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Protestors lay empty plates outside local MPs’ offices following school meals vote

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY has staged an ‘Empty Plates’ protest outside the constituency offices of both Stephen Crabb MP and Simon Hart MP following what The People’s Assembly describes as “The scandal of their free School Meals votes”

Due to current Covid restrictions, the protests were carried out by just two protestors at each location “who lived locally enough to each office to enable them to carry out the demonstrations whilst on their daily exercise round or while out purchasing essential items”, organisers said

The messages written on each of the plates were all sent in by local ‘would be’ protestors following a call out on social media.

Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly told us: “We have had a huge amount of support for this demonstration and under normal circumstances would have called for a conventional style demo on the streets to go along with the ’empty plates’ stunt. With the level of support that we have received and the visceral anger that is out there following Crabb and Hart’s votes, we know that this would have been very well attended, however, these are not normal times so this called for a more creative Covid-appropriate response.

The protest comes following a flurry of announcements from pubs and restaurants around Britain stating that they have barred Tory MP’s following their votes against protecting free school meals during School holidays, including two pubs in Fishguard who have now banned both Crabb and Hart for life.

A spokesperson at PPA told us: “The Tories, as ever, are determined to make the poorest and most vulnerable in society pay for the crisis. This latest move shows the utter contempt that the Conservatives hold for those people who work all hours to keep our society afloat in times of crisis. The vast majority of those who claim free school meals are those families who are working yet on low incomes, this is an issue of poverty pay, not benefits.”

“Simon Hart voted against the amendment which would have protected free School meals during holidays for children in England.”
Stephen Crabb, who was himself brought up on benefits, and who has almost never voted against his Party whip and certainly never voted against austerity ‘abstained’ from the vote -he says “in protest”, however, a true ‘protest vote’ would have been to vote against the government not just sit on the fence and pretend to have a backbone. In our eyes, Crabb’s abstention is actually a worse indictment of his character as it shows he will not stand by any political convictions he claims to hold!”

“Fortunately for the children living in Crabb and Hart’s own constituencies, the Labour led Welsh Government has ensured that children will get free School meals over the holidays.”

“Empty plates protests have taken place outside the offices of Tory MPs all around Britain and we expect to see many more, there is also a growing movement of Pub owners barring Tory MP’s from their premises’ which we think sends a clear message of disapproval to the Government and a clear warning to the MP’s who voted to keep children hungry over the School holidays.”

Máiréad Canavan, NEU National Executive member for Wales, added: “As an educator, I know first-hand how poverty limits the life chances of children and significantly affects their educational experience and outcomes in school. As coronavirus continues to impact families across the UK, It is reprehensible for any MP to vote against or abstain from a vote to allow children in need to access free school meals.

Empty plates outside Stephen Crabb’s office in Haverfordwest on Saturday (Oct 31)

Marc Tierney – former Labour Party parliamentary candidate for CWSP said: “Time and again both local MPs have voted to cut the help available to those who need it most. Consistently, Simon Hart fails to recognise the extent of poverty in our communities. He has put his Party and now his government job ahead of those who may have voted for him.

Thanks to the Welsh Labour no child will go hungry in Hart’s constituency because our Welsh government has already extended free school meals during the holidays. But poverty blights the lives of millions across Britain. If our MPs are blind to this, we must remind them that it is their duty to do more to help the 31% of children in Pembrokeshire and 29% of children in Carmarthenshire living in poverty today.”

Philippa Thompson, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Dyfed-Powys, and former Parliamentary candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire said: “No child should go hungry at any time, and it’s essential we help especially during this crisis. Over a million people have signed Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s petition, which shows the strength of public opinion. Ensuring the continuation of free school meal provision has been a key priority for the Welsh Labour Government, in stark contrast to the Tory vote against struggling families in England”.

Alistair Cameron – former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for CWSP said: “Simon Hart has shown a callous neglect for struggling families. Whilst Kirsty Williams in the Senedd has been ensuring that poverty should not mean hunger for our most disadvantaged children, our MP has chosen to deny children across the border the funding that could stop them from going hungry.”

Cris Tomos former Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate for Preseli said: “The issues associated with increasing levels of child poverty in the 21st century is a sad and worrying reflection on our society and the lack of priority that the current Conservative government is placing on children’s wellbeing. Children should not have to go hungry in any of the 4 nations of the UK, but as we see increasing levels of rents and mortgage repayments hitting household budgets form one month to the other the amount remaining for the weekly food shopping is falling to worrying low levels. The levels of working families that are now experiencing food shortages is totally unacceptable and there needs to be a complete rethink of how wealth is distributed within the UK. The cost of living will only become notably tougher as we see the onslaught of Brexit increasing the costs of our groceries and food supply chain increases. Action needs to be taken now to protect our most vulnerable children from experiencing the devastating effects of hunger.”

Simon Hart said on his Facebook page: “Free school meals, a debate that impacts only England. The “opposition motion” last Wednesday was seeking an extension to the free school meal programme into the holidays was non-binding and even if passed would not have changed anything.

“The frustrating thing about these motions is that they are nothing more than political theatre.

“For what it’s worth, it was the this Government that extended FSM’s in Easter and Summer holidays in the first place but which has now decided that families in greater need are best served through increasing benefits over a whole year, not just via food vouchers in the holidays. I do understand how this looks in the media though (which is exasperating for all of us) but it’s not as straightforward as just removing something without trying to offset the consequences.”

Stephen Crabb MP, abstained from voting on the bill – a decision he says was done in protest to let his government know he did not agree with their views.

Mr Crabb has spoken previously of his background. He came from a single parent family, was raised in a council house and receivws free school meals.

Many social media users took Crabb’s decision not to vote as a decision that was just as bad as voting with the government with some branding him a hypocrite.

Taking to his Facebook page, Crabb defended his decision.

He told his constituents: “I took a decision to abstain on the vote, which is a well-recognised form of protest. I have made it very clear to the Government that I do not agree with them on this issue.”

Even though Crabb abstained, he told his followers that the free school meal provision wasn’t the way to tackle the problem of child poverty.

He added: “I am supportive of the holiday provision of free school meals but I think we also need to be looking at solutions that go beyond just vouchers. The main poverty charities I speak to have different views about whether vouchers are effective or not.
“I did not like the nature of the Labour Party’s debate in the Commons last Wednesday and I think some of the abuse being thrown around is appalling. The vote last week would have had no material impact on provision even if it had passed.”

Mr Crabb added: “More widely, whilst the issue of free school meals is important, ultimately we should be aiming to lift people out of poverty so that they no longer need this support. I have spent much of the last few months working hard on the campaign to keep the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
“The UK Government introduced a much welcome per-week increase in UC at the start of the crisis but this measure will expire in April, unless the Government commits to an extension.”

Mr Crabb assured his Pembrokeshire constituents he will continue to try and tackle child poverty.

He added: “I have spent a large proportion of my time in Westminster over the last few months campaigning on the issues of child poverty and pushing for more support for families on low incomes. I will continue to make this a priority.”

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Pembroke Dock: Two in hospital following Fort Road car accident

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EMERGENCY SERVICES dealt with what has been described by a witness as a “horrific car accident” in the Pembroke Dock area on Wednesday night (Jun 12).

A 23-year-old woman, driving a black BMW, travelled down Fort Road at speed, hit a low wall, catapulting the vehicle some considerable distance across a picnic area. The vehicle ended up irreparably damaged on the beach – which was luckily not in use at the time – landing next to the old Cambridge Gun Tower.

No other vehicles seem to have been involved, police said.

The driver has been arrested but remains in hospital, one passenger is in a critical but stable condition, in Cardiff, and a second passenger sustained only minor injuries.

A spokesperson for Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.45pm on Wednesday night (Jun 23), to reports of a road traffic accident near the Fort Road car park in Pembroke Dock.

“We attended the scene with one rapid response vehicle, two emergency ambulances and our Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service.

“Two people were taken to University Hospital Wales, Cardiff for further treatment.”

The police are appealing in the media for information following the crash.

An official statement from the police reads as follows: “We were called to Fort Road, Pembroke Dock, at around 10.45pm on Wednesday night to reports of a single-vehicle collision. Ambulance and fire service also attended.

“A 19-year-old man was taken to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff and remains in a critical but stable condition.

“A second passenger attended hospital for minor injuries but has since been discharged. A 23-year-old woman was arrested, and currently remains in hospital.

“Anyone who witnessed the collision but who has not yet spoken to us should get in touch by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, visiting our website, or calling 101.

UPDATE: 24.06.2021, 15:47HRS

On Thursday (Jun 24) said that the female who was arrested was de-arrested because of the need for medical treatment, and is “no longer under arrest at this time.”

The police also added that their investigation was “still active”.

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Pembrokeshire call handler helps deliver Llanelli couple’s new baby

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A 999 CALL HANDLER from Pembrokeshire has helped deliver a Llanelli couple’s baby.

Father-of-two Chris Bassett, from Hook, answered the call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen, and whose instructions on loudspeaker enabled the pair to deliver their 8lb 1oz new arrival safely.

Thanks to Chris, Troy Smith, 34, and partner Abigail Jones, 33, delivered baby Arabella Dilys Smith in the bedroom of their Llanelli home.

Troy said: “I’ve never felt adrenaline like it but I knew I had to focus on the situation for Abigail and the baby’s sake.

“It all happened so quickly, but Chris’ voice on the other end of the phone kept us calm.”

Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Carreg Hir in Briton Ferry, went into labour at around 10.00pm on Thursday, June 3, and made a trip to hospital, where nurses confirmed she was in the early stages.

The couple returned to their Pwll home, but their soon-to-be daughter had other ideas.

Troy said: “At around 4.30am, Abigail developed a lot of pain and said she had an urge to push.

“I thought, ‘Right, this is happening’ and phoned an ambulance because I knew I’d be delivering the baby right there and then.”

It was Chris, a former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, who picked up the call in the early hours of Friday, June 4.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for 18 months, said: “As soon as I answered the call, it was obvious that Troy and Abigail were in distress, as anyone would be in that situation.

“The priority was to get Abigail in a comfortable position to deliver the baby safely.

“For me, it was about giving them clear instructions while trying to keep them both calm.”

Troy added: “I just did what came naturally. When you’re in that situation, you just do it.

“As soon as Arabella came, I felt this wave of relief and I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was.

“Chris was so professional and handled the situation really well.

“He gave us all the information and kept us calm.”

Ambulance crews arrived soon after, and took Abigail to Carmarthen’s Glangwili General Hospital, where she was treated for shock before being discharged the following day.

Abigail said: “The whole thing was petrifying because I just never expected to be having the baby at home, but we’re so grateful to Chris for helping us to deliver Arabella safely.”

Chris added: “In your role as a 999 call handler, you’re helping people in their darkest hour, but I’m just glad this call had a happy ending.

“This is the third baby I’ve helped to deliver during my time at the ambulance service, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

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Covid causes partial school closure at Haverfordwest High VC

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A PARTIAL school closure is in force today at Haverfordwest High VC school after a pupil in year 9 has tested positive for coronavirus.

All students in year 9 must stay at home , isolate and await further instruction while the school completes all of the necessary Track and Trace processes.

In a statement released by the school, they said: “We have been informed that a Year 9 pupil has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We wish them a speedy recovery.

“As a precautionary measure and to enable us to complete all of the necessary Track and Trace processes, the school will be closed to Year 9 Pupils today.

“The school remains open to all other year groups.

“Until further notice, Year 9 students should stay at home and isolate until further instructions are given. Lessons for all other year groups will continue as usual. Unless your child is in Year 9 they should attend school.”

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