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Three sheep saved from ‘serious jeopardy’ in Dinas Island rescue

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A 12-strong team of RSPCA officers – including rope rescue specialists – have saved three sheep trapped precariously on a steep cliff edge at Dinas Island in West Wales.

The sheep had become trapped on the cliff above the sea with very limited grazing available and were in “serious jeopardy”.

Remarkable drone footage shows the extent of the sheep’s plight – and the size of the drop to the sea below.

RSPCA officers abseiled down to reach the sheep, and carefully put the animals into secure bags. They were then lowered to another team of officers in a boat below.

The rescue was coordinated by RSPCA inspector Neill Manley and took place last Tuesday (2 March).

Nine officers – Mark Roberts, Richard Abbott, Vicki Taylor, Nayman Dunderdale, Gemma Cooper, Alan Barnes, Dean Wilkins, Megan Higgins and Jo Pearson – were part of the rope rescue team; while officers Rohan Barker and Justin Stubbs were in the boat below.

Fortunately, all three sheep were saved successfully and immediately returned to the farmer.

RSPCA inspector Neill Manley said: “These three sheep were in serious jeopardy – and urgently needed our help.

“An operation like this takes a lot of planning, but fortunately everything went according to plan.

“The weather was relatively calm, and our system worked well – with officers accessing the sheep by abseiling down the cliff, before lowering the sheep in bags to a boat below.

“We’re delighted to have been able to help these sheep in their hour of need.

“Thankfully, the sheep were all fine despite their ordeal and a happy ending means all the planning and efforts of our officers was certainly worth it.”

News

Unwelcome Caller: Pembrokeshire’s looming Council Tax dilemma

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AS WE HAVE reported, Pembrokeshire County Council faces a contentious decision as it considers a recommended inflation-busting 16% increase in council tax to balance its budget.

Councillor Mike Stoddart, known for his critical blog posts as ‘Old Grumpy,’ is voicing strong opposition to the proposed hike, highlighting the intricate challenges and pressures facing the council in these financially strained times.

The recommendation for this substantial increase comes as the council grapples with a tight financial situation, prompting a series of budget-setting seminars aimed at aligning council members on the path forward. Stoddart, who previously voted against last year’s 7.5% increase, remains a staunch opponent, citing a lack of compelling justification for the new rate and expressing concerns over the methods used to secure consensus among council members.

The crux of Stoddart’s argument lies in the perceived manipulation of council members through what he describes as ‘psyops’—psychological operations—intended to sway their votes in favour of the budget proposals. He criticises the shift from informative seminars on local government finance to pressure-laden presentations forecasting dire consequences should the council fail to approve the tax increase. This, according to Stoddart, transforms a complex decision into a dichotomy of distributing “pain” between taxpayers and service users, a decision he argues should remain in the political realm, subject to public scrutiny and debate.

Adding to the complexity are communications from the council’s finance chiefs, setting strict guidelines for proposing alternative budgets. These guidelines effectively place a veto power in the hands of the s151 officer, the council’s finance chief, over any alternative budget proposals. This move has sparked concerns over the democratic process within the council, with Stoddart highlighting the inherent conflict of interest in having one’s proposals judged by an officer whose original budget they aim to challenge.

The narrative took a more dramatic turn with the involvement of Max Caller CBE, a figure introduced to underscore the grave consequences of failing to set a balanced budget. Stoddart’s recounting of Caller’s seminar paints a picture of stark warnings against the backdrop of potential misconduct charges, a tactic Stoddart views as fearmongering designed to quell dissent.

Despite the pressures, Stoddart’s resolve remains unshaken. The veteran councillor is calling for greater transparency and accountability, suggesting that recordings of key seminars be made public to allow constituents a clearer understanding of the deliberations leading up to the budget decision.

His stance reflects a broader concern for democratic integrity within the council.

You can read ‘OLD GRUMPY’ by clicking HERE.

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Health

Senior doctors in Wales vote to strike over pay

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  • A 48 hour strike will take place from Tuesday 16 April

CONSULTANTS and SAS (specialist, associate specialist, and speciality) doctors have voted to strike as part of a dispute with the Welsh Government over their pay, which has been cut by almost a third in real terms since 2008/9.

The results of the ballots, which ended at midday today (Monday 4 March), for doctors working in both branches of practice in Wales saw 86% of consultant voters and 94% SAS doctor voters cast their ballots in favour of industrial action.

A significant 70% of consultants and 58% SAS doctors eligible to vote in Wales had responded to a call to take part in industrial action which will take place from Tuesday 16 April.

Consultant and SAS doctors make up over half (54%) of the hospital-based medical workforce combined, with 3,137 Consultants and 1,088 SAS doctors working in hospitals across Wales. *

The BMA is now calling on all consultants and SAS doctors in Wales to participate in a 48 hour strike, except for those providing ‘Christmas day’ cover.

This level of cover will ensure doctors can provide emergency care, but all elective or non-emergency work will be postponed during this period.

BMA Cymru Wales is working with NHS employers on precise staffing levels that are appropriate and will provide guidance to members in advance of any strike days.   

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of the BMA’s consultants committee in Wales, said: 

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision. No doctor wants to strike, but the conditions now faced in the workplace caused by the extreme pressures on the service and unsafe staffing levels have left doctors with no choice.   

“Fewer doctors now want to develop their careers in Wales with some health boards reporting vacancy rates of over third for senior doctor posts.  

“Colleagues are now choosing to retire early, reduce their hours or move out of Wales where pay is competitive, and wards better staffed. 

“Unless doctors are better valued for the work they do, more and more doctors will leave an NHS already under severe pressure in Wales”. 

Dr Julie Jones, Deputy chair of the BMA’s SAS doctors committee in Wales added: “Doctors are burning out from covering significant gaps in the workforce and patient safety is at risk. With this result our members have chosen to take a stand for the profession and for patients.

“People are waiting for treatment for longer than ever before, resulting in poorer outcomes and more time in the hospital and we all deserve better.

“This result represents a profession that is not ready to give up on the NHS and its patients in Wales”.

The decision to ballot members was taken after the BMA rejected the Welsh Government’s first and final pay offer for the 2023/24 financial year for those working in secondary care.

For consultants and SAS doctors on closed contracts the offer was 5%; SAS doctors on more recent contracts received as little as 2.5%. This final offer left BMA Cymru Wales with no choice but to enter a trade dispute and ballot for strike action.  

Over the last 15 years, consultants and SAS doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of almost a third since 2008/9. They received another sub-inflationary pay offer from the Welsh Government for 2023/24 which is below the recommendation made by the DDRB and is the worst offer in the UK. 

The BMA is calling on the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding to enable discussions around an uplift in senior doctor pay that will retain existing doctors and ensure that we are able to recruit more.

Consultant and SAS doctor strike action will take place from 7am, Tuesday 16 April to 7am, Thursday 18 April.

Junior doctors in Wales will begin their third round of strike action a 96-hour full walkout from 7am Monday 25 March in pursuit of a fairer deal for their service**

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Health

NHS charity offers opportunities to leave a thank you in your will

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HYWEL DDA Health Charities has teamed up with solicitors across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire this Make Your Will Month (1st-31st May 2024) to offer supporters the opportunity to write or update a will at a greatly reduced rate.  The solicitors are waiving their usual fee in exchange for a donation to the charity.

The will-writing month provides a perfect opportunity for people who don’t have a will to write one, and for those with a current will to update it. The charity is asking for a minimum donation of £90 for a single will and £175 for a mirror will. Those who take part can ensure the people they love are remembered in their will, and, if they choose, their local NHS charity.

The participating solicitors are Avery Naylor Family Law, Gomer Williams Solicitors, Jennings Solicitors and Powell Davies Solicitors.

Sian Stevens, Associate Solicitor at Avery Naylor Family Lawyers, said: “Make Your Will Month is a great opportunity to plan for the future. By making a will you can ensure your family and friends are provided for, as well as the causes you really care about.

“If you already have a will, Make Your Will Month is the perfect chance to update it and make sure it reflects any change in your circumstances through birth, bereavement, a change in marital status, moving house, etc.”

Katie Hancock, Fundraising Officer at Hywel Dda Health Charities, said: “This is a great opportunity to ensure your family’s future is secure and that your wishes will be followed through – and also to support your local NHS.

“A donation made to the charity will help us to provide services and activities above and beyond what the NHS can normally provide. And those who choose to leave a gift to Hywel Dda Health Charities, however large or small, will be safe in the knowledge that their community will feel the benefits of their kindness for years to come.

“We’d like to thank all the participating solicitors for their fantastic support and for giving us their valuable time.”

There are a limited number of will-writing spaces available, and they are awarded on a first come, first served basis. For more information or to sign up, please visit: https://hywelddahealthcharities.nhs.wales/campaigns/make-your-will-month/

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