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Councillors query budget

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county hallLAST THURSDAY’S full council meeting discussed the budget for 2014/15.

On top of everybody’s minds were the effects still being felt by the recent storms that have battered the county in the first few months of this year.

Many councillors took the time to thank workers for their efforts during the clean-up period. Querying the budget, councillors had questions about the roads, tourism, care services and fees and charges. At the start of the debate, discussions resolved around the budget for Highways and Transportation.

Concerns were expressed that the budget for this service had dropped by almost £1.8m from the previous year.

Former Council leader, Councillor John Davies said: “Our carriageways have taken a consistent battering because heavy rain leaves its toll and whether we like it or not, the way we maintain our carriageways is important to maintaining the living and breathing assets of our roads”.

Cllr Michael John added: “The roads are getting particularly poor in some areas”.

Cllr Jacob Williams then also gave his views on the matter: “The budget for the highways really concerns me; by and large the county’s roads are really good. Repairs that are made are done timely, so I think to cut the budget by such a large amount and we need to be careful about that. The roads are so important to such a rural county”.

Councillors then discussed how the Council could encourage economic growth with Pembrokeshire.

Cllr Peter Stock: “It’s important for us to be talking about the quality of services that this county is going to provide. We’re spending money, we’re looking at the future, and the one thing that I do feel we lack on is planning with a vision for the future of our town centres. I do believe we are lagging behind on that. A vision is important. The Welsh Government has said ‘The local authority will have a clear vision of the role and functions of the town centres within their control’.”

Cllr Mike Evans said: “We’re obviously in difficult times as a county. We must use the LDP to help and not hinder local businesses and also to allow growth where there is local need through building”.

Speaking about social care services, Councillor Rhys Sinnett said: “The people are important too. Whilst we are supportive of most of the cost savings proposed within this budget, it’s only right that we raise concerns about how those within the adult social care budget lines will be implemented. At the moment we are being asked to agree these changes without really having the details of how they are going to impact upon some of the most vulnerable in our community. If we do accept this it would have to be with the full assurance of the leader that the outcomes of these consultations will be referred to the relevant committees for their consideration”.

Members then gave their responses to some of the questions that had been raised.

Cllr David Simpson said: “In the past 12 months we have been awarded the Welsh Housing quality standard, we’re one of only three authorities in Wales that actually attained it on time and within the budget and I think that is a tremendous achievement”.

Cllr David Pugh added: “To maintain the level of commitment, we’re now working closely with communities first and we have a better working relationship with planning powers and Pembrokeshire College to deliver these some of these services so although there is a significant cost reduction to the council, the amount of grant that we hope to get is still the same”.

Cllr Pugh went on to say: “Tourism is being taken very seriously and it is a major part of the economy in Pembrokeshire”.

Cllr Sue Perkins said: “We have now got a full complement of social workers. We always need to be careful but in the future we need to carry on working to build on this and to retain our staff; we have to always be on our guard”.

Speaking about leisure facilities, Cllr Elwyn Morse said: “I would always take up the opportunity to improve leisure facilities. I am pleased to report that the cultural services of sport and leisure are committed to continuing the delivery of these valuable services despite having to make cost reduction within their operating budgets”.

Cllr Rob Lewis added: “We have had to take some of these decisions in a very short space of time. We have suffered from cuts in Welsh Government support for the bus service but we have carried out a substantial review with bus users as to how we will move forward in the future. The feedback is that residents would rather have some service than no service at all.”

Cllr Jamie Adams said: “This council, since its inception, has not increased the charges on the Cleddau Bridge.

“With regards to pay and display and car parking, I have been to Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire where I was shocked to be shelling out the sort of sums to park in the high streets of those two counties. I give the assurance that fees and charges in Pembrokeshire are considerably lower than others.

“I give the absolute assurance that any changes to adult social care provisions will be the subject of full equalities impact assessments”.

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Proposed work on dangerous Dorglwyd Junction set to be delayed

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ELIN JONES AM and Ben Lake MP have expressed their frustration following a recent statement from the Welsh Government noting that work on the A487 Dorglwyd junction from Comins Coch, would be delayed.

The junction has witnessed several crashes and close-calls over recent years, with local residents calling for the development of a roundabout or similar traffic-calming measures.

The Welsh Government announced in September 2016 that a feasibility study would be undertaken by the following Summer as to consider potential options to improve the junction.

However, a recent letter from Ken Skates AM, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport to Elin Jones AM and Ben Lake MP noted: “We are aware of the issues at the junction and an improvement scheme has been within our upgrades programme for some time. Unfortunately, due to limited financial resources and competing priorities, it has progressed slowly.”

“We are currently reviewing the scope of a possible improvement and considering solutions which are affordable and minimise environmental impact. When we are in a position to present outline solutions, a workshop with local stakeholders will be held. This is likely to be in early 2019.”

Elin Jones AM said: “Whilst I do welcome such clarification from the Cabinet Secretary on the next steps for Dorglwyd junction, it is disappointing to read that no major works for the transformation will happen due to the expense of the project. It is positive however to see that a smaller scale improvement is now to be pursued, with consultation likely to be undertaken in early 2019.”

John Roberts, local Ceredigion County Councillor for Faenor ward, added: “I share both Elin Jones’ and Ben Lake’s disappointment at the response from Ken Skates AM. The original plan was to encapsulate a more global project including the Llanbadarn bypass therefore we need to be more realistic in our aspirations for Dorglwyd corner. Having discussed the project on site with both Elin Jones AM and Ben Lake MP last week we were of the opinion that a much smaller project which could solve the Dorglwyd issue was feasible and be much cheaper than the present scheme. We will wait for the consultation period in 2019.”

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Museum lights up the past

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CEREDIGION MUSEUM has had a full refurbishment of its lighting thanks to £116,558 of grants from Welsh Governments Museums Archives and Libraries Division and the Rural Community Development Fund.

Museum Curator, Carrie Canham, said: “Lighting has been a problem for us for some time; the system was so old that we couldn’t get new bulbs for some of the fittings. Also, we love to put on theatrical and musical performances at the museum but we couldn’t create an atmosphere with just strip lights and footlights. We’ve now got great stage and display lighting and it’s transformed the whole experience for our audiences.

“The new lighting system is all LED, so not only does it look much better it is also more suitable for the more delicate exhibits and it saves us money on our lighting bill.”

The lighting was designed and installed by DBNAudile, who specialise in museum lighting.

The team managed to install the system with minimal disruption to visitors.

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KeolisAmey awarded Wales and Borders Rail contract

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KEOLISAMEY is pleased that the Welsh Government has announced its intention to award the contract to operate the Wales and Borders rail service and the South Wales Metro to KeolisAmey.

Upon successful completion of a 10-day standstill period, the contract will run from June 4, 2018, to October 14, 2033, with rail services transferring on October 14, 2018.

This standstill period is normal procurement practice.

KeolisAmey is a joint venture partnership of international public transport operator Keolis, and infrastructure asset management specialist Amey.

KeolisAmey currently runs the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London, which has one of the best records in UK rail – consistently better than 99% reliability. Additionally, we operate and maintain Greater Manchester’s Metrolink – the largest tram network in the UK.

Alistair Gordon, Chief Executive of Keolis UK, said: “This will be a transformative new rail service for Wales and its borders which will see Keolis once more combine its worldwide expertise in passenger operations with Amey’s engineering excellence.

“We look forward to the successful completion of the procurement process – this exciting contract will deliver for all of Wales. The procurement process was rigorous, resulting in transformative solutions for the benefit of all in Wales, and indeed, future generations.

“While the proposed changes won’t happen overnight, the railway will be unrecognisable in five years thanks to the vision of the Welsh Government.”

Andy Milner, Amey’s Chief Executive, said: “Building on our successful partnership with Keolis, which already sees us deliver two high performing services – the Greater Manchester Metrolink and London’s DLR – we are honoured to be asked to operate the Wales and Borders service.

“This is a great opportunity for us to use our joint capabilities to deliver a first-rate service for Wales. We will be focused on working with Transport for Wales to transform the existing infrastructure and introduce new trains to significantly improve the passenger experience, as well as creating hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.”

KeolisAmey is unable to make any further comment until the procurement process has concluded and the contract has been awarded.

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