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Self-employed urged to apply for grant if they’ve lost income due to Covid-19

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APPROXIMATELY 2,400 self-employed people in Pembrokeshire whose business has lost income due to coronavirus have not yet claimed a government grant worth 80% of their trading profits – and they have less than two weeks to submit their application.

The grant is available via the HMRC Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 26 March.

Although the scheme has recently been extended, the claim for the first grant must be made on or before July 13.

All those who are eligible in Pembrokeshire are urged to apply for the grant before the deadline if they haven’t done so already.

Under the scheme, the self-employed can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for three months. To be eligible, self-employed trading profits must be less than £50,000 and more than half of the person’s income must come from self-employment.

HMRC figures estimate there are 8,100 potentially eligible people in Pembrokeshire and some 5,700 claims have been made giving a take-up rate of 70%. This is below the Welsh average of 73% but in line with the UK average. The total value of claims made is £14.3m.

The Preseli Pembrokeshire parliamentary constituency has an estimated 5,300 people who are potentially eligible. Of these, 3,600 have made claims, a take-up rate of 68%.

The take-up rate in the part of the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire constituency that lies in Pembrokeshire is 75% (2,100 claims from 2,800 eligible people).

Self-employed people should also be aware that the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme is now being extended.

Eligible people are able to claim a second and final grant in August 2020. Their eligibility will be worked out in the same way as the first grant.

If they make a claim for the second grant they will have to confirm their business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020.

For more information on the HMRC Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

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Chief inspector of Immigration to review use of Penally Training Camp

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THE CHIEF INSPECTOR of Borders and Immigration, Mr David Bolt, is to commence a review into the use of hotels and barracks in the UK, including the Penally Asylum camp.

It comes as Pembrokeshire County Council continues to seek a reimbursement for its involvement with the camp.

At Tuesday’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Jonathan Preston said it was ‘shocking’ that the home office was not engaging with the council and said that they should ‘keep knocking on the door’.

Cllr David Pugh added: “Let’s get the tanks out and start shooting some really heavy bullets at them (Home Office).”

It was confirmed at the meeting that there had still been no agreement with the Home Office on any repayments.

Camp residents protest in Penally (Image G Davies Photography / Herald )

Director of Finance Jon Haswell said that costs had been estimated at around £55,000 a month.

Cllr Pugh said it was ‘horrendous’ that the authority would be almost half a million pounds out of pocket.

Cllr Preston also questioned if Penally Community Council would be able to recover costs for the work they had done but officers said they would need to look into that matter.

The use of the camp is set to end on March 21 and it is anticipated that a planning application will be made to extend that use.

The council’s Head of Planning, David Popplewell said that if there were any breaches of planning conditions that they would be able to consider enforcement action.

He also clarified the two conditions of the use of the camp which state that the applicant must notify the planning authority after the commencement of the use and that it should be returned to its former state once it has ended.

Use of the site commenced on September 21, 2020 and a letter to the authority indicated that the applicants would be applying for a six-month extension.

Demo to support asylum seekers in Penally in 2020 (Photo Herald)

There would need to be a pre-application consultation and any application would go to the council’s Planning Committee.

Mr Popplewell added that he had been in touch with the planning consultant regularly but said that he hadn’t had a further response.

Director of Development, Dr Steven Jones confirmed that the Chief Inspector would be commencing a review into the use of hotels, barracks and asylum accommodation. He added that the call for evidence was open until February 19.

Councillors agreed that the matter should be brought back to the committee if and when the need arises.

Cllr Pugh also asked about the council’s response to the recent marches into Tenby by some of the camp users which caused some anxiety amongst residents worried about the spread of Covid-19.

Rooms in the camp are said to be too small for social distancing (Pic: Camp user)

Darren Thomas, Head of Infrastructure, Transport & Environment, said that it was a public order policing issue and that it was for them to decide how they should police it.

Cllr Pugh said he didn’t think that the council should be criticised as much as it had been on social media.

Discussions have been ongoing with other organisations about understanding and addressing the impact and rise of extremist activity upon the County.

The report to the committee also stated that there had been opposition to the camp being used by the asylum seekers and that there was also support for those supporting the asylum seekers.

Mr Thomas said that this was not a reference to any specific group and said that it was a general point.

The camp was originally set up for the use of 250 occupants but many of them complained about overcrowded conditions and some have already been moved.

At the time of the report being written, on January 8, there were 124 people still in the camp. At the meeting on Tuesday, Mr Thomas confirmed that as of January 21, that number had gone down to 118.

Transfers to and from the camp have been halted under the Welsh Government’s Alert Level 4 coronavirus restrictions, except for medical or safety reasons.

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From ‘coke to smoke’: Huge haul of contraband found in Hakin drug den

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POLICE have released a photograph of a haul of illegal drugs found during a raid on a property in Hakin in recent days.

Posting the photo on their twitter feed, police said: “A successful warrant executed by Neighbourhood Police Team and Response Teams in Gelliswick Road.

“Class A, B and C drugs and substantial cash seizures. Two arrests on suspicion of supply and two dealt with for possession offences.

Suggesting they were supplied information from locals, police said they thought this was an “excellent example of police and communities working together.”

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Police investigating missing charity funds at Narberth fire station

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Where is the cash?: Money from fundraisers was never banked

DYFED-POWYS Police have confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that they are investigating allegations of dishonesty concerning raffle and fundraising efforts involving Narberth Fire Station.

The Herald was contacted by members of the public and family members of Narberth firefighters expressing their concern that ‘a considerable amount of money’ that has been raised for charitable causes has gone missing from the station.

Alarm bells started ringing last year, after funds raised in memory of local firefighter Josh Gardener, were never banked.

Josh Gardener, tragically died aged just 35-years-old, during a training exercise conducted by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) in September 2019.

A source told us each local station took charge of their own fundraising for the cause, but it was overseen by Milford Haven Station and all raised money was to be collated together by staff there.

It is alleged that around £500 was raised by Narberth station. However, officers at Milford Haven raised suspicions, after no money was received.

A source also told us that each year, two members from Narberth’s crew don full uniform to sell raffle tickets in the town’s High Street.

One source claims that those concerned have been unlawfully fundraising, as they do not have the relevant licences in place to do so.

We asked Pembrokeshire County Council to confirm whether Narberth Fire Station had an up to date licence which would enable them to fundraise publicly in such a manner.

A spokesperson said: “Pembrokeshire County Council has contacted the organisation involved for further information and to offer advice on the rules regarding lotteries.”

It is alleged money raised from these raffle tickets, which sources tell us is also ‘a considerable amount’, is unaccounted for.

We asked Dyfed-Powys Police to confirm if they were investigating allegations of theft at the station, a spokesperson said: “We are investigating an allegation of theft from Narberth Fire Station.

We were told: “Enquiries are ongoing.”

The raffle tickets were sold on the basis that all funds raised were being donated to The Firefighters Charity and Narberth First Responders.

We contacted The Firefighters’ Charity to ask if they had been receiving regular donations from the station, they told us that they had been asked by MAWWFR not to comment.

All monies raised from fundraising is said to be kept in a locked safe within Narberth Station before it is banked, said our source.

They added that the only crew members who have keys which would enable them to have access to the safe are those who’ve sold the raffle tickets.

Due to an ongoing active police investigation into the thefts, we are unable to name the two individuals.

It has also been brought to our attention that since the investigation opened, last year, a member of staff allegedly took early retirement due to illness.

This newspaper has recontacted Dyfed-Powys Police to clarify whether they suspect a break-in or another possible explanation, we await their response.

However, the police have made no appeals to the press or public for information that would relate to the possibility that a burglary may have occurred.

The Herald asked MAWWFRS whether they had a licence in place to sell the raffle tickets lawfully, did all raised funds reach the advertised charities, and what procedures would they be implementing to ensure funds raised reached their intended target.

A spokesperson said: “Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service take any allegations around the conduct of our staff seriously and have procedures in place to deal with such concerns appropriately.

“We also take our responsibilities in terms of respecting the personal confidentiality of all employees seriously and as such will not comment further in this regard.”

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