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Government to halts competition law and considers bringing in army to deliver fuel

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THE UK GOVERNMENT is to suspend competition law to allow oil firms to target fuel deliveries at petrol stations following recent panic buying.

Petrol stations in Carmarthenshire, and across the UK, have struggled to keep stocked over the last few days, with several running dry altogether. Other forecourts have run out of certain fuels, with diesel it seems, in particularly high demand.

Officials said the move would make it easier for companies to share information and prioritise parts of the country most at need.

It follows days of long queues at the pumps, after fears of disruption to the fuel supply sparked larger than usual demand at the petrol pumps.

The news comes after it emerged that hundreds of soldiers could be scrambled to deliver fuel to petrol stations running dry across the country. The plan expected to be considered by Boris Johnson on Monday (Sept 27).

The prime minister will gather senior members of the cabinet to scrutinise “Operation Escalin” after BP admitted that a third of its petrol stations had run out of the main two grades of fuel, while the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said 50% to 90% of its members had reported running out. It predicted that the rest would soon follow.

Conceived years ago during the planning for a no-deal Brexit, “Operation Escalin” would mean hundreds of soldiers being drafted in to drive a reserve fleet of 80 tankers. It is understood that it would take up to three weeks to fully implement, because some of those mobilised may already be on other deployments and others could be reservists. Escalin was touted as an option last week, but government sources downplayed the chance of its activation.

Announcing the measure to exempt the oil industry from the Competition Act 1998, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government had “long-standing” contingency plans to maintain fuel supplies.

“While there has always been and continues to be plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals, we are aware that there have been some issues with supply chains.

“This is why we will enact the Downstream Oil Protocol to ensure industry can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimised.

“We thank HGV drivers and all forecourt staff for their tireless work during this period.”

Transport secretary Grant Shappson on Sunday urged people to “be sensible” and blamed “one of the road haulage associations” for what he called a manufactured crisis, suggesting on Sky News that the group had leaked details from a meeting last week about driver shortages at fuel firms. However, the Road Haulage Association branded it a “disgraceful attack” concocted to “divert attention away” from the government’s handling of the issue.

BP, Esso, Texaco and Shell have introduced a £30 limit on fuel purchases after motorists were seen filling multiple jerry cans as the government warned the public not to panic buy fuel.

A Tesco said: “We are experiencing temporary outages in a small number of areas. We have good availability of fuel, and we’re working really hard to ensure regular deliveries to our petrol filling stations across the UK every day.”

A BP spokesman said: “We are experiencing fuel supply issues at some of our retail sites in the UK. This is being caused by delays in our supply chain due to a shortage of qualified drivers – this issue is impacting industries across the UK.

“Most of the 1,200 sites we supply across the UK remain supplied and open. However, with the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30% of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel. We are working to resupply as rapidly as possible. Sites that have multiple grade-outs may have closed for fuel purchases – we do not have an estimate of this number.

“We continue to work hard with our haulier supplier, Hoyer, to optimise fuel distribution and to minimise the level of disruption, keeping key sites supplied and restocking as rapidly as possible. The sites affected are changing as we continue deliveries.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Shell added: “We are working hard to ensure supplies for customers. Since Friday we have been seeing a higher-than-normal demand across our network which is resulting in some sites running low on some grades.”

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Respect, protect and enjoy Halloween safely

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RESPECT, protect, and enjoy. That’s the message from Dyfed-Powys Police as officers urge people to celebrate Halloween safely.

The force has launched Operation Bang 2021, asking people to think differently about the way they mark Halloween this year.

Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, and with some restrictions in place, officers are encouraging people to respect their neighbours, protect emergency services by reducing demand, and enjoy celebrations at home.

Inspector Justin Evans of the Crime and Harm Reduction Unit said: “You might be familiar with Op Bang, which is an annual operation aimed at keeping people safe over Halloween and bonfire night. This year, while our policing focus remains firmly on tackling antisocial behaviour and keeping people safe, for the second year our message is a little bit different given the unusual circumstances we’ve found ourselves in.

“We’re asking people to consider celebrating at home instead of going out and about, respecting that there are people who find Halloween distressing at the best of times, and who might find that the uncertainty of the current situation has heightened these feelings of anxiety.

“We also ask that you do your best to keep yourself and your family safe to prevent adding pressure to the emergency services during already busy times.”

Carving pumpkins, making crafts, and creating a spooky trail around your house or garden are all ways to celebrate Halloween at home with younger children.

While older children and teenagers might still want to meet up with friends, parents are urged to keep track of their plans, remind them to consider the consequences of their actions, and be mindful of lockdown restrictions.

“Fortunately, the majority of communities we police don’t experience a great increase in crime at this time of year, but there can always be one or two people who spoil it for everyone else,” Insp Evans said.

“We don’t want anyone’s enjoyment to get out of hand and cause distress or harm to others.

“By working together we can have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.”

For Halloween craft ideas and ways to celebrate at home, check out the Dyfed-Powys Police Pinterest page.

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Community

Christmas Toy Box Appeal to support families

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Council staff will purchase gifts and toys and distribute them in the run-up to Christmas.

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has launched its annual Christmas Toybox Appeal.

The appeal, in its 11th year, helps hundreds of children with families who can’t afford to buy toys or gifts.

Last year saw us help more families than ever who were struggling financially with more than 7,500 gifts were distributed to 1,256 children.

The appeal was launched online for the first time in 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic and people were asked to make a financial donation instead of buying gifts and toys. Given the current situation people are asked to donate in the same way.

Gifts will be bought out of the money donated and given to families who, for a range of reasons, are not able to give their children a Christmas that most of us take for granted.

Schools, family centres and youth workers identify those who are in greatest need of support.

Council staff will purchase gifts and toys and distribute them in the run-up to Christmas.

The council’s executive board member responsible for the Toybox Appeal, Cllr Mair Stephens said: “Last year we saw an unprecedented demand from families struggling to buy their children gifts. The appeal ensured that local children, who might otherwise have received nothing or very little, were given a gift at Christmas. We have always had fantastic support from the public and couldn’t do it without their help. Every donation, no matter how big or small, will make a huge difference to those less fortunate families. So please dig deep and donate to the online Christmas appeal.”

You can make a financial donation by visiting their website

If you have a cash or cheque donation please call 01267 234567.

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Education

New Year start date for new state-of-the-art Pembrey primary school

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The new modern purpose-built £8.25million primary school will be built next to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

WORK will get underway to build a state-of-the-art primary school in Pembrey in the new year.

Carmarthenshire County Council has unveiled plans for its latest new school, part of its multi-million pound Modernising Education Programme, jointly funded by the Welsh Government through its 21st Century Schools initiative.

The new modern purpose-built £8.25million primary school will be built next to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

On completion it will provide high-quality teaching facilities for 270 primary pupils and 30 nursery pupils.

It will also incorporate a Flying Start facility for younger children, located in a mobile classroom on the current school site.

The school has been designed by Carmarthenshire County Council’s own architects and the work will be carried out by Carmarthenshire-based TRJ Construction Ltd, selected from the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework.

Headteacher Helen Jacob said: “Teaching staff, pupils and families are excited and looking forward to seeing our new school come to life. Our children will benefit from seeing every phase of their new school being built right alongside us – it has been designed to enhance learning and teaching and it is very much deserved.”

Cllr Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, added: “We are proud to be delivering yet another fantastic new school in Carmarthenshire as part of our Modernising Education Programme.

“The new Ysgol Pen-bre will provide an excellent learning and teaching environment and will also benefit the local community, with many features built into the design that can be used by local people when it opens.

“We look forward to seeing construction start in January.”

By the end of the 2020/21 financial year, Carmarthenshire County Council will have invested £295million in transforming its network of nursery, primary and secondary schools.

Since the programme was launched, 12 new primary schools and two new secondary schools have been built and a number of other schools have been remodelled and refurbished to provide top-class learning and community facilities.

Find out more at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education

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