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Politics

Council tax lowering continues to come under committee scrutiny

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A CALL for a full review – or even rescinding – of Pembrokeshire’s 2024 council budget, which saw an 11th hour drop in a proposed 16.3 per cent council tax rise, is to come under council scrutiny.

Pembrokeshire County Council was facing a 16.3 per cent council tax increase when setting the council budget for 2024-’25 in March; that figure dropping to 12.5 per cent after an 11th-hour alternative budget proposal by deputy leader Cllr Paul Miller was narrowly backed.

That drop in the council tax rise was made by using additional reserves of £1.5m, as well as £1m target for council efficiency savings, along with leisure services savings.

Cllr Miller said that would see a weekly council tax increase for the average property of £3.22, or £167.86 a year.

Members backed Cllr Miller’s amendment, by 30 votes to 26, with one abstention.

A notice of motion, signed by 18 of the 60 members of Pembrokeshire County Council, was to be heard at the May 9 meeting of the full council, asking “that PCC undertake a full review of the amended 2024/25 budget put before full council without notice by the Deputy Leader [Cllr Paul Miller] on March 7”.

It adds: “The proposals put forward by the Deputy Leader in his amended budget committed the authority to sourcing £1 million in savings, the use of £1.5 million in reserves and further efficiency savings of £300k from PCC Leisure Services defined by Cllr Miller on March 7 as ‘minor re-structuring’.

“The savings of £1 million to be achieved through what Cllr Miller called an ‘Operational Review’ to be undertaken by the Chief Executive.

“This NoM is a request that a previous decision made by council be rescinded unless further detailed clarification and assurances can be provided of the extent of the ‘Operational Review’ and which departments within PCC will be required to furnish the £1 million in savings and what cuts in service will be the result and possible loss of employment by PCC staff.

“Furthermore, this NoM requires further information with regards to how the £300,000 efficiency savings in leisure services through ‘minor re-restructuring’ will be achieved and for councillors and the public to be informed if any services will be reduced and any potential reduction in staff within PCC Leisure Services and the impact this will have upon the wellbeing of leisure services users.

“Approaching seven weeks have now elapsed since the budget of March 7, and it’s hoped that councillors will now be provided with further information, and, if not, we request that the previous decision by council be rescinded.

“The manner of how the amended budget was presented to full council has caused much concern and this motion is submitted to seek further information and for further scrutiny to take place to fully identify the consequences of the amendment put forward by Cllr Miller on March 7 in the interests of openness and transparency for both councillors and the residents of Pembrokeshire.”

At the May 9 meeting, members agreed the notice be referred to the council’s policy and pre-decision scrutiny committee.

Councillors who signed the notice of motion are: Huw Murphy, Jamie Adams, Elwyn Morse, Mel Phillips, Mike James, Michael John, Brian Hall, Vanessa Thomas, Delme Harries, Alan Dennison, John Davies, Terry Davies, Iwan Ward, Andrew Edwards, Peter Morgan, Anji Tinley, Simon Wright, and Shon Rees.

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Community

Changes to housing scheme once feared to have been sold to Birmingham backed

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Amendments to previously-granted plans for a Pembrokeshire housing estate, which was once feared to have been sold off to Birmingham City Council, have been given the go-ahead.

Back in 2022, Wales and West Housing and construction partners Jones Brothers (Henllan) Ltd were granted permission by Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee for a 50-home social housing estate on land off Maesgwynne Lane, Fishguard.

That permission, subject to the completion of a S106 planning obligation, was finalised in early 2023.

The 1.7-hectare site is being developed into a mixture of one-bedroom flats, one-bedroom bungalows, two, three and four bedroom houses.

Since then, rumours surfaced that the development had been sold off to Birmingham City Council for overflow housing, dismissed by the developers as having “no truth whatsoever”.

Wales & West Housing rubbished the claims saying that they are completely untrue.

“There is no truth whatsoever in this rumour,” a spokesperson for Wales & West Housing said earlier this year.

“We are very much continuing our development of the site off Maesgwynne Lane. We’re working with our construction partners Jones Brothers (Henllan) Ltd to build 50 new homes for affordable rent on the site, as approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee.

“The development is being funded by Wales & West Housing in partnership with Pembrokeshire Council and Welsh Government.

“When it’s finished, we’ll be working with Pembrokeshire County Council to let them to local people who are most in need of homes they can afford to rent.”

Birmingham City Council added at the time: “This is not something we are aware of here, so it appears to be an inaccurate rumour.”

Amendments to the previously-granted scheme were recently submitted to county planners by Jones Brothers (Henllan) Ltd, with minor changes to roofing and other visual alterations.

In approving the amendments, a report for planners stated: “The proposed amendments are not so significant as to have a greater impact than the approved scheme; there will be no detrimental impact visually or in terms of local amenity; no third-party interests would be disadvantaged; and there will be no conflict with national or development plan policies.”

The amendments were conditionally approved.  

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News

Plaid Cymru leader visits Pembrokeshire to support local candidate

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RHUN ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru, made a notable visit to the Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency this week to lend his support to the party’s candidate, Cris Tomos. The visit saw ap Iorwerth joining Tomos and his supporters as they canvassed the area, discussing their vision and plans for the local community.

Cris Tomos, the local candidate for Plaid Cymru, has articulated a clear and ambitious agenda aimed at leveraging the economic opportunities presented by green and renewable energy. He emphasised the necessity of reinvesting the benefits derived from these initiatives back into local services and creating new skills training programmes to ensure that residents can secure quality jobs within the burgeoning green economy.

“Revenues generated from the Celtic Sea floating wind development should be channelled into a ring-fenced economic fund for Pembrokeshire,” Tomos stated. “This would enable the establishment of new start-up companies and the expansion of existing green economy businesses, offering competitive salaries to local people.”

Tomos highlighted the significant financial gains expected from the green revolution, pointing out that the Crown Estate in West Wales stands to benefit substantially. However, he expressed concern that the current financial structure means these funds would go directly to the Treasury in London. “We must fight now for the retention of this funding to remain in Wales,” he asserted, “and ensure it is focused on providing quality jobs, housing, and public services for the people of Mid and South Pembrokeshire.”

Looking towards the future, Tomos outlined the potential positive impacts of this revenue, including the construction of new affordable, energy-efficient homes and the financing of threatened services such as day centres and libraries. He also stressed the importance of offering more practical support for families living in poverty, a situation exacerbated by what he described as the “austerity and mismanagement of the economy by the current Conservative government in Westminster and the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.”

The visit from Rhun ap Iorwerth marks a significant boost for Tomos’s campaign, reinforcing Plaid Cymru’s commitment to addressing local issues through sustainable economic development and community-focused initiatives.

The following people have been nominated for election as a member of the UK Parliament for Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency:

Hanna Andersen (Women’s Equality Party);

Alistair Cameron (Welsh Liberal Democrats);

Stephen Crabb (Welsh Conservative);

Stuart Marchant (Reform UK);

James Purchase (Green Party);

Vusi Siphika, (Independent);

Cris Tomos (Plaid Cymru);

Henry Tufnell (Welsh Labour).

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News

One week left to register to vote

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ANYONE wanting to vote in the general election on July 4, must be registered to vote before the deadline on midnight 18 June. 

Voters can apply online at gov.uk/register-to-vote. It takes just five minutes.

Voters have a range of options – they can vote in person, by post or by appointing someone they trust to vote in their place, known as a proxy vote. The deadline to apply for a postal vote is 5pm on 19 June. The deadline to apply for a proxy vote is a week later, 5pm on 26 June.

For the first time at a UK general election, voters will need to show photo ID at a polling station. To find out which ID you can use in the polling station, visit the Electoral Commission website.

If you do not have one of the accepted types of ID, you can apply for free ID at Applying for a Voter Authority Certificate | Electoral Commission or by completing and submitting a paper form to your local authority. You must apply by 5pm on 26 June, to be able to use the Voter Authority Certificate on 4 July.

Craig Westwood, Director of Communications at the Electoral Commission, said: “It is important that people check they’re election ready ahead of upcoming deadlines. All voters must be registered, and some may need to apply for a postal or proxy vote or free ID. Registering to vote is quick and easy, and can be done online.

“Voters will need to show photo ID at polling stations for this general election. Anyone who does not have one of the accepted forms of photo ID can apply for free ID online or by completing a paper form and submitting it to their local council.”

Information about the new requirement and all your voting options can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website.

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