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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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Llanelli: Stop notice issued for school planning application

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A CONTROVERSIAL planning application for a new 480-spaced school in Llanelli has been issued a stop notice by the Welsh Government.
Carmarthenshire County Council is proposing to build a new £9.1m school on Llanerch Fields in Llanelli and were looking to determine the planning application in the coming weeks. Welsh Government will now decide whether to call in the application or not.
The new school would accommodate 420 primary and 60 nursery pupils, set over two floors with larger classrooms with integrated IT facilities, a multi-purpose hall and specialist provision for pupils with additional learning needs.
Over recent years there has been much debate in the area on the choice of site for the new school with campaigners arguing that they support a new school, but object against Llanerch fields being built upon. Last year an attempt to get the land designated as a village green was turned down.
In 2017, Ysgol Dewi Sant as the first Welsh medium primary school to be provided by a local authority celebrated its 70th birthday.
Councillor Rob James, local member for Lliedi, stated “From day one I have raised concerns that the Council’s site choice and planning process opened the Council up to the possibility of the Welsh Government calling in the planning application. It is clear that these concerns were not misplaced and there is now a really chance that it will be. 

“As a local Councillor, a school governor and a parent, I am passionate about the need for a new school for the pupils of Ysgol Dewi Sant and it is important that local pupils get the benefits of a 21st century school.
“I will now be working with Council Officers to ensure that contingency plans are prepared in case the Welsh Government state that the planning application does not comply with national planning policy.
“I will also work with parents, pupils, residents and interested parties are able to engage with the Welsh Government during this process.”

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Third annual Burry Port Raft Race is eagerly awaited

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THE THIRD ANNUAL BURRY PORT RAFT RACE, organised by Burry Port couple, Craig and Isabel Goodman, will be held on Saturday (July 27).

The event which is held in Burry Port Harbour, raises much needed funds for both Burry Port RNLI and a children’s football academy and primary school the couple support in The Gambia.

The day launches at 12pm with stands, food stalls and children’s inflatable games and rides and these will be available until 5pm. You’ll also have a chance to meet the crews, who’ll be busy putting the final touches to their rafts.

Rafts launch at 3pm, followed by a presentation ceremony, including prizes for first raft over the line, first raft to sink and best dressed raft.

Craig said: ” A huge thank you goes to all our sponsors, including overall sponsor Dawsons, along with continued sponsorship from Celtic Couriers, Parker Plant Hire, Burns Pet Nutrition, Burry Port Co-Op, Llanelli Star, LBS Builders Merchants, Burry Port Marina, First Choice Flooring and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.

For any further information about the event, please contact 07825 842981.

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Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default

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CONSUMERS could get back money they have lost as a result of their dealings with a failed regulated firm in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The firm is Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited formerly Assura Protect, Room 1, 7 Meadows Bridge, Parc Menter, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA14 6RA.

The firm was declared in default in June 2019 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme that protects customers of authorised financial services firms that carry out certain regulated activities. A declaration of default means FSCS is satisfied a firm is unable to pay claims for compensation made against it. This paves the way for customers of that firm to make a claim for compensation with FSCS.

Alex Kuczynski, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at FSCS, said: “FSCS steps in to protect consumers around the UK when authorised financial services firms go bust. This vital service, which is free to consumers, protects deposits, insurance, investments, home finance and debt management. We want anyone who believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with this firm to get in touch, as we may be able to help you.”

Since it began in 2001, FSCS has helped more than 4.5m people, paying out more than £26bn in compensation.

If you wish to make a claim with FSCS against Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited, you may be able to do so using FSCS’s online claims service at https://claims.fscs.org.uk Or you can contact its Customer Services Team on 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100

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