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Budget is good news for Pembrokeshire

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AS PART of a series of payments made from the Westminster Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ Fund, the regeneration of Haverfordwest’s town centre got a massive shot in the arm.

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb has welcomed the announcement that £17.7m has been secured from the UK Government Levelling Up Fund for Pembrokeshire.

Pembrokeshire is in the first tier of areas eligible for the Levelling Up Fund created by the UK Government to replace EU funding. The funds are being financed directly by the Westminster Government. Today, local Councils across the UK are finding out which bids have been successful.

Mr Crabb has been working with Pembrokeshire County Council on the bid to the Levelling Up Fund to support the ongoing regeneration of Haverfordwest town centre. The bid focused on the need to make the historic town centre a more attractive place for visitors.

Now that this money has been secured, it will enable the restoration of the 900-year-old historic castle into a high-quality all-weather visitor attraction and develop the river’s potential as a feature of the town centre.

Commenting, Mr Crabb said: “I have worked hard to support Pembrokeshire County Council in their bid to the Levelling Up Fund and make the case to the Treasury about why Pembrokeshire should be put at the front of the queue for this funding.”

“I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened.

“It means that the money I have secured for Pembrokeshire can turn these plans and aspirations for Haverfordwest town centre into reality. It is now up to Pembrokeshire County Council to use this money to support traders and boost local economic activity.”

MINIMUM WAGE RISE

The headline takeaway from a Budget long on levelling up and short of detail on what it would like is a hike in the UK’s minimum wage.

From April 1, 2022, workers over 23 will get a minimum wage rise from £8.91per hour to £9.50.

While the increase is welcome, it is counterbalanced by increased personal taxation on income, rising prices, and the accompanying cut in entitlement to Tax Credits for those who get the rise.

However, the Chancellor took the chance to change a system that perversely punishes working extra hours or earning more by a loss in Tax Credit payments and/or Universal Credit.

Before the Budget, for every £1 earned over the Tax Credit limit, Universal Credit recipients lost 63p in what the Chancellor described as “a tax on work”. Mr Sunak cut that to 55p/£1. Setting the level at that originally intended when the taper in Tax Credits was originally proposed by Iain Duncan-Smith.

While that sort of measure would usually only come into effect at the start of a new tax year (in this case, next April), the Chancellor told the Commons the cut will come into effect no later than December 1.

That means earnings by those affected by the current arrangements will rise in the run-up to Christmas.

An increase in the National Minimum Wage will be affected by an increase in inflation, especially as the rise in the former will not come in until next year.

On top of that, the Chancellor announced a £500 increase in the threshold for the basic income tax rate.

Mr Sunak claimed a single mother with one child earning the National Minimum Wage would be better off by over £1,100 per year.

DUTIES CUT AND FROZEN

In what’s bound to be a popular move with pub-goers, the Chancellor announced an overhaul of duties on alcohol.

Describing the system as ‘outdated’ and ‘complex’, Mr Runak slashed the number of different duties from sixteen to five.

The strongest drinks (for example, white cider) will see their prices rise. However, beers, ciders, and fruit ciders will see a significant reduction in duty for on-licensed sales.

Fruit ciders, subject to their own duty, will see the largest cut in duty, while beer and cider will fall in price by an average of around 3p/pint.

There will be no increase in excise duty on whiskies. At the same time, sparkling wines had a massive duty cut, reducing their price to reflect their increased popularity and lower alcohol content.

The Chancellor combined those announcements with an extension of rates relief for licensed premises and specific relief on draught beer sales.

Mr Sunak also announced a freeze on fuel duty.

NOT SO NEW MONEY

A Raft of spending pledges made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Budget speech on Wednesday (October 26) consisted of repackaged spending commitments already made.

A large announcement that England’s city regions would get £6.9bn to spend on new transport infrastructure contained £1.5bn of new funding. The balance consisted of £4.2bn committed in 2019 under Theresa May’s Government and further funding for public transport, which the PM announced in 2020.

Similarly, £5.9bn of NHS funding for England is extra cash plus old spending commitments put in new wrappers.

MORE MONEY FOR WALES

Wales will receive extra funding through the Barnett formula – a mechanism the UK government uses to allocate additional money to the devolved nations when it spends more in England.

However, Mr Sunak said Wales would benefit by £2.5bn over the Barnett formula over the term of the three-year spending review.

The most contentious uses of Westminster’s powers, the levelling up and shared prosperity funds, are added to that funding. Money from them will be paid directly to those commissioning eligible projects and not to the Welsh Government.

Part of Westminster’s rationale is that the Welsh Government does not target spending on priorities it identifies as UK-wide.

For example, if the Westminster Government said it would invest £6bn in the NHS in England, Wales would get £300m. However, that money could be spent where the Welsh Government saw fit and not necessarily where Westminster intended it to go.

The Welsh Government’s position is straightforward; all money spent in Wales on matters over which it exercises control should be allocated to the priorities it identifies. It will not or cannot separate specific funding from Westminster’s overall spending grant.

The Chancellor’s announcement of extra funding for specific projects in Wales, bypassing Cardiff Bay, will increase tensions between Westminster and the Welsh Government.

RAISING REVENUE

The Chancellor cannot long put off dealing with two specific problems affecting government funding.

The first is well-known, but action has so far been avoided: the shrinking tax base.

The UK government raises around £800 billion a year in receipts – income from taxes and other sources – equivalent to around 37% of the size of the UK economy, as measured by GDP.

The majority are from three main sources: income tax, National Insurance contributions (NICs) and value-added tax (VAT). Together these raise over £460 billion.

The UK’s working-age population is rapidly contracting. That means less money raised from direct taxation. The effects of the contraction on public finances are already being felt.

What the UK’s current workforce pays in National Insurance now doesn’t pay for or contribute to their pensions but their parents’ and grandparents’.

As people live longer and in worse health, workers now and in the future face paying more of their wages in tax to support the retired and elderly ill.

The weight of the pensions bill was £101bn in the last financial year, approximately two and a half times the total defence budget.

As a point of comparison, the total amount paid out in working-age unemployment benefits was a fraction under £2bn.

Taxes on consumption fall proportionately most heavily on those with the lowest incomes.

Imposing increased taxes on consumption would effectively cut the incomes of the lowest earners. It would also hit those voters in post-industrial marginal seats upon whom the Government depends for its majority.

REPLACING DUTY

The second issue is less acknowledged but no less challenging.

Fuel Duty raises £21bn a year.

Increased fuel efficiency in motor vehicles means they need to refuel less often. That means less fuel duty coming into the Treasury.

The Government aims to decrease reliance on cars for commuting, which will cut the amount of fuel duty even further.

Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles pay little or no Vehicle Excise Duty, and purely electric vehicles pay no fuel duty, either.

Unless there’s a significant change in tack, the Treasury will lose both fuel duty and Vehicle Excise Duty from its annual tax take in pretty short order.

Fuel duty alone amounts to £28bn of revenue each year, and Vehicle Excise Duty is another £6.5bn a year.

Planning to replace that revenue cannot be delayed.

News

Covid-19 cases highest in Tenby; lots of new cases in Neyland and Pembroke Dock

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THE NUMBER of Covid-19 infections still taking place in Pembrokeshire is still significant, with the latest figues broken down per town now released.

Tenby has the highest prevalence in the general population at the present time.

The figures show that Pembroke Dock and Neyland have reported the most new cases with 59 and 60 new cases each.

This is the coronavirus rate and number of new cases for every area across Pembrokeshire are as follows:

  • St Davids & Letterston: 30 new cases; a rate of 394.6 per 100,000 people.
  • Johnston, Broad Haven & St Ishmaels: 39 new cases; a rate of 466.6 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Milford Haven West: 49 new cases; a rate of 641.4 per 100,000 people.
  • Milford Haven East: 37 new cases; a rate of 495.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Pembroke West & Castlemartin: 34 new cases; 459.8 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Pembroke East & Manorbier: 25 new cases; a rate of 324.8 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Pembroke Dock: 59 new cases; a rate of 610.5 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Neyland: 60 new cases; a rate of 690.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Haverfordwest South: 52 new cases; a rate of 727.2 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Haverfordwest North: 47 new cases; a rate of 661.0 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Crundale, Clynderwen & Maenclochog: 64 new cases; a rate of 888.3 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Fishguard: 39 new cases; a rate of 393.6 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Cilgerran & Crymych: 30 new cases; a rate of 353.2 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Narberth: 29 new cases; a rate of 422.0 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Saundersfoot: 29 new cases; a rate of 341.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Tenby & Caldey: 40 new cases; a rate of 658.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Cllr Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council said on Friday: “I must repeat that Covid-19 has not gone away and the wave of positive cases sweeping across Europe is a concern.
“People continue to catch this awful virus every day. Unfortunately, people are still dying from Covid-19.
“It is human nature to want to forget about Covid as the festive season approaches, I totally understand that.
“Like everyone, I was so disappointed when the tighter restrictions had to be brought in just before Christmas last year.
“And like everyone I’m thinking about buying gifts, planning festive events and looking forward to the celebrations.
“But I would please ask that you also keep in mind the simple things we can all do to give ourselves the best protection against Covid-19 and slow down the spread.”

Council Covid-19 team in Tenby earlier this year (Pic PCC)

Cllr Simpson said that People in Pembrokeshire should continue to work from home where you can, take up vaccination including the booster when offered, keep your distance where possible, use face coverings where required, maintain hand hygiene, meet outdoors when the weather allows and let fresh air in if you are meeting indoors.

He said that Christmas parties is one particular area where I would ask people to take extra care.

Cllr Simpson said: “Please consider smaller group numbers than you might ordinarily and try to avoid mixing with too many other people.”

“Remember that Covid-19 loves busy indoor spaces.

“Please do what you can to protect yourself and others.

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News

Appeal following public order incident in Monkton last month

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POLICE in south Pembrokeshire are appealing for witnesses or anybody with information after a ‘public order incident’ occurred in in Monkton last month.

The incident occurred on Long Mains between 9.30pm and 10pm on the evening of Thursday, October 21.

Dyfed-Powys Police said: “Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

“Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.”

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Health

Hospital visiting restrictions relaxed in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokehire

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FAMILY and friends can now attend hospitals in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire to visit patients on a limited basis with prior agreement with hospital staff in line with Welsh Government guidance.

While the prevalence of COVID-19 has reduced within our hospitals and in the community, the virus has not gone away. Like some other areas across Wales and the UK we are continuing to deal with cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections in our hospitals. As a result, visiting arrangements to all hospitals in Hywel Dda UHB are being reviewed regularly and remain subject to change at short notice.

With effect from Monday 29 November, all visits must be pre-arranged with the ward sister or charge nurse to enable us to maintain social distancing in our wards and across our sites. This means that a pre-booked visit for one person daily can be supported, provided your visit has a clear purpose and is in the best interest of the patient, in line with the following guidance:

‘Visiting with a purpose’:

  • End of life – last days of life
  • Carer – you are the carer or the nominated representative
  • Parent/Guardian – children and young people can be supported in an inpatient environment by the identified parent/guardian
  • Learning disabilities (LD) – a patient with learning disabilities may need you as their carer/next of kin to share information about their individual needs and virtual visiting may not be appropriate
  • Dementia – to support a person with Dementia as part of the ongoing support/plan of care
  • Other – for example where it is felt a visit from you may help the patient with rehabilitation, understanding of care/condition, help with dietary concerns. The ward sister may agree visiting outside of this guidance in certain circumstances.

The current visiting arrangements within our maternity services remain unchanged at this time.

Please note that visitors who do not meet the criteria will be asked to use a virtual visiting option instead which is available within the hospital, such as using a tablet or mobile phone. Family Liaison Officers will be available on wards to support access to virtual visiting.

All visitors must carry out a lateral flow device (LFD) test at home and have a negative result from that test prior to travelling to the hospital. Lateral flow self-test kits can be obtained by:

It is recommended that test results – negative or positive – are recorded on the UK Government portal (www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result)

When visiting our hospitals please remember to wear a face covering, this will be replaced by a surgical face mask at reception or ward entrance. Please remember to maintain social distancing and to clean your hands on entering the building and as often as possible using soap and water or hand sanitiser.

Mandy Rayani, Executive Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience, said: “On behalf of the health board I want to express our deepest gratitude to our patients, their families and our communities for their continued understanding and adherence to the very strict hospital visiting rules that we have had to impose throughout this pandemic. 

“We appreciate that it is a difficult time for everyone. We will continue to support the wellbeing of our patients/service users, their families and loved ones in the best way we can, while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

“Our patient support team and family liaison officers can help to deliver essential items to patients from their family and facilitate communication through digital options/telephone; if you need their assistance please call them on and 0300 0200 159 and they will do their best to help you.”

Please do not visit any of our hospital sites if you:

  1. are unwell, have flu like symptoms, currently have or had diarrhoea and vomiting in past 48 hours, have been in contact with anyone with the above symptoms in the last 48 hours have an existing medical condition or are on medication that puts you at risk of infection. Infection control advice – Hywel Dda University Health Board (nhs.wales)
  2. have been asked to isolate by the contact tracing team or if you have any of the three main symptoms of COVID-19 – a new continuous cough, temperature or loss or change of taste or smell. If you experience any of these symptoms please book a COVID-19 PCR test via the UK portal or by ringing 119. You should also book a test if you have mild cold or flu-like symptoms, including runny or blocked nose, sore throat, muscle ache or pain, excessive tiredness; persistent headache, persistent sneezing and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing. When booking your PCR test, you will also be asked about your symptoms: if you have mild cold or flu-like symptoms, rather than the classic three symptoms, choose ‘None of these symptoms’ and then choose one of the following options to enable you to complete the booking:
  • My local council or health protection team has asked me to get a test, even though I do not have symptoms or
  • A GP or other healthcare professional has asked me to get a test.
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