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Memorial fund thief escapes jail term

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charityA WHITLAND woman who stole cash raised to start a memorial fund in the name of a friend killed in a car crash has escaped an immediate jail sentence after borrowing enough to reinstate the fund. Natalie Thomas, aged 25, borrowed £8,500 to repay the fund set up after the death of Laura Rees, who worked at the day nursery at Glangwili Hospital and who died after a road accident on the A40 St Clears to Whitland road. Swansea crown court heard how friends and family members organised money raising events with the intention of donating in Laura’s name to the Bandi appeal, which was helping to finance the building of a centre for sick children in Carmarthen. Chris James, prosecuting, said Thomas, of Bryngwenllian, approached Laura’s mother Angela and told her she wanted to help, and went on to raise more than £10,000 during a charity night in January, 2013, attended by 800 people. Further, unknown amounts were donated in cash in collection boxes. Mr James said Thomas became obstructive and neither handed over the money or paid it into the charity’s bank account. However, Miss Rees’ family still trusted her, such was her perceived closeness. A year after Laura’s death, the turf was cut to begin the building of the new children’s centre and Mrs Rees had wanted to present the money raised so far in the name of her daughter. But Thomas still refused to hand over the money. And when Mrs Rees checked the status of the bank account she found there was only £1,950. The rest, added Mr James, could not be accounted for. Thomas tried to claim the real balance was about £11,250 but that she still had a number of cheques to pay in. In a bid to cover her tracks, Thomas began approaching local businesses asking for donations – she asked a monumental mason to give £10,000 and the resident of a care home for £1,500. Mr James said even after her arrest Thomas denied stealing the missing money, and claimed at first it was at the home of her brother. On being questioned by police a second time she admitted she had been “dipping” into the fund. David Williams, the barrister representing Thomas, said she had used the stolen money to help her family and not to finance a luxury lifestyle. “She regrets the pain that she has caused to her friend’s family, particularly Angela Rees. That was not her intention,” he added. He said since the offending had come to light local people had expressed “their severe disapproval in brutal terms.” A friend of Thomas had taken out a loan of £8,500 so she could repay the charity fund, and Thomas would in turn pay off the loan. Thomas admitted theft. Judge Christopher Vosper QC said an immediate jail sentence would badly affect Thomas’ children and could mean she could not continue to repay her friend. Thomas was jailed for 12 months, the sentence suspended for two years. She was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. Laura was killed in October 2012 while on the way to a bridesmaid dress fitting.

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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