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Driving tests on hold as instructors strike over safety fears

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A NUMBER of driving tests were cancelled this week after union members held a two-day strike, citing a refusal by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to acknowledge the dangers of the new Driving test and a demand that staff work up to 90 minutes a day without pay.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) struck on Monday and Tuesday (Dec 4-5) amid concerns about the new tests. The new driving tests, introduced on Monday, include an element of testing learners on the use of a Sat-Nav, as well as other changes.

PCS members are also expected to travel from their homes to remote or distant test centres, without being paid for up to one and a half hours per day.

PCS Organising Officer Steve Donoghue said: “I have spoken to one member who lives in Carmarthen and usually covers the tests that are delivered there. He is regularly asked to cover driving tests in Aberystwyth. Whereas previously staff were paid for the time it took them to travel from their substantive place of work to these locations, they will now not be paid for the first 45 minutes each way. This is clearly a case of the DVSA trying to cut budgets at our members’ expense. The blame for this disruption lies squarely with the DVSA and the Department for Transport due to their insistence on imposing changes to terms and conditions on staff which have been rejected by the vast majority of staff in recent ballots.”

There was a picket line outside the Test Centre in Llanelli on Monday morning, which was supported by Unison, Llanelli Trades Council and the Llanelli Constituency Labour party. All tests booked for Monday and Tuesday were cancelled.

PCS Branch Treasurer Paul Dallimore said: “we regret any inconvenience caused to learners whose tests have been postponed. However, we are committed to making sure that our concerns over the Sat-Nav element of the new tests are properly Health & Safety checked before going live. Examiners have been told to put the Sat-Nav bag in the foot well whilst conducting the test, putting candidates, examiners and other road users at risk in an emergency if the said bag was to get trapped under the dual controls. In addition, local routes have been found to have serious flaws in the directions given by the Sat-Nav itself so examiners have to tell candidates to override the instruction as it is incorrect.”

Responding to the strike action, DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: “The fact PCS is trying to undermine the launch of the new test by calling for strike action shows a shameful disregard for both road safety and learner drivers who have worked so hard to be ready to take their test.

“The new driving test has been designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving. Rail fares to go up by 3.4% from the New Year ‘It is one step in helping reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads.

“During the last 3 years the changes – which are welcomed by most examiners, road safety experts, disability groups and instructors – have been developed and trialled extensively with a wide range of our staff, learners and other organisations. Over 4000 candidates were involved in the trial.

“I met with PCS on November 2 and they turned down my offer of mediation, although our offer still stands. This means that we cannot move forward together to resolve this dispute, for the sake of our staff and customers.”

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Victoria Road: Meat stolen shed not fit for humans, say police

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is warning that meat stolen during a burglary in Llanelli is not fit for consumption by humans.
Several bags of frozen chicken and other meat were taken from a shed in Queen Victoria Road some time over the past few days, along with a radio controlled car and an electric saw.
If eaten, the meat could result in food poisoning.
Officers are concerned that the offender could be intending to sell the meat on, or might already have sold it.
Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police on 101.

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Llanelli: Woman on trial for fiddling more than £100,000 in benefits

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A LLANELLI woman is to stand trial accused of fiddling more than £100,000 in benefits she was not entitled to.

Emma Jane Campbell, aged 49, appeared at Swansea Crown Court today for a plea and trial preparation hearing before Judge Keith Thomas.

Campbell, of Elizabeth Street, denied retaining wrongful credits totalling £42,908 between 2002 and 2010, £63,113 between 2002 and 2016 and £7,722 between 20002 and 2013.

The amounts were said to relate to income support, housing benefit and council tax relief received by Campbell when she had capital in excess of the permitted amount.

Campbell is also charged with fraud by claiming Jobseeker’s allowance and employment support allowance but failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of her true financial position.

Campbell entered pleas of not guilty to all the charges.

She was granted bail until the start of her trial on April 17.

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Burry Port RFC welcomes asset transfer

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BURRY PORT RFC has welcomed its takeover of its home base from Carmarthenshire County Council.

The Rugby Club has signed a 99 year lease for the playing fields and changing rooms at Burry Port Memorial Park as part of the county council’s asset transfer programme.

The club has also been awarded a Maintenance Grant to assist with maintaining the asset and an Improvement Grant to assist with making any improvement works they may wish to undertake.

Around 80 per cent of the county council’s recreation assets have already been transferred, or are nearing completion, to town or community councils, or community groups.

Two years ago the council’s executive board agreed a package to offer community councils or groups the opportunity to take over the running of facilities in their areas.

Councillors believe it gives local people greater control in the future of their area and their community.

Burry Port RFC secretary Jonathan Davies said the club accepted that changes had to be made although it would not have chosen it.

“In hindsight I think it is a positive thing for the club. It has increased the assets of the club and given members a sense of belonging to the park.”

Executive board member for assets Cllr David Jenkins said: “Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to maintain all the recreational assets in our portfolio.

“However, this is not just a cost saving exercise – communities are often best placed to manage facilities in their local environment.

“I’m pleased that Burry Port RFC has taken over and is looking forward to the future.”

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