FLY WALES’ Jonathan Rees wants Pembrokeshire County Council to come down to Haverfordwest airport to see what it is all about.
The council has recently approved a consultation on the future of the airport but Jonathan Rees told the Herald that closing the airport would have a big impact on Pembrokeshire.
Jonathan has invested heavily into the business and says that the airport is an asset not just to businesses but to the people of Pembrokeshire as well.
One option that was mentioned at the cabinet meeting in April was the possibility of using Brawdy as an alternative but that idea was also dismissed by Jonathan.
He said: “No one has taken the time to know what is actually going on here, so for them to say this needs to be closed, they should at least come up to the airport first to see what is going on and the jobs it has created and if it did close, the jobs that would be lost directly. We do a lot of NHS work which involves a lot of organ flights all over the UK from Haverfordwest. We may go to pick up surgical teams from London or Newcastle to fly out to wherever the donor is, retrieve the organs and go back to where they are needed. Haverfordwest is able to offer a 24- hour service because we’ve already got the infrastructure of the lighting as a lot of the organ retrievals are done in the evenings. On Saturday evening there was an organ which left here at 11.30 and that was flown to Edinburgh and another that went to Edinburgh on Tuesday morning. The Charter also flies companies around Pembrokeshire. The LNG oil refinery does use this facility and it does use it to fly in people whenever something major is happening. When Marks and Spencer was being built in Haverfordwest, they were flying in and out as well. The packaging companies that are processing, they use us to fly in the buyers for Tesco, Morrisons and Asda. All these companies are quite large employers for the county of Pembrokeshire. We also do work for the MOD in Aberporth. Whilst there is an airfield at Aberporth it is used for the UAV’s which means they can’t use commercial transport. We’ve seen an increase of over 300% in Pilot training, up on where we were last year, bearing in mind we are coming out of one the most severe recessions. We are actually now attracting people and we’ve got students coming over to learn to fly at Haverfordwest from Hong Kong in May. As well as being good for the economy of the airport this will also be good for the local economy with accommodation and services that are provided being used. People do use the facility for pleasure flights whilst on holiday and one comment I’ve had is that it was the icing on the cake of their holiday and they would want to come again.”
He continued: “Brawdy is not an option because, going back to the charter, from the minute we have a phone call, until the craft is airborne, has to be 45 minutes and that’s 24- 7. For us to be out in Brawdy, there are no lights, there is no runway lighting, no control tower, and no security facility. The infrastructure at Brawdy means it is just not an option. The airport has made a loss of £46,000 but my view is that whilst we are getting busier, we are going to be buying more fuel, we are going to be making more profit so that loss will slowly diminish. The airport shouldn’t be looked at as a separate entity because other jobs are supported by the airport. It isn’t just a playground for people. It is a proper business.”
Jonathan also revealed that the area in which they operate could soon be expanding to areas in Iceland, Russia and Yemen.
He continued: “Before the council talks about closure and before they suggest something like Brawdy, why don’t they come up and see what really happens at the Haverfordwest Aerodrome. What I would like is for the council to come up to Haverfordwest airport to have a discussion about what the airport does, what services go from here and who it is provided for. It is a huge asset for the businesses and even to the people of Pembrokeshire and it is a huge asset to encouraging investment. If the airport was to close it would definitely have an impact. I would close the aviation site and I wouldn’t relocate as it wouldn’t be viable. It works here because we can guarantee that aircraft will be airborne within 45 minutes. Everything is close at hand and this is why we are very good at what we do.”
Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action
DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.
The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.
A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.
“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.
“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.
“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”
The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister
THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.
The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.
Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.
Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.
He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.
Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.
“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.
“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.
“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”
WASPI unaffected by appeal’s failure
A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.
WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED
The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
“WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.
THE APPEAL ISSUE
The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).
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