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Councillor comments on health board appointment

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BERNARDINE REES OBEBERNARDINE REES OBE has been hired as the new chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board, Health Minister Mark Drakeford announced this week. 

The appointment has been greeted as unwelcome news by one local councillor, Viv Stoddard – who told The Herald that Bernardine Rees was behind plans eight years ago to downgrade Withybush in a plan called ‘‘Designed to Deliver”. Mrs Rees, who trained as a nurse and lives in Ceredigion, was chief executive of the former Pembrokeshire Local Health Board and Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire local health boards between 2003 and 2009. Her last executive position in NHS Wales was as director of primary, community and mental health at Cwm Taf University Health Board, where she also served as the organisation’s deputy chief executive. Mrs Rees is currently serving as a non-executive director of the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. She will resign this position to assume her new role at Hywel Dda University Health Board. Hywel Dda University Health Board provides healthcare services to around 372,000 people living in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The chair’s role is to ensure the board functions effectively by managing the agenda and establishing the board as a corporate team. Mrs Rees’ term of office will start on July 1, 2014 and run until July 31, 2018. Professor Drakeford said: “I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Bernardine Rees OBE as the new chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board. “I know she is passionate and enthusiastic about Hywel Dda University Health Board and has a wealth of relevant experience and I wish her well in her new role. “I attach great importance to the appointment of chairs who are chosen for their skills and experience and for the contribution they make to the work of the health board.” Commenting on the appointment, Cllr Viv Stoddard – a keen campaigner for local services – told The Herald: “Bernadine Rees has had a life-time career in the NHS. She is a true insider, no doubt steeped in the organisation’s culture. How can it be that she, or anyone with such a long NHS CV, be deemed to be the best person to fulfil this key role – which will include scrutinising and dictating the work of her erstwhile colleagues?” Cllr Stoddard added: “She was one of the two authors and drivers behind the infamous ‘Designed to Deliver’ glossy blueprint of eight years ago, that sought to downgrade Withybush Hospital, and heralded the advent of the deeply unpopular threecounties strong Hywel Dda Health Board. At that time, the county’s health watchdog, Pembrokeshire Community Health Council objected to the Designed to Deliver plans, saying that maintaining Withybush Hospital in its current site, with stateof- the-art accident and emergency department and a range of other services; and keeping the Special Care Baby-unit and consultant-led obstetric and maternity services were key to essential health services for the county.” Cllr Stoddard concluded by saying: “Pembrokeshire people gave a resounding ‘no’ to the reorganisation proposed in ‘Designed to Deliver’, just as they now say no to the very same controversial plans. Pembrokeshire Herald readers should now decide if it appropriate to appoint to this crucial post of health board chair, a person who has a long-history of pre-determined commitment to the radical, unpopular, and imminent changes to the county’s health service?”

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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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