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Council announces budget plans

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THE CABINET MEMBER for Finance presented his draft budget to Council members on Thursday, December 19.

In a key announcement, he said because of extra Welsh Government cash the Council could hold the line on services and make modest increases in spending.

A Council Tax of 5%, he said, would add £1.04 per week to the average Council Tax bill.

Cllr Bob Kilmister played up to the public perception of him as ‘Mr Doom and Gloom’ by a neat piece of self-mockery, saying: “This speech is going to confuse a few people as I outline what I believe is a very good news story.”

Cllr Kilmister began, however, by outlining to members that the budget before them was, necessarily, very much a draft.
Praising Director of Finance, Jon Haswell, and his staff, Bob Kilmister explained that he had only a total of thirty working hours to prepare the budget. The short time was because the Welsh Government provided details of the budget settlement for Pembrokeshire at noon on Monday.
Warning members that the budget might be affected by any changes Westminster made in its budget, he also said that – regardless of the good news on spending – austerity was far from over.

A series of options will now be presented to members to examine through the scrutiny committee structure. A public consultation will also take place.
Cllr Kilmister reminded councillors the budget required their approval by Feb 27. Providing options meant that both councillors and residents had the chance to propose amendments to the draft expenditure plans.
He told members that cost pressures on the budget are ‘very real’ and that not all services were hit equally by inflation, demographic and legislative pressures.
To illustrate his point Bob Kilmister pointed out that Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Education have combined pressures amounting to £14.1 million just to stand still.
Combined with other cost pressures, the Council needs to find a further £3.1m for its budget to meet other demands.
The extra money from the Welsh Government will help ease those pressures, which means with a proposed 5% Council Tax rise the Council will have extra money to allocate to services.
It was not all good news: Cllr Kilmister announced a further round of restructuring, potentially shedding 66 full-time-equivalent jobs to save £2m.
With an extra £18.75m to spend, Cllr Kilmister set out the draft spending priorities.
Addressing a hot topic arising from a recent Education Scrutiny meeting, Bob Kilmister said the Council would NOT be charging for sixth form school transport.

EDUCATION
• £ 3 million to meet the pay and pension pressures on Individual school budgets.
• £ 2 million increase for Individual school budgets on top of the pay & pensions.
• £2 million on the Central Education budget which includes the Youth Service, Inclusion and intervention.
• £1 million to tackle Key stage 4 underperformance.

SOCIAL CARE
• £1.2 million to ease pay pressures for Adult Social Care staff.
• £ 2 million to ease pay pressures in contracted Adult Social Care staff.
• £ 1 million to ease pressures on Children’s out of County care.
• £ 800,000 to recruit new Social Workers and retain them.

ROADS
• £1 million for road safety schemes where currently no funds are earmarked, funded by the Programme for Administration reserve.
• £600,000 on Highways cost pressures.
• £500,000 on fixing potholes and poor road surfaces, funded by the Programme for Administration reserve.
• The cost of changing street-lighting to LED bulbs funded by the invest to save reserve.
FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION
• £500,000 for Holding accounts which will still require 50% to be found in cost reductions.
• £500,000 on IT
• £500,000 extra contingency ‘as we face such uncertain times’.

Among the other significant announcements on planned spending, Bob Kilmister announced £120,000 for repairs to historic buildings.
He explained the line of expenditure was part of a scheme to reduce the massive capital costs the Council faced on basic maintenance for historic buildings after years of neglect. Cllr
Kilmister remarked pointedly the budget he inherited was £6,400 per year.

Bob Kilmister also announced £100,000 for Public Toilets to prevent any further closures unless vandalism causes closures.

Addressing the problem of fly-tipping, Cllr Kilmister observed that the service had struggled for some time before recent changes to household waste collections. The service had suffered from ever-tightening budgets over many years. To ease the pressures, Bob Kilmister announced a £100,000 increase in funding to ease pressures on the service.
For the first time, the Council will have a specific budget line for major events, which it previously funded via grants. The £70,000 announced is not extra money but is allocated as a share of existing resources.
Public consultation on the draft budget will start on January 6 and end on January 27. There will be two Facebook live sessions and a Public Meeting during the day at County Hall which it is hoped will be webcast.
Cllr Kilmister urged residents to take part in the consultation exercise.
On Council Tax, Bob Kilmister said the Cabinet believe this should rise by 5% which is £1.04 per week for a Band D property or £54.60 per annum extra. He anticipated it will be one of the lowest cash rises in Wales.
He concluded: “In the last two years it has been very clear that residents have paid more for less.
“This year we believe they will pay a “little bit more but get a lot more”.

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Appeal after woman sexually assaulted on cycle path near Haverfordwest

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POLICE officers in Haverfordwest are appealing for witnesses after a woman was sexually assaulted at approximately 4.30pm on Sunday (May 16).

The woman was walking along the cycle path between Haverfordwest and Tiers Cross when she was approached by a man who threatened and assaulted her, before walking away towards Haverfordwest town.

The male is described as a white male, between 5ft 4 and 5ft 11 tall , normal build with a welsh accent. He has short dark hair, a beard and a moustache, brown eyes, and wearing light blue jeans, navy/dark blue jersey with grey sleeves. Anyone who saw a man matching this description in the area between 3.30pm and 5pm in the afternoon.

A 35-year-old man has been arrested and is currently in police custody.

The cycle path is currently closed while the investigation continues.

Detective Superintendent Jayne Butler, who is leading the investigation, said “Incidents of this nature are extremely rare in the Dyfed-Powys area. The public may see an increased presence of police officers in the coming days as police investigate the incident. Anyone with concerns or information that could help our enquiries can speak to those officers or contact police. While a man was quickly arrested we would still like to speak to anyone who saw a man matching the above description in the area yesterday afternoon.”

Anyone with information which could help the investigation is asked to contact police. This can be done online at bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet endorses STEP Fusion application

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Cabinet have today endorsed proposals from Cllr Paul Miller (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) to further progress the nomination of a Pembrokeshire site to host a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion power station in the county.

Working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the proposed site is adjacent to the existing energy facilities on the South Shore of the Haven waterway.

If approved, the facility will initially host research with the ultimate aim of developing this technology which could offer a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said: “I am pleased my Cabinet colleagues endorsed this important programme of work. The Haven Waterway has provided livelihoods, underpinned by fossil fuels, for thousands of Pembrokeshire families, mine included, for more than 50 years. It’s my job to help ensure the waterway continues to provide high skilled, engineering, science and technology jobs for the next generation of this county – and so linked to our focus on climate change (and in addition to our existing multi-million pound commitments to supporting wind, wave and tidal clean power generation) my team have been exploring whether we can also support the development of clean, green fusion technology.

“It’s very early days in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site selection process but we’ll provide regular updates as things progress.”

•       STEP is an ambitious programme to design and build a prototype fusion power plant;
•       It is a UKAEA programme, currently with £222m funding from the UK Government to produce a concept design by 2024: https://step.ukaea.uk/

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Re-opening of indoor hospitality and attractions at Milford Waterfront

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RESTAURANTS and indoor visitor attractions in Milford Waterfront are welcoming the return of indoor services from today.

The re-opening of indoor dining allows all restaurants at Milford Waterfront to seat customers indoors. As well as all restaurants on the Waterfront now being able to offer this service, the brand-new Foam Domes overlooking the Milford Haven Waterway are able to open, with bookings being taken from the 19th May.

Indoor visitor attractions are also allowed to re-open. This includes the Waterfront Gallery, which is open today and Phoenix Bowl & Pirate Pete’s Adventure Play which is making preparations to open from Wednesday 19th May. Also, Milford Museum, which has had a new rendered exterior finish, is preparing to open for the end of May.

Lucy Wonnacott, Marketing Manager for Milford Waterfront commented: “We are delighted to see the re-opening of indoor hospitality and visitor attractions here at Milford Waterfront. Each business has their own safety and social distancing measures in place and we kindly ask that you respect and adhere to these for your own safety, and that of others. We hope you enjoy your visit to Milford Waterfront and stay safe!”

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