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Monkton protesters talk to top brass

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Protest: Outside Pembroke Dock police station

THIS MORNING (Jul 13) at 9:30am, around one hundred protesters returned to the council offices in Pembroke Dock for a meeting with police and Pembrokeshire County Council spokespersons. On arrival, they were informed that there was not enough space within the building and a handful of protesters would be allowed in.

The group, lead again by Charlie Price, declined this offer, and moved to outside the police station, where they told officers that any meeting would have to take place outside in public for all of the protesters to participate in.

With the protesters assuring the police that the protest would remain peaceful, the group cheered as it was announced that Superintendent Ian John and Kerry Macdermott, Head of Housing and Revenue Services for Pembrokeshire County Council, would be arriving shortly.

Supt. John said: “The two residents of that flat, as it stands, neither of those two people, were actually currently on the sex offender’s register.”

“The facts are, they were not on the sex offender’s register. It would be inappropriate for me to go into specific detail, but what I will say, the lady who moved in with the gentleman who is the tenant of the flat, was not required to record her movements, as she would have been if she was on the sex offenders register.

“She was not placed there. She placed herself there.”

Supt. John then went on to warn about the dangers of so-called sex offender registers which can be found on the internet, which were not official police sources and potentially ‘not current or accurate’.

Mr Macdermott said: “It is no different to having a relationship and your partner moving in. That’s what has appeared to have happened her.

“For whatever reason, the tenant has allowed that person to move in with him.

“I also manage the housing benefits as well, so I can speak with knowledge, there are many cases where a single tenant, and there is another tenant who moves in as a partner, we would not necessarily put them as joint tenants for a whole raft of legal reasons.

“She wasn’t declared as living at the property and the tenancy was not changed.”

The group then described an alleged incident in which they claimed to have ‘ran out’ a paedophile from his home the night before (Jul 12), who drove to the police station and slept in the car park.

Supt John responded by warning against any vigilante actions: “Let me just say, for anyone who commits any criminal offences, we will deal with it. If anybody at all considers taking the law into their own hand, that is the wrong thing to do, you know that.

“We have a good relationship with the people in Monkton. We want to work with everyone and keep everyone safe, but there are laws in this country which protect people.

“It is not up to me or you which punishment or control people have, we have to work together safely, and I’m telling you we will continue to do that.

“It is your duty as citizens to work together with us. By talking about taking the law into your own hands… you are putting yourself at risk.”

He then went on to reassure the group that since Tuesday night, Dyfed-Powys Police had conducted extensive research into the woman’s situation: “The circumstances of the individual we are talking about have been thoroughly looked in the last 24 hours. Prior to that we had some contact with her locally, but what we did not know was the details of that background.”

Mr Macdermott then offered financial support to the group, who earlier in the morning had been talking about raising funds for charity: “If you set up a committee with Pearl on the committee, there are certain funds we can make available to you.  I am prepared to come down and help you, help raise funds, and provide monies for charities.”

Mr Price, and many of the members of the group, saw this as an attempt of ‘paying off’ their cause, and declined: “We appreciate the offer, we are glad to know you are willing to sit down and talk to use. One thing we don’t want is the council to pay us off, so thank you for your offer, but we don’t need your money.”

Annalee: Not happy with the sex offenders register

A local resident, Annalee, then spoke of her experience with the sex offenders register after he daughter was sexually assaulted: “Fifteen years ago my daughter was sexually assaulted by a cousin. He only got put on the sex offenders register for five years, because he admitted doing the crime and was 15. He did his five years, and then went into the army.

“He used a different name – that wasn’t policed. He’s come out of the army, re-offended, and is now back on the sex offenders register for another five years.

“The law needs to change. If the law was how it is in England and Scotland, and there was more of a punishment, perhaps he wouldn’t have come out of the army and re-offended.

“I went to court 18 months ago after he was caught re-offending, it was a court in England, the Judge couldn’t believe why he was only on the register for the severity of the case against my daughter for just five years.”

Following the conclusion of the meeting, Cllr Pearl Llewellyn said: “I am here for Monkton. I support you 100%, but this has to be a peaceful demonstration – you won’t get anywhere with shouting.

“Charlie has excelled himself yesterday and today – he is a good spokesperson, he’s talking from the heart and means every word he says, but you have to know what you’re asking and what you’re talking about.

“I have to take advice from police and the council – I was told by Pembrokeshire County Council not to get involved or to come to these meetings, but I have, because my daughter lived in Monkton.

“Thank you all for coming down and being very patient.”

The event concluded with the announcement that a further protest would be held at County Hall in Haverfordwest tomorrow (Jul 14).

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Crabb praises cost of living payments as charities say people still can’t make ends meet

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426, 000 families in Wales are set to receive a cash payment from July to ease cost of living financial pressures. Households will receive the first of two cost of living instalments totalling £650 from 14 July, part of the £1,200 support package this year.

After ministers confirmed initial payments would begin from 14 July, the Department for Work and Pensions has now revealed how many people in each part of the country will receive the new financial support. They have also revealed that the disability top-up will land in bank accounts in September.

In Preseli Pembrokeshire, 10,400 families are eligible for the means-tested payment, and 9,200 individuals are eligible for the disability payment.

Mr Crabb has been vocal since the very beginning of the cost of living crisis about the Government needing to offer further support for those on the lowest incomes. On Wednesday, he again spoke in the House of Commons chamber on this issue.

Commenting on the latest updates, Mr Crabb added: “I have long been calling for increased targeted support for those on the lowest incomes who have been hit hardest by the cost of living crisis. It is good to see that the Chancellor has listened and rolled out an unprecedented package of £37 billion.”

“These payments, which households will receive in two instalments, will provide necessary targeted and urgent support to those on the lowest incomes”.

At the same time, CAP’s Swansea Debt Centre Manager, Tony Quinn, says, “The reality for families on the lowest incomes across Wales is many of them just don’t have enough money coming in to be able to run their homes, buy the essentials, and feed themselves and their children.

“It’s incredibly sad but not surprising that this is leading to more people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal.

“At Christians Against Poverty, through our free services, we can help people get out of debt, provide them with practical and emotional support, offer free budgeting courses, and job clubs to try and get them back into employment. This help often leads to people becoming debt free so they can move forward with their lives and have hope for the future.

“CAP is already partnering with hundreds of amazing churches to help run our services and the charity is looking to find more churches to work with in Wales so we can offer as much help as possible to local people who are struggling because of the cost of living crisis.”

Tony continued, “Many people still face destitution in the months ahead, prices are still rising and sadly this crisis is far from over.

“CAP’s report shows half of the people we are helping waited over a year before seeking free debt help, with a quarter waiting three years or more. It’s vital we raise awareness of the support available so people know they can get help from CAP or another free debt help charity if they’re struggling with their finances.”

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‘We are here to help you rebuild your lives and settle into Wales’ – Social Justice Minister

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UKRAINE nationals who fled their country after the Russian invasion have been welcomed to Wales by the First Minister and Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt.

The Ministers met the Ukrainian nationals seeking sanctuary in Wales on World Refugee Day (20 June).

They visited a Welcome Centre where more than 200 people have been sponsored under the Welsh Government Super Sponsor scheme.

Thousands more people from Ukraine have already claimed sanctuary in Wales, thanks to many people who have kindly volunteered to be a sponsor, after fleeing the country following the Russian invasion.

More than 6,500 people have been welcomed to Wales after having their visa applications confirmed, with 3,600 of these with the Welsh Government as a super sponsor.

A further 5,500 visas have been issued to those with a sponsor in Wales, of which 2,965 have Welsh Government as a super sponsor.

The true figures are likelier to be higher as the total number of confirmed applications is an undercount of around 1,300, with the super-sponsor scheme making up the majority of the undercount.

During their time at the Welcome Centre, guests have been given support in terms of schoolwork for children and young people, finding work for adults and keeping in touch with other Ukrainian families in Wales.

As well as English and Maths lessons for the children, adults have also been taught English to help them settle into Wales and boost their chances of finding work.

Every effort is also being made to enrol children in local schools once their families have found suitable communities to settle into.

Welcome Centres across Wales are working closely with local government, health boards, charities and others in an effort to find suitable places for Ukraine nationals to settle.

They are being given advice to help find their way in a new country, including help with money, welfare benefits and advice about finding work.

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt: “We are proud to have been able to welcome thousands of people to Wales from Ukraine and it has been truly humbling to meet them today and hear their stories.

“We are determined to be a Nation of Sanctuary and will do everything in our powers to help them rebuild their lives and settle into Wales.

“It has been heartening to see the efforts being made at the Welcome Centre to make them feel at home and I would like to thank them for all they have done.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are working very hard with local authorities across Wales to find placements for people after their time in the Welcome Centre.

“Thousands of Welsh households said they wanted to take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme and many of those are already hosting Ukrainians.

“We would like to thank them for their efforts as, combined with our incredible Welcome Centres across Wales, it has helped provide those in need with sanctuary at their darkest hour.”

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New hospital sites to be reviewed by appraisal group

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PEOPLE from communities across the three counties will next week help score five potential sites for a new hospital in a zone including and between Narberth and St Clears, the Health Board have suddenly announced.

The move is at odds with the wishes of the people of Pembrokeshire who have been campigning to save Withybush Hospital. There are concerns that a hospital further away from Haverfordwest would be too far away in emergencies, and would cause locals unnecessary travel.

The healthboard said that a workshop being held on Tuesday (Jun 28) will be the second of two technical sessions with members of the public, staff and partners.

But campaigners are saying proper consulation is not taking place.

According to the Health Board, the first workshop, held in May, agreed the ‘weighting’ of the seven technical criteria to be used in this scoring process.

The potential sites to be reviewed are:

  • Agricultural land and buildings forming part of Kiln Park Farm which is located to the north of Narberth train station and adjacent to the A478, approximately 1km to the north-east of Narberth town centre.
  • Agricultural land located to the north-east of Whitland town centre and situated between the A40 to the north, Whitland Rugby Club to the east and Spring Gardens to the south.
  • Agricultural land and buildings forming part of Ty Newydd Farm which is located to the east of the Old Whitland Creamery site and Whitland town centre.
  • Agricultural land and buildings forming part of Penllyne Court located between Whitland and St Clears just outside Pwll-Trap. The site lies between the Swansea-Haverfordwest railway line to the north and the A40 to the south.
  • Agricultural land at old Bryncaerau fields, located adjacent to the junction of the A40 and A477 in St Clears, between the A4066 (Tenby Road) to the south, the village of Pwll Trap to the north and the A40 to the west.

The Health Board argues that all sites are in a zone that is the most central location for the majority of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area and was determined through public consultation.

The upcoming workshop will apparently involve the scoring by a majority public representation being drawn from across our region and including participants with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

The Health Board has given assurances it will not close Withybush Hospital. The promise came in response to a petition to retain A&E at Withybush Hospital reached 10,000 signatures back in April.

Speaking then, Lee Davies, director of strategic development and operational planning for Hywel Dda, said the board are aware of the ‘passion’ and ‘strength’ of feeling around the long-term strategy titled ‘A Healthier Mid and West Wales: Our Future Generations Living Well’, which includes plans to build a new hospital on a site as yet unconfirmed believed to be somewhere in the St Clears area.

Mr Davies called the proposed changes a ‘once-in-a-life-time investment’ into the health care services in west Wales.

Mr Davies said: “Our ambition is to move from a service that treats illness to one that keeps people well, prevents ill-health or worsening of ill health, and provides any help you need early on.

“We can also reassure the public that we have no plans or intention to close Withybush Hospital.

“We fully understand the passion and strength of feeling that exists in our communities.

“We share that passion, along with a commitment, to deliver the best possible care and services for people who live in mid and west Wales.”  

Supporters of the petition, which having reached 10,000 signatures will now be considered for debate by the Petitions Committee at the Senedd, say they will not let Hywel Dda ‘trample on them’.

Today, following the latest announcement on sites, Lee Davies said: “The health board has been committed to undertaking significant engagement with our communities. This partnership has brought us a step closer to selecting a site for the new hospital, so I am grateful to participants for their involvement in this important part of the process to identify the best hospital sites.

“The outputs from this workshop will be considered by the Board in August, along with the findings from other appraisal groups that are currently ongoing. These appraisal groups are currently reviewing matters covering clinical, workforce and economic / financial issues.

“The final decision about the chosen site will be made by the health board, in agreement with Welsh Government, should they support the funding of the hospital.”

The health board says its ambition is to bring opportunities to provide a wider range of specialist health services to our communities within the boundaries of Hywel Dda than is currently possible.

There is, however, the Board says is an important continued role for Withybush and Glangwili hospitals, which will operate as local community hospitals, with ambulatory services, therapy and nurse-led beds, focusing on rehabilitation and less acute needs. The aim is for most people to receive their care locally and only stay in the new Planned and Urgent Care Hospital when really necessary for acute care and when possible to be transferred back to their homes or to closer hospitals if they need a period of rehabilitation. We plan to have 24/7 minor injury units at Glangwili and Withybush hospitals, based on the successful Prince Phillip Hospital minor injury unit.

Steadfast: Pembrokeshire firmly backs retaining Withybush Hospital and its services (Pic Herald)

The health board said does not intend to make changes at Glangwill or Withybush hospitals until the new hospital is built (we think the new Urgent and Planned Care Hospital will take until at least the end of 2029 to open).

They promised regular engagement – listening and working with our communities, and our partner organisations, and possibly consultation on parts of the programme.

However campaigners say that proper engagement is not happening.

A spokesperson from the Save Withybush Campaign told The Herald: “Under the Future Generations Act they are legislatively obligated to engage in co-production with residents before making any decisions regarding changes to services. 

“This includes vulnerable groups, people without cars, and especially those who will be most affected by the proposed changes.

“We know from our research that they have not done that. 

“They have conducted piecemeal consultations which have not used the correct methodology. And they certainly have not actively reached out to the people who would be most affected by this – should these changes ever go ahead.”

Meanwhile, Pembrokeshire County Councillors are due to meet with health board representatives to find out more about the future of care and the implications for Withybush Hospital next month.

A Notice of Motion has been tabled by Haverfordwest’s John Cole raising concerns about the loss of services and the “downgrading” of the county’s general hospital.

People from all over Pembrokeshire were at recent protests (Pic: Herald)

It was due for discussion at Thursday’s (June 16) social care overview and scrutiny committee but members decided to postpone its consideration until a planned seminar with Hywel Dda University Health Board was held, with a provisional date of July 4 referenced.

Clr. Cole’s motion states: “With the recently published declaration of the Hywel Dda Health Board on the future of Pembrokeshire’s only general hospital I would like to ask the council to stand with our electorate in supporting the fight to retain services essential to the health and well-being of residents.

“Many of our residents feel the council, particularly us elected members, are, or appear, indifferent to the concerns being expressed. I believe in doing such.

“We can show that councillors are united and stand with the people of Pembrokeshire we were elected to serve’. would be showing diligence that the best price available is received.”

He tabled the motion in March, adding “I’m sure all members are as concerned with the prospect of losing services and the downgrading of our General Hospital Withybush. This is why I brought my NOM before the council.”

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