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Audit Committee to see key correspondence

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Evil?: Cllr Mike Stoddart

Cllr Mike Stoddart

FOLLOWING a lengthy – and at times angry – debate, councillors voted to pass a motion from Cllr Mike Stoddart to allow the audit committee to have access to documents relating to the controversial Commercial Property Grants Scheme in Pembroke Dock. Cllr Stoddart’s original motion asked for all councillors to have access to correspondence between the authority and WEFO and Mr Cathal McCosker but he amended the motion so that Audit Committee members alone could have access. Many councillors in the chamber felt they should all have access to the information in order to make a proper decision. Cllr Stoddart said: “This is a matter of some importance because public money is at stake here.

“Mr McCosker has offered to pay back a rather large sum of money – £189,000 is the figure I’ve been given. “There is also a sum of money that this council has got to pay back in respect of administrative payments that WEFO have made to this council. “The audit committee have a duty to look into this to see just how much this is going to cost the council, that’s what the audit committee was set up for.

“I am not talking about the police disclosing information; this is about the council disclosing information that is already in its possession. I’m not asking for the police to disclose it. He added: “Suggesting otherwise is another red herring being dragged across the floor.” Cllr Bob Kilmister said: “This is very important information for the debate and we need to see it, but once again members are being asked to debate without seeing any of the information that is required.”

Cllr Jamie Adams said: “Any information will be made available to members on conclusion of the police investigation and we have a process in following that investigation and I believe it’s very important that we recognise effectively the polity that should remain around any evidence that should remain following legal proceedings from that situation. “Members will have full information but as a body of council we must recognise that there is a time limit on it in terms of when that information is appropriate. “It may be appropriate for the audit committee to consider that advice, but I would suggest that it’s not really the function of full council to undertake that, and I am confident in the ability and the desire that is held within audit committee to get to the bottom of these matters with the assistance of the police. “Now is not the time for us as members to discuss the matter.”

Cllr Jacob Williams said: “How times have changed! At our Christmas meeting in 2013, Cllr Stoddart put forward a very similar motion and Cllr Pugh gave a number of facts, and subsequently it was revealed he wasn’t telling the whole truth and he has since been sacked from the Cabinet. “At that stage everybody was in denial in the IPPG group and a vote was taken, but that vote was taken on duff information. “Everything Cllr Stoddart has said about the grant scheme has proved to be correct.

The police investigation is ongoing – I don’t know what stage it is at, but isn’t that a long way we’ve come? Information was denied and it’s still being denied now. “One thing remains constant, and that is the ethos of this county which is to keep elected members in the dark. “Cllr Pugh denied there was a problem but now there is going to be a loss to the authority and I think you should all know about that.” Cllr Paul Miller said: “Clearly we are responsible for the budget. There is a financial issue in terms of a loss or a reclaim and we need to understand that.

That is part of our core remit as members, and this information is key to understanding that. I don’t how we can be in a position when we are not given the information.” Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse said: “The committee was requested by the police not to divulge the information which the police are using during the investigation. The legality of this was confirmed to the committee by the acting head of paid service. Assurance was given that in due course, at the conclusion of the police investigation the documentation would be made available to all members of this council. It is no good listening to what people think, we need evidence.”

Retired senior police officer Cllr Tony Brinsden said: “I’m rather concerned that so many red herrings are being dropped across the floor in front of us. I’m surprised that our leader had to go to council to find out that simple fact.” Cllr Mike Evans said: “This is information that is with the council, this is what we are debating.” Indicating the advice given by officers, he continued: “We open up this advice here and the first line says: ‘In this case I have been asked to advise upon a request by councillors who have access to information obtained by the police. This is not the case.

“How much has this one question cost us? What is the point of asking a question about information in the possession of the police? We all know that we have no right to see their documents. Cllr Bob Summons, a former police constable for over thirty years, said: “An email came in yesterday from the sergeant who is running the investigation. It says: ‘As discussed the police investigation has commenced and as part of the investigation team it is important that we have all material in relation to this matter.”

He continued, quoting the email: “Until any trial it is good practice for all materials to be classed as confidential. I am aware that information is available within Pembrokeshire County Council, which councillors have asked to be disclosed to them. “I would recommend at this stage of the enquiry that this material is not disclosed upon this request.” Councillors were not deflected from their pursuit of the matter by the red herrings offered in response to Councillor Stoddart’s motion: it was passed by 28 votes to 24 with four councillors (Mike Evans, Brian Hall, Stan Hudson and Steve Joseph) abstaining.

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Permit applications open for Tenby pedestrianisation scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now accepting applications for vehicle access during this year’s Pedestrianisation of Tenby.

The scheme, which is due to start on Monday, July 5 and conclude on Friday, September 10, will again see the walled town divided into three ‘zones’, each having varying degrees of vehicle access.

Whilst all necessary plans are being put in place for it to start and finish on the above dates, the scheme will remain under constant review in light of Government guidance relating to Covid-19, and the Council will provide any updates as necessary.

Possession of an ‘access permit’ does not provide any exemption from Government restrictions, and any regulations relating to travel and the occupation of holiday accommodation or second homes must be observed at all times.

Following the success of last year, the permit application process will continue online, with paper application forms and guidance notes no longer being delivered to residents and businesses.

The application form and guidance notes are available from pembrokeshire.gov.uk/tenby-pedestrianisation

Residents and business within Tenby are encouraged to complete the application process as soon as possible, to ensure that there is sufficient time for the application to be processed.

Permits will be issued approximately 7-10 days prior to the start of the scheme.

For enquiries, e-mail tenby.pedestrian@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

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Join the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel as an independent member

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THE Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is looking for two members to join them in their work to support and challenge the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel is made of up of members nominated by Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys county councils along with at least two independent members.

Opportunities have now arisen for two independent members to join the Panel and carry out key statutory roles that will support the Commissioner exercise his role effectively.

Members will be expected to attend and take part in regular meetings and take part in decision making, creating reports and making recommendations to the Commissioner.

They will review the Commissioner’s annual draft Police and Crime Plan and annual draft budget, review and scrutinise his decisions and actions, and if necessary review the proposed appointment or removal of the Chief Constable and other senior police force appointments.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can take a balanced and objective approach in supporting the Panel and the Commissioner, make strategic and well-informed decisions, and interpret and question financial, statistical and performance related information.

They will also need to be able to act as a ‘critical friend’, challenging views or proposals for change constructively.

Applications close on May 31, and appointments to the Panel will be made until October 31, 2024. 

For further information, visit www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

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Successful Fire Service and Health Board partnership to enhance COVID-19 vaccine roll out comes to end

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TUESDAY 11 May 2021 marked the end of a hugely successful partnership between Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Hywel Dda University Health Board, initiated to enhance the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Since February, Community Safety Staff from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have transported 125 passengers over 9450 miles to ensure they were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Recognising the configuration of our Service, the areas we cover and indeed the people we employee, this seemed an ideal opportunity for us to widen our response to the pandemic and support our partners in safeguarding our communities.

“Whilst we already collaborate with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, this opportunity enabled us to expand our assistance further within the health arena. This partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board was the first of its kind for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and paved the way for a number of similar partnerships for us and the other Fire and Rescue Services in Wales.

“I am extremely proud of our staff who have participated in this collaboration and have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Their contribution has without doubt had a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic”.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, coordinated the Service’s response to this call for assistance.

“Our communities are at the heart of our core business. Knowing we were in a position to make an impact, we put in place a robust solution in record time, to not only ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, but to also safeguard those who were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, but may have had barriers preventing them from attending their appointments.

“Using this partnership as template within which we could expand, we have since been able to offer our assistance to other Health Boards across the Service area. Indeed, a group of 10 vaccine heroes from our Service have joined Powys Teaching Health Board’s vaccination team, playing their part in distributing vaccines at mass vaccination sites in Newtown and Builth Wells. This is another fantastic example of how working together has been vital in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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