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Shameful display at full council meeting

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county hall• Angry exchanges at full council
• Grant investigation panel blocked
• Pugh and Adams turn on Stoddart

THE COUNCIL CHAMBER was the scene for a series of bitter and personal recriminations made by members of the Cabinet against Councillors seeking information on the conduct of two grant schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.

In what appeared to be a concerted effort by the controlling IPPG to undermine those seeking to examine information on how the Council had administered large amounts of public money, Council Leader Jamie Adams and Cabinet member David Pugh were permitted by Chair Arwyn Williams to suggest that Labour leader Paul Miller was a puppet having his strings pulled while Independent Councillor Mike Stoddart was pursuing a hidden agenda and had misrepresented important data.

Miller requests balanced approach In the face of continuing controversy over the Council’s administration of the grant schemes, Cllr Miller made an appeal that a politically balanced panel be formed to look at the way money has been allocated by the County Council.

Cllr Miller told the members: “If funds controlled by this council have in some way been misappropriated then this needs to be looked at. I accept in the recommendation that the audit committee will review this but that is not till the end of February.

“I want a politically balancedpanel to investigate this, nothing is to be feared.

“I am not pushing an opinion on what has or hasn’t happened. This is the quickest way to get to the facts.” Adams attacks Miller Flanked by Cllr Brian Hall, Leader Jamie Adams said:

“Cllr. Miller is quite correct, in his supporting submission, that much has been said by the grant schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. I concurred that much has been said, but I comment to the chamber: is that much has been said by one person. Who is leading the agenda of the Labour group? It seems to me, Chair that Cllr. Miller is acting in a way that is if you like, strings are being pulled by someone else.

“I would suggest the way that the authority could look to the facts is before us and within our control. The Audit Committee is politically balanced, there are six members. The Audit Committee are in a position to determine its own investigation. The recommendation is clear in that, and on that basis I move the recommendation.

Cllr Mike Stoddart criticised Jamie Adams’ personal attack on the Labour leader:

“The idea that I may be pulling Cllr Miller’s strings is ridiculous. I have little contact with him. He is a highlyeducated man capable of pulling hisown strings!

“In Cabinet last week, Cllr Adams made a slur against me, and now he is attacking Cllr Miller. He needs to deal with the arguments. It’s time to play the ball and not the man.”

Paul Miller continued: “In terms of the Audit Committee the time scales are one of my concerns. I think that it’s critical in restoring the faith of grant funders and the public. All I can say is that I have had 14 phone calls. If he thinks that Cllr Stoddard is the only one interested in this grant scheme he is wrong. I am not going to get involved in the nasty political game that Cllr Adams wants to play. All I know is that my motion gets things done in the quickest way possible.”

After a vote, the Council voted to remit the matter to the Audit Committee in February and Cllr Miller’s motion failed. Pugh continues attack on Stoddart.

The Council then considered Cllr Mike Stoddart’s motion to permit Councillors to inspect the information in confidence.

Responding for the IPPG, Cllr David Pugh suggested that Cllr Stoddart had made leaks to the media and derided Cllr Stoddart’s “selfproclaimed” expertise. He suggested that Cllr Stoddart’s calculations were wrong and the product of “sheer incompetence on his behalf … comparisons on different projects are both wrong and extremely misleading…” Apparently forgetting the major redevelopment scheme in Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock approved by the Council, Cllr Pugh suggested, “This unseemly campaign has driven away investors.”

Councillor Pugh’s harangue continued amid rising boos, when he suggested that:
“Cllr Stoddart reminds me of Don Quixote, who in his madness tilted awindmills. Sancho was his sidekick, I will leave it to members to work out who Cllr Stoddart’s sidekick is.”

Councillor Paul Miller, interrupting, asked Cllr. Arwyn Williams:

“What on earth is this nonsense? Can you do your job, please, Chair?” Kilmister leads calls for “transparency” Cllr Bob Kilmister of the newlyformed Pembrokeshire Alliance Group followed Cllr Pugh, saying: “I attended cabinet. I witnessed a highly unprofessional spectacle, clear to all to see. The conduct displayed at the meeting has brought the council into disrepute. The issue of this motion was not addressed, if we believe in openness and transparency. Easy words, but we are not walking the walk. If any councillors break the confidence they are allowed they clearly break the code of conduct and are open to sanction, serious sanction. If we have a need to know we have a right to information. You can dispute what Councillor Stoddard says, but if he has the information he can come to a proper conclusion and therefore there is a real risk that we are getting innuendo and intrigue as a result of not giving him information. We have a common law right and need to know. Officers can see documents but councillors cannot. I think that this argument is clearly made.”

Cllr Michael Williams from Plaid Cymru told the full Council:

“I wasn’t at the cabinet meeting but what I read in the press was shameful. Cllr Pugh, your outburst this morning was not much better than the Leader shouting people down. Cllr Pugh made a direct accusation that investors have been driven way. But who? That’s a figment of his imagination.

Publish the figures, that would make everyone happy. Publish all the documents not ridiculously redacted reports. Openness and accountability. The ruling group should realise that our job is to hold to account and that they are making that difficult in the way they are operating.

Pembroke Dock Councillor Brian Hall, who has publicly denied any links with developer Cathal McCosker, said:

“The majority of people in Pembroke Dock are delighted with what the grants have done for the town. Because of these innuendos there is a possibility that this could be withdrawn.”

East Williamston Councillor Jacob Williams said:

“There has been enough evidence to suggest that members need to see this information. Cllr Pugh at cabinet raised his voice against Stoddard and it was embarrassing. For Cllr Stoddard to admit errors or mistakes, we need to know that he is wrong.”

Cllr David Lloyd told the meeting:

“We have no greater duty thanto protect the integrity of public expenditure. We can spend a considerable amount of time talking about something I know nothing about. Corruption destroys the organisation which it infests. There is no way we can solve this problem in an adversarial way. May I ask you to be at your best and publish these documents and let’s get to the bottom of it for the good of the people of Pembrokeshire?”

Cllr David Bryan said:

“I, too, was at the cabinet meeting. I was ashamed and embarrassed. The people need to know that we have got control what is going on at Pembrokeshire County Council.”

Senior IPPG member, Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse opposed the motion with a further attack on Mike Stoddart:

“We are losing sight of a key issue. Cllr Stoddard has published that there is impropriety and therefore it should be looked into. He has not produced any actual facts and facts are what we need to go on. I would say to Paul Miller and Cllr Stoddard if there are facts tell us. He (Cllr Stoddart) won’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

Pembroke Dock Labour Councillor, Alison Lee, said

“I have found it difficult to get information. How can we fulfil our functions without it? The deck is stacked against those seeking to scrutinise the material. Cllr Mirehouse says we haven’t provided facts, but we cannot get at them. I don’t see what the authority has to lose by the release of this information.”

IPPG suggest calling the Police The Chair, IPPG member Arwyn Williams, then allowed five IPPG members, Jamie Adams, David Simpson, Stephen Joseph, Sue Perkins and Simon Hancock to close the debate: Cllr Perkins told the meeting that she has heard no complaints about the grant scheme and its administration Cllr David Simpson assured members that public scrutiny by them was unnecessary because Cllr David Pugh had discussed any concerns with him and he had also spoken to council officers responsible for the schemes. Cllr. Adams re-iterated his position that the proper forum for scrutiny was the Audit Committee and suggested that Cllr Stoddart should report his allegations to the Police. Spontaneously echoing their leader’s suggestion, Cllrs Joseph and Hancock also suggested reporting the matter to the local constabulary.

Cllr Mike Stoddard asked for a recorded vote of the decision. 32 members voted against the motion to allow Councillors access to information on how public money had been spent and 27 voted in favour.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rockface

    January 2, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    “The majority of people in Pembroke Dock are delighted with what the grants have done for the town” said Councillor Hall? One only has to go and look inside these buildings and the shoddy workmanship will shine through. For example, the Old Coronation School flats are damp and mouldy as with other properties Mr McCosker owns and rents out, most complaints are ignored and its rare that any repairs are carried out leaving tenants at risk of respiratory problems or even death.

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Pembrokeshire cottage letting agency offers free holidays to NHS heroes

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PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED holiday letting agency St Brides Bay Cottages has teamed up with its property owners and Operation Recuperation to offer free holidays to frontline healthcare workers. The family-run firm has announced the scheme to say thank you to the healthcare heroes who are risking their lives to keep the UK safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

The generous initiative will see healthcare professionals enjoy a well-deserved break in picturesque St Davids, Solva, Newgale or Porthgain, after the crisis is over. The scheme is part of Operation Recuperation, a UK-wide campaign launched to gift future stays in beautiful places to frontline healthcare providers.

Sam Sibbald, manager of St Brides Bay Cottages, based in Solva, said: “This is our way of showing our dedicated healthcare workers that we appreciate everything they’re doing in such difficult circumstances.

“I saw first-hand the pressure the NHS is under, when my dad had a stay in hospital last year. I could tell how pushed they were on a normal day-to-day basis, let alone with having COVID-19 to deal with. Now my dad is at home, needing carers every day, and I can see, more than ever, how much we rely on the people who look after us.

“We’re taking part in Operation Recuperation thanks to the generosity of our cottage owners. By gifting stays to these dedicated workers, we’ll be helping them to recover from the fight against coronavirus.”

Several cottage owners, whose properties are let by St Brides Bay Cottages, have come forward to donate stays in their holiday homes.

Among them is Sheila Morgan, who together with her husband Chris, owns The Anchorage, a two-bedroom apartment in Solva. She said: “As a retired nurse with medical staff in the family, I can fully appreciate the strains and stresses all NHS staff are going through at present. Thank you all for your sterling work. Hopefully the peace, quiet and Pembrokeshire air will aid recuperation.”

Debbie and Patrick Bowie-Moore, the owners of five-bedroom holiday home Mount Pleasant, in Solva, said: “The healthcare workers have offered their all, and it’s our privilege to give a family – who may have been kept apart – the opportunity to stay in Mount Pleasant as a massive thank you.”

Simon Baker, who owns Cefn y Mor, a four-bedroom property in Solva, said: “We are backing the Operation Recuperation project because we have family members on the frontline of the NHS, and know what risks they are taking, and what effort they are putting into saving lives. Our only effort is to stay at home and avoid infection. A small price to pay.”

Jim and Maureen Dale, whose three-bedroom holiday home, May Cottage, is situated on a grade II-listed farm, near St Davids, said: “Rarely do we get an opportunity to say thank you to the staff at the NHS – we tend to take the service so much for granted. Now the chips are down and there they all are, on the frontline looking after us all. Thank you all at the NHS.”

David and Judith James, who are offering a free stay at their converted watermill, Melin Llanrhian, near Porthgain, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support Operation Recuperation as a very small thank you to everyone in the NHS who has worked so hard in such challenging circumstances.”

Operation Recuperation is collecting donations – in room nights and cash – to give free stays to frontline healthcare staff, once the virus restrictions have been lifted.

Rachel Sherwood, who launched Operation Recuperation, said: “A huge thank you to St Brides Bay Cottages for proudly supporting Operation Recuperation and to the cottage owners who have donated stays in this stunning part of Wales, despite very challenging times.

“Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a number of our frontline healthcare staff will be enjoying long clifftop walks, fresh seafood, lazy days on the beach and cosy evenings in sea-view cottages.”

To find out more about St Brides Bay Cottages and Operation Recuperation, visit: https://www.stbridesbaycottages.com/, email enquiries@stbridesbaycottages.com or call 01437 720027.

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Council pays out £2.5m in business grants to date

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has revealed that since Wednesday, 1st April, it has already paid out £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

The Authority’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, said Council staff had been working hard to make the Covid-19 business grants payable as soon as possible

Explained Councillor Miller: “Payments started on Wednesday this week for those who qualify for grants linked to the National Non-Domestic Ratings (NNDR) system. We have already paid out around £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

“Daily payment runs are being made in order that these can get into business bank accounts as soon as possible.

“We cannot unfortunately acknowledge receipt of applications but, once authorised, businesses will be emailed and the grant will be paid within two to three working days.”

Councillor Miller added: “If there are any issues with a grant application, or information is missing, a Council officer will be in touch to discuss the matter. A dedicated team has been set up to do this.”

For further business advice refer to the Council’s Business pages which can be accessed via the following link: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

This will enable access to the application form for the above grants, provide answers to frequently asked questions and links to further sources of advice through HMRC, Welsh Government, Department of Work and Pensions, Public Health Wales and other organisations.

For further enquiries not answered through the business pages, email: covid19@pembrokeshire.gov.uk and an officer will respond. Please view the business pages first.

For those who don’t qualify for the grants, Welsh Government will soon be making details available of how business can access other funding through an Economic Resilience Fund.

Details will be available on the Council’s business pages as soon as they are released by Welsh Government.

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Man issued with two COVID-19 fines in 24 hours as police thank those following new legislation

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A man has been issued with two fines in 24 hours for flouting Coronavirus legislation, as police thank those who are following the new rules.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers in Carmarthenshire stopped the 22-year-old from Llanelli twice for being out of the house without a reasonable excuse.

A report was made on April 1 that three men were breaching the COVID-19 legislation by gathering in Llanstephan. A woman who had attempted to film the men reported that they had stolen her phone and driven away.

Officers quickly linked the car to a suspect and traced it driving towards Carmarthen and then Llanelli, and a roads policing unit was directed to the area.

The car was stopped, and the two occupants – a 22-year-old from Llanelli, and a 18-year-old from Carmarthen – were arrested on suspicion of theft. They were also both issued with tickets for COVID-19 offences.

T/Chief Inspector Tom Sharville said: “We are taking the new legislation seriously, and would like to thank the majority of people who are staying home to keep others safe.

“The measures are difficult to adapt to, but it is important that we stay at home to save lives.

“However, there is a minority out there who are under the impression the legislation does not apply to them, and are flouting the law.

“This was the second fine one of these men was issued with in 24 hours, after he showed a clear disregard for all guidelines.”

The men were arrested on suspicion of theft of a mobile phone, and were released under investigation pending further enquiries.

For information about the COVID-19 legislation, and answers to many frequently asked questions, visit https://bit.ly/DPPCovid19

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