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Politics

Conservative Ceredigion Preseli Westminster hopeful selected

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A FOURTH candidate in the battle for the new Westminster seat of Ceredigion Preseli has been announced, with a Pembrokeshire Conservative county councillor throwing his hat into the ring.

The new Ceredigion Preseli constituency joins parts of north Pembrokeshire – including Crymych and Maenclochog – with neighbouring Ceredigion.

The new constituency takes effect automatically from the next scheduled General Election, following a Westminster vote to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32.

Candidates announced so far are Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake – who has represented Ceredigion in Westminster since 2017, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, formerly the MP for Ceredigion from 2005- 2017, and Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones.

The Welsh Conservatives have now selected their candidate for the Ceredigion-Preseli seat, Cllr Aled Thomas, Welsh Conservative Group county councillor for Johnston.

Cllr Thomas said: “”I am truly honoured that Welsh Conservative members of the new Ceredigion Preseli constituency have put their trust in me to represent them at the next general election.

“Being schooled wholly in Welsh at Ysgol Y Preseli and working as an agronomist across Ceredigion has given me a strong affiliation to the constituency and its associated issues.

“Labour and Plaid Cymru have badly let down rural communities in North Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion with their Senedd policies, and I cannot stand by and let further decline happen.

“The pain and worry that farmers and their children feel on a daily basis in this uncertain time, is the same pain and worry my brother and I feel for the future of our farm.

“I’m looking forward to getting out on the doorstep, talking to people and championing rural issues over the coming weeks and months.”

Fellow hopefuls for the seat have previously outlined what they intend to bring to the table.

Ben Lake said: “My priorities were I to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Ceredigion Preseli are clear – a fair deal for rural communities, investment in infrastructure and increased funding for public services, and a thriving, sustainable economy that has the needs of communities rather than those of large corporations as its focus.”

Liberal Democrat Mark Williams said: “I too am looking forward to putting forward my party’s message on the doorsteps of Preseli, and across Ceredigion, not least our measures to help people with the cost-of-living crisis, and promote the agricultural sector. There is a battle for hearts and minds across our new constituency, and I believe I have the energy and experience to win it.”

Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones said: “We desperately need a Labour government in Westminster and a strong voice for Ceredigion Preseli. After 13 years of the Tories’ mismanagement of the economy, prevalent corruption and neglect we’re all dealing with the cost of food in our shops up, the cost of fuel up and energy prices still sky-high.”

The new constituency has the unusual situation of part of it currently occupied, to the north, by Plaid Cymru, and, to the south, part of the current Conservative-held Preseli Pembrokeshire.

The latter seat, occupied by Tory MP Stephen Crabb, is to disappear; Mr Crabb standing in the adjoining new seat of Mid and South Pembrokeshire.

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Politics

Next stage of £19m Haverfordwest interchange backed

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THE SECOND stage of building Haverfordwest’s near-£19m transport interchange has been backed, with senior councillors hearing it could cost the council more to not support it.

The transport interchange, which includes an integrated bus station and construction of a new multi-storey car park, is part of a wider series of regeneration projects in the county town.

The total cost of the scheme in the approved budget is £18.881m, £1.987m from Pembrokeshire County Council; the remainder, £16.894m, from an already-awarded Welsh Government grant.

To date, £3.425m has been spent on advanced works, including the demolition of the old multi-storey car park and a temporary bus station.

Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on April 22, were recommended to approve the award of the Stage 2 construction contract for the Haverfordwest Transport Interchange.

The report for members listed two simple options for Cabinet, to authorise the award of a contract, recommended, or to not.

For the latter it warned: “It is envisaged Welsh Government will withdraw the funding awarded and the council would need to repay grants received to date; £10.322m has been received to date of which £3.376m has been offset against expenditure.”

It added: “Cost to cease this project could cost PCC more in terms of grant repayment and any capital work required to make good. PCC match contribution for the project is forecast as £1.987m of the £18.881m.”

Planning permission for the interchange was granted in 2022, with a temporary bus station constructed that year and the old multi-storey building demolished in 2023.

That year, members of the county council’s Cabinet agreed a temporary car park will be sited on the demolished remains of the old multi-storey car park until the Haverfordwest Public Transport Interchange – delayed as no compliant tender had been found at the time – is built.

Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said: “The interchange is an important part of the regeneration of Haverfordwest, it will not regenerate Haverfordwest on its own, it is part of a wider process. The alternative to us being engaged is we simply allow it to decline and fail.”

He said the interchange was about “making it easier to visit Haverfordwest,” making parking provision “really straightforward, making it easy and convenient as possible”.

Cllr Miller said not progressing with the scheme would risk the grants already obtained, meaning the council could potentially foot the bill for costs to date, at a greater level than progressing.

He said the cost options were a near-£2m subsidised council involvement for the whole scheme or the £3m-plus spent to date if the scheme was ended, which would leave the car park as it is now.

“It’s pretty reasonable that if they give us the money and we don’t build a transport interchange they’ll be looking for that money back,” Cllr Miller said.

He said previous figures from parking revenue – back in 2019 – amounted to £100,000 a year; and could be expected to at least double on a “like-for-like” basis following the increase in parking charges.

Members, after a private and confidential session over the actual contract details, agreed to proceed with the scheme, awarding the contract to Kier Construction Western and Wales.

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Politics

Council Leader confirms intention to stand down

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson has confirmed his intention to stand down next month.

Cllr Simpson, who has been Leader since May 2017, will not seek re-election as Leader of the Council at the Annual General Meeting in May.

Chairing his final Cabinet meeting as Leader on Monday, Cllr Simpson said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

Cllr Simpson said: “I would like to thank my fellow Cabinet Members for their commitment to their roles and their support to me personally over the last seven years.

“I also want to put on record my gratitude and thanks to all Council staff for their hard work across all departments.

“I know just how dedicated these staff are, striving to improve lives here in Pembrokeshire.

“I must also thank the people of Pembrokeshire.

“It has been the honour of a lifetime to be the Leader of your council and the best part of the job has been meeting so many people who are committed to making this county a better place to live and work.”

Cllr Simpson will continue to serve as the County Councillor for Lampeter Velfrey.

A new Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council will be elected at the AGM on Friday May 10.

The meeting begins at 11am and will be webcast as normal.

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Politics

Conservative win for seat vacant after death of late Cllr Reg Owens 

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A FIVE-WAY fight for a new county councillor for the Pembrokeshire ward of St Ishmaels, vacant after the death of the late Reg Owens, has seen a Conservative win.

Earlier this week, Conservative candidate Claire Victoria George was elected county councillor for St Ishmaels after securing 297 votes, beating fellow ‘Tish hopefuls Richard Leighton Jenkins (242), Janie Anne Harwood (69), Robert Simister (52), and Terence ‘Terry’ Worsley (25).

The St Ishmaels county council ward includes the surrounding areas of Dale, Herbrandston, Marloes, St. Brides, Tiers Cross and Walwyn’s Castle.

Following her win, Cllr George said: “I am truly grateful and humbled by the trust the residents of the St Ishmaels ward have placed in me to serve as their county councillor.

“This by-election has been tough for me personally as my father passed away shortly after nominations closed with his funeral was just days before polling. I take comfort in the fact that he would have wanted me to keep campaigning in my ambition to serve the community.

“I am passionate about Pembrokeshire and the assets and opportunities the county offers.  Having worked across the private and public sectors in Pembrokeshire and further afield, I bring a wealth of solutions and experience to the complex world of local government.  My strength lies in working in partnership and maximising the skills and contributions of all.

“Having served as chair of One Voice Wales Pembrokeshire Area Committee for four years and community councillor for Tiers Cross Community Council for 10 years, I understand the concerns of residents and what makes a difference to their daily lives.

“Pembrokeshire, and indeed the St Ishmaels ward, is blessed with creative and responsive communities who come together to support each other.

“As a director of Pembrokeshire Lottery, I recognise the importance of small businesses to our economy and employment.  We must ensure small businesses are encouraged and grown through all the levers Pembrokeshire County Council has from procurement, industrial sites provision to skills and training opportunities.

“I will remember Cllr Reg Owens as a staunch local champion for all the villages and residents of the St Ishmaels ward and I look forward to building upon all his hard work.

“I look forward to working with Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority to respond to the needs and ambitions of the residents of St Ishmaels ward.”

The seat became vacant following the recent death of Councillor Reg Owens.

Councillor Owens, who represented St Ishmaels as an Independent Group member, had served as a county councillor since 2012, and had also served on Herbrandston Community Council, as chair on numerous occasions.

He was also a member of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for more than a decade, and was chair of its planning committee for five years.

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