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Helicopter row reaches Westminster

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A LETTER sent to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart has called into question the basis upon which the National Police Air Service (NPAS) intends to scrap the police helicopter based at Pembrey which serves the Dyfed- Powys Police area.

Despite assurances given to Dyfed Powys Police Commissioner Christopher Salmon that the helicopter service had a secure future, NPAS has announced plans to scrap the service from January 1 2016 and replace it with a fixed wing aircraft based at St Athan.

A letter to the MP from Mark Burns-Williamson, chair of NPAS’ strategic board, suggests that NPAS’ grasp of Welsh geography is, at best sketchy.

In the letter, Mr Burns-Williamson extols the virtues of a fixed wing aircraft flying from St Athan. In the course of his glowing endorsement of the plans, Mr Burns-Williamson also suggests that the transit time from St Athan to Haverfordwest is 31 minutes and claims that the transit time from St Athan to Caernarfon is only 21 minutes.

The distance between St Athan and Haverfordwest is 73 miles as the crow flies.

The distance between St Athan and Caernarfon is 126 miles or so as the crow flies.

As Mr Hart points out: “I think they have mistaken Caernarfon for Carmarthen, which is a bit of a concern.”

In Parliament, Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards’ efforts to quiz Secretary of State Stephen Crabb on the issue were thwarted as the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP ducked a question on the NPAS decision to scrap helicopter coverage in Wales’ most rural areas.

The Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP was selected to question Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb on Wednesday. Mr Edwards asked that Mr Crabb meet with him to discuss the police helicopter announcement that will see the £2m state-of-the-art Pembrey base close on January 1 2016. Mr Edwards also requested the secretary of state seeks the involvement of the home secretary as the minister responsible for policing.

Instead of Mr Crabb fronting up to tackle an issue of concern to his own constituents, Wales Office Minister, Alun Cairns MP, responded on behalf of the Westminster government. The response, Jonathan Edwards says, has raised serious questions about what the police commissioner has agreed since the announcing the deal to save Pembrey in November.

Afterwards Mr Edwards said: “It’s quite suspect that the minister was quick to congratulate (Mr Salmon) on saving money, but made absolutely no mention to the reality that we will lose our police helicopter.

“The police commissioner announced just four months ago that he had secured the future of the helicopter and the Pembrey base, but NPAS has now reneged on that deal. That ministers are now spinning this as a good news story leaves me highly suspicious and raises serious questions about what has been agreed in the last few months.”

NPAS do not publish minutes of their strategic board meetings. The MP has therefore submitted a freedom of information request. The requests seeks: “Copies of minutes from the National Police Air Service Strategic Board meetings that took place in December 2014, January 2015 and February 2015. These minutes should, where applicable, include discussion and decision records (including all members who voted) on the proposal to remove Dyfed Powys Police Helicopter and its base in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, from the National Police Air Service plan.”

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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