Connect with us


Council tax increase on second homes leaving owners in debt



A SECOND homes council tax campaign group has said the “unaffordable” premium for such properties is forcing their owners into debt, a letter sent to Pembrokeshire County Council has said.

The second homes council tax premium in Pembrokeshire increased to 200 per cent for this financial year, from a previous 100 per cent, meaning such properties effectively now pay a treble rate.

Properties used as holiday lets were exempt from the premium if they could be let over a number of days per year, which has risen to 182, up from a previous 70.

Since the premium rise, second home-owners have been faced with hefty council tax bills, as much as £15,000 in some cases.

The letter, signed by 100 members of the Pembrokeshire Council Tax Premium support group, says: “In April when most of us received our council tax bills with their grossly inflated rates. Most of us have a council tax bill of £5,000 to over £12,000 for 2024/2025. This is unaffordable.

“Given that your stated goal is to make us sell our properties, it is logical for you to have make the tax unaffordable.

“Only 29 per cent of our members received notice of the increase, and no effort was made to contact owners outside the area as is advised. Most knew about the premium increase when they received their 2024/2025 council tax bill.

“This oversight has made it impossible to ‘consider the impact of a higher premium on their own personal financial circumstances and make choices regarding their property’.”

At the March meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, members heard the county is facing nearly £9m in council tax arrears, in part due to an “unprecedented bloc” of some 90 homes unable to meet the 182-day holiday letting guidelines, leaving their owners liable for second homes premium rates.

At that meeting the-then Cabinet member for corporate finance Cllr Alec Cormack said there were seven classes of “exception rather than exemption” from the premium.

He said anyone in arrears should contact the revenues and benefits team, which was reaching payments plans for such circumstances.

The letter to the council added: “There is now a delay in the council offices in the processing of these applications for exceptions- as people try to avoid going into debt. People are being forced into that situation. Applications from April 17 for example, have not been processed and people have received pink/red bills and reminders causing great stress and concern.

“Many have contacted the benefits and welfare office, as was suggested by Councillor Cormack, and are either cut off after lengthy waits or are told that there is nothing that can be done. Some are saying that this is a conveniently manufactured way of continuing to milk the cash cow.

“Pursuing the goal of maximising income from this group of people who have contributed for seven years towards developing the housing stock, with nothing to show for it can best be described as thoughtless and at worst a deliberate attempt to ‘Stuff those who cannot vote,’ as one councillor described the arrangement.

“People are being placed in debt by the actions of the PCC. This must stop.”

Pembrokeshire County Council has been contacted for a response.


Pembrokeshire airport lease expected to be completed by end of year



HAVERFORDWEST’S council-run airport, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, is expected to be leased out by the end of the year following “reasonably complex” negotiations, councillors heard.

Back in May, members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet supported the leasing of Withybush Airport as part of plans to make the facility cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

That loss has been reduced to an expected £119,000 for 2023/24 “following an extensive review of the operations of the airport”.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s full council, a series of submitted questions on the airport were heard.

Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole asked: “With the council leasing out the Haverfordwest airport, can members be assured that the lease is at comparable rent with similar airport facilities, and the airport being offloaded purely as a cost savings measure?”

He also asked a second related question: “Are current users protected and assured that their tenancy and rents currently payable to the authority are taken into consideration?”

Responding, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said the proposed letting was considered to be “best letting,” with restricted private documents detailing the figures available to all members.

On the second question, he said existing tenants had been involved throughout the process, and once the new overall lease was in place tenants would be protected through legislation.

However, he stressed the new leaseholder would be able to change conditions in the future and the council would “not dictate terms” in the future.

A further question was asked by Saundersfoot South councillor Chris Williams: “On a recent services meeting back in 2023, we had a productive meeting at Withybush Airport to look at the impact regarding costs to PCC and to consider options with regards to its future operation.

“Can you please clarify if the airport is still owned and operated by Pembrokeshire County Council and if so at what cost since April 1, 2024?”

Cllr Miller said the airport was still currently owned by the council following the Cabinet decision, with “reasonably complex” negotiations ongoing, complicated by land ownership issues and the need to obtain the civil aviation licence.

“Hopefully by the end of the calendar year we will have completed that transaction,” Cllr Miller said, adding that £25,000 had been spent since April 1.

Continue Reading


More than 19k animal lovers call to end greyhound racing in Wales



IN RSPCA open letter signed by an astonishing 19,715 people which calls for the end of greyhound racing in Wales has been delivered to the First Minister’s office.

The open letter, addressed to Vaughan Gething MS, the First Minister of Wales, stated that the thousands of signatories wish to see a phased end to the “outdated practice” in Wales in order to protect the welfare of countless dogs at risk of injury – or worse.

The RSPCA is part of the Cut the Chase coalition – which includes the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, Hope Rescue and Greyhound Rescue Wales – who have long expressed concern about the negative welfare consequences that racing and the greyhound industry has on the dogs involved. The regulated sector’s own figures show that between 2018 and 2023, 2,751 greyhounds died or were put to sleep for reasons other than natural causes or illness. (data covering England and Wales).

Meanwhile, more than 26,500 injuries were recorded from greyhound racing over the same time period*. The latest statistics from the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) – which regulates Wales’ only track – show that the number of dogs involved in racing who died increased by 47% in 2023, further adding to the coalition’s concerns.

Wales could be the first nation in the UK to phase out the activity. Earlier this year, the Welsh Government carried out a 12-week consultation which is considering the future of greyhound racing. The consultation closed in March.

The Welsh Government has yet to publish the outcome of the consultation – and in the meantime dogs at the Valley Greyhounds Stadium in Ystrad Mynach continue to risk death or serious injury due to being knocked over or falling at speeds often in excess of 40mph.

Published results from races and trials at the Valley track, analysed by Greyhound Rescue Wales, shows that, between 3 March and 29 May this year, nine dogs were recorded as “fell” and 15 more were recorded as “knocked over”.

But these stats don’t show the full picture. Injury data from individual tracks and veterinary reports aren’t released publicly, so the exact welfare impact of the dogs who have fallen in races remains unknown.

Billie-Jade Thomas, RSPCA Senior Public Affairs Manager in Wales said: “Greyhound racing is inherently dangerous for the dogs involved. Running at speed around oval tracks causes significant injury to many dogs, and in some cases, the injuries are so severe that it is necessary for dogs to be put to sleep.

“There are only 10 countries in the world – including all UK nations – where commercial greyhound racing still goes on in 2024. But the Welsh Government now has a golden opportunity to commit to phasing out greyhound racing in Wales once and for all, sending an important message to the rest of the UK that they need to act to deliver a better life for greyhounds.

“We’d like to thank everyone who signed our open letter – we were delighted to have such a strong response and have more than 19,000 people support this cause. It really does show the strength of feeling there is about ending greyhound racing, and what we can achieve together for animal welfare.”

At its peak, there were 250 licensed tracks in the UK. Today, only 20* remain, with only one that is unlicensed in Great Britain.

The Cut the Chase coalition has called for greyhound racing to be phased out over the next five years, and remains committed to the welfare of the dogs involved in the industry during this time.

Phasing out greyhound racing in Wales is a major campaign priority for the RSPCA, as the charity marks its landmark 200th anniversary this year. Since its formation in 1824, the RSPCA has changed more than 400 laws for animals.

Continue Reading


Senedd Chief demands evidence from Gething on Blythyn sacking



IN an unprecedented move, the Senedd Chief Executive has issued a formal request to First Minister Mark Drakeford, asking him to provide the evidence that Vaughan Gething relied upon to sack Hannah Blythyn. This request comes in response to a motion put forward by the Welsh Conservatives, demanding transparency from the Welsh Government.

Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, emphasised the gravity of the situation, stating, “This notice to the First Minister is unprecedented. We are facing unprecedented circumstances and hope the First Minister will comply with this notice. The people of Wales deserve answers regarding this saga.”

Davies also raised concerns about the potential existence of other undisclosed communications relevant to the ongoing COVID inquiry. He remarked, “The next important question is how many other sets of messages that may be relevant to the COVID inquiry are lurking around.”

The Senedd Chief Executive, Manon Antoniazzi, has given the First Minister until 5pm on 1st August to respond to the motion. The letter detailing this request has been made public and is expected to increase pressure on the Welsh Government for greater transparency.

The Welsh Conservatives’ push for accountability highlights a significant moment in Welsh politics, with the potential for broader implications on the management and oversight of governmental decisions during the pandemic.

Continue Reading

Community10 hours ago

Rubbish mounting in Milford estate due to ‘recycling confusion’

RESIDENTS of the Mount Estate in Milford Haven are voicing their frustrations and concerns as the area has turned into...

Health1 day ago

No improvement in cancer waiting times despite Welsh Govt plan

TWO years after the Welsh Government unveiled its ambitious plan to overhaul cancer care and reduce waiting times, the latest...

News2 days ago

Former school devastated by fire revealed as £2m drug factory just weeks ago

A SIGNFICANT blaze that led to the collapse of the roof of a former primary school in west Wales occurred...

Crime2 days ago

Thai woman accused of killing son in appears in court

A THAI woman accused of killing her seven-year-old son has made a court appearance. Papaipit Linse, 43, of Upper Market...

Crime2 days ago

Police investigate early hours hit and run in Haverfordwest

POLICE in Haverfordwest are investigating a road traffic collision which occurred at about 2.00am in the morning on Wednesday (Jul...

Charity2 days ago

King’s speech highlights focus on economic growth and defence

ON WEDNESDAY (Jul 17), the King delivered his Speech, outlining the government’s priorities for the coming year. Central to the...

Crime3 days ago

Haverfordwest man denies sexual assaults on boys under nine

A 41-YEAR-OLD Haverfordwest man has appeared before magistrates charged with sexually assaulting a boy under 13 on at least 44...

News3 days ago

First Minister quits after less than four months in job

FIRST MINISTER Vaughan Gething has announced his resignation. Gething did not offer any apologies for the events of the past...

News3 days ago

LIVE – Welsh Government ministers quit and call for First Minister to go

FOUR senior ministers of the Welsh Government have dramatically tendered their resignations in a bold protest against the leadership of...

Crime4 days ago

Ex-mayor gets suspended sentence for child images offences

A FORMER mayor of Pembroke Dock has been given a suspended jail sentence for the possession and distribution of indecent...

Popular This Week