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Second homes debate debacle

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County Council HQ: F ew councillors attend key debate

County Council HQ: Few councillors attend key debate

CHAOS is, perhaps, too strong a word to use about the debate on levying a Council Tax premium on Ceredigion’s second homes and a premium on long-term empty homes. There was, however, plenty of confusion and not a little farce as the debate took place in a more than half empty Chamber. Under new powers granted by the Welsh Government, authorities are able to levy a Premium without the negative financial implications inherent in the current powers. Specifically, the majority of the additional income arising from premiums being charged will be retained by the local authority with no negative effect on RSG.

First of all came the question of what the Cabinet had recommended. There had been questions raised about whether the vote on the recommendation made by Cabinet had been properly reached, with several Cabinet members having potential conflicts of interest. Deputy Leader Ray Quant MBE attempted manfully to explain the position. There was an issue with who could and couldn’t vote at Cabinet, Cllr Quant confirmed. However, members were zipping in and out of the meeting to establish whether or not they could vote, or speak, or do neither. There was a risk that the Cabinet would not have sufficient members present to reach a valid decision.

Rest assured, Cllr Quant told the few present, the Cabinet’s recommendation was made because one had to be made, not because of any enthusiasm for it one way or the other: it was all done in a rush. What Councillor Quant could not explain was why members had left it so ridiculously late to obtain clarity one way or the other. The legislation permitting councils to raise premiums on second homes and empty properties is not a new one; the Council was bound to vote on it before the end of the financial year; but on the underlying issue of why applications to the relevant committee had been left so late.

Cllr Quant was noticeably silent; neither did Cllr Quant explain why Cabinet did not adjourn for an hour and come back to the issue of the second and empty homes premium after the scrutiny meeting had made matters clear for those Cabinet members seeking a dispensation. Whatever the position, at the outset of the debate, there were sixteen voting members left in the Chamber, along with a number of those who could speak but not vote. Some of those who had been cleared to speak and vote left the Chamber before the debate even began. Perhaps after talking about the issue of BTB for the better part of an hour and half, their vocal cords had worn out together with their patience.

It took an intervention from the Monitoring Officer to establish that the few remaining members left in the Chamber represented sufficient numbers to permit a legal vote to be taken. The debate can best be described as peevish, with Chair Cllr Gill Hopley doing her level best to ensure both that councillors spoke in turn without interruption and that squabbling between councillors was kept to the minimum. At one point she suggested that sniping had reached a point that two councillors should leave the Chamber and carry on their argument elsewhere.

Not quite the same as offering them ‘outside’, but about as edifying. Rather more pertinent were Cllr Hopley’s observations about the precipitous decline in the permanent population of New Quay from around 1,000 to 700 in very few years. The Council Chair painted a worrying picture of the town as virtually empty in the winter months and suggesting it was in danger of becoming like a town in a western with tumble weed blowing along its streets. Several of those taking part in the debate were fearful of those who owned holiday homes setting themselves up as a business to avoid paying the Council anything and taking the benefit of business rates paid direct (at the moment) to Cardiff Bay; others were concerned about other methods of avoidance and skulduggery by those pesky holiday home owners with their undoubted contribution to the local authority.

In fact, it appeared that a significant number of those present favoured doing little or nothing to let go of nurse and finding something worse. Cllr Gethin James injected a muchneeded note of realism into the debate when he suggested that his fellow councillors should look at the number of empty homes in towns and villages across Ceredigion and the desperate need for that accommodation to be available to young, local families. The issue, Cllr James suggested was not only an economic one in terms of the effect on impoverished and impecunious holiday and second home owners, nor was it an issue affecting solely concerned with the Council’s revenue.

The issue, he implied, need to be seen in a broader social context. Cllr Elizabeth Evans proposed a reasoned amendment to the Cabinet recommendation for a 50% premium on second homes with a zero premium on long-term empty homes, suggesting that 25% on both would be the right level to start off, with the option of reviewing the effects of that after one year. She further suggested that the money raised from the charge on second homes only be returned to town and community councils to enable them to improve facilities locally, both for locals and for visitors.

That point was countered with an observation regarding empty houses owned by farmers and a request for clarification of what the words ‘longterm’ actually meant in the context of the policy. Fortunately, the answer to that question was found in the background papers delivered to members ahead of the meeting: the Welsh Government guidance defines a long-term empty property as ‘a dwelling which is both unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for a continuous period of at least one year’. After much heat but little light, the debate moved to its close. Councillor Elizabeth Evans’s suggestion that the premium levied on both second and empty homes at 25% was approved without much demur.

Cllr Evans’s motion that the revenue raised from second homes be apportioned to the localities in which it was raised – something of potential significant benefit to tourism areas such as, for example, Aberaeron – was altogether closer. Eight backed the motion, after a recount seven opposed it, with a solitary abstention. And, despite the pleas of the Chair to deal with item nine on the agenda while council was still quorate, members exited the Chamber.

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Judge dismisses appeal in ‘truly disturbing’ animal neglect case

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A CROWN court judge has upheld a judgement of a case which saw the neglect and death of 58 cows. In his judgement, the judge described the offence as ‘truly disturbing’. The west Wales case related to the conviction of David Davies, and Evan Meirion Davies of Penffynnon Farm, Bangor Teifi, near Newcastle Emlyn.

They had both pleaded guilty to 13 charges of animal neglect in February 2019. They later appealed the Magistrates Court’s sentence banning them from keeping animals for five years. The brothers had frustrated the appeals process by securing adjournments in seven appeal hearings. Another request to adjourn the eighth hearing on Monday 2 December was not granted.

They also sought to appeal the guilty verdict despite pleading guilty to the charges earlier in the year.

The prosecution followed a visit by Animal Health Officers and Animal and Plant Health Agency vet to the farm in April 2018. Officers found 58 cattle carcasses in various states of decay in the cattle sheds and surrounding fields. The remaining cattle were housed in terrible conditions with no food, water or dry lying area.

The vet confirmed that the cattle were being caused unnecessary suffering, and that the dead cattle had succumbed to the horrendous conditions found in the sheds, and died of neglect.

The vet had to euthanize two cows to stop further suffering during visits to the premises. This is one of the worst cases of animal welfare neglect seen by the Animal Health team of Ceredigion County Council. Alun Williams is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer responsible for Policy and Performance. He said, “We had no doubt that the judge would uphold the judgement of the Aberystwyth Magistrates Court.

Although we have been frustrated by the delay caused by the appellants, we are satisfied with the result. “The vast majority of Ceredigion farmers take excellent care of their animals and uphold high standards of animal welfare. We will make sure we pursue the small minority who do not.

We will not hesitate to prosecute in such devastating cases of animal neglect.” Their initial sentences were upheld.

They were sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, and were disqualified from keeping any animals for five years. The brothers will be allowed 28 days to dispose of the herd.

They were ordered to pay costs to the council of £420.

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New Integrated Care Centre opens

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Services together in one place: The Cardigan Integrated Care Centre

CARDIGAN’s brand new Integrated Care Centre will open its doors to the public on Monday, December 9.
Hywel Dda University Health Board says the new Centre will bring joined-up care to local communities for the first time.
The opening of the centre follows hot on the heels of the launch of a similar initiative in Aberaeron. It represents a decisive change of direction in the way the Board delivers health and social care services to a largely rural area.
The new centre was developed with £23.8m of Welsh Government funding
The centre will provide a modern, fit for purpose healthcare service – including a GP practice, dental service, and pharmacy. It will also host a range of other clinics and services delivered by Hywel Dda, the third sector, local authority. and partner organisations.
Those services include:
• A nurse-led minor injuries walk-in service with telemedicine links to the emergency department
• Radiology and diagnostics
• Phlebotomy service
• Outpatient suite with consulting rooms and clinical treatment facilities for pre-assessment and outpatient consultations by visiting clinicians and social workers
• Disease-specific services for heart failure, motor neurone disease clinics, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease services
• Enhanced telemedicine equipment in clinical areas, providing remote access to specialists from across the professions
• Rehabilitation services, providing opportunities for intensive and slow stream rehabilitation to restore function and improve independence, supported by therapists, nurses and social care staff within the Community Resource Team
• Mental health and learning disabilities services
• A base for the local Community Resource Team in south Ceredigion, including the Acute Response and District Nursing teams
Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “This is an ambitious step forward for our health board, which embodies the strategy we agreed last year to shift our focus to community and primary care. It has taken many years of planning and there have been challenges along the way. We’ve had to work very hard to make sure that we’ve got it right the first time.
“In particular, the hard work and commitment from our staff, and the support of many stakeholders – particularly our local communities – has been a critical part of our journey. It is with these groups in mind that we begin delivering on our ambition of providing safe, sustainable, integrated care for our local population.”

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Ceredigion success at Welsh Indoor Rowing Championships

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THERE was success for Ceredigion at the Welsh Indoor Rowing Championships bringing home nine medals.

Held on Friday and Saturday, 22 and 23 November at the Channel View Leisure Centre in Cardiff, this was the 20th anniversary of the event. The aim in Ceredigion is to grow indoor rowing and to promote the local Sea Rowing Clubs.

On the Friday, 14 children from Aberaeron Comprehensive School and Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul took part in the school event. Some had competed last year for the first time, while others were rowing in the competition for the first time. The standard was exceptionally high, with schools from both Wales and England, with 9 records being broken within the 20 races that were held on the day.

Three medals were won in the school event. Beri Tomkins, Ysgol Bro Teifi; Finley Tarling and Dylan Gwynne Jones, Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron each won a gold medal. 10 of the children achieved their own personal best times with Beri and Finley even broke national records.

On the Saturday, the club races were held where two junior medals and four senior medals were won. Dylan Gwynne Jones won a gold medal for 4min row under 16. Beri Tomkins won a gold medal with a new personal best of 543 metres rowed in two minutes. Beri now holds four records – year 6 school and Welsh record; and year 7 school and Welsh record.

In the adult event, Leo O’Connor won a bronze medal for 60+years 500m; Hannah Lodder won two gold medals for Ladies 40+ years 500m and Ladies 40+years 2km; and Sam Owen won silver medal for Ladies 40+years 2km.

There are weekly Indoor Rowing sessions held at Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul; Aberaeron Comprehensive School; and Bro Pedr School, Lampeter. These sessions are supported by CRIW which are the indoor rowing group within Ceredigion. CRIW also run sessions on a Monday evening at Aberaeron Leisure Centre.

Rhidian Harries, Active Young People Officer, said, “The Young Rowers from Ceredigion have done fantastically well at this national competition. The event was very well organised, and many English schools that are recognised as rowing schools attended. However, the children from Ceredigion showed that they could compete against anyone. It’s a great credit for them and also for CRIW, who have been working tirelessly to grow the sport in the area. Their support and enthusiasm has been crucial, and they should take great pleasure in the success and the performances of these young rowers.”

CRIW will be running their own Indoor Rowing Competition at Teifi Leisure Centre, Cardigan on Saturday, 28 March 2020. Search them on Facebook for more information.

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