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‘Ambivalent’ label blamed on admin error

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admin errorMILFORD HAVEN Councillor, Viv Stoddart has received an apology after her views regarding the amalgamation of Hakin and Hubberston schools were misrepresented by Pembrokeshire County Council.

Cllr Stoddart told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Despite ticking the box for opposing the merger of the two schools, and attendant comments against the proposal, some functionary labelled me in the public document as “ambivalent.” Given the strong feeling amongst my constituents, this label is potentially damaging. The explanation from the Council was an admin error.”

Kate Evan-Hughes said in an email to Viv Stoddart: “Further to your comments regarding misrepresentation of your views in the consultation document, I have now been able to undertake a review of the correspondence and your online submission and can confirm that you did indeed make it clear that you objected to the option to amalgamate Hakin and Hubberston schools. Please accept my apology for this.”

“To remedy the situation the Cabinet member will make it clear at the start of the agenda item that we have received correspondence from you that your views have been misrepresented and that due to an administrative error the report will need to be amended to reflect the error. This will ensure that there is a formal minute of the change and this will then in turn be available publicly via the Council website.”

At the Cabinet meeting on Monday, February 10, Jamie Adams, leader of the Council, told committee members: “I have received a letter from Cllr Viv Stoddart which I will read out to you”.

Cllr Stoddart’s letter read: “The responses the authority has received are articulate, thoughtful, and responsible. Over 90% of the comments from the Hubberston School community are against the proposal to merge the two schools. The proposal needs to be set in context. Hakin and Hubberston are a single community.

“Parents are as one in supporting a long-overdue new build for Hakin Community School. This was promised when Hakin Infants and Juniors agreed to amalgamate in 2010/11 under the umbrella of the 21sC schools programme. The drive to amalgamate Hakin CS and Hubberston VC School came from this authority only last year, not from the community. There is no grass roots support for a merger, which will destroy much-valued parental choice. As the director reports, there is little appetite for the proposal. Hubberston School governors have been steadfast in their opposition to a merger.

“Estyn says that both schools currently offer a sound basis for developing primary education in the area in the future. Large schools do not automatically perform better than small schools. There is ample research to say this is not the case. And within the county Wolfscastle Community Primary School with just 36 pupils was recently ranked fourth amongst the best primary schools in Wales. It was the only one in the county to make the top twenty. Estyn also notes that the key factor in a school’s success is good leadership.

“There is a precedent for maintaining Hubberston as a separate school. Llangwm and Burton schools amalgamated some time ago, and are now housed as Cleddau Reach VC School (193 pupils aged 3-11) in a new building on the edge of Llangwm. Hook (94 pupils aged 3-11) which is less than a mile away from Cleddau Reach chose not to merge.

The authority seems comfortable with this situation, and the education provided by this thriving small school, which is akin to the good education provided by Hubberston VC school (134 pupils aged 3-11).”

The statement concluded: “If the consultation process is to be meaningful, I ask you to fulfil the promise this authority made three years’ ago to the community: to construct new premises for Hakin Community School; and to listen to the many voices in the community who oppose the proposal. They wish for Hubberston VC School to continue as a very successful, all-through primary school.”

There were three recommendations in the report: To establish a single all-through medium school, to retain the status quo and to deliver a new build just for Hakin School.

However, after considering the letter from Cllr Stoddart and the view that there was little support for those proposals, it was decided that they should defer from making a decision to further consider the options available.

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Dyfed-Powys police precept to rise by 7.75 per cent

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has announced a 7.75 per cent rise in the Dyfed-Powys Police precept for 2023-24, following a meeting of the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel.

The Police and Crime Commissioner is responsible for setting the budget for the police, which includes setting the precept which is the element of council tax that goes to the police.

After a process of extensive scrutiny, Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel unanimously supported the Commissioner’s precept proposal for 2023/24, which will raise the average band D property precept by £1.87 per month or £22.49 per annum

In setting the precept, Mr Llywelyn considered an array of factors, including the Chief Constable’s future resourcing requirement, Police Officer recruitment targets, the level of reserves, future investment requirements for critical infrastructure, efficiency and productivity plans, in addition to feedback from residents of the Dyfed-Powys area.

Mr Llywelyn said: “I am painfully aware of the pressures that the cost-of-living crisis is putting on our communities.

“Sadly, these challenges have hit us hard and despite careful financial planning, there will be increasingly difficult decisions to make over the next few years.

“There is a fine balance between ensuring an efficient and effective Policing Service and ensuring the safety of the public, whilst also ensuring value for money for the taxpayers and sound financial management. These have been paramount in my considerations.”

To inform his considerations for 2023/24 and in order to fulfil his responsibilities as Commissioner, Mr Llywelyn consulted with the public to obtain their views on the level of Police Precept increase.

Of the 1,194 respondents, 67.2% noted that they would be happy to pay between 5% and 12.5% towards local policing, with 47.7% of those happy to pay between 7.5% and 12.5%.

The 7.75% increase announced today by the Police and Crime Commissioner, will set a precept of £312.65 per Band D property for 2023/24.

This increase will raise a total precept of £72.518m and will provide a total funding of £133.414m, representing a £5.970m (4.68%) increase for 2023/24.

Mr Llywelyn added: “The financial landscape continues to be both unpredictable and challenging, but I would like to thank the public for providing their views through the consultation, and to the Police and Crime Panel members for their continued support.”

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Haverfordwest: Fire crews attend kitchen fire in Abbots Close

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MID and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have issued a statement following a house fire in Abbots Close off Augustine Way in Haverfordwest on Tuesday evening (Jan 31).

The statement reads: “At 7.05pm on Tuesday, January 31st, crews from Haverfordwest and Tenby were called to an incident at Haverfordwest.

“There was a kitchen fire in a private dwelling which was extinguished using 4 breathing apparatus sets, 1 hose reel jet, 1 main jet, 1 positive pressure ventilation fan and short extension ladders.

“The Police and Local Authority were also in attendance.

“Crews left the scene at 8.57pm.”

It is thought there were no injuries as a result of the incident.

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Ferry staff concerned over rumours Pembroke Dock to Rosslare route coming to an end

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CONCERNS are growing amongst Irish Ferries staff operating out of Pembroke Dock as rumours continue to circulate that the company is considering abandoning the Pembroke to Rosslare route.

Several sources state that Irish Ferries is to pull out of Wexford (Rosslare) all together.

Several newspapers in Ireland are reporting that Irish Ferries has failed to reply to queries in relation to future of Rosslare route as concern grows among employees

The company has remained tight-lipped on its plans and despite queries by various reporters to both the Irish Ferries media contact and a senior company official in Rosslare, there was no response from Irish Ferries at the time of publication.

A lot of the concern stems from the fact that customers cannot book passage on the Rosslare/Pembroke route beyond May 31st of this year. Potentially this could be related to the expiry of the company’s charter on the ship currently working the route – Blue Star 1.

The Greek passenger ferry, with capacity for 1,500 passengers, 100 freight vehicles and up to 700 cars, was chartered by Irish Ferries in March of 2021. The company has faced a number of issues with the ship and it was detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) as recently as December after failing a safety inspection.

It is reported that in the past couple of weeks, Irish Ferries staff members have met with senior management to express their concerns and have also reached out to their union SIPTU to put them on notice.

The lack of information being provided by the company is certainly not doing anything to quell rumours.

This is not the first time Irish Ferries has caused a stir in Rosslare. Back in December of 2018, the company announced its intention to axe its service between Rosslare Europort and France in a move that wax described as “a kick in the teeth” by locals at the time.

Since then, thankfully, fortunes at the Europort have drastically turned in a post-Brexit landscape with the port now nearly handling up to 40 sailings per week.

However, the routes operating between Rosslare and the UK have seen more mixed fortune. With Stena

Line operating a route from Rosslare to Fishguard alongside Irish Ferries’ sailing to Pembroke, there has been some debate as to whether there is the trade to sustain both routes going forward.

Stena Line’s ownership of the port in Fishguard means its likely to want to hang in there, while back in 2021, Irish Ferries only signed a 10-year deal with Pembroke Dock.

We asked Milford Haven Port Authority for their view on the ongoing speculation. A spokesperson at the Port of Milford Haven, said: “We were surprised by these press articles.

“We are unaware of the basis of them; but we can confirm that we renewed our contract with Irish Ferries in 2021 and continue to provide excellent port services to support this important UK and International trade route.”

POLITICIANS SUPPORT PEMBROKE DOCK

Calls a year ago (Feb 2022) for Wales to have one ferry port in Pembrokeshire instead of two due to declining trade following Brexit would be a “disaster” for the county, a Senedd candidate  said.

Rosslare in Ireland’s January traffic to the UK was down 49% on last January, with freight direct to the European mainland up 446%.

Glenn Carr, general manager at Rosslare Europort in Ireland, suggested closing either Pembroke Dock or Fishguard ports to compensate.

But the Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said at the time that would be a “disaster” and called for Welsh Secretary Simon Hart to “take urgent action” to solve the situation.

“Some companies have chosen to take the sea route from Ireland to the European continent rather than going through the UK’s land bridge,” he said.

“They have done this to avoid the trading barriers which have arisen from our hard Brexit. Mr Hart and his government colleagues need to ‘step up to the plate’ and take urgent action to eliminate these trading barriers before we lose one of our precious ferry ports.”

Conservative Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb also has been calling on the UK Government to “get a grip” on the situation.

“There’s now a big fight on to retain competitiveness and win back business that seems to have been lost out of the Welsh ports since the end of the Brexit transition period,” he said.

“So the UK government needs to get a grip on working out simpler, more effective, streamlined procedures for complying with this paperwork, making it less of a headache for doing business through the Welsh ports between the Republic, the UK and the continent.”

Tina Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire also said both Fishguard and Pembroke Dock are vital ferry ports to our local community and to local businesses.

“Staff at these ferries have worked very hard to provide an excellent service which also benefits tourism and local trade,” she said.

“The government needs to end its trading barriers with Ireland to avoid the catastrophe of one of these ferries closing.”

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