

Local returning officers have been ordered by Mark James CBE, the Regional Returning Officer, to reprint all postal ballots delivered thus far.

No other constituencies in the Region are affected.

In a letter to electoral agents for candidates, Mr James states that he discussed the situation with the Electoral Commission ‘at length’ and engaged the services of ‘the leading QC in the country’ to confirm that reissuing the ballot papers was necessary.

Mr James has blamed the mess up on ‘a most unfortunate error by the printers’

There is a clear expectation that voters who have already cast their postal ballots will return a second ballot paper or their votes will not be counted.

Bearing in mind the number of postal votes involved, the capacity for electoral chaos is significant, especially as those casting postal votes tend to be the more vulnerable members of society.

We spoke with William Powell, who is standing as both a constituency and list candidate, spoke with The Herald to express his concern at the effect of effectively scrapping thousands of ballot papers already delivered.

The incorrect grey paper currently reads:

Etholiad Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Papur pleidleisio i ethol Aelod Cynulliad ar

gyfer rhanbarth Canolfan a Gorllewin Cymru

National Assembly for Wales Election

Ballot paper to elect the Assembly Member

for the Mid & West Wales Region

Pleidleisiwch ar gyfer un ymgeisydd yn unig

trwy roi [X] yn y blwch ochr eich dewis

Vote for only one candidate by putting a

cross [X] in the box next to your choice

The correct wording for the statement, printed on the new ‘tan’ ballot papers, reads:

Etholiad Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Papur pleidleisio i ethol Aelod Cynulliad ar

gyfer rhanbarth Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru

National Assembly for Wales Election

Ballot paper to elect the Assembly Member

for the Mid & West Wales Region

Pleidleisiwch unwaith yn unig trwy roi croes [X]yn y blwch wrth ochr  eich dewis Vote only once by putting a cross [X] in the box next to your choice

The Herald contacted the Press Office at Carmarthenshire County Council but nobody was available to comment.

A statement from the Electoral Commission is expected shortly.

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News

Pembrokeshire County Council faces less bleak finances than previously expected

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee have heard.

At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.

He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.

An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.

“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was.

“The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”

Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.

Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”

He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.

Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.

Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.

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Business

Welsh Freeport competition heats up with Senedd vote

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ON WEDNESDAY, the Senedd will hold a debate regarding freeports as the competition for UK and Welsh Government funding nears its conclusion.

Currently, three bids are in from across Wales for a chance to benefit from £26 million of direct UK Government funding, as well as reduced taxes for businesses in the freeport area. A Welsh freeport could see up to 16,000 jobs created and further investment or the local area into the billions.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS said:

“Benefits of a freeport cannot be understated, bringing much needed jobs and investment into some of the most deprived areas of Wales.

“The UK Government put the challenge to Wales to submit exceptional bids, and Wales has delivered.

“All three bids would help to transform their local communities in different ways. It’s essential that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to deliver that second freeport for Wales, maximising the opportunities that these bids have to offer.”

The three Welsh Freeport bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) which has estimated that it would create over 16,000 new jobs and up to £5.5 billion in new investment.
  • The Anglesey Freeport would support up to a £1 billion contribution to UK GDP by 2030, while also creating up to 13,000 new, high salary jobs in Ynys Môn.
  • The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport) is aiming to increase non-passenger revenues to 50%, ending their reliance of passenger generated income.

The UK Government stated that “if a truly exceptional proposal were presented at the bidding stage” than a second freeport would be funded.

The Welsh Conservative debate reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the opportunities for freeports to energise the Welsh economy, create high quality jobs, promote regeneration and investment.

2. Notes that three bids from Wales have been submitted for consideration by the UK and Welsh Governments.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to deliver two freeports in Wales, recognising the truly exceptional proposals submitted and the transformational benefits they can deliver for the Welsh economy.

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Excellent turnout at South Quay public engagement event

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ORGANISERS of a public consultation and engagement event held last week at Pembroke Town Hall on the South Quay redevelopment project have thanked so many people for attending and sharing their views.

Led by Pembrokeshire County Council, the South Quay project centres on the rebuild of formerly derelict properties on Castle Terrace to create a new public visitor centre, library and café. Landscape and public realm enhancements will bring the burgage plots back into productive use.
The second phase of the project will regenerate properties in Northgate Terrace to create a new centre providing local support, training and activities for members of the community who may be disadvantaged due to social or health challenges.
Rachel Moxey, Head of Economic Development and Regeneration, said the event was well-attended and there was a lot of interest shown in the development.

“It was great to chat to so many people about the project, and to hear their views and feedback, particularly on Phase 2,” she said.

The event included presentations by project architects DB3, together with displays of new images, plans, and detailed project information.

Contractors, council officers, and architects were on hand to chat about the project and answer questions.

Karen Davies, Day Opportunities Project Manager, said: “Our vision for the phase 2 development is to provide a town centre hub for social care that integrates people into the community allowing people to grow their skills for independence. 
“It was really interesting to hear the views of local people and to be able to address some misconceptions about what we are proposing.  There were some really valid points made which we consider as part of our ongoing deliberations.


Pictured above: L-R are Karen Davies, Jamie Lannen from DB3 Architects, the Mayor of Pembroke Cllr Dennis Evans, and Rachel Moxey.

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