C A R M A R T H E N S H I R E COUNTY COUNCIL has issued a lengthy press release that seeks to explain the council’s position in respect of the use of its reserves. “We appreciate why people were questioning why we are keeping £122m in reserves, which is forecasted to be £96m by the end of March, and then cutting our services,” said Cllr Jeff Edmunds. “But we cannot simply dip into these reserves, the vast majority of which is ring-fenced for a specific use.”
Cllr Edmunds continued: “Put simply – to compare with an average household – reserves are like our savings account which we use if we need to make home improvements, fix the car etc, and our revenue budget which funds services, are like our current account which pays our bills. If we raid our piggy bank because we can’t afford to pay our bills it will be depleted and when we need money for anything there will be none there. Reserves are for one-off expenditure or projects, it is unsustainable and would be a reckless use of funds to take money from them for day to day living.”
One Independent Group councillor suggested to The Herald: “The question begged by his (Cllr Edmunds’) remarks is whether he thinks it is better to have a million in the bank and sit in darkness because the electricity and gas have been disconnected.”
Chris Moore, the council’s head of financial services, was less absolutist than Cllr Edmunds; however, his words were still cautionary: “Reserves are set aside to meet future potential liabilities, and any use of the reserves for any purpose other than what it is earmarked for, should be considered with extreme caution.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Kevin Madge, said: “We want to be very clear about our use of reserves. We are planning for a sustainable future. Raiding our ‘piggy bank’ to see us through this financial year simply stores up problems for the future. It would be irresponsible to put ourselves at such risk.”
However, Cllr Madge’s view on the reserves and the irresponsibility of using them was not shared by Plaid Cymru’s group leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole.
He told The Herald: “It seems to me that what is being said about the reserves on the one hand is totally inconsistent with the way the executive board managed to approve switching £3m of reserves around not that long ago. My deputy, Dai Jenkins, attended a recent meeting of the executive board at which the board nodded through moving £3m around the reserves at Chris Moore’s proposal without any questions being asked. It worked out at a £1m a second to deal with the whole thing. Of course officers need input into decisions, nobody can dispute that, but they should only be advising councillors, not directing policy. That is what the executive board and the council are there to do. If you have a weak executive and strong officers it is a recipe for disaster. Our view that we should look at what we can do with the reserves cannot have come as a surprise to the council leader. He was told by Leighton Andrews – a Welsh Labour minister – that councils across Wales should look at what they can do with those reserves. That letter was sent in November. The council’s reserves are an essential part of the budget process. Those reserves are public money and should be used for the benefit of Carmarthenshire people. It really should have rung a bell in someone’s mind at County Hall that the reserves would need to be examined. It follows that they should be scrutinised. At the moment there is £15-20m sitting in a reserve just called ‘other’. I suppose there could be reserves marked ‘other-other-other’ just to make clear what they are for! Against a background of austerity, we should have looked at the reserves as the Welsh Government suggested. The way the council has dealt with the whole issue of reserves smacks of scare-mongering.”
Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June
ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.
A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.
An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.
The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.
Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”
If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.
All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.
It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.
Please check for local arrangements.
Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.
Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.
Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.
“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”
Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.
They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS
Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”
“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”
Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.
The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.
Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre
LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.
In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.
This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.
RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”
“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”
“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”
“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”
“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”
“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”
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