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MP delivers helicopter petition

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helipetLOCAL MP Jonathan Edwards was at the Home Office this week delivering his petition to safeguard a dedicated police helicopter for Dyfed-Powys police force. Mr Edwards, along with his constituency colleague Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, has been a staunch critic of the decision to centralise police air support since plans were announced last year to close the base at Pembrey.

The Plaid Cymru MP has held debates in parliament, has met with the Policing Minister Mike Penning MP, and launched a public petition to highlight the public opposition to its loss. Last month, Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon confirmed, that as a result of an agreement he had reached, Dyfed Powys would join the centralised service which will result in our dedicated helicopter being sold off and the Pembrey base instead being used as what Jonathan Edwards calls a “glorified petrol station” in the future.

Upon delivering his petition Mr Edwards said the loss of a dedicated helicopter would be a huge blow to the communities of Dyfed Powys for whom the helicopter has played a pivotal role in their protection. Requesting that the Policing Minister personally intervened in the issue, the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP said the safety and security of Dyfed Powys residents would be compromised without a dedicated helicopter. Jonathan Edwards MP said: “I genuinely believe that Dyfed Powys will have a second rate air support service to what we have currently with our dedicated helicopter and crew at Pembrey.

Indeed there are already examples of Police Commissioners in England complaining that the centralised air support is not providing the level of service agreed and being unable to respond to call-out requests. “Additionally, it has already been confirmed that response times will increase in much of Dyfed Powys – a reason in itself, I would suggest, to oppose the loss of our helicopter.

It seems the more than 2,000 people who signed the petition would agree, and I am very grateful for their support. “The loss of our dedicated helicopter service is a direct result of the Westminster’s cuts and centralisation agenda which, as we are seeing, is having a profound effect on public services, and will see our stateof- the-art helicopter base used as a glorified petrol station in future. “On delivering the petition, I suggested to the Policing Minister that the safety and security of Dyfed Powys residents would unnecessarily compromised and have implored him to personally intervene in order to retain an operational helicopter based in Dyfed Powys.”

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Planning submitted for new Carmarthenshire Policing Hub and Custody Suite

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Dafydd Llywelyn confirmed that planning application has been submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council for the construction of a new Policing Hub and Custody Suite for Dyfed-Powys Police, to be built at land west of Heol Aur, Dafen, Llanelli.

Earlier this year, PCC Llywelyn revealed planning application documents for the proposed construction as part of a public consultation on the new build, which is to be an ambitious sustainable construction, with a BREEAM excellence rating.

The consultation in May 2020 provided an opportunity to those who were interested in the proposals to view all documents within the draft application package, which all have now been finalised and submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council for approval.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said; “This is a major investment for us which will see an ambitious, modern, sustainable fit for purpose policing hub and custody suite that will meet the needs and expectations of modern policing and I’m pleased to have reached this point in the process.

“I’ve worked extremely hard with partners over the last couple of years to get to this position and it was great to make the draft application plans and documents available to the public earlier this year. As part of the public consultation process in May, we engaged with the public and received a positive responses and messages of support from local residents in the Llanelli and wider area as well as from local partners”.

“The final planning application package has now been submitted by my Office, and will be available for the public to view on Carmarthenshire County Council’s website. I encourage local residents in Llanelli and the wider community to obtain the planning application pack to have a look in detail at this fantastic new development that will support us in ensuring that Dyfed-Powys Police has a fit for purpose facility in Carmarthenshire”.

In being a BREEAM related development, the new build will offer a more sustainable environment, that aims to enhance the well-being of the people who live and work within it, and help protect natural resources.

Amongst some of the sustainable credentials of the new build will be a photovoltaic solar power installation to minimise the carbon footprint of the building; a rainwater harvesting facility for toilets and non-potable water, and electric car charging facilities.

Chief Inspector Richard Hopkin, Dyfed-Powys Police’s operational lead on the new build, said: “We feel very fortunate to be having a new build custody suite and hub coming to Llanelli.

“Our current Llanelli estate is old, so to see a new build that is being designed with such consideration for the environment and the wellbeing of our staff and the community within which it sits is really positive.

“This build will not replace the existing presence of our neighbourhood team in Llanelli town centre, but will enhance the service across the town and the wider communities.”

Once planning is granted, the aim is to complete the construction of the new build within a period of two years.

Heddwyn Thomas, Director of Estates at the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner at Dyfed Powys said, “The development will provide a fit for purpose future proof solution which will complement the town centre Neighbourhood Police Team base. This process brings us another step closer in the delivery of the new facility.”

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Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’

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THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.

The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.

The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.

Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.

Mark Drakeford: Vaccine is ‘a glimmer of light’

These stages include:

·         The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK

·         Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets

·         Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine

·         Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.

·         The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.

Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.

As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.

Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.

People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.

There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.

The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.

The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.

“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.

“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.

“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.

“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”

Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.

“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:

·         The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen

·         How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed

·         Who the first recipients will be

·         How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures

“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.

“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”

Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution. 

Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.

Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.

“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”

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Pubs closed and fined for breaching Covid-19 rules

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TWO licensed premises in Carmarthenshire have been handed £1,000 fines for staying open beyond the current 10.20pm closing time.

The operators of the Coopers Arms in Betws and Betws RFC were issued with the fixed penalty notices for breaching the current Covid-19 regulations.

Around 200 licensed venues have been visited by Carmarthenshire County Council officers in the last fortnight to check for compliance with regulations and to offer necessary advice.

As well as issuing two FPNs, the council has had to take action to close three premises where there were significant shortfalls in  measures to ensure the safety of their customers.

They were the Biddulph Arms in New Street, Llanelli; the Greenfield Inn, Llanelli, and the Wheaten Sheaf in Abergwili.

They will now have to demonstrate a range of improvements before being allowed to re-open.

Several other premises have been served improvement notices, and will be re-visited, but the vast majority of businesses are operating well and have been commended for their efforts.

Council officers will continue making proactive visits to licensed and business premises, particularly offering support in light of new restrictions on the hospitality industry coming into force in Wales at 6pm on Friday, December 4.

The new regulations will mean pubs, restaurants and cafes cannot serve alcohol and will have to close to customers by 6pm, only being permitted to stay open later for takeaways of food or non-alcoholic drinks.

Cinemas, bowling alleys, bingo halls, museums and galleries must also close from Friday.

Cllr Philip Hughes, Executive Board Member for public protection and enforcement, said: “This is an exceptionally difficult time for our hospitality industry, in particular in light of the new regulations that come into force on Friday.

“Our officers have been working incredibly hard to support the industry and I want to thank the majority of businesses for making every effort to look after their customers and staff.

“That said, it has been disappointing to see a small number either recklessly or purposely ignoring the rules and by doing so, putting their customers at risk.

“We have made it very clear from the start that where we see premises falling significantly short of the standards, and where there are premises that are not operating within the rules, we will not hesitate to take action – make no mistake about it.

“As well as ensuring customers can meet and socialise safely, we must also ensure a level playing field for all businesses – most of which are trying hard to meet the regulations.”

There are serious concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in Carmarthenshire, with local hospitals and care homes now heavily impacted.

Welsh Government regulations make it clear that social gatherings should be minimised.

Hospitality venues, including licensed premises such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, must ensure that customers can safely social distance at all times and strict cleansing routines must be in place.

People can meet in maximum groups of four, but if they are from different households every effort should be made to support social distancing.

Table service must be provided, with no customers allowed to congregate around the bar. Customers must remain seated, and wear a face covering at all times other than when they are seated.

Contact details of all customers must be checked and recorded as part of Test, Trace, Protect procedures.

Any business owner or landlord unsure of the rules is urged to check they know and understand the regulations – they are available online at www.gov.wales.

Further information, advice about steps to take and free downloadable resources are available on www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales where businesses can also sign up to receive regular business news updates.

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