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Badger goes to the farm

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potofgoldHELLO READERS! WELL, just when you thought that the aff airs of Pembrokeshire County Council could not slip any deeper into the realms of Whitehall farce (keep your trousers on, Huw!), we had the fi nal act in the saga of ‘A Funny Th ing Happened on the Way to the Dole Queue’, which Badger can only describe as not only being beyond parody but almost beyond belief. Back when Badger wrote his last column, our hero – Bryn Parry-Jones – was on his way out of County Hall, borne aloft on the narrow shoulders of the IPPG along a path strewn with palm fronds and rose petals, while Unison members sobbed with laughter. And then there was a surprise last minute twist of the type beloved by fi lm directors like Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher and Peter Rogers (the last being an auteur of the genre, being behind classic crime thrillers like Carry on Constable).

Rather like Banquo’s ghost rocking up at the feast, the Auditor made an appearance and threw over the council’s ‘best off er’ possible deal. Now, readers, to understand this you have to ask yourself a very straightforward question based upon events at County Hall over the last calendar year. Let us swift ly recap the situation, readers: • In September 2013, this newspaper exposed the fact that Bryn Parry- Jones had entered into a scheme designed to help him avoid tax on his seven-fi gure pension pot.

Instead, Mr Parry-Jones would receive the grossed up equivalents of the council’s contribution to his pot for him to invest as he wished for his retirement. • In January, the Assistant Auditor for Wales ruled that the payments handed to Bryn Parry-Jones in lieu of pension contributions were unlawful.

• In February, the council held an extraordinary meeting at which the council agreed to stop making the payments. • In May the Chief Executive was invited to repay the pay supplements.

• In July, the Chief Executive said, through his representatives, that not only would he not pay back the money he had received but that he was considering his position about suing the council to make it continue the unlawful payments.

• In August, the Chief Executive took a ‘period of absence’ aft er this paper revealed how he subjected two councillors to a tirade of abuse for not voting in accordance with his wishes and interests in relation to his repayment of the unlawful payments. • On October 16, the council agreed a £330K settlement package. Crucially, that settlement package included compensating the Chief Executive in respect of the unlawful payments he had not received since February and the unlawful payments were taken into account when calculating other elements of the compensation package. Several councillors parroted the view that, while it was a lot of money, the £330K was a triumph for tough negotiating and was the best the council could do.

• Last Tuesday, the Assistant Auditor for Wales stepped in and pointed out the logical fl aw in Baldrick Adams’ cunning plan. Can you guess what the Wales Audit Offi ce thought of compensating an offi cer for unlawful payments made to him? I bet you can, readers! But, apparently, the assembled brainpower of the council, its own legal team and their external advisors had not considered the Auditor might look askance at the prospect. For a few desperate hours, the carefully laid plans of mice and men (well, readers, certainly those of rodents) lay in tatters all about them. Contrary to the spin the council tried to put on events, this was not a case of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to the Auditor’s satisfaction. Th e Auditor made it clear that there was no agreement between him and the council to sign off on a deal which contained elements he had earlier this year ruled unlawful.

Drawing a comparison with modes of travel: it appeared as though that the council was in a small canoe on a well known brown and smelly waterway without a means of propulsion. Several issues arose: if the agreement was not signed, would Bryn return? Put another way: How could Bryn return when the leader of council, in an earlier interview, had related how much better things were now he had gone? More to the point, would the council need to call councillors together to vote on any revised deal? (Almost certainly) And what were then the risks of no deal being approved? Would the council allow the Investigatory Committee to meet and to potentially suspend Bryn to avoid him appearing at County Hall on Monday (Nov 3), like a cross between last night’s dodgy curry and Fu Manchu? But a deal was announced on Friday (Oct 31).

The council had appeased the Auditor by shaving the unlawful elements out of the deal. Bryn had taken a hit of £52K and would now receive a paltry £280K for piloting the council to public ignominy and to levels of ridicule that s u c c e e d e d in giving the impression that the council were to government what Laurel and Hardy were to piano moving. Now, readers, Badger has it from an impeccable source that his Royal Bryness’ opening gambit in negotiations was for a settlement around £550K in value. In the end, he has copped just over half that fi gure. And here, readers, here is the big question that arises from all of this?

If – on short notice – the former CEO of our council was prepared to shed over £50K from his pay off , what confi dence can we have that this was best settlement possible? Because the fact Bryn accepted over £50K less than the council agreed on October 16 suggests that, unless the council put another sweetener on the table to sugar taking £50K off the settlement, the £330K plus deal agreed originally was signifi cantly more than he would have settled for. The question for the thinking councillor is not whether or not they should have had the chance to scrutinise the lower deal, but rather whether they can have any faith whatsoever in the bland and blithe assurances of the council’s leadership that everything necessarily is as they are being told.

It is remarkable, readers, that a supposed group of independent councillors can come together – without whipping or direction – and as one not only back “the best deal possible” but churn out the same line of re-assuring drivel, self-justifi catory nonsense, and abuse of those who questioned whether £330K was the best deal possible. Pull the other one. It’s got bells on. No doubt another magnum opus from the council’s own Beria, former PC Rob Summons, is headed for the pages of another local newspaper explaining how – rather like the desperate propaganda put about by Squealer in Animal Farm – black is really white and that Boxer really was only taken to the hospital and not to the knacker’s yard. If Orwell shone the same light as on the Kremlin on the Cleddau, which animal would represent your councillor, readers?

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‘We don’t want it’: councillors object to HGV tanker park plans

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PEMBROKE DOCK town councillors have objected strongly to plans to build a HGV tanker park in the town.

The tanker park would be located on the south-western side of Criterion Way, behind the ASDA petrol station.

However, at a meeting of the town council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, April 13, councillors were in agreement that it would create more problems for the town.

Councillor Jonathan George said: “I’ve noted the public input on this and they don’t seem very happy about where it’s going to be put.

“It is close to a small park area and I don’t think it’s suitable to put this here. I won’t be supporting this.”

Cllr George Manning added: “There are many aspects of this which are totally inappropriate for Pembroke Dock. There are many other sites available but they haven’t looked at any of them.

“This does not do anything for the Future Generations act and it will bring more disruption to the town.

“This does not bring about any improvements to the existing transport infrastructure. There are lots of things about this, we don’t want it. I don’t think they have looked into it in enough detail.”

Cllr Gordon Goff said that the impact it would have on the public and wildlife would be ‘astronomical’.

He went on to say he was not happy with one of the statements in the application and said they ‘don’t want to be blackmailed’.

One of the documents submitted with the application states that if the development was not approved it would mean that the applicants, Certas, ‘will either have to find a different site’ or ‘will have to cease operating in the area’.

Cllr Terry Judkins said that the Port Authority wanted to ‘use Pembroke Dock as a dumping ground’ and added that he could not support it.

Cllr Maureen Colgan added that she was ‘totally against’ the application and said that the area should be kept for leisure and be developed as an area where people can sit and enjoy themselves.

The application is due to be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council at a later date.

Cllr Paul Dowson has already called in the application for it to be debated by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

In his request he states that it is too near habitation, it is within the Pembroke Dock conservation area and that children have been using the area near the bandstand as play area for over 20 years.

The area had also previously been the subject of an application for a marina and other leisure facilities but that investment was written off in 2017.

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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Kill the Bill protest to take place in Haverfordwest on Saturday

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INDIVIDUALS and activists from local groups, including Extinction Rebellion Pembrokeshire, Stand Up to Racism West Wales, Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly and Reclaim These Streets Pembrokeshire are campaigning against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and are to hold a demonstration against the Bill at 1pm this Saturday April 17, in Haverfordwest.
One of the organisers told  The Herald: “This is an enormous piece of draconian legislation that includes significant expansion in police powers to curtail the right to protest. The right to peacefully assemble and protest are a fundamental part of any democracy; empowering people to have their voices heard, in addition to holding the Government to account. These rights are universal –they protect peaceful and legitimate protest whatever the cause.
“The events at the Clapham vigil and at demonstrations over the last few weeks are a dangerous indication of what the future of protest will look like if the police powers bill gets through parliament.”
A local campaigner, a mother and grandmother said “We are in the process of losing a fundamental part of our democracy, It is important we protect it for future generations. We have messed up so much of their future already-we need to hold the Government to account”.
Aspects of the Bill include:
  • The power for Police forces to shut down protests that they deem too disruptive at their own discretion.
  • Up to a 10-year sentence for demonstrators considered to be causing a “public nuisance”.
  • The power for police forces to impose start and end times on static protests of any size.
  • The power to expand stop and search powers, which already discriminate against marginalised communities. If you live in the Dyfed Powys police area, you are 5 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black than white.
  • Up to 10-year sentences for damage to public monuments’ Police powers will be expanded and custodial sentences increased to “protect” women.
  • These measures are not sufficient to prevent violence and are troubling, considering some police officers’ involvement in cases of violence against women. Significant restrictions on where protests around Parliament may take place.
  • The elevation of trespass from a civil offence to a criminal offence, meaning police and courts can give harsh sentences to Travellers.
  • Increased power of police to seize vehicles and homes from Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities and demanding proof of permission to travel.
  • The bill will criminalise a way of life for these communities.
A peaceful, Covid-compliant march and rally will be taking place in Haverfordwest on Saturday April 17 , assembling at Picton Fields at 1pm.
People will be asked to wear masks and keep to social distancing regulations.  It is one of a number of protests being organised nationally on the same day against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill.

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