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Driving tests on hold as instructors strike over safety fears

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A NUMBER of driving tests were cancelled this week after union members held a two-day strike, citing a refusal by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to acknowledge the dangers of the new Driving test and a demand that staff work up to 90 minutes a day without pay.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) struck on Monday and Tuesday (Dec 4-5) amid concerns about the new tests. The new driving tests, introduced on Monday, include an element of testing learners on the use of a Sat-Nav, as well as other changes.

PCS members are also expected to travel from their homes to remote or distant test centres, without being paid for up to one and a half hours per day.

PCS Organising Officer Steve Donoghue said: “I have spoken to one member who lives in Carmarthen and usually covers the tests that are delivered there. He is regularly asked to cover driving tests in Aberystwyth. Whereas previously staff were paid for the time it took them to travel from their substantive place of work to these locations, they will now not be paid for the first 45 minutes each way. This is clearly a case of the DVSA trying to cut budgets at our members’ expense. The blame for this disruption lies squarely with the DVSA and the Department for Transport due to their insistence on imposing changes to terms and conditions on staff which have been rejected by the vast majority of staff in recent ballots.”

There was a picket line outside the Test Centre in Llanelli on Monday morning, which was supported by Unison, Llanelli Trades Council and the Llanelli Constituency Labour party. All tests booked for Monday and Tuesday were cancelled.

PCS Branch Treasurer Paul Dallimore said: “we regret any inconvenience caused to learners whose tests have been postponed. However, we are committed to making sure that our concerns over the Sat-Nav element of the new tests are properly Health & Safety checked before going live. Examiners have been told to put the Sat-Nav bag in the foot well whilst conducting the test, putting candidates, examiners and other road users at risk in an emergency if the said bag was to get trapped under the dual controls. In addition, local routes have been found to have serious flaws in the directions given by the Sat-Nav itself so examiners have to tell candidates to override the instruction as it is incorrect.”

Responding to the strike action, DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: “The fact PCS is trying to undermine the launch of the new test by calling for strike action shows a shameful disregard for both road safety and learner drivers who have worked so hard to be ready to take their test.

“The new driving test has been designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving. Rail fares to go up by 3.4% from the New Year ‘It is one step in helping reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads.

“During the last 3 years the changes – which are welcomed by most examiners, road safety experts, disability groups and instructors – have been developed and trialled extensively with a wide range of our staff, learners and other organisations. Over 4000 candidates were involved in the trial.

“I met with PCS on November 2 and they turned down my offer of mediation, although our offer still stands. This means that we cannot move forward together to resolve this dispute, for the sake of our staff and customers.”

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Baby died an hour after birth following ‘failings’ by Health Board

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A BABY died just minutes after being born following failings by Hywel Dda Health Board, a damning report by the Public Services Ombudsman has found.

Callum James was born at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen on May 5, 2016, but died less than an hour later despite attempts to resuscitate him.

His parents, Ellie and Christopher James from Haverfordwest, complained that there had been a failure to monitor Callum’s development during pregnancy and to provide a birthing plan.

Mrs James also complained that the Health Board failed to respond to unusual pains during labour and to conduct necessary tests.

The report states there were also delays in Callum receiving treatment after he was born due to the First Consultant being sent to the wrong ward, delaying emergency treatment by 12 minutes.

The Health Board said that, in its view, there were no unnecessary delays in the attempts to resuscitate Callum, as the midwives in attendance had been trained in neonatal resuscitation.

In addition, the Ombudsman found that Callum’s death was also incorrectly registered as a stillbirth rather than neonatal death.

The report says Callum was ‘pale’ and ‘floppy’ at birth and immediately transferred to a resuscitation table where a team of medics worked for over half an hour to save his life.

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint that there had been a failure to monitor Callum’s development during pregnancy and labour and to provide a birthing plan.

Hywel Dda agreed to implement all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations, including providing Callum’s parents with an apology and £4,500 for the distress caused.

The Board also agreed to change Callum’s cause of death from ‘stillborn’ to ‘neonatal death’.

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3,000 Welsh landlords still unregistered

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JANET FINCH-SAUNDERS AM has called on the Welsh Government to urgently work to improve landlord registration under Rent Smart Wales, as estimates released indicate around 3,000 remain unregistered.

Ms Finch-Saunders said: “Rent Smart Wales estimates that still 3,000 landlords are unregistered here in Wales.

“Whilst that makes up a small percentage of our total landlords, it is most concerning for those living in properties leased to them by those who have not yet registered.

“The Welsh Government has confirmed that a landlord who is not registered with Rent Smart Wales is unable to serve a valid Section 21 eviction notice – so where unregistered landlords do indicate that they want tenants to vacate a property, this is not recognised by local housing associations, which can cause stress to tenants who may not be aware of their full rights under the law.

“By focusing on ensuring that all landlords are properly registered, the Welsh Government can alleviate such concerns, and I will be urging the Cabinet Secretary to act to ensure all landlords are abiding by this legislation in full.”

The Minister for Housing and Regeneration told Ms Finch-Saunders that the latest figures released by Rent Smart Wales show that 90,812 landlords are now registered. Rent Smart Wales’ latest estimate for the number of unregistered landlords is approximately 3,000.

This is based on the dwelling stock estimates recently published by StatsWales, and an estimation of the average number of properties owned by each landlord.

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Care home honour Armed Forces Day

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PLAS Y DDERWEN in Johnstown will be celebrating Armed Forces Day on Thursday, June 28, with a big brew up supporting SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity.

SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity, formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, provides lifelong support to serving men and women and veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families. Armed Forces Day is a chance to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community.

Janet Williams, Activities Coordinator, said: “It is very important that we keep the memories of those who fought alive and that we also think about those involved in conflicts around the world today. We welcome anyone that wishes to attend and will have the chance to meet the team and look around the home.”

Plas Y Dderwen is part of Barchester Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest care providers, supporting older people living independent lives over the last 25 years.

Barchester services include residential care and nursing care as well as expert dementia care.

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