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Park and Ride service saved

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Saved: 503

ABERYSTWYTH’S Park and Ride service, which is a vital link between the town and Bronglais Hospital, has been saved – for now. 

A County Council press statement confirmed that a new service would start on Thursday (Sept 1), following an eleventh hour deal with Mid Wales Transport to continue running it until the end of December this year.

This new service will serve all stops on what was the 503 Park and Ride Service contract, which ended on Wednesday (Aug 31).

The circular service will run every half an hour from Aberystwyth Bus Interchange, with the first one of the day departing at 9am and the last one at 2.30pm. The service will operate Monday to Saturday except Bank Holidays.

All those wishing to park at the car park located on Boulevard St Brieuc will continue to pay the appropriate charge, which is currently £1.40 a day. Anyone wishing to use the bus services serving the stop adjacent to the car park, including the new 503, will pay the appropriate fare or, where applicable, show their valid concessionary fare pass.

Councillor Alun Williams, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport, said: “I’d like to thank council officers who initiated successful discussions with the service provider at the request of the Cabinet and to Mid Wales Travel for their help and co-operation. It’s good to see that locally we can work together to explore alternative, cost-effective ways of maintaining services.”

Information regarding what happens as of January 1, 2017 will be provided in due course.

However, the good news has been tarnished by Aberystwyth councillor Ceredig Davies, claiming that service users had been ‘worrying for months’.

COUNCIL CRITICISED 

The announcement may have been made in the nick of time; however, it is far from the whole story, with claims made by the council regarding the number of service users and the cost of providing the service thrown into doubt.

When The Herald approached the council following a critical meeting of its Cabinet, the local authority – understandably – played things close to its chest – only confirming ‘officers will be meeting with the current service provider very shortly and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage’.

But it is the way the council arrived at that point which has caused concern.

At its meeting on June 28, 2016, the Cabinet agreed to defer the decision relating to the Park and Ride service in Aberystwyth in order to give the Thriving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee an opportunity to consider the matter.

A Special Meeting was held on July 14, 2016, to consider the report and recommendations were then presented to the Cabinet on July 19. That decision was to realise savings by not extending or renewing the contract when it ended on August 31.

However, the matter was called in by Cllrs Dai Mason, Gareth Davies and Paul James, and the Thriving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee met on August 9 to consider the decision of the Cabinet meeting in relation to the Park and Ride Service in Aberystwyth.

The grounds for the call in and subsequent recommendation were startling and bear repeating in full: “It’s possible that councillors have been misled by anecdotal information re the number of people using the Aberystwyth Park and Ride scheme. According to the information presented, very few people use the facility whilst the council’s official figures prove otherwise, with over 60,000 using the service last year, and 15,000 of those using the service to Bronglais hospital.

“This situation needs to be a ‘call in’ based on the fact that the true facts have not been presented. It’s possible that councillors have been misled about the running cost of the Park and Ride scheme in Aberystwyth. No financial accounts re the scheme have been presented to date, and thus no decision can be made based on loss or profit made from the Park and Ride scheme.”

In light of that, the committee recommended that: ‘Should the operator serve notice to the Transport Commissioner to terminate the route, then the council seeks tenders to provide a new service for a period of 12 months>”

FALSE PREMISE 

If the reasons for the call in above were not damning enough, a report from the Health Board regarding the works due to be carried out on Caradog Road show the extent to which the situation had been misunderstood.

Apart from the issue of realising a saving, in June, Cabinet members had been told that changes planned to the access at Bronglais Hospital would render the current route unworkable and usage of the service is modest, as are actual numbers using the service to access Bronglais Hospital.

While the issue of usage numbers was effectively scotched by the Thriving Communities Committee in July, a report from the Health Board has since confirmed that access to Caradog Road would not be continuously obstructed, and that any break in access would be only ‘sporadic’.

The council confirmed that claims Caradog Road would be unavailable for the Park and Ride service were incorrect.

Hywel Dda Health Board confirmed to The Herald that Bronglais Hospital’s Caradog Road entrance would be closed from Monday (Sept 5) to Tuesday, September 13. Other periods when Caradog Road would be inaccessible are dependent on the progress of other works over a period ending in May 2017.

Phil Jones, Hospital Director at Bronglais Hospital, said: “The hospital staff at Bronglais are optimistic that this vital service will be supported for the benefit of our patients who often have a long journey in mid Wales to reach Bronglais hospital. The support of the council in these difficult financial times is appreciated.”

SCRUTINY SYSTEM WORKS 

At the outset of the process leading to the original decision to discontinue the Park and Ride Service, some Cabinet members are noted as expressing concerns about the short period of time before the contract’s end. In addition, reservations were expressed about the paucity of concrete data. Notwithstanding those concerns, the Cabinet was ultimately persuaded to end the service on what turned out to be at least partly fallacious bases: user figures were not as bad as suggested; the access to Bronglais would not be lost for nine months; no revenue figures to back a contention of loss were produced.

However, it is to the Cabinet’s credit that it both recognised the initial problems, remitted it to the Thriving Communities Committee, and were later prepared to take on board the observations and recommendations made by members of that Committee. The effectiveness of the Scrutiny Committee system, in those circumstances, show robust examination of the decision-making process.

Of more concern is how the council reached the point – that it was only two months before the end of a key contract that the matter was brought to Cabinet and, as importantly, how on earth the Council came to rely on information and data that was proven to be no more than anecdotal (at best) and wrong (at worst).

Councillor Alun Williams’ thanks to officers for sorting out a situation of council officers’ own making cannot obscure the failings in the council’s internal processes. While the scrutiny system seems to have worked, the reasons that led to its involvement are certain to be closely examined.

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Dyfed-Powys Police lead chaplain, Reverend Tom Evans, to retire after “greatest nine years of working life”

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REVEREND Tom Evans (just Tom to officers and staff) is a bit of a legend in Dyfed-Powys Police, he has given his time freely and passionately to serve as the lead force chaplain for the past nine years – supporting officers and staff at the worst times of their lives and in the most challenging circumstances, but also cheering them on and celebrating with them at the best of times.

He’s been there for it all, and everyone knew that he was available 24/7, 365 days a year – astonishing dedication considering it was a volunteer role. In 2019, he clocked up a 1,000 hours volunteering, and this was pretty typical for him annually. He’s had a few desperate late night calls in this time, and stayed up talking until the early hours when the person on the other end of the phone needed it, and also taken calls whilst he and his wife Marilyn were holidaying abroad. But that’s the essence of Tom, nothing is ever too much trouble for him, and he genuinely and deeply cares about each and every person in the organisation.

He can be credited with ensuring that the multi faith Chaplaincy is now a part of the fabric of the organisation. He leads a team of 19 remarkable chaplains, which includes an Imam, volunteering throughout the force area – and he is quick to point out that it is the collective effort of them all that has guaranteed their ongoing success.

Commenting on his decision to retire, he said: “All things considered, I think it’s the appropriate time to leave, however sad I am to do so. At my age I think it is common sense. I retired from full time employment in 2008 – after an interesting and rewarding career. I was in the ministry first, moved onto world development matters with Christian Aid, then moved to media where I became a radio producer and presenter of programmes focusing on religion, and finally worked as a University lecturer. But volunteering as a Police chaplain has been a tremendous experience – one I wouldn’t have missed for the world, it’s been an absolute privilege. And I can honestly say it’s been the greatest nine years of my working life. The camaraderie and friendships I found when I joined the family community that is Dyfed-Powys Police will stay with me forever – I’ve met extraordinary people who have changed my life.”

The role has changed a lot over the nine years, and the chaplains are very much an important part of the operational response of the force. But he had to work hard at the beginning to gain the trust of officers and staff, who may have been a little cynical and wary of taking him into their confidence. He always resisted having an office, as he felt it was important for him to be in the company of and around officers and staff so that they could get to know him, and have plenty of opportunities to start informal conversations on the ground. Part of his (and the team’s) success is the fact that he’s always provided a non- judgemental, listening ear to all, whether they have faith or no faith, and speaks to everyone in a language they can understand.

Tom has enjoyed the varied nature of the role, and it has been far broader than just supporting staff in their day to day working life. He has been asked to conduct funeral services for staff and their loved ones, he’s married a few couples, blessed wedding rings, visited staff in hospital, done home visits, sat and provided comfort to some who were gravely ill and anything in between. He’s been in the thick of people’s highs and lows – be they work related or in their personal lives. Retired staff have also been known to reach out to him.

He has also supported officers and staff through some of the most tragic cases the force has had to deal with – notably the abduction and murder of April Jones (where he stayed up in the Machynlleth area for two weeks) and the fire at a farmhouse in Llangammarch Wells where a father and his five children lost their lives. His work on both earned him a Chief Constable Commendation and a Certificate of Appreciation respectively. He also won the accolade of Volunteer of the Year in the force awards in 2017. And although he was moved and humbled by these awards, he’s clear that it’s the people he’s helped through their sorrow and challenges that mean the most to him, and knowing he’s made a difference to them is recognition enough.

Tom is seen as a hero to many teams and individuals – and this was particularly true of the Disaster Victim Identification Team deployed to the tragic Llangammarch Wells fire.

PC 154 Thomas Draycott was part of the team, and said: “Tom is just one of those special people who puts people instantly at ease.  You can feel his genuine interest in people and you as a person whenever or wherever you speak to him.  He made numerous visits to our DVI team working on the protracted Llangammarch Wells fire recovery and it was clear that his visits were solely for the purpose of supporting us personally. With the weeks of long hours away from home, very difficult working conditions, and the extreme weather conditions, Tom’s positivity and warmth meant the world and he quickly became a bit of a hero within the team.  Each of his visits gave the team a much needed lift.  Even simple things like his amazing ability to remember everyone’s name adds to his personal touch. He will be sorely missed.”

At the conclusion of the recovery at the scene, Tom was humbled to be asked by the weary officers to conduct a service of closure and memorial inside the ruins – a very moving service that he will never forget, and he recalls there wasn’t a dry eye there.

Chaplaincy has not only been nurtured by Tom within Dyfed-Powys Police, but he was also central in introducing it to the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. As an emergency service, they’d seen the benefits the Chaplaincy brought to staff in the police, and wanted the same service to be available for the wellbeing of their staff. Following discussions, Tom offered to coordinate and facilitate this for the Trust to get them started, and by January 2020 a volunteer chaplain was in post. The timing was opportune, considering the incredible pressure that was to be placed on the emergency service and its staff a short time later because of the pandemic.

The development of the Chaplaincy and ensuring its longevity has been a priority for Tom, demonstrated by his determination to secure a Continuous Professional Development Programme in Chaplaincy Studies with the University of Wales Trinity St David. The programme gives all blue light chaplains UK wide an opportunity to study for a Post- Graduate Certificate, Diploma and ultimately a Masters Degree in Chaplaincy Studies.

Chief Constable Mark Collins said: “We value all volunteers at Dyfed-Powys Police and can’t thank them enough for the support they provide us with. But I think I’m among many of my colleagues when I say Tom really stands out. He is part of a team that do outstanding work – and he has nurtured the Chaplaincy to the success it is today. He will be a hard act to follow, and his commitment to developing it and ensuring its future success is clearly demonstrated in his work on introducing the diploma in Chaplaincy studies.

“Our officers and staff see some truly harrowing and tragic events, and when people really need somebody to listen to them at times when they are really struggling, Tom has always been there, day or night. He has become a bit of a father figure for Dyfed-Powys Police and truly enriches the wellbeing of the force. He has put his heart and soul into the role. The workforce are always telling me he’s one of the nicest, most genuine and caring people they’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and the real difference he has made to their lives – inside and outside of work. We are all very sad to see him go.”

Tom Evans being presented with his award

Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn added: “Tom Evans has been an exceptional volunteer for the Force over the last ten years or so.  As chaplain, he has always been there for us through some challenging and difficult times; day and night. He has provided exceptional support and pastoral care to officers and staff and the wider policing community at times of difficulty and distress.

“I have been struck, but not at all surprised, at the huge amount of good wishes that have been sent to Tom since he announced his decision to retire. I want to add my own tribute to the way he has undertaken his duties and to note that he has gone well above and beyond what would have been expected.

“He will be very much missed by me and staff from my office and the extended policing family. I wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

The Police Federation and Unison representatives also work closely with the Chaplains and recognise the significant role they can play in the welfare of officers and staff. Chair of the Dyfed-Powys Police Federation, Chief Inspector Gareth Jones said: “I have known Tom for several years, both during my time in Ceredigion and also since taking over as the Federation Chair. I have had the pleasure of knowing him professionally as well as personally and have always found him to be extremely approachable, caring and always willing to listen.

“I have witnessed first-hand the support he has provided to officers and staff who have experienced ill-health, bereavement or work and personal related issues. He leaves a massive void in the force chaplaincy and will be greatly missed across the force. I wish him and Marilyn all the very best for the future.”

Unison Branch Secretary Karen Phillips and Brach Chair Phil Williams have expressed their sincere gratitude to Tom for his unwavering support to their members in their times of need, and indeed the support he has given them personally in their roles to help their members.

Reflecting, Tom concluded: “Police officers and staff are a remarkable group of people. They experience traumatic and life changing events regularly. Some people get the impression that they are hard like anthracite. But I always tell people to look beyond the uniform, inside the uniform is a human being, full of emotions, like you or I. There have been times when officers have said to me that were it not for the support they received from the Chaplaincy, they would have left the police. And it is those extraordinary people, who’ve found the strength and commitment to carry on serving their communities, that have made my role as chaplain so rewarding.”

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Still time to help NHS fundraiser

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There’s still time to take part in a fantastic raffle organised by Gareth Whalley of Comins Coch, Aberystwyth, in support of Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official NHS charity for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

The event at https://raffall.com/179793/enter-raffle-to-win-hywel-dda-raffle-extravaganza-hosted-by-gareth-whalley ends this week and has already raised over £1,320. Gareth also plans to take part in a skydive later this year, bringing his fundraising so far to over £1,760.

Gareth says, “With Rhian (my sister) giving birth to Efan, a gorgeous little boy in Glangwili and the exceptional care she’s received there I’m more determined than ever to keep the momentum going until the raffle finishes on Monday.”

Gareth’s girlfriend is an NHS doctor. He adds, “Knowing how busy she is right now, I haven’t seen her since December due to the restrictions and I really want to raise as much as I can as I’m unbelievable proud of her and what she’s doing. 

“I’m hoping we will get some real positive news from the Welsh Government on the easing of restrictions in the next review too, I’m sure we all are so it will give the lucky winners something to look forward to through what has been a really difficult winter.” 

Gareth’s mum Heather is a nurse at Hywel Dda and has worked in the NHS for over 40 years.

She says, “The NHS has meant a great deal to us as a family. We are very proud of Gareth for the work that he is undertaking to raise money for the NHS. He has taken himself out of his comfort zone by doing a skydive and now he has decided to raise further money by holding a raffle with fabulous prizes that have been donated by local companies from Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.”

Gareth says, “I’m doing this to say a huge thank you to the NHS staff, who have been through so much. I also want to do something to lift the spirits for the general public, have something fun to do during this time and also to give the opportunity to win some great prizes.

“The raffle is taking more organising than the skydive, but I have enjoyed sourcing some great prizes. I’m extremely grateful for all the local businesses for the unbelievably kind donations too, without them it wouldn’t have been possible,” he says.


Tara Nickerson, Fundraising Manager for Hywel Dda Health Charities says, “We really appreciate Gareth facing his fears and doing a skydive for us later this year, and it’s brilliant that in the meantime he’s found another great way to raise funds which will provide additional items for patients and staff above and beyond core NHS expenditure.”

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Sir Bryn Terfel to lead BBC Cymru Wales’ St David’s Day celebration

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Celebrate a St David’s Day like no other with the world renowned singer and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on Monday 1 March  at 7pm on BBC Two Wales along with a host of other programmes on the BBC.

The Grammy Award-winning opera singer, Sir Bryn Terfel, has performed all over the world and this St David’s Day the Welsh bass-baritone will be celebrating in the Welsh capital. He’ll be joining the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff for a special concert packed-full of Welsh classics and favourites that will be broadcast on BBC Two Wales, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

Looking ahead to the concert Sir Bryn Terfel said: “Singing is in my people, as sight is in the eye” is a quote from “How Green Was My Valley”. It costs us nothing to sing along and even though there are only three million of us, we are certainly not afraid to use our voices. This concert has many of our cherished songs and folk tunes and to perform live again with our incredible BBC National Orchestra of Wales fills my heart with gladness”.

The special concert is just one part of BBC Wales’ extensive range of output on St David’s Day. A brand new series The Story of Welsh Art with Huw Stephens will take viewers on a breath-taking visual tour of the nation, from stunning bronze-age artefacts to award-winning cutting edge contemporary pieces.

Comedian and presenter Tudur Owen takes a look at how the people of Wales have celebrated the day over the years – from delicious dishes to questionable dancing – as he explores the BBC archives for a St David’s Day special of Tudur’s TV Flashback

St David’s Day at the BBC celebrates with classic performances drawn from the BBC’s music archives and includes performances from Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Feeder, Dame Shirley Bassey and Sir Tom Jones.

In addition to broadcasting the St David’s Day concert with Bryn Terfel, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru will be asking listeners what little things they’ll be doing that bring them joy this St David’s Day, as well as celebrating the day with a host of special guests and content.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, Director of BBC Cymru Wales said:

“Despite the challenging circumstances for everybody, St David’s Day is always worth celebrating and this year we’re pulling out all the stops.

“We’re thrilled that Sir Bryn Terfel is joining the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for what will be a rousing concert of Welsh music and song, and who better than Huw Stephens to share the Story of Welsh Art with audiences right across the UK. It promises to be a day – and a night – to remember and a timely reminder of the extraordinary talent Wales produces.”

BBC Four will be kicking off the celebrations early with a Friday night of Welsh music icons on Friday 26 February. Programmes include Katherine Jenkins at 40St David’s Day at the BBC, Tom Jones’s 1950s: The Decade That Made Me, Electric Proms featuring Shirley Bassey and Radio 2 in Concert featuring The Stereophonics.

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