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Economist warns of Brexit dangers

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Peter Midmore: Concerned

Peter Midmore: Concerned

PROFESSOR Peter Midmore from Aberystwyth University has informed Assembly Members about the challenges for the Welsh Government with a rural policy outside the European Union.

In evidence to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, economist Peter Midmore said:

“The most important unresolved question at present is the shape of the post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU-27. Single market access would be the best immediate outcome for Welsh agriculture, because physical market logistics are integrated with continental supply chains.

“However, the current stance of the negotiating partners does not suggest a speedy or completely liberal outcome.

“In the short to medium term, most-favoured nation access to European markets (that is, in the absence of any immediate UKEU trade agreement) would, for example, imply a 12.8% tariff plus €1,713 per tonne for sheep meat exports.”

Simon Thomas, one of the Assembly Members quizzing Professor Midmore, advocated membership of single market as the best way forward for Welsh agriculture.

Mid and West AM, Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs said:

“It was disappointing to see Labour AMs vote with UKIP, and the Conservatives against membership of the single market in the Senedd chamber.

“Plaid Cymru is united around what we think is the best deal for Wales and for our rural communities. Access to the single market is not enough. We need membership to the single market in order to really reap the benefits for our farming industry.”

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News

Why some want the Falkland Islands flag flown over Pembrokeshire

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A CALL to raise the flag of the Falklands Islands at Pembrokeshire’s County Hall will be heard later this week.

In a submitted question, which will be answered at the March 7 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, Councillor Huw Murphy will ask: “Would the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council [Cllr David Simpson] agree to the raising of the Falkland Islands flag on June 14, 2024, outside County Hall?

“June 14 is Liberation Day within the Falkland Islands to celebrate the return of democratic rule following an illegal military occupation by Argentina. The restoration of democracy to the Falkland Islands on June 14, 1982, ultimately returned democratic rule to Argentina.

“The purpose of raising the Falklands flag at County Hall on June 14 is to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice made by 255 service personnel serving our country during the Falklands war.

“Poignantly 22 of those lost in the conflict were serving on HMS Ardent, a Royal Navy destroyer sunk on May 22, 1982. HMS Ardent has a close association with the county of Pembrokeshire through its affiliation with Milford Haven.

“The raising of the Falklands flag at County Hall will have great resonance for the town of Milford Haven and for members of the HMS Ardent association, in that their service many years ago is still remembered.”

The flag of the Falkland Islands features the Union flag in the top left along with a coat of arms featuring a ram and a ship, The Desire, which discovered the islands.

Cllr Murphy’s call to raise the flag at County Hall, Haverfordwest will be answered at the March 7 meeting, one of 35 items on the agenda, including the controversial potential council tax rise of 16.3 per cent.

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Unwelcome Caller: Pembrokeshire’s looming Council Tax dilemma

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AS WE HAVE reported, Pembrokeshire County Council faces a contentious decision as it considers a recommended inflation-busting 16% increase in council tax to balance its budget.

Councillor Mike Stoddart, known for his critical blog posts as ‘Old Grumpy,’ is voicing strong opposition to the proposed hike, highlighting the intricate challenges and pressures facing the council in these financially strained times.

The recommendation for this substantial increase comes as the council grapples with a tight financial situation, prompting a series of budget-setting seminars aimed at aligning council members on the path forward. Stoddart, who previously voted against last year’s 7.5% increase, remains a staunch opponent, citing a lack of compelling justification for the new rate and expressing concerns over the methods used to secure consensus among council members.

The crux of Stoddart’s argument lies in the perceived manipulation of council members through what he describes as ‘psyops’—psychological operations—intended to sway their votes in favour of the budget proposals. He criticises the shift from informative seminars on local government finance to pressure-laden presentations forecasting dire consequences should the council fail to approve the tax increase. This, according to Stoddart, transforms a complex decision into a dichotomy of distributing “pain” between taxpayers and service users, a decision he argues should remain in the political realm, subject to public scrutiny and debate.

Adding to the complexity are communications from the council’s finance chiefs, setting strict guidelines for proposing alternative budgets. These guidelines effectively place a veto power in the hands of the s151 officer, the council’s finance chief, over any alternative budget proposals. This move has sparked concerns over the democratic process within the council, with Stoddart highlighting the inherent conflict of interest in having one’s proposals judged by an officer whose original budget they aim to challenge.

The narrative took a more dramatic turn with the involvement of Max Caller CBE, a figure introduced to underscore the grave consequences of failing to set a balanced budget. Stoddart’s recounting of Caller’s seminar paints a picture of stark warnings against the backdrop of potential misconduct charges, a tactic Stoddart views as fearmongering designed to quell dissent.

Despite the pressures, Stoddart’s resolve remains unshaken. The veteran councillor is calling for greater transparency and accountability, suggesting that recordings of key seminars be made public to allow constituents a clearer understanding of the deliberations leading up to the budget decision.

His stance reflects a broader concern for democratic integrity within the council.

You can read ‘OLD GRUMPY’ by clicking HERE.

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Public bodies commit to stop odour at Withyhedge Landfill

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NATURAL RESOURCES WALES (NRW), Public Health Wales and Pembrokeshire County Council will ensure capping of a waste cell causing significant odour issues at Withyhedge Landfill happens as swiftly and safely as possible.

The three public bodies have been in regular contact since the start of the year. Following a public meeting held on Monday, 26 February, they are continuing to work together to achieve progress in resolving the issues affecting the communities surrounding the landfill.

Erin Smyth-Evans, Industry Regulation Team Leader for South West, NRW, said: “NRW is continuing its on-site inspections to ensure the site operator is moving forward effectively in its work to cap the cell where we have identified the most probable source of the odour. Work onsite is progressing daily and we anticipate noticeable reductions in landfill gas emissions and odours in the coming weeks.

“NRW is also continuing its investigations into permit non-compliances which in part have led us to serve an enforcement notice on RML in recent weeks. This outlined the steps the company needs to take to come back into compliance, and complete the landfill engineering work to contain and collect landfill gas. Our investigatory enquiries will take time and at present, ensuring the capping works are complete is our top priority.”

The public bodies are working with the site operator to monitor air quality in response to increasing health concerns from the local community. Results are expected to start being received mid-March. Public Health Wales will then be able to provide further advice dependent on those results.

Dr Giri Shankar, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales, told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We recognise that local people are under strain and are very concerned about the impacts of odours around the Withyhedge landfill site.

“While Public Health Wales is not the lead agency for matters like this, we are working very closely with NRW to make sure the situation is improved quickly to reduce the impact on local people.  We have met with NRW and the local authority and are eager to see an urgent solution to this issue.  We have also recommended that the site is capped as soon as possible so that the odours are stopped.

“We have also called for monitoring at the site, as this will provide us with the important information that we need to help us conduct a full assessment of any potential health impacts on the local community. 

“Our current advice to local residents is that odours and emissions from this site may be harmful to health, and that they should keep doors and windows closed when the smells are present and seek medical advice if necessary.  We hope this situation can be quickly improved.”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett, Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, said: “We recognise the impact of odours on the local community coming from the Withyhedge site and we understand the level of concern this has caused.

“Since before Christmas our officers have been working closely with colleagues from lead organisation NRW to assess the incidence of odours from Withyhedge. Officers from our Planning and Public Protection teams have visited the site alongside NRW colleagues and engaged with the operators.

“I assure you a lot of work is continuing in the background and all public bodies have reconfirmed their commitment to ensuring a long term solution to the problems as soon as possible.

“As partners we have also committed to continue engaging with the local community and updating on the situation going forward.”

Members of the public are urged to continue reporting odour incidents to NRW.

NRW requests that instances of odour from the landfill continue to be reported via this dedicated form: https://bit.ly/reportasmellwithyhedge

Here you will also find detailed information on NRW’s investigation and action to date.

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