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Volunteer officers give up time to police during the pandemic

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WHILE most people are staying home to stay safe, a small army of volunteers has been patrolling the streets to help protect communities.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Special Constabulary has boosted numbers on the frontline, giving up hundreds of hours to support their regular colleagues in dealing with crime and enforcing new COVID-19 legislation.

Special Inspector Haydn Bradley-Davies is one of the 46 unpaid officers to step up during the pandemic, logging a mammoth 2,500 hours and carrying out 287 duties between them in April.

For S/Insp Bradley-Davies, 280 hours have been spent on duty since March 21 – five times the hours he would usually volunteer in a month.

Despite the added risks of patrolling and coming into contact with members of the public, he did not hesitate in offering his time. As he heads back to his regular full-time job, he’s given an insight into the challenges and rewards of being a Special during this extraordinary time.

He said: “I felt it was really important that I was helping the force out during its time of need, managing the new legislation and public order.

“When the new legislation was announced back in March, the Chief Constable sent a letter to Specials asking for assistance, and I felt it was essential that I helped out as much as I could.

“I knew the new rules would mean extra challenges for regular officers, who would be committed with road checks and additional patrols, as well as dealing with reports of crime. It was important to me to be able to do my bit to help my colleagues.”

Since March 21, S/Insp Bradley-Davies has attached himself to the Aberystwyth response code he usually volunteers alongside. When he would usually be working his desk job with the Welsh Government, he’s been responding to calls from the public, updating victims of crime on enquiries, protecting vulnerable people and implementing the new legislation.

Specials across the force have made seven arrests and assisted in 28, attended 25 domestic calls, carried out 656 vehicle stops, recorded five drug seizures and conducted 322 stop checks.

S/Insp Bradley-Davies said: “Enforcing the regulations has mainly involved educating members of the public in the Aberystwyth and North Ceredigion area of the new rules and their own responsibilities, as well as helping them understand what they should all be doing to protect themselves and others,” he said.

“This has been mainly via foot patrol in hotspots where there are likely to be more people, and also conducting static road checks to make sure people are only travelling for essential reasons.

“Alongside this, we’ve responded to high risk missing persons calls, assisted with scene guard following a sudden death, reports of criminal damage, burglaries and domestic incidents.”

Despite having four years of Special experience under his belt, this is the first time S/Insp Bradley-Davies has followed a shift pattern of six days on and four days off alongside his colleagues. And although he has made the most of the opportunity, he admits it hasn’t been without its challenges.

“I have worked with Code E for the majority of my specials career, so to be there with them every shift, seeing the challenges they face day to day, and to support them as much as I have was a huge pleasure,” he said.

“I’ve felt I have become so much closer to my colleagues over the past seven weeks. It’s very much like being part of a family being on shift, which has been the most enjoyable part.

“As someone who works and has always worked flexible working hours, I have found the move to a shift work pattern quite different. I’m used to the occasional night shift with my Special Constable role, but working a full pattern is challenging.

“I have enjoyed the experience, but I think it has shown me that I am not a shift person and I want to continue as a Special Constable working alongside my full time role.”

Dyfed-Powys Police currently has 88 Special Constables, who work across the force area. Many carry out the role alongside full time work and family commitments. For S/Insp Bradley-Davies and his colleagues, the opportunity to support his colleagues full time, on paid and unpaid leave, would not have been possible without the backing of their employers.

He said: “My employers at the Welsh Government have always been supportive of my role as a Special Constable and volunteering in general. Since the announcement of lockdown they have been even more supportive than normal, and allowed me to be released in order to assist Dyfed-Powys with their work.”

Special Chief Inspector Chris Evans thanked all Specials for the work they have carried out in recent weeks.

He said: “DPP Specials have been fantastic during this period. A huge thank you to them for all that they are doing.

“Thank you also to the employers of Specials who have supported their communities by allowing Specials to be on duty with the Employer Supported Policing scheme.”

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Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach

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THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.

Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.

The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.

Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.

The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.

The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.

In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.

If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.

With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.

If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.

If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.

The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.

Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.

The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.

During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.

They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.

A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.

“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”

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News

Have your say on Carmarthenshire County Council’s budget

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PEOPLE are being encouraged to get involved in Carmarthenshire County Council’s annual budget setting process.

The council is inviting local residents, businesses, community and voluntary organisations to have their say on its draft budget so that councillors can consider public feedback before making a final decision in March.

The council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover its expenditure.

With Covid-19 having had a significant impact on services, this year councillors face the added pressure of funding extra costs incurred and ensuring future contingencies can be met.

Pressures are being particularly felt across social care services because of the pandemic, and across the environment department associated with school transport, flood and coastal defences, and enhanced resources to tackle cleansing and fly-tipping in targeted areas.

No new savings proposals are being put forward for consultation this year, however the council’s Executive Board has reiterated its commitment to delivering the three-year savings agreed in the 2020 budget.

Meeting earlier today (Monday, January 18, 2021), Executive Board members rejected a proposed 4.89 per cent Council Tax increase in favour of proposing a more modest 4.48 per cent increase in recognition of the pressures being faced by people because of the pandemic.

“The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked personal and financial havoc on our county, and the good people of Carmarthenshire have paid a huge price,” said Leader of the Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole. “Given the circumstances of Covid-19 and the way that people are currently affected, I propose reducing the proposed Council Tax increase to 4.48 per cent to give the people of Carmarthenshire the support that they so rightly deserve.”

The consultation has now opened allowing people to have their say on the proposed draft budget.

Cllr David Jenkins, Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “It’s so important that we are able to take people’s views into consideration when setting our budget. Although we haven’t put specific proposals forward this year, we have to plan for areas of spending and saving. Hearing from people about what matters to them allows us to understand public opinion and as such we encourage everyone to share their views with us before our final decisions are made.”

People can share their views online at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultation until 5pm on February 3, 2021.

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Education

School consultations underway

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is consulting on four different proposals for schools in the county.

The council has a legal responsibility to review the number and type of schools it has and to make the best use of resources and facilities to deliver the opportunities that children deserve.

As a result, a wide-ranging programme to improve school buildings and enhance opportunities for learning is underway across Carmarthenshire, and to date £295million has been spent on primary and secondary schools across the county providing state-of-the-art facilities and accommodation to give children the best possible education.

Now local communities are being asked for their views on four different proposals to:

  • review primary education provision in the Mynydd-y-Garreg and Gwenllian areas;
  • change the age range of Swiss Valley Primary School from 4-11 to 3-11;
  • review primary education provision in the Blaenau and Llandybie areas;
  • reconfigure and remodel behaviour support services at Ysgol Rhydygors to improve provision for children and young people.

The consultations are running for six weeks ending on February 11, and will give everyone in the local communities the opportunity to have their say, either via the consultation pages on the council website or by emailing or writing to the council if preferred.

Links to the consultation documents are being sent to all interested parties, and the Education department will be organising ‘virtual’ drop-in sessions so that communities can discuss the proposals and ask any questions they may have.

Some informal sessions have already been held with parents and governors to give them a chance to speak to officers and ask any questions on the proposals.

The information gathered from the consultations will form part of the consultation report which will be submitted to the Executive Board for consideration following the consultation period.

Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “The council has a statutory obligation to keep the number and type of school places under review and to deliver services to clear standards by the most economic and effective means.

“Our schools need to be able to provide a wide range of services to the communities they serve, and it is important that future provision reflects the changing patterns of population, with schools based in the right location with the accommodation and facilities that are fit to serve the needs of 21st century learners.

“It is important that local communities and interested parties give their views on these proposals for their schools. All the details for each of the proposals can be found on the council website, or please contact us if you need paper copies.

“If you have any questions, I would urge you to please attend one of the virtual drop-in sessions that are being organised, further information to follow as soon as possible, or if you are unable to attend, please get in touch to speak to our officers.”

For further information on the proposals and to take part in the online survey please visit the council website carmarthenshire.gov.uk/consultations

For all other enquiries please email DECMEP@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or call 01267 246426.

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