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Welsh Government publishes council changes bill

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'A real opportunity to save money': Leighton Andrews hails end of local democracy

‘A real opportunity to save money’: Leighton Andrews hails end of local democracy

WHILE the Welsh Government has today (Tuesday, Nov 24) published its plans for local government reorganisation in a draft bill, the battleground between Cardiff Bay and local councils remains the same.

While the Welsh Government persists in claiming that reorganisation will produce savings in excess of the massive costs of merging Welsh local authorities, both Councils and the Welsh Local Government Association point out that against a background of increasingly deep budget cuts frontline services will have to be sacrificed to make the savings projected.

While the report underpinning the draft bill, the proposals in which will be the subject of public consultation, provides two options involving the three West Wales Councils of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Government has already indicated that its preferred option will see all three Councils merge their operations to create Dyfed Mark II.

None of the West Wales Councils want that: with Ceredigion – in particular – baulking at the prospect of losing its unitary authority status; Carmarthenshire’s leader Emlyn Dole has waxed lyrically and at length regarding the importance of retaining Carmarthenshire’s status as a unitary authority; Jamie Adams of Pembrokeshire has stressed that protection of the Pembrokeshire brand is his primary concern.

The Welsh Local Government Association said: “The Draft Bill does not adequately address the issue of Council Tax harmonisation and whatever the outcome of the Assembly election, reorganisation will not happen until 2020 at the earliest. Any predicted savings may therefore be almost a decade away and will not remedy the enormous financial challenges we face over the next five years.”

The WLGA response also points out that with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on public finances due to be produced after the Draft Bill’s publication, it remains to be seen precisely how much is yet to be squeezed out of Councils’ existing budgets before the costs of merger can be met.

The Welsh Government wrung support out of Plaid Cymru in October, only days after Simon Thomas AM – a front bench spokesperson for the party – described the Welsh Government’s plans as “taking the p*ss”.

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Richards-Keegan cleared of sending underage girl nude pictures

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A BOW STREET man has been cleared of charges that he sent an underage girl photographs of his penis.

Paul Robert Morgan Richards-Keegan, aged 21, had denied two allegations of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Richards-Keegan, of Tregerddan, said the only messages he sent her via the internet were in response to approaches from her and did not include photographs of his private parts.

Catherine Richards, prosecuting, had told a jury at Swansea Crown Court that the 14-year-old girl had shared messages with Richards-Keegan via Snapchat.

At one stage police issued to him a child abduction notice, which he signed, instructing him not to contact the girl

In 2016 she told her mother that he was again sending her unwanted photographs of his penis attached to messages.

Richards-Keegan was arrested, and told police he had obeyed the order apart from messages he had sent after being contacted by the complainant.

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Ben Lake MP gets First Class experience as he turns postie for the day in Lampeter

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Ceredigion MP Ben Lake experienced what is involved in delivering the post when he joined local postman Wyn on his delivery round in Lampeter yesterday.

Ben is one of a number of local MPs being invited to go out with postmen and women across Wales to see the lengths Royal Mail goes to, to deliver the post.

The purpose of the visits is to give MPs a unique insight into the challenges of delivering mail to every house and business in their constituency, six days a week.

Jamie Lambert, Royal Mail Delivery Manager, who briefed Ben before he set off on his walk said: “We’re delighted that Ben is taking the time to experience the every day challenges faced by our delivery postmen and women.

“The visit gave us the opportunity to show Ben how we are continuing to modernise and transform our organisation. We have invested in new sorting and delivery equipment as we respond to the changing nature of the modern postbag. We are delivering more parcels and fewer letters than ever before and the tools for the job need to reflect that.”

Ben Lake MP said: “Postmen and women perform an incredibly important service to our communities; not only do they ensure that our post is delivered, but they are often a vital contact for elderly individuals, and as such key to biding us closer together as a community.

“I wanted to get a real understanding of the work that goes into delivering the mail on a daily basis. There can be no better way of getting that insight than actually going out and joining a postman as he delivers his postal round.

“I would like to thank the team at the Lampeter Sorting Office for their work and welcome, and to Wyn for his patience as I followed him on his round.”

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Tenders invited for Cylch Caron

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Tenders are invited for the design and build of a new fully-integrated health, social care and housing centre, Cylch Caron in Tregaron.

The tendering opportunity has been advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union, and the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) published on 12 February 2018. Completed PQQ submissions must be made online through etenderwales by Noon on 15 March 2018.

Following a previous unsuccessful exercise the Cylch Caron Project Board voted to explore new tender options for the design and construction of the facility. Subsequently, this tender for a design and build solution has been developed to deliver best value for money and fit-for-purpose health and extra care facilities, for current and future generations.

Councillor Catherine Hughes, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Social Services, and Chair of the Cylch Caron Stakeholder Board, said: “After exploring ways in which to move this project forward successfully, this is an important milestone that I am very happy to see. The Project Board agreed to re-procure the scheme on a Design and Build basis which will hopefully be an attractive prospect to building companies.”

The scheme is being developed in partnership between Ceredigion County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Mid-Wales Housing and the Welsh Government. It will consist of a GP surgery, community pharmacy, outpatient clinics and community nursing services, as well as extra care flats and integrated health and social care units.

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