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Leader’s Update: Storm response shows best of ‘Team Pembrokeshire’

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THE leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, David Simpson, has given his latest update from county hall:

“Good afternoon everyone, I hope you are well.

I had hoped to issue my latest update on Friday but of course the response to Storm Eunice and then Storm Franklin over the weekend had to be the priority.

I would like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to all Pembrokeshire County Council staff and our contractors who went above and beyond to respond to one of the busiest periods we have seen in a very long time.
It was truly a team effort.

From the pre-event planning across the Authority, the contact centre starting early to take the public’s calls, the team in the Incident Management Centre overseeing the response, the teams out and about on the ground clearing trees and checking structures, closing roads, managing risks to the public, checking on elderly and vulnerable residents, to the communications colleagues who kept us all updated throughout the weekend.

It was lovely to see feedback from you, the public, thanking all our staff and contractors for their efforts. Even as I speak the crews are out attending to the latest calls and building maintenance issues.

I would also like to thank our partners from across Mid and West Wales for their response. Western Power Distribution described the incident as the worst storm they have ever experienced in the South West Region, that shows the level of challenge we have all faced. Thank you one and all for your efforts.

Since my last update we have again seen a series of announcements from the Welsh Government on the Covid-19 situation.

Thankfully the public health situation is improving to the point that the Welsh Government has announced that some of the last remaining protections can be removed.

From Friday the legal requirement to show a Covid Pass to enter venues such as nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls has been removed.

However, it is worth remembering that events and venues can continue to use the pass if they choose to.

From Monday 28th February, the requirement to wear face coverings will be removed from most indoor public places, apart from in retail, public transport and health and care settings.

However, if the public health conditions continue to improve, the legal requirement to wear face coverings in all remaining settings could be lifted by the end of March.

I know that for many, many people that this will be just the news that they wanted to hear.

It has been a long two years and these announcements are a major step towards the normality we all crave.

However there will also be some, particularly those most at risk from Covid-19, for whom these steps will be a worry.

I would ask everyone to remain cautious, continue to do what you can to minimise the risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 and, at the same time, reassure those people for whom this is a worrying time.

The next three-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by March 3rd, when the remaining measures at alert level zero will be reviewed.

This will be my last Leader’s Update for this Council term as next month we move into the pre-election period.
The Local Government Elections, including elections to Pembrokeshire County Council and local Town and Community Councils will be held on Thursday 5 th May.

If you have not already, you will shortly receive important information regarding the elections arriving on your doorsteps.

Most important of all, these letters will urge you to ensure you are registered to vote do so before the deadline of midnight on Thursday 14 th April. You can register to vote at: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The County Council and Town and Community Councils deal directly with issues that impact on all our lives here in Pembrokeshire. Therefore it is so important that you are able to have your say who represents you.

The Council is particularly keen to ensure that 16 / 17 year olds and foreign nationals are registered to vote for these elections.

Following the introduction of new legislation in Wales, anyone aged 16 or over on 5 th  May and legally resident in Wales can cast their votes if they are registered to do so.

I would also urge anyone who is considering standing for election and doing their bit for their local communities to learn more about the roles.

Our webpage https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/elections-and-voting is a good place to start for all information on the elections.

The Council’s YouTube page also features a series of videos from current Councillors explaining more about what the role entails. You can find the videos here: https://www.youtube.com/user/PembsCouncil/videos

I’d also like to remind everyone of the upcoming deadline for the Winter Fuel Payment scheme.

This is for eligible households to claim a one-off £200 payment to provide support towards paying their on-grid winter fuel bills. The deadline is Monday, February 28.
See all the information here: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/income-support/winter-fuel-payments

We are now into the half-term break. The Council has set up a host of exciting experiences to ensure
there’s no chance of boredom slipping in. Check out what Scolton Manor has to offer at:
https://www.facebook.com/scoltonmanor (please check in advance to make sure the site is open following the storms).

Pembrokeshire Leisure’s Winter of Wellbeing also has plenty to keep young people fit and happy.

There’s lots going on so check out the website for the latest: https://pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk/schemes/winter-of-wellbeing/

Stay safe everyone and thanks for all the feedback received on this Leader’s Update over the last couple of years.

I hope it has been a welcome source of information and I once again thank Team Pembrokeshire for how you have all worked together during some of the most testing times we have experienced.”

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Pembrokeshire stands against Israeli apartheid and Genocide

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PALESTINE solidarity groups in Pembrokeshire and West Wales are mobilising for a powerful protest in Haverfordwest, Castle Square, this Saturday 20th April at 2pm. They aim to vehemently condemn the relentless Israeli onslaught on Gaza and send a clear message to the UK government and local MPs Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb: End the complicity now! We demand an immediate ceasefire and an end to arms sales that fuel this brutal oppression.

The Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, refers to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israeli forces, following the forcible displacement of 750,000 Palestinians (almost half the population) in 1947-49 in order to establish the state of Israel. Israel’s current assault on Gaza is an escalation of the ongoing Nakba and threatens to be the largest mass expulsion of Palestinians since 1948. The international community has an immediate responsibility to intervene to stop Israel’s ethnic cleansing today. Any delay in implementing practical measures constitutes complicity and/or participation in the ongoing Nakba.

This rally is a collective outcry against the crimes perpetrated by Israel and a rallying cry for the boycott of Israeli products.

“It’s sickeningly hypocritical that Israel strikes nations and communities first, claims victimhood when faced with resistance, and then receives unwavering support from the U.S., the UK, and Germany!” lamented one protester.

“For too long, the international community has turned a blind eye to Israel’s flagrant violations of human rights, granting it impunity while innocent lives are lost.”

“Six months of relentless violence. Six months of Israel slaughtering innocent Palestinians. Six months of Israel killing over 14,000 children! That’s an average of around 76 children a day and what has our government done? Profited from arms sales, turning a blind eye to the bloodshed,” remarked another protester.

This protest is a clarion call to all who stand for justice: It’s time to disrupt the status quo and challenge our complicit government. “We will never give up,” declared a participant. “To dismantle apartheid, we must disrupt the everyday and refuse to be complicit in Israel’s crimes against humanity!”

Join us at Castle Square at 2pm this Saturday to lend your voice to the 2 million people who suffer from a forced famine and brutal occupation in Gaza. Together, we will demand justice, accountability, and an immediate end to the bloodshed, the genocide and ethnic cleansing.

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Dragon LNG ‘monitoring’ scrap car blaze in Waterston

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A BLAZE has broken out at the Waterston Car Dismantler’s business in Waterston, Milford Haven.

Dragon LNG which is situated near the site said that the fire was not related to their operation and confirmed that the that emergency services were at the scene.

Residents living nearby have been advised to keep windows and doors closed whilst the incident is being dealt with.

“We are aware of a fire in Waterston with the emergency services present,” said a spokesperson for Dragon LNG.

“The incident is not related to Dragon LNG and Dragon Energy. We are monitoring the situation and are co-ordinating with the emergency services.”

(Images: M Cavaney/Herald)

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Oxfam to close Haverfordwest shop amid asbestos concerns

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OXFAMGreat Britain is set to shutter its profitable store in Haverfordwest, which currently brings in £25,000 annually, due to unforeseen costs related to asbestos removal. The closure date remains undecided, leaving managers Derrick and Mark uncertain about the future. A major sale is planned to clear out stock, starting with a 50% discount on donated items before escalating to a fire sale.

The charity has faced longstanding issues with asbestos in the building’s upper floors, which now require £60,000+ in removal costs. This expense will be charged to the shop’s account within a year, rendering the operation financially unviable. Although aware of the asbestos for years, Oxfam GB’s management has continually deferred addressing the problem. Alternatives such as relocating have been dismissed by the charity, citing that finding new premises would take two years and the renovation costs would still need coverage in the interim.

The Haverfordwest shop is a vital community hub, known for its extensive range of quality second-hand books, music, clothes, and homewares. It is also the largest second-hand bookshop in Pembrokeshire. The store is celebrated for its inviting atmosphere and the significant social value it provides, offering volunteering opportunities and work experience placements that often lead to employment.

Despite the shop’s profitability and community role, Oxfam GB’s decision comes as a blow to local efforts to combat poverty. Sarah Rees, Head of Oxfam Cymru, has previously highlighted the region’s “shameful and stubbornly high poverty rate.” The shop not only supports Oxfam’s global initiatives but also directly contributes to alleviating local poverty.

The decision has sparked controversy among volunteers and the community, with many questioning Oxfam’s commitment to its stated mission. Rosamund Aubrey, a volunteer, expressed her disappointment and stated she would reconsider her support for the organization due to this decision.

The forthcoming closure marks a significant loss for Haverfordwest, leaving both staff and the community awaiting further updates from Oxfam GB.

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