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Call for clarity on council mergers

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councilWITH the deadline approaching for local authorities to set out proposals for voluntary mergers, the Welsh Government has confirmed a timetable for final decisions and elections. At Assembly question time on Wednesday (Oct 8), Joyce Watson AM asked Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews to clarify plans for upcoming elections to local authorities, whether or not they choose to merge with neighbouring councils. Joyce Watson asked:“It seems difficult to set out clear timetables for local elections until we know where we are with voluntary mergers.

However, will you confirm that elections to existing local authorities will take place in May 2017 and that those authorities who merge voluntarily will have their elections in May 2018? Are you confident that local representatives and voters are equally clear about that?” The Welsh Government set out plans for sweeping changes to local government in the Reforming Local Government White Paper, which it consulted on from 8 July to 1 October. Local Authorities have until 28 November to come forward with voluntary merger plans. In west Wales, Pembrokeshire County Council is exploring a potential merger with Ceredigion. That is despite Ceredigion councillors rejecting the idea in a unanimous vote last month.

Meanwhile, Carmarthenshire Council’s Labour leader Kevin Madge has said the county should continue as a standalone authority. In answer to Mrs Watson, Mr Andrews said: “The Member is right, and the onus is on local authorities to indicate whether they are going to come forward with voluntary merger proposals. “Voluntary merged councils will not have elections in 2017; unmerged councils will. Voluntary merged councils will vest in April 2018, having been set up in shadow form in April 2017, and they will have elections in May 2018.

The first elections for the remaining new authorities will be in May 2019, with shadow authorities and shadow councils established and vesting day for those new authorities would then be in April 2020. In May 2022, full local government elections for all authorities would be held.” “I look forward to receiving many expressions of interest by November 28.”

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Police call for vigilance to report illegal raves

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is asking farmers and local landowners to be on the alert over the next few months for warning signs of any illegal gatherings planned for their land over the summer.

Gatherings – such as illegal raves – can cause considerable anxiety to the community and if they are not dealt with swiftly, they are difficult to stop or otherwise control, due often to the sheer numbers of persons involved and the safety aspects surrounding breaking up such an event.

Superintendent Robyn Mason said: “There is little doubt that these type of events are very well planned, organised and that local knowledge is important in drawing down the main group to a particular ‘vulnerable’ field, or area of land which has been targeted previously as a suitable venue.

“Farmers, landowners and local communities are encouraged to report any suspicious activity immediately to the Police; this may be an unusual numbers of vehicles, especially camper vans, vans or trucks in the locality, illegal trespassers who may be doing ‘recce’ of sites in advance of the event.

“I can assure local communities that Police will take the appropriate action to deter illegal gatherings and deal robustly with any criminal offences discovered or disclosed.”  

Members of the public are also urged to be vigilant of persons who approach landowners or enquiring for land, in the guise of hiring for apparently acceptable activities such as gymkhanas and scouts/guides events.

Please contact Police on 101 with reports on any suspicious activity.

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Wheelchair-bound man jailed for child sex offences

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A CHILD sex offender from Ystrad Meurig has been jailed despite being wheelchair-bound.

Dean Harper, aged 61, had distributed child pornography and tried to entice a 10-year-old girl into sexually abusing herself and sending him photographs.

Harper, of Sisial y Pin, Ffair Rhos, admitted downloading 317 indecent images of children in the most serious category A, 400 in category B and 500 in C.

He also admitted sending images in all three categories to a third party, all on a single day in October, 2016.

Harper also admitted attempting to incite the girl into sexual activity knowing that she was only 10-years-old.

Kevin Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that the distribution of the images alerted the police who raided Harper’s home and removed computer equipment.

An examination of his internet activity revealed he had made contact with a girl via social media and swapped messages with her.

The judge, Mr Recorder Peter Griffiths told Harper his offending was serious and a jail sentence was inevitable despite his disability.

Harper was jailed for a total of two years and ordered to register with the police as a sex offender for 10 years.

He was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order which will restrict his contact with young people and his internet activity after his release from prison.

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Royals set to visit Ceredigion during summer visit

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AS PART of their annual summer visit to Wales, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be visiting Ceredigion next month.

From July 2-6, Charles and Camilla will tour the country, undertaking over 20 engagements across the country.

On July 3, The Prince of Wales will visit Dà Mhìle Distillery, Llandysul, the first organic distillery in the UK approved by the Soil Association, where he was previously gifted the thousandth bottle to be produced by Dà Mhìle.

The Prince of Wales will also visit St. Gwenog’s Church, Llanwenog, and view their unique carvings created by Joseph Reubens, a Belgian World War One refugee. His Royal Highness will also meet members of their local community.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall’s fourteenth annual Summer visit to Wales will feature celebrations to mark the 70th Anniversary of The National Health Service and the marking the 150th anniversary of the Heart of Wales railway line amongst other events.

A Clarence House spokesperson said: “The Prince and The Duchess are really looking forward to their annual summer visit to Wales where they will be celebrating key anniversaries for the National Health Service, the Heart of Wales railway line and the 90th anniversary of Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisation. Their Royal Highnesses relish the opportunity to meet members of the community who are making a difference to Welsh life.”

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