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Councils respond to budget cuts

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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of the public, who now appear to be responding to their own individual council’s proposals on a basis that has been superseded by the Welsh Government announcement.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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Shock in Carmarthenshire as it’s named as one of the top locations for most reckless young drivers in UK

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CARMARTHENSHIRE has landed some unwanted publicity after being named as home to some of the most reckless young drivers in the UK.

According to comprehensive analysis by Adrian Flux, the county is one of the areas with the speediest teenagers on the road. On average 87.1% of FluxScore users there will receive a serious warning about their speeding compared to less than one in five in Conwy (17%).

The warnings are triggered by a black box that sits in the driver’s car to monitor their performance in the hope of improving safety and saving them money.

“This gamification style approach has helped sensible drivers save up to 60% for year-long safe driving upon renewal,” said Scott Goodliffe at Adrian Flux, one of the UK’s largest specialist motor insurance brokers.

“Unfortunately, some users are less attentive or cautious and their behaviour is a cause for concern because it leaves them more likely to make a claim or hurt themselves or others.

“It’s disappointing when alerts have to be sent but we’re proud that they are helping to change behaviour behind the wheel. We already know FluxScore is reducing the number of speeders across the board by 70% and hopefully this analysis will help address the small number who negatively impact these already impressive figures slightly.”

There are also considerable concerns about how quickly youngsters are travelling in Rhondda Cynon Taf with the area also being named and shamed in the top 10. It’s a much better picture in Conwy though with youngsters there being rated amongst the most careful drivers in the UK.

Adrian Flux’s self-fitting black box sits on the inside of the windscreen and tracks journeys. It helps reward safe driving by providing daily updates on the FluxScore app to show how the previous 24 hours’ driving has affected a driver’s renewal premium.

FluxScore sends alerts to drivers who it deems as driving dangerously or above the speed limit. The findings focus on Alert 2s, which are considered serious speeding events and take into account other factors such as the type of road. If a driver receives three Alert 2s, this will result in their policy being suspended.

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Local specialist contractors needed for countryside works

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is seeking local specialist countryside contractors for work on Public Rights of Way and conservation sites throughout the county.

Businesses in Carmarthenshire are being encouraged to tender for the countywide framework, which is for two years, starting in September with an option to extend for a further two years.

The work will include the management of nature reserves, mitigation for development and government funded habitat projects on sites with challenging conditions, ecological constraints, wet land and difficult access.

Examples of the work include path maintenance, installation of countryside furniture (stiles and gates), mowing overgrown fields, chainsaw and strimmer work, excavator work, woodland management, fencing and tree planting.

A proven track record and a good understanding of working in the rural and natural environment and knowledge of conservation is essential, as is an understanding of the way that the land changes in challenging weather conditions.

Applicants will need to make available vehicle inspection documents and maintenance records, certificates of operator competency (in relation to plant hire with operatives), health and safety policy and relevant insurance documents.

Any suppliers interested in tendering for this work need to be registered on the National Procurement Portal Sell2Wales website, where they can express their interest and receive further information.

This is a free online service and allows businesses to promote their organisation not only to the council but to other Welsh public sector bodies, and to receive notifications about contract opportunities suitable to their field of work.

The council also encourages businesses to register on the Business Wales Business Directory – a free resource where businesses can advertise their services.

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Police appeal for information after vehicle collides with two pedestrians

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POLICE say they are appealing for witnesses following a road traffic collision which occurred on College Street, Newcastle Emlyn just after 4pm on Monday 20th June.

A black coloured Honda CRV vehicle collided with two people on the pedestrian crossing.

A 70-year-old female sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to hospital.

A 50-year-old female was taken to hospital by ambulance with what are described as minor injuries

The 64 year old female driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has information that could help officers with their investigation, or anyone who was driving in the area at the time and has dashcam footage, is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20220620-283.”

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