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Controversy over scallop dredgers

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Jamie Adams: Budget balance must be redressed

WEST WALES’ local authorities have cried ‘foul’ over the funding arrangements announced for the next financial year by the Welsh Government. In common with all rural councils in Wales, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire have all been told that their budgets will be cut to a greater extent than those of more urban councils. In addition, critics of the settlement have not been slow to point out that not only is the smallest budget cut for an individual local authority Cardiff’s, but that the largest sums per head of population in terms of local government expenditure are concentrated on Welsh Labour’s Valleys heartland. In an unusual turn of events, West Wales’ councils were already consulting on their budgets for next year before their own financial settlements from the Welsh Government were announced.

This has caused some confusion among members of the public, who now appear to be responding to their own individual council’s proposals on a basis that has been superseded by the Welsh Government announcement. The Welsh Government’s budget was delayed by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s decision to delay the Autumn Statement and tie it in with announcements on Government expenditure. Among one off budget pressures already factored into this year’s local authority budget forecasts are the introduction of the National Living Wage, changes to National Insurance, and alterations to pension rules. The cuts to the Revenue Support Grant, which funds local authority expenditure, do not take account of those measures’ impacts on Council budgets. Pembrokeshire: ‘Substantial budget pressures’ Meanwhile, members of the public are being encouraged to comment on potential changes to local services on Pembrokeshire County Council’s social media pages. Over £25m in savings have already been made in the past few years but substantial savings will also need to be made in the next three to four years. Around 40 budget reduction ideas are being considered as part of a consultation on the budget for 2016 – 2017 and beyond, which the Council is currently running on its website. Cllr Jamie Adams, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “We will be facing substantial budget pressures in 2016 – 2017, which means we need to look at making changes to services that many people use regularly.

“It is important that local people take advantage of the opportunity to give their feedback in order to help inform the tough decisions that Council will have to make in the coming months. “Encouraging debate and feedback via social media is not something that we’ve tried to this extent before and I think that it provides a fairly easy way for people to comment on potential changes to important local services.” On the Welsh Government’s financial settlement for the next financial year, in which Pembrokeshire face a 2.6% cut, Jamie Adams, said: “As a rural local authority, we seem to be particularly badly hit, with just three Councils suffering worse settlements than Pembrokeshire. “I look forward to some discussions with the Welsh Government to try and redress some of the balance.” Carmarthenshire: ‘better than anticipated’ Carmarthenshire County Council Deputy Leader and Executive Board Member for Resources Cllr David Jenkins said: “The settlement from Welsh Government of £251,685m for next year equates to a 1% decrease on the amount received last year on a like for like basis. We were planning for a 3.3% decrease, bearing in mind that every 1% increase / decrease equates to £2.5m.

“Whilst the headline figure is better than we anticipated, we need to accommodate the particular pressures placed on us including validation such as inflation and more specifically this year a £4.1m increase in National Insurance payments.” Even though the cut to Carmarthenshire was not as deep as had been feared, Cllr Jenkins nonetheless sounded a warning note: “As good as the news is it still represents a cut in the authority’s overall budget and bearing in mind there was a £2.1m shortfall in our current budget cut proposals we will still be looking for savings from relevant departments which we are currently consulting on with the public. “We are also still awaiting the full details from Welsh Government in terms of protection for education and social services. “The settlement is more favourable than we were planning but that said we still need to deliver efficiency savings of £12m.”

Ceredigion: Councillors will have to make difficult decisions Ceredigion County Council will see a cut of 3.5% to its funding from Welsh Government for the financial year 2016-17 – one of the highest to any local authority in Wales. The announcement will mean that savings in the region of at least 6% in the Council’s budget are required, as expenditure increases have to be met whilst funding levels have decreased. The Council has already made savings of £20m over the last three years, and was working towards making savings of £25m over the next three years.

However, this cut will potentially mean the Council will need to find significant additional savings over the next three years. Leader of the Council, Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn said: “Yet again, rural communities are suffering compared to urban ones. The Council is suffering one of the largest cuts to any local authority budget for 2016-17, which will result in massive pressure on Councillors to make very difficult decisions.” The money from Welsh Government has been shared among Councils according to population size and age, and deprivation levels within that local authority. A major restructure and a programme of service transformation aimed at changing how the Council is organised and works has been in place since 2013.

Despite this, further cuts to services is now inevitable, as the scope to make more efficiency savings gets harder to achieve year on year. We must avoid England’s fate: WLGA The Deputy Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), Cllr Aaron Shotton said: “We are also still awaiting the full details from Welsh Government in terms of protection for the system used to fund local councils in Wales is based on a complex array of grant arrangements and while many Welsh councils will today cautiously welcome the Welsh Government’s draft budget for its focus on preventative public services such as social care, we await further detail of how the budget can help to alleviate some of the mounting pressures on critical local services. “We have been clear that there is a need to rewrite the rulebook on how our councils are funded if we are to avoid a similar situation to that in England, where local public services have been cut to the bone and a number of councils face the very real possibility of being unable to meet even their most basic statutory duties. The budget announcement offers a glimmer of hope that a different reality can be written for vital local public services in Wales.”

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Welsh Conservatives pay tribute to murdered MP, Sir David Amess

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have released a statement following the murder of serving Member of Parliament, Sir David Amess on Friday (Oct 15).

Paul Davies MS said: “We are horrified by the death of Sir David Amess.

“Sir David was a much-respected and well-liked MP who cared deeply about serving his constituents, something he had done with distinction for nearly four decades.

“One of the longest-serving Members of Parliament, his contribution to public life was vast and he will be sorely missed by those in Southend and in the Conservative Party.

Paul Davies MS said: “We are horrified by the death of Sir David Amess (Pictured)

“Sadly, this shocking and abhorrent incident once again highlights the dangers that public servants can face, all of whom should be able to conduct such duties helping those they represent in safety.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends. May he rest in peace.”

Stephen Crabb MP took to social media to say: “Love and prayers for the family of Sir David Amess MP this afternoon. Just devastating. Funny, wise, compassionate, and such a good friend to so many of us.

“It was a delight to interview Sir David Amess back in May for a virtual book launch for his autobiography. So much warmth, humanity and love of the job he did so assiduously for almost 40 years. Parliament has lost one of its finest today.”

The MP for Southend West was stabbed at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, in Essex. He was there for one of his regular Friday meetings with his constituents.

Just 15 minutes before the attack, the 69-year-old was standing on the church steps, chatting and laughing with locals.

At around 12:05 PM, Sir David walked into the church alongside two female members of his staff to meet some more constituents.

Local councillor John Lamb said that it was then that the attacker emerged from a small group of waiting constituents and attacked Sir David, stabbing him several times.

“I’m told that when he went in for his surgery there were people waiting to see him, and one of them literally got a knife out and just began stabbing him,” Mr Lamb said.

Police arrived at the scene in Eastwood Road North within minutes where they found the MP with multiple injuries and arrested a man.

“We knew it must be very serious because the paramedics had been working on Sir David for over two and a half hours and they hadn’t got him on the way to hospital,” Mr Lamb told the PA news agency.

At 14:13 an air ambulance arrived at a nearby sports ground to move him to hospital. However, members of his team began to fear the worst as paramedics remained at the scene.

Shortly before 15:00, Essex Police said Sir David had died.

At a press conference later Chief Constable BJ Harrington said officers and paramedics had worked extremely hard to save the MP.

Questions are now being raised about security arrangements for politicians working in their constituencies.

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Family of property developers sentenced for fifteen counts of fraud

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Four property developers were sentenced on Friday (October 15) at Swansea Crown Court to two years imprisonment suspended for 12 months each for multiple counts of mortgage and investment fraud worth over £1m.

Audrey Osborne, 65, and her sons Gary Moore, 43, Clayton Moore, 46 and Ian Moore, 44 pleaded guilty to fifteen counts of fraud, including conspiracy to commit fraud, obtaining money transfers by deception and fraud, following an investigation by South Wales Police Economic Unit.

Osborne ran a mortgage brokerage business, Credence Finance Limited operating all over Wales. This company was used as a vehicle to submit multiple false declarations of income in support of mortgage applications.

In addition to the mortgage frauds, the family secured a number of investors in Dreamscape Homes, including family friends, employees and Credence customers. The investors provided amounts of around £25k, some re-mortgaging their own homes to do so. They received Share Certificates in return. None of the investors received a return as the land was never developed.

John Sheehan of the CPS said: “Between them, Audrey Osborne and her sons committed 15 offences of dishonesty, misleading mortgage providers and betraying the trust placed in them by friends, employees and customers. They did so for their own personal benefit and only admitted their wrongdoing late in the proceedings.

“The CPS will now pursue confiscation proceedings against them to ensure they have not benefitted from their criminal conduct and, if possible, to compensate the victims.”

The CPS is committed to working alongside the government and law enforcement to provide a multi-agency response to combat all types of fraud.

Specialist Fraud Prosecutors work to seek justice in a variety of cases including those that cause the greatest harm to the public, particularly involving vulnerable victims.

The prosecution of the case was led by the CPS Specialist Fraud Division, a dedicated CPS team playing a leading role in the fight against serious and complex economic crime and the financial exploitation of the public, using specialist legal expertise to deliver justice.

The full sentences imposed at Swansea Crown Court are as follows:

Audrey Osborne was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

Gary Moore was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

Clayton Moore sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

Ian Moore was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

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Parents’ tribute to ‘perfect baby girl’ following fatal collision in Llanelli

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THE PARENTS of a six-month-old baby killed in a collision in Llanelli on Friday (8 October) have paid tribute to their “perfect baby girl” who they say was “a gift from God”.

Eva Maria Nichifor died following a collision involving a blue 3 series BMW and a blue Vauxhall Vectra at the Heol Goffa crossroads in Llanelli at around 9pm.

Eva Maria’s parents Florin and Carmen, who originate from Romania, but now live in Llanelli, have issued the below tribute in English and Romanian.

“We are distraught by our loss. Eva Maria, only six months old, will be missed by us all.

“She was our miracle, our perfect baby girl, a gift from God. She will always be in our hearts.

“We would like to thank everyone for their support at this horrific time. It has meant so much to the whole family.

“We would now like time to grieve and would ask to be given privacy in which to do so.”

Romanian translation:

Suntem foarte supărați pentru pierderea noastră. Eva Maria, avea doar 6 luni si cu toții ii vom simți lipsa.

Ea a fost minunea noastră, un copil perfect și un dar dat de Dumnezeu. Va fi in inimile noastre pentru totdeauna.

Va mulțumim tuturor pentru susținerea voastră in aceste vremuri dificile, înseamnă foarte mult pentru noi.

Am vrea acum puțin timp sa ne adunam in liniște alături de familia noastră.

A woman has been charged with causing Eva Maria’s death by dangerous driving.

Lucy Dyer, aged 23, of Heulwen Terrace, Llanelli, was remanded in custody following the court hearing at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Monday (11 October). 

She is due to appear before Swansea Crown Court on Friday, 12 November.  She was also charged with drink-driving.

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