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Politics

How Pembrokeshire candidates will tackle the cost-of-living crisis

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AHEAD of the July 4 general election, Mid and South Pembrokeshire general election hopefuls have outlined what they will do about the cost-of-living crisis.

As part of constituency changes, bits of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids and– are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency.

Mid and South Pembrokeshire covers Letterston, Solva and St Davids down to Hundleton and Tenby, stretching eastwards to Amroth, Narberth and Lampeter Velfrey.

Other parts of the north of the county are now in the new Ceredigion Preseli constituency; which extends up past Aberystwyth and also includes Cilgerran, Crymych, St Dogmaels, Fishguard and Llanrhian.

There’s now a 15-candidate battle for the two seats, eight in Mid and South Pembrokeshire and seven in Ceredigion Preseli.

With a July 4 date set for the general election, the currently declared candidates for Mid and South Pembrokeshire are: 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); and Henry Tufnell (Welsh Labour).

In the run-up to the election, all candidates were asked: “What will you do to improve the economic situation/ help tackle to cost-of-living crisis in your constituency?”

Alistair Cameron (Liberal Democrat) said: “We need the UK Government to help provide the infrastructure in Pembrokeshire (particularly around the Milford Haven estuary) to develop floating offshore wind (which could provide up to one third of Britain’s domestic electricity needs) and green hydrogen. This should support our county’s economy and lead to high quality local jobs.

“I also want to see better trading links with our European partners in order to boost local trade and jobs, particularly as we have two ferry ports to Ireland in Pembrokeshire.

“We need to see government investment and support for our town centres and the tourism industry.

“Pembrokeshire has the fourth highest level of child poverty in Wales. Liberal Democrats would scrap the bedroom tax and replace the sanctions regime with an incentive-based system to help people into work.”

James Purchase (Green Party) said: “‘Ich Dien’ will be my motto (without the feathers) and I will serve the people of Pembrokeshire to ensure an economic mix of both industrial and rural that will bring well-being and a better quality of life for everyone, as well as protecting the environment and enabling us to tackle the climate crisis.

“The bitter cost-of-living crisis was largely caused by a not fit for purpose energy security policy; buying in fossil fuel energy when we should have been using nationalised Welsh wind, Welsh tides and Welsh water power. Privatisation has failed miserably and un-earned dividends are paid to shareholders whilst infrastructure is run into the ground. The Green Party is committed to public ownership of public services so that they are run to serve all.”

Hanna Andersen (Women Equality Party) said: “For 14 years the Conservatives have cut our services and driven policies that mean a third of children are now growing up in poverty.

“The old parties chase growth at all costs, but who benefits when we still can’t pay our energy bills or access care when we need it?

“At the Women’s Equality Party, we are committed to investing in care by introducing Universal Free Childcare and a National Social Care system, free at the point of use. We will end child poverty by increasing child benefit, putting a stop to the harmful two-child benefit cap and increasing carer’s allowance.”

Henry Tufnell (Labour) said: “I have been knocking on doors and listening to residents for over a year now, and the number one issue is the cost of living.

“The Tory Government has lurched from crisis to crisis, playing fast and loose with the public finances, and the result is an economy with high taxes, high interest rates, high inflation and low growth.

“Economic stability and security are vital for our county and our country. Labour’s manifesto is fully costed and fully funded, and designed to create the necessary conditions to partner with business and create economic growth.

“It is vital that we turn the page on this Tory chaos.”

Stephen Crabb (Conservative) said: “I have a reputation for getting things done in our community, and for helping people of all backgrounds. I helped lead the campaign to secure the Celtic Freeport, and I work closely with local industry to help bring new investment and jobs to the Haven Waterway.

“I have also worked hard to secure £27 million Levelling Up money for Pembrokeshire which will help to bring new activity back into our towns.

“During the pandemic, me and my team worked tirelessly to ensure that local families had their incomes protected: 18,000 people had furlough and 4,500 self-employed people received support.

“Fighting for new and better jobs for Pembrokeshire people will always be a key priority for me.”

Stuart Marchant (Reform UK) said: “In Pembrokeshire we need to revitalise our fishing fleet and support farmers to farm as well as aspiring to take full advantage of our tourist trade and possible developments.

“These three key industries have been attacked in recent years and decades and deprived Pembrokeshire of much-needed jobs. Jobs that encompassed both lower and higher payroll groups.

“I would strive to be a voice of support and change so that these three industries could play the crucial role that they ought to within the constituency. I would also seek out real and true financially rewarding developments that do provide local jobs.

“I also believe that my party’s policy of making work pay is key. A £20,000 starting tax threshold as well as a £70,000 upper tax threshold would, in my view, lead to making work pay.”

Vusi Siphika (Independant) said: “As the sixth richest country in the world we have the means and capability to ensure all our citizens maintain a comfortable standard of living.

“The cost-of-living crisis is as much about lifting up and supporting all our citizens and prioritising our working families who are in poverty, namely 24.7 per cent across Pembrokeshire.

“By enabling all our citizens to maximize their capabilities, create fair and good employment, narrow the wealth inequality via good wages supplemented by an increase in the threshold for universal credit and creating sustainable, good quality and affordable housing for all. Our roadmap to a healthier constituency.”

Cris Tomos (Plaid Cymru) said: “I recognise the inequality in economic performance of different nations and regions in the UK, Plaid Cymru propose an Economic Fairness Bill that will make levelling up a meaningful phrase, rather than a political slogan, ensuring that the impact of fiscal decisions are considered on a wider level than just what is best for the City of London.

“I campaigned in 2016 for Wales to stay in the European Union, recognising both the social and economic benefits which accrued from that membership. I respected the result of the referendum, but, with the Conservatives having led us down a path of destruction, we believe that the UK should re-enter the European Single Market and Customs Union at the earliest opportunity, in order to mitigate the impact of Brexit on Welsh business and reduce overheads and administrative costs.”

Politics

Complaints against Senedd members leap by 167%

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THE STANDARDS commissioner received 190 complaints against Senedd members in 2023/24 – an annual increase of more than 167% and 331% over two years.

Douglas Bain, who investigates complaints against misbehaving members, said the number of complaints received is the highest since 2020/21.

In his 2023/24 report, which was published this week, Mr Bain put the avalanche partly down to two unnamed Senedd members – who were subject to 58 complaints between them.

He added that one member of the public made a further 26 complaints.

“Nonetheless, it is clear that even without these individual contributions there was a very significant increase,” he warned.

“I do not believe that this increase in the number of complaints received indicates any reduction in the generally high standard of conduct of Members of the Senedd.”

Mr Bain, who was appointed in 2021 after a stint as acting commissioner, pointed out that the number of inadmissible complaints was the highest in the past four years at 84.

He wrote: “On one view, the increase in the number of complaints is to be welcomed as demonstrating a greater public interest in and closer scrutiny of the work and conduct of MSs. That public scrutiny plays an important part in our democratic process.”

Mr Bain received 53 complaints relating to conduct on social media, three on misuse of resources, 17 on the standard of services and 24 on the register of interests.

The commissioner also dealt with 29 complaints on ministerial conduct or behaviour in plenary with 64 complaints classified as “other”.

Mr Bain, who is based in Northern Ireland, said: “Comments made by Members on social media were … by far the most common subject for complaints.”

The commissioner said many were inadmissible but he urged Senedd members to take great care when posting, sharing or liking anything on social media.

He told the Senedd a high proportion of his time was taken up by a complaint against Rhys ab Owen and grievances surrounding the change to a 20mph default speed limit.

Mr ab Owen, who sits as an independent, was given a 42-day suspension in March for breaching the code of conduct by bringing the Senedd into disrepute.

The commissioner said he received a complaint that a “very drunk” Mr ab Owen twice called a woman a bitch after leaving the Wetherspoons in Cardiff Bay on June 30, 2021.

Mr Bain said the complainant said the former Plaid Cymru MS placed his hand on her thigh near her groin in the back of a taxi – an allegation Mr ab Owen denied.

He wrote that Mr ab Owen raised concerns about the fairness of the complaints process, claiming the investigation contravened his human rights.

Mr Bain said he received 30 complaints relating to the 20mph default speed limit, evenly split between people opposed to the new limit and those in favour.

The standards commissioner cleared Andrew RT Davies – leader of the Tory group in the Senedd – of breaching the code of conduct for describing 20mph as a “blanket” policy.

He was satisfied that the “blanket” description was “imprecise and inaccurate” but he concluded that that is not synonymous with being untruthful.

Calling for more powers, Mr Bain raised concern about the rules governing the standards commissioner which have not been updated in 15 years.

“During that period a number of deficiencies have been identified,” he wrote. “Amongst the most important of these is the absence of a provision empowering the commissioner to initiate an investigation without the need for a complaint.”

He warned this renders rules around lobbying the commissioner and making frivolous, vexatious or manifestly unfounded complaints of little value.

Mr Bain said: “Whilst I appreciate the pressures on Senedd time, I do not consider that reform of the measure should remain on the ‘back burner’.”

In the annual report, the total cost of the standard’s commissioner’s office was £133,992 in 2023/24 – a near-25% increase on 2021/22.

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Community

Petitions against Pembrokeshire day care centre closures to be discussed

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TWO PETITIONS calling on Pembrokeshire County Council to reverse its decision to close day care centres in Pembroke Dock, Crymych and Narberth are to be heard at County Hall later this week.

The two petitions, on the council’s own e-petitions webpage, drew nearly 3,400 signatures between them.

Earlier this year, senior councillors backed plans to close two of the county’s centres for older adults and those with learning disabilities, Portfield SAC, Haverfordwest, and Avenue SAC, Tenby; service users moving to other centres in the county.

The county council is currently changing care provision for older adults and those with learning disabilities, and fears have been raised recently that Pembroke Dock’s Anchorage day care centre is to close.

A series of engagement events have taken place at The Anchorage recently, outlining the reasons and the options in continued service.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “One young woman who attends ran out of the first meeting sobbing when she was told it was going to close.

“Another, at the second meeting, tried to address the meeting, but was so choked up at the thought of not seeing her friends any more she could hardly speak.”

It now is feared Narberth’s Lee Davies Day Care Centre and Crymych’s Bro Preseli Day Centre could also close, with concerns it is due solely to budgetary reasons.

An e-petition on the council’s own website, by John Llewellyn of Living Memory Group, entitled against the closure of the Lee Davies and Bro Preseli day care centres.

The two petitions, which have now both closed, attracted 1,701 and 1,675 signatures respectively.

As they have both met the threshold for debate at council, they will both be heard at the July 18 meeting of full council.

Peter Welsh, in his petition for Pembroke Dock’s The Anchorage, says: “We call on Pembrokeshire County Council to reverse its decision to close the Anchorage Social Activity Centre based in Pembroke Dock as part of the council’s reduction in services being imposed following the recent budget approval.”

Mr Llewellyn’s petition for the Lee Davies and Bro Preseli day care centres reads: “We call on Pembrokeshire County Council to Review the closure of the Lee Davies Day Care Centre at Bloomfield’s and the Bro Preseli Day Centre at Crymych.

“Staff at both Day Care Centres were informed in Mid-March that both facilities would be closing due to PCC budget cuts. Both centres are an essential outlet for the well-being of the attendees and their families.”

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Politics

Council slammed for pension funds invested in companies connected with Israel

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A CALL is to be made for Pembrokeshire County Council to end its involvement in a pension fund that has invested millions with companies connected with Israel, which objectors say makes the authority “complicit in the genocide in Gaza”.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, two related, submitted, questions will be asked by members of the public.

Both are asking for the council to divest its involvement in the local government pension scheme the Dyfed pension fund, which they say has more than £60m invested in companies connected with Israel.

In a question which includes a statement written by Palestine Solidarity Campaign with full details, Suzanne Radford-Smith will ask: “I am writing to draw attention to the fact that Dyfed pension fund has £64m invested in companies that are connected with Israel and to ask that Dyfed pension fund divests from these companies.

“Many of these companies are making arms and weapons being used by the Israeli army in the war on Palestine which makes them complicit in the genocide in Gaza.

“I believe this makes PCC also complicit in that genocide.

“Will Pembrokeshire County Council divest the pension fund from these companies?”

A similar question by Marjorie Hawkins will ask: “I receive a pension from Dyfed Pension Fund and have recently found out that Dyfed pension fund has £64m invested in companies that are connected with Israel.

“Many of these companies are making arms and weapons being used by the Israeli army in the war on Palestine which makes them complicit in the genocide in Gaza.

“I am very dismayed to find out this information and feel that this makes PCC (as one of the county councils in Dyfed Pension Fund) also complicit in that genocide.

“I spent over 10 years working as a social worker in Pembrokeshire. 10 years before this I was a social worker in Swansea and also worked for the NHS previously. I chose to work in jobs that were not involved in making profits or exploiting other people. I am very upset and outraged to find that the pension I receive is complicit in a genocide that is ongoing and we witness daily.

“Will Pembrokeshire County Council divest the pension fund from such companies that are complicit in this genocide?”

Both questions, and their call, will be heard at the full meeting of Pembrokeshire County council today (July 18).

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