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Council discusses scrutiny

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County Hall

County Hall

AT TUESDAY’S Democratic Services Committee, Councillors discussed a number of ways to help improve scrutiny. They discussed its effectiveness, ways to improve it, adequacy of support and public engagement. Cllr Owen James said: “There needs to be a recognition of how good they think scrutiny is. What measurement facilities are there?” Mark Elliot, Head of Public Protection, responded: “It’s very hard to define success criteria; the way it was done was all about a self-assessment process, identifying examples of good practice and areas for development. There is nothing previous to this but there is nothing set in stone other than the examples we have.”

Cllr Pat Davies said: “With my committee we evaluated where we were going and what we wanted to achieve. The task and finish group was set up as was the school standards. Each committee should be able to do a self-evaluation.” Mark Elliot added: “It is important to get member engagement. The starting point would be to begin with the template that the Welsh Audit Office has come up with and trial that. Then there can be some sort of judgement as to where we are.” Cllr Rhys Sinnett said: “I support trying it out and seeing if there are any gaps.

We won’t know unless we try it out.” Cllr James added: “With regards to member engagement – this is something that you need right across the authority. If everyone is involved it will be quite a pleasant environment, at the moment we don’t have that. You can’t do one without the other.” Huw Miller, Head of Legal & Committee Services, said: “The stance you are taking so far is good. There is a need to involve all members – members of scrutiny will change. You have to consider how you notify and involve all other members.”

He continued: “All chairs will produce annual reports and they will all be put on the website. The scrutiny website is building up quite nicely. Any member can see how scrutiny works.” Cllr Pat Davies said: “Scrutiny members sit in their groups; I don’t like that and I have switched names around in the past. They shouldn’t be there to sit in political groups.” Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse said: “I can see the point of this but it depends on the size of the committee and the size of the room and the business being discussed.”

Cllr Keith Lewis added: “I would always argue caution in terms of trying to over manage the situation. We are where we are, we’ve got to sit somewhere.” Cllr Allen-Mirehouse added: “Public engagement is very important; councillors are elected to represent their interests and views. It is very important that the public know what is happening. Somebody who does not know what is going on will come to a wrong decision. We are not trying to cut the public off; we all have a responsibility to our electors.”

Cllr Sinnett said: “We have to respond to our direct electors. The question is how we get their views of a topic we are looking at. We invite external views and this would be very useful to triangulate those. We are the ones who have to make the decision.” Cllr Keith Lewis said: “I agree with everything being said but you are missing out on one fundamental tier of government. “We should also consider the roles of community councillors. There are some which are very efficient and there are some which are useless.

“There have been examples recently like the public toilets; any decision we make will affect that area. “There have been different outcomes, other communities have said they would take them on but they haven’t”. Cllr Pat Davies said: “This could be a vehicle for trying to engage better with town and community councils”. Cllr Allen-Allen-Mirehouse added: “The community councils are very keen for the council to spend money in their wards. The town and community councils do not want a certain asset removed and this is where the role of the community council comes in. “It is good for democracy, that although a councillor may not get their way, their voice has been heard”.

Huw Miller then spoke about the adequacy of scrutiny support. He said: “This is the first report of adequacy of scrutiny. When the team was set up it was pointed out that there was a gap in terms of support for scrutiny. They have done a great job in taking the authority forward in terms of the scrutiny function. We are getting there, we are not there yet.

I don’t think there is perfect scrutiny and we’ve got to do our best to try and get as close to that as we possibly can.I’m certainly of the view that the current provision of staff is sufficient but it has to be kept under continual review.” Finally, Councillors spoke about public engagement, focussing on the forms that are available on the council’s website. Members of the public are free to submit their views on any agenda item that is being discussed and they can also submit a proposal for an agenda item.

Cllr Owen James said: “This is something new you’re engaging in. It may cause an awful lot of work. I think we should let this grow organically rather than push it out there.” Cllr Rhys Sinnett added: “It is down to the committee to decide whether or not and when to add it to its work agenda. It needs to be clear that you can suggest things but it won’t automatically be discussed. There is a process that has to be gone through by a committee.”

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New Information Centre opens at Withybush Hospital for those affected by Cancer

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A NEW Macmillan Information and Support Centre has opened at the entrance to Hywel Dda University Health Board’s Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest to help those looking for advice and support about cancer.

The Centre has been officially opened by 10-year-old Ethan Llewelyn-Dimon, from Whitland. He recently raised a staggering £3,600 for Macmillan Cancer Support Wales by growing his hair to make a wig for the Little Princess Trust. Ethan’s family has been affected by cancer twice. His aunty Jo and mamgu had cancer. Sadly he never got to meet his aunty, as she passed away before he was born. Thankfully his Mamgu survived although she had three operations and lost her hair during the treatment. Ethan decided to grow his hair long enough to be made into a wig for children going through cancer and wanted to raise money as well to give something back to those who helped his family.

The new Information and Support Centre is open 9am – 5pm, from Monday to Friday. Helen Wood and Rachel Kersey, Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Coordinators, will be in the Centre to offer information and support.

Helen Wood said, “Being told that you have cancer is one of the hardest things that you hear, and it can be a scary time where sometimes you just need someone who you can ask for support and information about what is out there that might help. This is why we developed the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service and have been supporting people in Pembrokeshire for the past six years. We are there for anyone affected by cancer in many different ways from emotional support and someone to talk to, help to access psychological support from specialist Cancer Counsellors or a referral to the Macmillan Benefits Advice Team. We can provide both electronic and hard copies of the various Macmillan resources or signpost to other local and national organisations or support networks.” 

The pandemic meant support was only available over the phone but the opening of the Centre means face to face meetings are once again possible, but for the time being it must be a booked appointment to help keep everyone as safe as possible. 

Official opening of new cancer information and support centre in Withybush hospital

Rachel Kersey said, “It is always a privilege to be able to help, no question is too small and if you are unsure of what you need, just give us a call on 01437 773859.”

Anna Tee, Partnership Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said, “Macmillan is delighted to have designed and funded this fantastic new space for people who need cancer information in collaboration with Hywel Dda.”  

Gina Beard, Lead Cancer Nurse for Hywel Dda University Health Board said, “This is a service that is provided throughout Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and when circumstances allow, we will reach out to local businesses and attend events. The support service is here for people with concerns around a cancer diagnosis whether that’s the individual, friends or family. We are urging patients to come forward for diagnostic tests as we are concerned that many are still not seeking the care they need due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We want people who suspect they have cancer to know we are very much open for business.”

The way the public access NHS services has changed and the Welsh Government is encouraging people to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them as part of its Help Us, Help You campaign. The Macmillan support service can help with support and advice. The Health Board are also urging people to phone their local GP surgery if they think they might have symptoms of cancer, such as a new lump, pain, bleeding or sudden weight loss.

The Macmillan Information and Support Centre can be contacted by telephoning: 01437 773 859 or email: MacmillanCISSPembrokeshire.HDD@wales.nhs.uk

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine in west Wales

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to various locations in west Wales.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody.

They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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Fishguard RNLI rescues drifting pleasure boat and crew

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ON SATURDAY evening  (Jul 24) a member of the public walking the coastal path near Carregwastad Point saw, in the fading light, a pleasure boat with people aboard apparently in difficulty. The member of the public then called 999.

This resulted in Fishguard RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat launching at 8.50pm with a full volunteer crew and speeding to the scene in calm sea conditions. Upon arrival at the location the lifeboat found a 7 foot pleasure boat drifting with four young men onboard.

Location of incident at Carregwastad Point, North Pembrokeshire (Image ONS)

The boat’s outboard engine had broken down and they had no auxiliary engine or any safety equipment, no lights, and no form of communication.

A tow line was attached to the boat and the men were transferred to the lifeboat.

One of the lifeboat crew went aboard the pleasure boat for the return journey to Goodwick public slipway where UK Coastguard personnel were waiting to speak with the four men.

The lifeboat returned to its station, arriving at 9.50pm.

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