TOMORROW (May 5) is polling day and here, on the eve of poll, we have what do the major political parties say are the priorities for the new council to focus on.
Labour group leader Paul Miller is returning to his Neyland West seat unopposed along with three other Labour councillors.
There are also 14 Labour candidates across the county.
Highlighted in the party manifesto by Mr Miller is becoming a “net zero council by 2030 and continuing to position Pembrokeshire as the UK home of green energy through investments with partners in Pembroke Port (Pembroke Dock) securing next generation of industrial jobs for the haven waterway. ”
There is also a focus on doing more for the local environment by getting tougher on fly tipping and prioritising investment in street cleaning and maintenance.
“We’re committed to every home being able to access direct fibre broadband by 2027 and will continue the work to re-vitalise our town centres with Fishguard and Goodwick being added as a priority for action from 2022.
“Since forming part of the council’s administration in 2017 Labour has helped get the council back to building council houses for the first time since the 1980s and aims to build hundreds of new Council houses and the renovation of every elderly sheltered accommodation scheme by 2027. There are also plans to provide small scale sites for self-build and for smaller local developers as well as tackling the crisis in affordability of local housing.
“Looking after those in our society who’ve already made their contributions and now need our help and support as they grow older will always be a priority for your Labour group. Following on from changes already made the group will be working to eliminate private profit from the provision of social care making the priority providing of the best care for those who need it and not the biggest financial return. Invest in state‐of‐the‐art new homes for the elderly, directly owned and operated by the Council or our not‐for‐profit partners and grow further our in‐house care team and prioritise voluntary, community and not‐for‐profit.
“We will continue to prioritise education with commitment to multi-million investment in Portfield school and to a new secondary and primary in Milford Haven.
“We believe in supporting communities to support themselves. Therefore, we’ll invest, with communities, in providing community hubs right across Pembrokeshire.”
Conservative group deputy leader Di Clements is standing in Martletwy and there were four Conservative councillors returned unopposed.
There are also 22 Conservative candidates across the county.
Di Clements said:
“Welsh conservative candidates in this week’s elections agree on one important thing – making sure we grasp what keeps our voters awake at night.
“And what we have been told is no great surprise – time and again we are reminded that it’s good local jobs that really matter; supported by top class education for our kids and the chance to buy a home in our own community. Making sure we have a fully functioning hospital at Withybush is also a regular demand.
“During the last five years Council Tax in Pembrokeshire has risen by a staggering 36% just at a time when the cost-of-living pressure is at its greatest. And what benefits have we seen come from that? A pay-off for the Chief Executive and some empty buildings in Haverfordwest?
“On top of that the schools’ inspectors have classed Pembrokeshire’s education services as “causing significant concern”. What message does this send to anyone wishing to work in our area or set up a business?
“This is why we have a range of candidates with local business experience. We are all committed to providing value for money. We will not promise miracles but we will be on your side when it comes to deciding how your money is spent. Supporting new industries like floating offshore wind; tapping into the multi million pounds on offer from UK Government, to making sure we prevent Welsh government from taxing our tourism businesses are all crucial to navigating our way successfully through the next few months.
“We are proud of all our candidates who are all hardworking local champions, embedded in their communities. A vote for a Welsh Conservative candidate on Thursday will give you a professional, competent and objective team in county hall, supported by your MP’s and Senedd Members. We think that now is a really good time to give them the chance they deserve.”
Plaid Cymru group leader Michael Williams was returned to his Tenby North seat unopposed.
There are nine Plaid Cymru candidates across the county.
Mr Williams said:
“One of our main priorities must be to provide housing for our residents. we see families now being evicted from long term rental properties to enable landlords to switch to Air B & B. We will campaign to bring in a licensing system for Air B&Bs. The second home premium must be used urgently to address this issue, as well as building new homes, it must be used to purchase properties in centres of population. There is an urgent need to increase this premium to its legal limit of 300%.
“As a part of this we would seek to amend legislation to require any change from a permanent residential property to require a planning change of use. Where the planning authority deems that there is a saturation of second homes applications should be refused.
“I was shocked to learn recently that Pembrokeshire had the highest rate of child poverty in Wales, as an authority we must seek out ways to ameliorate this problem. One way which would assist in reducing this problem is the provision of homes for local young people. Cris Tomos has recently advocated a new rural housing initiative which must be brought to fruition.
“We can’t survive without tourism, but there should be an evaluation of the impact of tourism on local communities. There is undoubtedly a cost which has never been assessed. We should encourage quality tourist developments, too often we end up approving developments which bring little benefit of localities, paying low wages. The protection of our natural environment and heritage must also be a top priority. The growth and plethora of second homes must be addressed as they are destroying our economic social and cultural life.”
Welsh Liberal Democrats
Bob Kilmister was the council’s only Liberal Democrat and he is joined by three other candidates across the county for the May 2022 election.
He said that the four main priorities are shared by the candidates.
“Housing is my number on priority. We currently have a housing crisis in Pembrokeshire. Some of this has been caused by second homes and holiday rentals plus airbnb which has reduced the number of properties for long term rental. The increased second home premium may help but the solution is building more affordable homes to rent or buy. The County Council is starting to build council houses again now the right to buy has been removed, which i s great but the programme needs to be ramped up. Having decent good quality housing for all should be the basic requirement in a civilised society.
“Education is the single biggest element of the County Council’s budget at £100 million. We need to ensure that our schools provide the very best opportunities for our children. They are the future and they need to have the best educational opportunities to succeed. It needs adequate funding and a relentless resolve to achieve the highest standards. We have some marvellous teachers and support staff but they need the support of councillors who must not accept second best because our children deserve the best.
“Pembrokeshire has a huge opportunity to be part of the green revolution which has to take place because of the climate emergency. We need to make sure Pembrokeshire is the new green renewable energy hub for the country. There are already exciting projects involving Pembroke Dock Marine which involves offshore wind and tidal energy. There is also the very real possibility of hydrogen production. If we do not invest then there is a real threat to our economy. It will be no good if we have educated our children and then have not jobs for them. We must create a green economy with well paid employment.
“Pembrokeshire council is responsible for adult and children’s social care and we need to make big changes. Carers are underpaid and undervalued. We need to offer a proper career path, not just a minimum wage job. Health services are controlled by the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay. Councillors should use whatever influence they can to ensure our local health services are protected and improved, especially Withybush Hospital and the A&E provision. If a new hospital is to be built then A&E must remain open at Withybush until that happens. The Government should integrate health and social care, so they operate efficiently, improving outcomes for patients.
Jamie Adams is leader of the Independent Group at County Hall, and is standing in Camrose.
There are four Independent Group members returning unopposed and there are 54 independent candidates standing across the county, some of whom are existing members of the group.
Jamie Adams said:
“There are a number of areas where we as an Independent Group believe a sharper focus must be brought to the fore” – value for money, housing, economy, health and care and local environment.
“The Council taxpayers of Pembrokeshire have gained little in terms of service improvement despite around a 40% increase in the amount they pay over the last 5 years.
“Additional tax penalties will not solve the housing issues faced by our young people. We must improve the support for communities wishing to develop local housing for first time buyers and ensure the planning system encourages development to sustain vibrant communities.
“Focus is required to develop strength and resilience in the Pembrokeshire economy, the concept of encouraging generic investment to add value to food produced in the County by Puffin Produce is a great example of sustainable growth delivering opportunities at all levels. A strong working economy is the bedrock of solving our housing challenge.
“The idea that all health services must be centralised is depriving Pembrokeshire communities of the basic concept of accessible health for All. Many people don’t get the treatment they require and others are forced to pay for private treatment. Hywel Dda HB must find a solution to deliver for this County and not just Carmarthenshire. It is imperative that the Council provides a social care system to support health care. We are desperately short of carers to allow a flow of patients from hospital especially for those in their twilight years, not forgetting that local housing for their children would allow family support to assist in this endeavour.
“We must also develop support framework to allow volunteer groups to flourish in their work with children and young people. The idea of top down thinking which dictates rather than encourages innovation must be set aside. Some communities will be better placed to develop their own provisions and others will require greater targeted support.
“We have been let down in terms of the way our County looks and feels. There must be a far more robust regime for dealing with antisocial behaviour which has previously been described as ‘low level’. Littering and dog fouling are a blight on our communities and a danger to children in particular. Expecting members of the public to intervene is not feasible and the Council must grab the nettle and be prepared to take strong action.”