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Councils respond to budget cuts

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Jamie Adams: Budget balance must be redressed

WEST WALES’ local authorities have cried ‘foul’ over the funding arrangements announced for the next financial year by the Welsh Government. In common with all rural councils in Wales, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire have all been told that their budgets will be cut to a greater extent than those of more urban councils. In addition, critics of the settlement have not been slow to point out that not only is the smallest budget cut for an individual local authority Cardiff’s, but that the largest sums per head of population in terms of local government expenditure are concentrated on Welsh Labour’s Valleys heartland. In an unusual turn of events, West Wales’ councils were already consulting on their budgets for next year before their own financial settlements from the Welsh Government were announced.

This has caused some confusion among members of the public, who now appear to be responding to their own individual council’s proposals on a basis that has been superseded by the Welsh Government announcement. The Welsh Government’s budget was delayed by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s decision to delay the Autumn Statement and tie it in with announcements on Government expenditure. Among one off budget pressures already factored into this year’s local authority budget forecasts are the introduction of the National Living Wage, changes to National Insurance, and alterations to pension rules. The cuts to the Revenue Support Grant, which funds local authority expenditure, do not take account of those measures’ impacts on Council budgets. Pembrokeshire: ‘Substantial budget pressures’ Meanwhile, members of the public are being encouraged to comment on potential changes to local services on Pembrokeshire County Council’s social media pages. Over £25m in savings have already been made in the past few years but substantial savings will also need to be made in the next three to four years. Around 40 budget reduction ideas are being considered as part of a consultation on the budget for 2016 – 2017 and beyond, which the Council is currently running on its website. Cllr Jamie Adams, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “We will be facing substantial budget pressures in 2016 – 2017, which means we need to look at making changes to services that many people use regularly.

“It is important that local people take advantage of the opportunity to give their feedback in order to help inform the tough decisions that Council will have to make in the coming months. “Encouraging debate and feedback via social media is not something that we’ve tried to this extent before and I think that it provides a fairly easy way for people to comment on potential changes to important local services.” On the Welsh Government’s financial settlement for the next financial year, in which Pembrokeshire face a 2.6% cut, Jamie Adams, said: “As a rural local authority, we seem to be particularly badly hit, with just three Councils suffering worse settlements than Pembrokeshire. “I look forward to some discussions with the Welsh Government to try and redress some of the balance.” Carmarthenshire: ‘better than anticipated’ Carmarthenshire County Council Deputy Leader and Executive Board Member for Resources Cllr David Jenkins said: “The settlement from Welsh Government of £251,685m for next year equates to a 1% decrease on the amount received last year on a like for like basis. We were planning for a 3.3% decrease, bearing in mind that every 1% increase / decrease equates to £2.5m.

“Whilst the headline figure is better than we anticipated, we need to accommodate the particular pressures placed on us including validation such as inflation and more specifically this year a £4.1m increase in National Insurance payments.” Even though the cut to Carmarthenshire was not as deep as had been feared, Cllr Jenkins nonetheless sounded a warning note: “As good as the news is it still represents a cut in the authority’s overall budget and bearing in mind there was a £2.1m shortfall in our current budget cut proposals we will still be looking for savings from relevant departments which we are currently consulting on with the public. “We are also still awaiting the full details from Welsh Government in terms of protection for education and social services. “The settlement is more favourable than we were planning but that said we still need to deliver efficiency savings of £12m.”

Ceredigion: Councillors will have to make difficult decisions Ceredigion County Council will see a cut of 3.5% to its funding from Welsh Government for the financial year 2016-17 – one of the highest to any local authority in Wales. The announcement will mean that savings in the region of at least 6% in the Council’s budget are required, as expenditure increases have to be met whilst funding levels have decreased. The Council has already made savings of £20m over the last three years, and was working towards making savings of £25m over the next three years.

However, this cut will potentially mean the Council will need to find significant additional savings over the next three years. Leader of the Council, Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn said: “Yet again, rural communities are suffering compared to urban ones. The Council is suffering one of the largest cuts to any local authority budget for 2016-17, which will result in massive pressure on Councillors to make very difficult decisions.” The money from Welsh Government has been shared among Councils according to population size and age, and deprivation levels within that local authority. A major restructure and a programme of service transformation aimed at changing how the Council is organised and works has been in place since 2013.

Despite this, further cuts to services is now inevitable, as the scope to make more efficiency savings gets harder to achieve year on year. We must avoid England’s fate: WLGA The Deputy Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), Cllr Aaron Shotton said: “We are also still awaiting the full details from Welsh Government in terms of protection for the system used to fund local councils in Wales is based on a complex array of grant arrangements and while many Welsh councils will today cautiously welcome the Welsh Government’s draft budget for its focus on preventative public services such as social care, we await further detail of how the budget can help to alleviate some of the mounting pressures on critical local services. “We have been clear that there is a need to rewrite the rulebook on how our councils are funded if we are to avoid a similar situation to that in England, where local public services have been cut to the bone and a number of councils face the very real possibility of being unable to meet even their most basic statutory duties. The budget announcement offers a glimmer of hope that a different reality can be written for vital local public services in Wales.”

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Police release new CCTV image of murder suspect

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has released a new CCTV image of Steve Baxter, who detectives are keen to speak to in connection with the murder of Simon Clark from Pendine, Carmarthenshire.

The image was captured in Glynneath on Saturday, September 29. He is believed to have traveled to the west Wales area shortly afterwards and is believed to be in the Haverfordwest area.

Baxter, also known as Steve Tidy, Steve Rowley, Wayne Tidy or William Tidy, is aged 52, 5’5” (1.65cm) tall and has tattoos on his forearms – the name Chez and entwined circles on his left arm and a serpent on his right arm.

He is bald, but was last seen wearing a hat and wig, as shown in this image. He may have made other attempts to alter his appearance such as growing facial hair or wearing glasses.

Detective Superintendent Huw Davies said: “We’re releasing this CCTV image from the latest confirmed sighting of Steve Baxter to give people the most up to date example of how he may be dressed and how he may currently look.

“Time is passing and we really need to speak to Steve Baxter to build a more accurate picture of what happened in Pendine.

“To anyone that may know where he is, please pass this vital information to police.”

The independent charity Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information leading to Steve Baxter being found. Information would be taken by the charity anonymously.

If you see Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 999.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101 immediately.

To pass on information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or through the non-traceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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David Davies Llandinam show comes to Tregaron

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THERE will be a special opportunity for the people of Tregaron to learn about one of Wales’ most successful industrialists, David Davies Llandinam with a performance by the drama company “Mewn Cymeriad”.

To celebrate David Davies’ link with the area, Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion, Cymdeithas Hanes Tregaron and Clwb Plant Capel Bwlchgwynt have organised a performance of the family friendly show “David Davies Llandinam”.

David Davies was born in Llandinam, Montgomeryshire but he had an influence across Wales. He built railways across the country including the Manchester and Milford Railway that connected Tregaron with Aberystwyth and Carmarthen by using a huge amount of Cardiganshire wool to lay the rails across Cors Caron.

In addition to being an astoundingly successful entrepreneur, David Davies Llandinam was the MP for Cardiganshire between 1874 and 1886. Nine years previously, he stood against one of Tregaron’s hero, Henry Richard to be the local Liberal Party candidate for the 1865 Election.

Councillor Catherine Hughes, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Culture, “The history of David Davies Llandinam is very interesting. It’s wonderful to see organisations coming together to put on this show in Tregaron and Mewn Cymeriad following this character’s fascinating story.”

Mewn Cymeriad is a drama company that travels across Wales to present one actor shows full of fun and excitement to children about historic characters such as Barti Ddu, the Lord Rhys, Hedd Wyn and Owain Glyndŵr. The David Davies show was written by Mewn Cymeriad’s founder Eleri Twynog Davies and the show is performed by the actor Ioan Hefin who has starred in programmes such as Hidden, Gwaith Cartref and Teulu.

The free show of David Davies Llandinam will be shown at Bwlchgwynt Vestry, Tregaron on Monday, 29 October at 7pm. Come to see the actor Ioan Hefin present a lively and interactive show about the man who brought the train to Tregaron. It is an interactive show that is aimed towards children aged 6 to 11 however it is suitable for the whole family.

For further Information, contact Steffan Rees, Cered’s Community Development Officer on 01545 572 350.

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Visit to inspect new Active Travel works held

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SUSTRANS CYMRU director, Steve Brooks visited recent work to the Aberystwyth Active Travel Network on 26 September. The network of pedestrian, cycling and general accessibility improvements has been developed in partnership with the Welsh Government and Sustrans.

Mr Brooks met with Councillor Alun Williams, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Adult Services and the Council’s Sustainability Champion, as well as Council Officers. During the visit they discussed the work carried out so far and future work to improve the Active Travel Network in Ceredigion.

Councillor Williams praised the work undertaken to date, “It was a pleasure to meet with Sustrans colleagues and County Council officers. The excellent work that the County Council has done so far in Aberystwyth was showcased, with the aim of encouraging children to cycle, scoot and walk to school. The improvements do of course benefit everyone in the community by helping to encourage healthier and more active lifestyles whilst reducing traffic congestion and we had a useful discussion about further developing active travel initiatives across the whole of Ceredigion.”

Three towns in Ceredigion have been designated as Active Travel Settlements under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. The Council carried out a public consultation during 2017 to identify and prioritise future improvements. As a result, walking and cycling routes are being improved incrementally through various Welsh Government grants as funding permits and subject to physical constraint.

Steve Brooks said, “Plascrug Primary is one of many schools in Ceredigion where Sustrans’ Active Journeys Programme is delivered and it’s great to see the positive difference made at these locations, in conjunction with improved routes and new scooter and cycle shelters installed by the County Council following successful grant funding from the Welsh Government. The Programme includes classroom activities where pupils can help influence future grant bids and also embraces a range of engaging activities which helps to build the confidence, enthusiasm and skills needed to help form new active travel habits. These activities and lessons support schools’ efforts in achieving Eco-Schools and Healthy Schools awards as well as working towards Sustrans School Mark award which recognises excellence in sustainable travel.”

The Council is also improving active travel opportunities outside these three settlements, such as near schools, employment sites and key tourism destinations.

Image: Left to Right: Sioned Lewis, Sustrans Cymru; Plascrug Primary School Pupils; Councillor Alun Williams; Steve Brooks, Sustrans Cymru; Gari Jones, Ceredigion County Council.

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