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AM petitions Government to overturn Royal Mail sale

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THE PRIVATISATION of Royal Mail will mean higher prices and a poorer service for rural communities, Assembly Member Joyce Watson has warned.

The Labour AM for Mid and West Wales has written to business minister Vince Cable MP urging him to ditch the £3bn sell-off.

Mrs Watson says a privately owned service would not maintain the unprofitable parts of the business leading to higher prices and worse services in rural Wales.

“This sale is all about securing a short-term win for the Treasury not the Royal Mail’s future. It is bad enough that the Tories are selling the family silver, but they are flogging it cheap. Royal Mail’s assets are worth billions and the quality of the service it provides to isolated communities is priceless. I have been inundated with messages from constituents who are furious that another British institution is being sold off. The UK Government must listen to the public outcry and drop these plans now.”

The Pembokeshire Herald can being you the letter in full:

The Rt. Hon. Vince Cable MP

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Dear Dr Cable,

I have received concerns from many of my constituents regarding the proposed privatisation of the Royal Mail by the UK Government. Any such privatisation could have a significant impact on the towns and rural communities of Mid and West Wales that I represent.

Until 2012 stamp prices were subject to regulatory control which meant that individuals and businesses were protected from excessive price rises. However, the price of a first class stamp rose from 46p to 60p. As a private company, focused on increasing shareholder returns, it is likely that the Royal Mail will want more significant price increases.

Many businesses are dependent on the Royal Mail. The delivery of letters and parcels to any address in the UK is a service we cannot do without. For many small businesses, especially those in rural areas there is often no alternative to the Royal Mail. While these businesses are already suffering from high overhead costs, they can ill afford to see the cost of using the postal service rocket.

The Royal Mail delivers where competitors refuse to go. In my region of Mid and West Wales I see little evidence of private companies seeking to compete. My constituents understand that it costs more than the price of a stamp to deliver a letter to a rural address. That is why, despite assurances to the contrary, the postal services regulator is working to determine the real cost for deliveries to rural areas. It has also looked recently at how it can reduce the daily delivery service to addresses in the countryside. A privately owned Royal Mail will not want to maintain this non-profit making service. It is difficult to see how the government might be able to compel a private enterprise to continue to provide this service.

The local post office is a focal point for the life of so many small towns and villages across Mid and West Wales. Where pubs and other shops have disappeared, the post office has remained. But when that goes, I fear that the life of these communities will also disappear. This would have a significant impact on the elderly, disabled and those who cannot travel – already the most vulnerable members of these communities.

Many small post offices have a fragile existence and rely upon Royal Mail for business to survive. Yet the 2001 Postal Services Act fully separates the Post Office Counters’ network from Royal Mail. The government will point to a recently signed business agreement between the two. But that cannot guarantee that a new, private owner, free to do as they choose, will honour that agreement in the long-term. For example, they may wish to re-negotiate its terms or move more of its business to other retail outlets.

Many of my constituents will also miss the traditional red liveried vehicles, the use of Her Majesty’s head on stamps and the distinct pillar boxes are all part of the rich history of Royal Mail and a feature of our towns and countryside. While we must always look to the future, it would be a great shame if this heritage would disappear following privatisation.

I would be grateful if you would consider the concerns of my constituents and review your decision to privatise the Royal Mail.

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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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‘We don’t want it’: councillors object to HGV tanker park plans

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PEMBROKE DOCK town councillors have objected strongly to plans to build a HGV tanker park in the town.

The tanker park would be located on the south-western side of Criterion Way, behind the ASDA petrol station.

However, at a meeting of the town council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, April 13, councillors were in agreement that it would create more problems for the town.

Councillor Jonathan George said: “I’ve noted the public input on this and they don’t seem very happy about where it’s going to be put.

“It is close to a small park area and I don’t think it’s suitable to put this here. I won’t be supporting this.”

Cllr George Manning added: “There are many aspects of this which are totally inappropriate for Pembroke Dock. There are many other sites available but they haven’t looked at any of them.

“This does not do anything for the Future Generations act and it will bring more disruption to the town.

“This does not bring about any improvements to the existing transport infrastructure. There are lots of things about this, we don’t want it. I don’t think they have looked into it in enough detail.”

Cllr Gordon Goff said that the impact it would have on the public and wildlife would be ‘astronomical’.

He went on to say he was not happy with one of the statements in the application and said they ‘don’t want to be blackmailed’.

One of the documents submitted with the application states that if the development was not approved it would mean that the applicants, Certas, ‘will either have to find a different site’ or ‘will have to cease operating in the area’.

Cllr Terry Judkins said that the Port Authority wanted to ‘use Pembroke Dock as a dumping ground’ and added that he could not support it.

Cllr Maureen Colgan added that she was ‘totally against’ the application and said that the area should be kept for leisure and be developed as an area where people can sit and enjoy themselves.

The application is due to be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council at a later date.

Cllr Paul Dowson has already called in the application for it to be debated by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

In his request he states that it is too near habitation, it is within the Pembroke Dock conservation area and that children have been using the area near the bandstand as play area for over 20 years.

The area had also previously been the subject of an application for a marina and other leisure facilities but that investment was written off in 2017.

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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