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1200 march in Withybush protest

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WELL over one thousand people turned out this morning (Sunday January 26) to protest about cuts to services at Withybush. The protesters marched from Thomas Picton School to the hospital to vent their anger at cuts to services. Outside the hospital the crowd, estimated to be approaching nearly 1200 people, held placards and banners, chanted, and sang the Welsh national anthem. Many Pembrokeshire residents say they fear that the lives of women and babies would be at risk if a level-two neonatal unit was developed at Carmarthen as a replacement for the current unit at Withybush Hospital.

An motorbike accident which closed the A40 for most of the day yesterday (Saturday January 25) has raised concerns that it would not be safe to rely on the single-carriageway road to transfer urgent cases from Haverfordwest to Carmarthen, over thirty miles away.
Chris Overton, the chairman of the Save Withybush Action Team, who organised the protest, said that the turnout showed the “strength of feeling of people in Pembrokeshire”

Mr Overton , who is a consultant obstetrician at Withybush Hospital, later told the press: “I’ve coined a new phrase, the Sutton Test, after a woman called Kate Sutton from Johnston who lost her baby and nearly died. I ask you whether someone in a similar position will be safe when the new system is in place. I don’t think that they would be. I think that everyone is concerned more and more across the county that these services are going to be cut.”
Speaking at the demonstration, Stephen Crabb MP said to the Herald: “There is an enormous sense of anger amongst the crowd, people from all walks of life, all across the county, voicing their frustration and their fears of what the future will look like without the essential service of SCBU on our doorstep.”

The hospital changes announced are part a new system, where doctors in Carmarthen will provide specialist care, with other hospitals eventually providing a midwife-led service. Bronglais hospital in Aberystwyth will become a midwife-led maternity unit, although during the transition period it will also retain some consultants.

The plans were initially revealed a year ago by the health board but were vetoed by the local patients watchdog over concerns that closing the special care baby unit in Haverfordwest could put lives at risk. That meant Health Minister Mark Drakeford had to step in to review the decision himself, and he has taken advice from a panel of experts.

The panel advising Mr. Drakeford indicated providing special baby care units across the health board was “neither safe nor sustainable”, but the protestors say its unsafe to cut services due to the time it takes to get mums and babies from Pembrokeshire to the new propsed unit in Carmarthenshire.

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Community

RNLI in Wales urges people to stay safe as Storm Brendan hits

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging people to stay safe near the Welsh coast as severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous.

Lifesaving charity, the RNLI, is encouraging people to exercise extreme caution if visiting the shoreline, especially along exposed cliffs, seafronts and piers.

The expected strong winds and severe gales pose a severe safety risk to those visiting the coast.

Named Storm Brendan by Met Eireann, it swept eastwards across Ireland before making its way through the rest of the UK this morning with yellow wind warning in place for most of the Welsh coast.

Chris Cousens, RNLI Regional Water Safety Lead for Wales said:

‘This rough weather could make visiting parts of the Welsh coastline treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.

‘Sadly, around 150 people lose their lives on British and Irish coasts each year and over half of these people didn’t plan on ever entering the water. Slips, trips and falls can be a major factor in these kinds of incidents.’

If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – too many people drown trying to save others.

The charity, which provides a search and rescue service around the UK and Ireland, is facing its own Perfect Storm as demand for its services has increased but it is facing a shortfall in funds. This past year, the RNLI has been busier than ever, and stormy conditions can mean additional call outs for the already extremely busy volunteer crews. Whatever the weather, RNLI volunteers will still be on call to rescue those at difficulty at sea.

The RNLI’s major new fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, which aims to help the charity get back to living within its means, is running throughout November and December. To find out more or to donate visit RNLI.org/ThePerfect Storm.

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Are you missing out on a Council Tax reduction?

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IF YOU’RE struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, then help could be available for you through the Welsh Government’s flagship Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).

The scheme, which will continue to support vulnerable households in 2020-21, currently benefits one in five of all households in Wales. In the last year almost 280,000 low-income households have received help from the scheme, with 220,000 paying no council tax at all. Many more receive other discounts or exemptions.

You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:

• you believe you live on a low income
• you live alone, or with people/children who do not pay council tax
• you are a student
• you are disabled
• you are severely mentally impaired

Understanding why there are still vulnerable households not benefitting from the help they are entitled to is a priority for the Welsh Government. Last year we commissioned research to understand the circumstances of households in Wales and the effects of the UK Government’s Universal Credit on the CTRS.

The interim report out today shows that for many households, the move to Universal Credit can have a significant impact on council tax reduction awards. Whilst many households currently receiving a 100% reduction will continue to do so, for others, the move to Universal Credit is shown to have an adverse impact, particularly for employed households, self-employed households, and working households in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Full findings of the interim report are available on the Welsh Government website. These findings will now be considered in more detail to inform the next stages of the research and policy development in this area.

Encouraging people to make sure they are not missing out on help they could be entitled to, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:

“Ensuring every household in Wales receives the council tax support they are entitled to is an important part of our commitment to making council tax fairer.

“Our scheme is already helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales, but we know that there are still many missing out on the discounts, reductions and exemptions they are entitled to. I encourage everyone to check the Welsh Government website to find out if they could be paying less.”

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Success for Dyfed-Powys Police in targeting drugs suppliers in Ceredigion

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A drugs supplier in the Ceredigion area has been sentenced to 2 years and 2 months in prison.

Kylie Mason, 34, from Aberaeron, was arrested on the 28th October 2019, and later charged with 2 offences of possession with intent to supply a controlled drug and two offences of supply a controlled drug of Class A. She pleaded guilty at court and received a total sentence of two years and two months in prison on the 8th January.

Detective Sergeant Steven Jones said: “This is an excellent result for the Aberaeron community, who had raised concerns about this individual supplying drugs in the area. I hope this will serve as a warning to others who wish to bring drugs into the Ceredigion area that it will not be tolerated. This result will go a long way towards keeping our communities safe. If anyone is worried about drugs in their community I would urge them to contact police as we will take the appropriate action.”

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