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Affordable homes strategy to be developed for Pembrokeshire

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CABINET members have agreed to publish an affordable homes strategy for Pembrokeshire.

Councillor David Lloyd had submitted a notice of motion in November 2020, calling for the strategy to be developed as ‘a matter of urgency’.

In his supporting statement, Cllr Lloyd said that he had seen many streets in St Davids ‘hollowed out by local homes becoming second homes or holiday lets’.

Speaking at Cabinet on Monday, February 15, he added that he was greatly encouraged that work was already underway looking at this issue.

“If we are to protect our communities and keep them cohesive, we have got to take radical action”, Cllr Lloyd added.

Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Bateman said that the situation had been brought into sharper focus since November and that they had seen the impact that covid-19 has had on house prices.

She added that work is ongoing but added that it was ‘good to have it out in the public’.

Cllr Jon Harvey said it was very important in the context of many areas in Pembrokeshire and said setting up a task and finish group would be a ‘good move’.

He added that there was also an opportunity to lobby the Welsh Government over the use classes order whereby houses could be listed as a primary or secondary residence.

Finance cabinet member, Cllr Bob Kilmister added that there was a possibility of increasing second homes council tax which could bring extra support.

“We do have a major crisis for people in the coastal communities and it is incumbent on us to find a way around this”, he said. “Housing is the most important issue there is in many respects because if you haven’t got a decent home you haven’t got a start in life.”

Cllr Cris Tomos highlighted that a speaker at the last council meeting had said how concerned they were that rural and coastal communities were seeing more and more second homes.

He added: “The whole composition of communities is changing as less and less local people have houses, so then the whole resilience and composite of communities is changing. So it is important that we do have houses for local people so communities can thrive.”

The recommendation was unanimously supported by the Cabinet.

The Leader, Cllr David Simpson added that Cllr Lloyd could see that Cabinet was fully behind what he is trying to do and said they would move forward in a way that would benefit all of Pembrokeshire.

Cllr Lloyd concluded that the early work that is ongoing confirmed the talent the council has got to deliver this project.

It is hoped that the strategy will be ready to be published by September 2021.

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Milford Haven: Police investigating sexual assault

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POLICE are investigating an incident of sexual assault which occurred in Hakin, Milford Haven.

Milford Haven Police say that the alleged incident took place in Croft Avenue on February 7, 2023 at around 19:50hrs.

If anyone is able to give any information regarding this incident please ring 101 quoting reference DPP/0956/07/02/2023/02/C.

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Pembrokeshire County Council faces less bleak finances than previously expected

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee have heard.

At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.

He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.

An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.

“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was.

“The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”

Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.

Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”

He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.

Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.

Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.

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Welsh Freeport competition heats up with Senedd vote

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ON WEDNESDAY, the Senedd will hold a debate regarding freeports as the competition for UK and Welsh Government funding nears its conclusion.

Currently, three bids are in from across Wales for a chance to benefit from £26 million of direct UK Government funding, as well as reduced taxes for businesses in the freeport area. A Welsh freeport could see up to 16,000 jobs created and further investment or the local area into the billions.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS said:

“Benefits of a freeport cannot be understated, bringing much needed jobs and investment into some of the most deprived areas of Wales.

“The UK Government put the challenge to Wales to submit exceptional bids, and Wales has delivered.

“All three bids would help to transform their local communities in different ways. It’s essential that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to deliver that second freeport for Wales, maximising the opportunities that these bids have to offer.”

The three Welsh Freeport bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) which has estimated that it would create over 16,000 new jobs and up to £5.5 billion in new investment.
  • The Anglesey Freeport would support up to a £1 billion contribution to UK GDP by 2030, while also creating up to 13,000 new, high salary jobs in Ynys Môn.
  • The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport) is aiming to increase non-passenger revenues to 50%, ending their reliance of passenger generated income.

The UK Government stated that “if a truly exceptional proposal were presented at the bidding stage” than a second freeport would be funded.

The Welsh Conservative debate reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the opportunities for freeports to energise the Welsh economy, create high quality jobs, promote regeneration and investment.

2. Notes that three bids from Wales have been submitted for consideration by the UK and Welsh Governments.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to deliver two freeports in Wales, recognising the truly exceptional proposals submitted and the transformational benefits they can deliver for the Welsh economy.

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