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MP champions helicopter in debate

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Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

JONATHAN EDWARDS has secured a meeting with Minister for Policing Mike Penning after a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday (Jun 9) concerning the future of the Dyfed Powys Police helicopter.
Mr Edwards opened the debate with a speech stating that the Dyfed Powys Police Helicopter was essential in helping the constabulary deal with the ‘unique policing challenges’ faced by a force that covers half a million people and approximately half of Wales. He added that the helicopter was used for vehicle pursuits, gathering intelligence, and transporting specialist teams around the region, as well as casualty evacuation.
Pointing out that this was a Wales and England issue, Mr Edwards stated that had the police force in Wales been devolved, as it was in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and as his party has argued in favour of, ‘it is highly unlikely that we would be having this argument’.
The decision to downgrade from a 22 base model to a 15 base model also came under scrutiny, and Mr Edwards quoted an NPAS document stating that the 22 base model was ‘the right one to deliver the operational capability needed for the public in England and Wales, which was written three months before the 15 base model was imposed.
Highlighting the fact that ‘great swathes of the Dyfed Powys force area were only reachable after a minimum of 30 minutes travel time from St Athan and Bristol, he added: “You don’t have to be a detective to work out that this will significantly reduce the safety and service available to my constituents.” He also pointed out that this went against NPAS policy, which was to reach 97% of people within 20 minutes.
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP also claimed that the decision was ‘on shaky ground.’ He advised Mr Penning, and the Home Secretary to read the minutes of February’s NPAS meeting and ‘satisfy themselves that the NPAS operational model was not open to judicial review,’ following the changes to the 15 base model, which Mr Edwards pointed out had happened without Dyfed Powys PCC Christopher Salmon, who signed in favour of the original model, knowing about it.
In what was later described by Mr Penning as ‘personal attacks on the Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr Edwards quoted Mr Salmon’s 2012 manifesto pledge to fight to keep the Dyfed Powys helicopter. “I want to put on record my deep sense of disappointment at Mr Salmon’s abject failure and apparent unwillingness to stand up for the best interests of the people of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys, he said. “If the commissioner feels powerless, perhaps it is time for him to leave his job.”
JonathanEdwardsalsoquestioned the information published by NPAS on fixed-wing aircraft coverage as an alternative aircraft in the area: “For the [fixed-wing aircraft] maps to be accurate the aircraft would have to be constantly encircling Llandeilo, refuelled in mid-air when required, before being dispatched, which is plainly ridiculous”, he said. “In other words, the arguments being put forward by NPAS to justify its new enhanced coverage is purely hypothetical and deeply misleading”, he added.
Mr Edwards was supported by Ceredigion MP Mark Williams, who pointed out that Dyfed Powys Police have ‘expressed real concerns about the diminished service.’
Concluding his speech, Mr Edwards said: “The residents of Dyfed Powys have been failed by their police commissioner and ill-served by NPAS.” He added “If the Home Secretary is not prepared to order a similar review as she has done in the north of England, then I believe it will be seen, quite rightly, as if the residents of mid and west Wales are ignored by the UK Government.”
Responding, Mr Penning claimed that Mr Salmon was ‘trying to do the best job that he possibly can for the people he represents’. He was supported in this by the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnor Christopher Davies. Mr Davies asked Mr Penning to point out how hard Mr Salmon had worked to get benefits from the NPAS model,’ without actually stating what these benefits were. He also pointed out that the Dyfed Powys helicopter had been grounded with gearbox problems for three weeks, and claimed that Dyfed Powys had no air cover at all during this period. He failed to mention that the South Wales Police Force helicopter was utilised during this period, and that this cover would in effect be what the NPAS model promises for the future.
He added that the coverage would be better because the new model offered 24 hour coverage rather than the twelve hours offered by the current model. He may have missed Mr Edwards’ earlier point, which was that in the last four years there have been a mere 13 calls for a helicopter outside of the twelve hour day.
“I think my honourable friend has been reading my speech – or perhaps he wrote it for me!” Mr Penning ‘joked.’
In terms of the cuts, he spoke in favour of moving away from traditional force boundaries to provide complete cover. Mr Penning referenced his work in moving the Coastguard service onto a national model, which he claimed had been a success.
He also said that it was not the role of the government to intervene in strategic decisions by NPAS. Mr Edwards intervened at this point, asking why, if this was the case, a review was being held concerning helicopter provision in the north of England. With refreshing candour, Mr Penning said that he didn’t know.
Mr Penning also championed fixed-wing aircraft, which have been tested in Dyfed-Powys with limited success, though the uses for them are open to interpretation. “I was counter-terrorism minister in Northern Ireland, and I have to be slightly careful what I say about how we used fixed-wing aircraft, but they are enormously useful,” he said. He also claimed that one of the more important uses for aircraft was tracking down cannabis growers.

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How Wales created 19 new field hospitals in less than 8 weeks…

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Across Wales the Welsh Government is supporting the NHS to create new field hospitals and rapidly increase bed capacity.
Health boards have repurposed existing buildings, including the Principality Stadium, a holiday park and even a television studio to provide an additional 6,000 beds.Field hospitals are designed to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic by providing extra bed capacity but they will also help normal hospital services be restarted and support social care services.Last month, the first patients were admitted to Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig at the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff.

Four to six weeks

Here is how Wales almost doubled its bed capacity in less than eight weeks…The time it has taken to nearly double hospital bed capacity in Wales, creating field hospitals across the nation.

19 field hospitals in Wales
This includes the repurposing of Bluestone Holiday Park and Parc y Scarlets in west Wales and Venue Cymru in north Wales.

1,500 beds at the Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig
Making it one of the largest field hospitals in the UK.

Five days
The length of time it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig, which overlapped with the build phase.

3,000
The number of planning hours, involving more than 20 different disciplines, it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig.

£166m
Welsh Government funding for the set up, construction and equipment for field hospitals in Wales.

138,000
The number of pieces of equipment have been provided to help support field hospitals, including beds, imaging equipment, syringe drivers and medicines.

Three North Wales field hospitals have the name Enfys
Meaning rainbow – the symbol of hope and thank you to the NHS during the pandemic.
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7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children

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Plucky Mattie Denman will climb the equivalent of Pen y Fan in the drive at her family home in Pembrey on Friday 22nd May to raise funds for Action for Children.

Mattie (7), has always wanted to climb the highest mountain in South Wales and is unable to currently because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As the family exercise at home every day, she decided she wanted to do the 6-mile equivalent journey there while she waits for the chance to do it for real.  Mattie chose Action for Children as her mother, Sian, works for the charity in Carmarthenshire.

Mattie said: ‘My Mammy works for Action for Children and I want to help as well because lots of families need help.  My older brother and sister help Action for Children, so I asked Mammy if I could do something. We exercise everyday walking up and down the drive and I have always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, but we have never done it.

‘Mammy said I could pretend I am walking it and people will give money to the charity. I said brilliant, that is what I am going to do and I am super excited to do it. I will use mammy’s step counter and I hope I can help children that need support especially because it is so hard for some families because of coronavirus.’

Proud mum and family support practitioner for Action for Children, Sian, added: ‘Mattie has a lovely heart and really wanted to do something and I’m very proud she chose Pen y Fan as her home challenge.  Action for Children has been going the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic continuing to support vulnerable families through phone and video sessions as well as food and help with the basics from our Emergency Appeal Fund. 

‘It is a tremendously challenging time for our families and every bit of money will directly help those in our communities who need it most.  I hope as many people as possible will donate to Mattie’s brilliant fundraising effort, it’ll make it even more special when we finally get to climb Pen y Fan for real.’

If you want to support Mattie’s Pen y Fan challenge please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattiesclimb

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Housebuilder launches Coronavirus move in package

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A South Wales housebuilder has launched new incentives which mean homes are ‘ready to move into’ during the Covid-19 crisis – without the need for tradespeople or delivery people.

People in Wales are allowed to move into new build houses during the lockdown – and many people have successfully done so.

However, the limitations of social distancing can add extra stress when it comes to having things like dishwashers, washing machines and turf installed in the new property.

That’s why Persimmon Homes West Wales has launched a new incentive package which gives purchasers the chance to buy a house with white goods and flooring already in place.

Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “Our sales advisors have done a terrific job in talking with customers and guiding them through the buying process remotely, without the need of face-to-face meetings.

“It’s been a huge challenge, but we’ve risen to it – and Persimmon has sold more than 120 properties in South Wales during the lockdown period. We have customers moving into their new homes every week.

“But, understandably, some people are cautious about having too many tradespeople and contractors enter their home, even if they are doing their utmost to abide by social distancing rules.

“That’s why we have launched these new packages which mean people can turn the key, unpack and get on with enjoying their new home.”

The package includes carpets and vinyl throughout, turf in the back garden, sliding wardrobes, integrated fridge freezer, integrated washer/dryer, integrated dishwasher and £500 discount towards removal fees.

The deal is on offer at Glas Y Felin in Bridgend, Parc Yr Onnen in Carmarthen, The Bridles in Llanelli, Peterson Park in Pontyclun, Parc Brynderi in Llanelli and Allt Y Celyn in Rhos.

Persimmon’s marketing suites in Wales remain closed for the time being. Visit www.persimmonhomes.com or call 01792 229800 for details of homes available.

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