Connect with us


Badger and the magic carpets



WHAT a rum old week, last week was! Back in the news was Tony Blair, both boosting Ed Milliband and as the potential focus of the Sir John Chilag’s Badger85imagelong-running inquiry into the Iraq War. It is likely that as long as the current state of affairs continues at County Hall, the Audit Committee’s inquiry into shady dealings in Pembroke Dock will take even longer to conclude. Lest we forget readers, the Audit Committee looked at one property as a test case with the clear intention under the then committee chair, John Evans MBE of looking further if they found something amiss. They found a lot amiss readers. But in the period between discovering that council officers were complacent lazy and smug bureaucrats who had missed a scam so obvious that it raises questions about their ability to organize the proverbial in a brewery and the writing of the final report, Chair John Evans MBE left. He was dismayed by the council’s ‘lack of appetite’ to be honest and straightforward about the extent of their officers’ incompetence. Your friend Badger has it on particularly good authority from a number of separate people that there was a widely held view that two officers in particular had displayed a level of incompetence that went beyond mere dim-wittedness and strayed into the realms of almost unbelievable crass stupidity. Badger blows those officers names and he knows who mark the final decision not to discipline them.

We now have a new Chair of the Audit Committee. One-time legal representative of John Allen-Mirehouse and onetime partner in a firm that has previously advised our County Council, Peter Jones was the only applicant for the post of lay member of the Audit Committee who came forward during the Council’s extended deadline period. Badger wonders how Mr Jones became aware of the exciting opportunity to renew his acquaintance with Johnny M and the rest of the not so great and less than good members of the council. This newspaper asked the council for details at the time it announced Mr Jones’ appointment. It was told that the council had extended the deadline for applications for the lay member’s post as the original advert had attracted insufficient applicants. We can infer from that the ideal number of applicants was the total of original applicants plus one. Now, readers all of this might seem like ancient history re-heated but we are now getting to the crux of the matter.

Having found irregularities in the sample property, one would anticipate that a new chair would he keen to press on with the investigation and fulfil the Audit Committee’s role. For that role’s definition we need look no farther than the Council’s Annual Statement of Accounts: ‘The Audit Committee, made up of County Councillors and a -non-elected” independent Chair, considers matters related to the authority’s financial affairs and the appropriateness of its risk management, internal control, corporate governance and internal/ external audit arrangements. The Audit Committee provides the forum for formal and transparent scrutiny of these arrangements, whilst improving oversight and accountability of the authority’s governance arrangements.” So, Badger anticipates, readers might envisage a new Chair rolling up their sleeves and getting ready to crack on with the work in hand about the grants scandal in Pembroke Dock. Not a bit of it. Let’s all move on and forget all about it, seemed to be

the order of Mr Jones’ day way back in September 2014. It’s all a long time ago and things are all better now. Best not to dwell, eh? How usefully uninquisitive, readers. Mr Jones’ broom swept exceedingly clean. The carpets at County Hall must be getting mighty lumpy with all the things brushed underneath them: the Audit Committee’s investigation into the grants scandal in Pembroke Dock being just one addition to the towering pile of ordure lurking under the Axminster. And now the latest piece of idiocy. At public expense and miffed at being proved so often wrong 11. Jacob Williams, the Council \ legal team approached a banister to try to spike his goo, Naught> Councillor Williams had offered an opinion that the advice given that allowed ClIr Mike James to chair a meeting of the Audit Committee in December when the letter of the law prohibits it was dead wrong. So, off went the Council’s legal team to pool their own ignorance with council tax-payers’ money and scurry off to St John’s Chambers.

Bristol for some advice. Simon Morgan, for that was the barrister instructed to advise the Council’s legal team, is an experienced practitioner, called to the Bar in 1988 and in practice as a solicitor before that. Mr Morgan is not, however, a specialist in Welsh local government law. His mightily impressive CV -and it truly is impressive, readers -shows a host of experience in serious criminal cases and health and safety prosecutions. Able he undoubtedly is a specialist in the relevant field he is not.

On the face of his CV, calling on Mr Morgan was the equivalent of calling on a plasterer to sort out your central heating. And mighty strange was Mr Morgan” advice. You see readers. Cllr Mike James – to whom Badger attaches no blame for this farrago.

Williams’ refusing to give up the point, Mr Jones enquired whether Jacob Williams was a lawyer. A wily old legal campaigner, readers, Mr Jones would not ask a question to which he did not already know the answer. His put-down, disguised as a question wanted those present to draw a clear inference: Lawyers are all terribly clever chaps – in the case of the acting head of legal. an honorary chap – and that mere mortal councillors should not enquire too closely of their expertise 1 e s t Icarus like they plunge to their farrago – was not Chair of the committee in Mr Jones’ absence; he was only chairing a meeting of the committee. You might think that is a distinction without a difference.

The Wales Audit Office did, It backed ClIr interpretation of the relevant regulations. Now Mr Jones is a mighty experienced lawyer, also. He found it within himself to attend last Thursday’s meeting. Mr Jones’ response to the conflicting advice was pretty straightforward. He backed the officers. He stuck with the status quo. The legal advice given by the council’s own legal officers was correct. Mr Morgan was correct. The WAO was correct. It was all the fault of the government for drafting such imprecise guidance. No harm, no foul. And then, with pomposity that bespoke his exasperation at ClIr

doom,. Rather like the child in Hans Christian Andersen’s Nay tale, Cllr Williams was having none of it. The emperor not only had no clothes but was so blinded by his own magnificence that he could not conceive his exposed position. The idea that literacy and an eye for detail was all ClIr Williams required escaped the Audit Chair. Cllr Williams is surely right that, where regulations are ambiguous, there should not be a rush to interpret them in favour of a convenient status quo; rather. calm reflection as to whether it is worth the risk of taking unlawful decisions in the event the regulations are breached. Ever willing to do a chap a favour however Johnny M proposed that the carpets at County Hall would not be damaged by having one more thing swept under them. Best not to be too curious. eh readers? Best not to dwell.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Approval recommended for dockyard plans



A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week.

Despite many objections from heritage organisations, Council planning officers recommend the development’s approval.

However, the Planning Committee will only indicate whether it is ‘minded to approve’ the proposal instead of giving it the go-ahead.

The Welsh Government has called in the application for decision by the next Welsh Government minister responsible for planning and infrastructure developments.

That means the Welsh Government will consider the Report presented to the Committee and weigh it against the objections received.


The application is to develop a brownfield site within the former Royal Dockyard.

It seeks outline planning permission for the demolition or part demolition and infill of various buildings and structures, modification of existing slipways, erection of buildings and ancillary development. 

The development is intended for port-related activities, including the manufacture of marine energy devices, boat manufacture, repair and erection of plant.

The application is for outline planning permission. All matters relating to access, appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale are reserved for consideration as part of reserved matters applications. In practice, as many councils – including Pembrokeshire – have discovered, once outline planning is granted, reserved applications tend to proceed despite potential negative impacts.

A similar situation arose with Milford Haven Port Authority’s hotel development at Milford Marina, where councillors’ concerns were largely overruled by the existence of outline planning permission for the development.

Part of the proposal would see the former graving dock and timber pond infilled, the part demolition of existing slipways, and some buildings on site.

Both the graving dock and timber pond are Grade II listed. Buildings near the development are also listed, including the iconic Sunderland flying boat hangars.

The existing caisson gate currently in situ at the dock’s southern end would be removed and conserved. It is unique in Wales and a rare example. The planning report states that the caisson gate would remain within the marine environment without development and deteriorate. 

The development would include a new ‘super slipway’ built over the land extending into the River Cleddau and the construction of massive new industrial sheds to accommodate new marine technology.


The planning report claims the facilities erected will support anywhere between 288 and 975 full-time equivalent jobs in Pembrokeshire and make a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, the report also notes that the numbers of jobs claimed cannot be corroborated.

This proposal is linked to the establishment of the Marine Energy Test Areas (META), the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone (PDZ). These collectively comprise the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. 

The project forms part of the Swansea Bay City Deal to facilitate the next generation of marine renewable energy technology.

Companies who could potentially gain from the development have signalled their support from the proposal.Although their enthusiasm is predictable, the economic potential for local businesses cannot be ignored.


However, a raft of objections also exists.

The Council received representations from, among others: The Victorian Society; The Georgian Group; Hywel Dda University Health Board;  Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre; Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust; Pembroke Civic Trust; Naval Dockyards Society; The Commodore Trust; Ridgway History Group.

Not all of those organisations objected to the principle of development. For example, Hywel Dda expressed concern about the potential effect on access to South Pembs Hospital and patient care. However, most criticised the impact on the historic environment of the Royal Dockyard. Individual objections also expressed the same concerns.

The Naval Dockyard Society points out that the Dockyard construction was the reason for Pembroke Dock’s creation as a town. Without it, the town would not exist.

The Society continues: ‘The proposed scheme would severely damage Pembroke Dock Conservation Area and crucial listed buildings. 

‘The Grade II* Graving Dock would be infilled and partially built over, the Grade II Timber Pond infilled and built over, and the Grade II Building Slips Nos 1 and 2 partially demolished and removed. It would also be detrimental to the adjacent Grade II Carr Jetty setting, which adds to the group value of these threatened structures at Pembroke Dockyard.

‘These structures are the last and most important features of the magnificent and unique assemblage of thirteen slips, graving dock and timber pond constructed and functioning 1809–1926. 

‘Pembroke Dock specialised in building warships during the transition from wood to iron and steel, sail to steam and turbines. 

‘While the eastern slips were sacrificed in 1979 for the Irish ferry terminal and the deep-water berth Quay 1, we now live in a more responsible era, when significant community assets merit planning protection.

‘The Royal Dockyard established at Pembroke Dock from 1809 was unique: the only one in Wales, the only one on the west coast of Britain, and the only one created solely as a shipbuilding facility. 

‘It built over 260 warships for the Royal Navy, including many of the most prestigious warships of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as five royal yachts. Many of these vessels were built on the two large slipways at the western end of the yard threatened by the current development proposal’.


William Gannon represents Pembroke Dock Town Council on the Milford Haven Port Authority. Mr Gannon recently hosted an online event that reviewed the application and gave local people the chance to express their views.

We asked him what the public had to say about the plans.

Listening to the community: David Gannon (photo credit: David Steel)

William Gannon told us: “The feeling of the Community following our Zoom Meeting was that we welcome the 1800 jobs and the £63 Million of investment that the Pembroke Dock Marine Project has promised. 

“However, the Community is concerned about the Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock’s loss, which will be buried beneath the new slipway. Both The Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock are Grade 2 Star listed heritage assets.

“The Community are also concerned about the size of the two ‘super sheds’ that may be built. It is felt that these sheds are both too large and ugly, and they will damage the appearance of the Dockyard and The Haven and could damage Pembroke Docks plans to develop Tourism in and around the Dockyard.

“Our Community is looking to strike a balance between the need to develop the Dockyard and to preserve our Heritage Assets. 

“We believe that we can do this by working with The Port to develop a solution that allows for both.”

The Port Authority plans to infill the dock and pond in such a way as to preserve the structures and excavate them in the future. Once they are built over, however, the circumstances that would be possible or even likely are unclear. 

The Port Authority also proposes to use digital media to provide an ‘augmented reality’ experience to show visitors what the Royal Dockyard looked like before its development.

The Port says that part of the land, the Carriage Drive, would be enhanced and restored under its plans for the site.
The balance between preserving heritage and creating future jobs in one of its pet project areas is one the Welsh Government will wrestle with on this application and others.

Continue Reading


Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears



A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

Continue Reading


New trees planted to help town



SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

Continue Reading
News1 day ago

Approval recommended for dockyard plans

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week. Despite many...

News2 days ago

Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said...

News2 days ago

Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of...

News3 days ago

Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week. Derek...

News4 days ago

Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the...

Entertainment4 days ago

BAFTA winner Sir Anthony Hopkins visits St. Davids

CELEBRATING his BAFTA win, Sir Anthony Hopkins has been vaccinated and returned to his native country of Wales where he...

News5 days ago

Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a...

News5 days ago

Kill the Bill protest to take place in Haverfordwest on Saturday

INDIVIDUALS and activists from local groups, including Extinction Rebellion Pembrokeshire, Stand Up to Racism West Wales, Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly and...

News5 days ago

Everything you need to know about the current coronavirus restrictions in Wales

THE GOVERNMENT guidelines in Wales are changing today (Apr 12). There are major changes coming into force today across the...

Health5 days ago

New Covid vaccine arrives first in West Wales

THE FIRST person in the UK to receive the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 got their jab at 8:30 in the...

Popular This Week