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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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New Quay RNLI lifeboat crew trains with lifeguards

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NEW QUAY lifeboat station hosted a special training evening with the lifeboat crew and Ceredigion’s RNLI lifeguards last week.

Pete Yates, one of New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat helms, worked closely with Ceredigion lifeguard supervisor, Tirion Dowsett, to plan scenarios for the teams to practice working together in casualty care situations.

A large scale scenario included four casualties to be dealt with by the inshore lifeboat crew and two lifeguard teams on a nearby beach, whilst a third lifeguard team and lifeboat crew members dealt with a separate scenario at the lifeboat station.

Pete said: “It was a great evening of training. We had 9 lifeguards and 13 lifeboat crew in attendance.

“The main scenario included casualties suffering from hypothermia and propeller injuries. A second scenario involved a mechanic suffering head injuries in the forepeak of the all-weather lifeboat and requiring extraction on a stretcher.

“On completion of these scenarios we all gathered back at the station where one of our senior crew members sprung a great act at being a diabetic having a hypo, and being suitably angry and aggressive.”

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, added: “It was great for our lifeboat crew members to work with the lifeguards as it builds a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and encourages teamwork between us. This is of great benefit when dealing with real life casualty care situations.”

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Coastguard rescues dog stuck on cliffs

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LAST TUESDAY (Aug 27), New Quay RNLI’s inshore D-class lifeboat, Audrey LJ, was tasked by Milford Haven Coastguard to assist the Coastguard with a dog stuck on the cliffs near New Quay.

The volunteer crew launched the inshore lifeboat at 1.50pm with four crew members on board and made their way south down the coast.

Brett Stones, New Quay RNLI’s helm said: “We located the dog on the cliffs by Castell Bach, near Cwmtydu. We stood by while the Coastguard team caught the animal. The dog was unharmed and safe with the Coastguard so we were stood down.

“However, while returning to station we were then tasked to a small vessel with engine failure. We towed the stricken boat with three people on board back to New Quay. We rehoused the inshore lifeboat and it was ready for service by 2.40pm.”

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New maintenance Lorries cut carbon emissions

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The Ground Maintenance Team has purchased three new lorries to support ground maintenance services in Ceredigion.

The new lorries will move Ceredigion County Council’s Ground Maintenance Service’s equipment to and from the grounds that they look after. The lorries will also take cut grass away for composting. This provides the most efficient way of maintaining the areas that the team is responsible for.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “The new vehicles replace ones which had provided excellent service for almost 20 years. They are fitted with Euro 6 engines which are considerably more efficient and better for the environment.”

The Grounds Maintenance Team is also incrementally introducing electric-powered mowers, blowers, hedge cutters and strimmers into its fleet. This equipment is better for the environment, is easier to use and causes less noise and vibration.

The new lorries support Ceredigion County Council’s commitment to be a net-zero carbon council by 2030.

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