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Council Scrutiny improves

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huwLocal government scrutiny in Wales is improving but councils need to be more consistent in their approach if they are to add value on behalf of the taxpayer, according to a report released today by the Auditor General for Wales. 

The report also points to a need for councils to do more to demonstrate the impact of scrutiny and clarify the role scrutiny committees play in promoting improvement and challenging decisions. In his report the Auditor General states that while councils are actively working to improve scrutiny the outcomes are not always clear, despite significant investment of time and resources in the scrutiny process. While the report found that there is a clear enthusiasm from councils to learn and improve their approach, it also highlights that councils are struggling to demonstrate the impact of scrutiny. This, together with some lack of clarity around the role scrutiny plays in holding the executive to account, can lead some people to question the importance and value of scrutiny. However, particularly when tough decisions need to be taken, the importance of effective scrutiny should not be underestimated. Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said today: “This study shows that while there are pockets of good scrutiny there is a lack of consistency. With public services facing great financial challenge, there has never been a more important time for councils to develop effective and robust scrutiny. Decisions need to be consistent, transparent and rigorous and greater recognition of the value of scrutiny is vital if councils are to see real benefits in securing value for money for the taxpayer”. The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving the recognition, effectiveness, and impact of scrutiny, including: * better planning of scrutiny activity; * aligning scrutiny programmes with other council improvement arrangements and the work of external review bodies; * improving the quality and range of information that scrutiny receives; * clarifying the role of executive members and senior officers in contributing to scrutiny; and properly evaluating the impact of scrutiny. The study, undertaken with all 22 Welsh councils, consisted of a process of self-evaluation followed by peer reviews, with partner councils observing and sharing views of each other’s scrutiny committees. Following on from the successful Scrutiny in the Spotlight conference that took place in November of last year, the Wales Audit Office also releases next week a collection of resources aimed at helping support continued improvement in Welsh councils’ scrutiny arrangements. The Wales Audit Office is keen to continue the conversation around this report and the resources and are encouraging councils to get involved via Twitter and the hashtag #scrutinywales. A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson told the Herald: “We have a positive relationship with the Wales Audit Office. “They have regularly observed our Overview and Scrutiny Committees and have commented favourably on the progress we are making on our journey of improvement.”

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Community

The Harbourmaster: Special rail excursion draws crowds to Milford Haven

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MILFORD HAVEN witnessed an extraordinary event yesterday as a special charter train, operated by UK Railtours, made a unique visit to the town, drawing in 500 railway enthusiasts. Departing from London Paddington, the 13-carriage train, which included both first class and standard accommodations, travelled off the usual passenger routes to provide a scenic journey along the south Wales coast.

Starting the day with pick-ups from various locations including Slough, Reading, Swindon, and Bristol Parkway, the train ventured through the Severn Tunnel into Wales, showcasing a series of rarely used freight tracks. Notably, the locomotive switched at Newport to a pair of GBRf Class 66 freight engines, enhancing the experience for those on board by traversing tracks seldom seen by passenger services.

The journey took passengers through Cardiff, Bridgend, and Port Talbot Parkway, deviating at Court Sart Junction to follow the diversionary Swansea District line. The train paused at various locations including Llanelli and Haverfordwest, where passengers enjoyed a 90-minute break while the train was serviced.

A major highlight of the trip was the exploration of the seldom-visited Robeston branch, a treat for the rail enthusiasts who filled the train to capacity, necessitating a waiting list for hopeful travellers. The venture concluded at Milford Haven, where passengers disembarked for a photo session before the train commenced its return journey to London, including a final scenic pass via the Swansea Avoiding line and the Bishton flyover.

Local Councillor Nicola Harteveld of Milford Haven Town Council expressed delight at the influx of visitors, noting, “What an incredible sight at Milford Waterfront today with passengers enjoying our local scenery. It’s a testament to the unique charm and appeal of special rail tours.”

First class passengers were treated to The Great British Breakfast and a four-course dinner, while a buffet car served those in standard class, ensuring all passengers enjoyed their journey with comfort and style.

This tour, fully booked in all classes, underscores the continuing enthusiasm for unique rail experiences in the UK, combining a love for heritage rail with the exploration of less-travelled tracks. As the train made its way back to London Paddington, the participants reflected on a day filled with adventure and picturesque landscapes, leaving them with memories of a rare rail journey along the historic and scenic routes of Wales.

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Crime

Police appeal after girl, 15, assaulted at Lydstep Point to Point

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DYFED-POWYS-POLICE says it is investigating an assault which occurred at Lydstep Point to Point event near to the announcers stand, between 4.30-4.45pm on Monday, April 1, 2024.

The victim, a 15-year-old girl, was allegedly assaulted by two other females, one believed to be in her late teens and the other in her late thirties. The young victim sustained facial injuries.

Police are now appealing for anyone who attended the event that may have information that could help them with their investigation to contact PC 772 Boyt either through a direct message on social media, online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing [email protected] or by calling 101.

Quote reference: 24*310890

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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News

Major search in the area of The Cleddau Bridge and Hobbs Point

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A MULTI-AGENCY rescue response was initiated first thing on Saturday following reports of a person in difficulty in the area surrounding The Cleddau Bridge, The Herald has been told.

Police were joined by two coastguard rescue teams, the RNLI and a coastguard rescue helicopter during the search.

A police launch was also used in the operation.

Details are still unclear, but we understand that the search has now been stood down.

MORE TO FOLLOW.

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