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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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Pupils from two Pembrokeshire school’s asked to self-isolate

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FURTHER cases of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Ysgol Harri Tudur/Henry Tudor School (Pembroke) and at Milford Haven School.

As a result, all pupils in Year 11 from Ysgol Harri Tudur and some students from year 7 in Milford Haven have been asked to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Parents of the pupils in those classes have been informed.

Parents and carers do not need to contact the schools to find out if their child has been affected.

Pembrokeshire County Council, Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board are working with the school to ensure that all possible precautionary measures are being taken to minimise risk of transmission of the virus.

Parents/guardians have been given the following advice by Hywel Dda University Health Board:

If a child/parent/household member develops symptoms of Covid-19, the entire household should immediately self-isolate, and book a test for the individual with the symptoms. It is unnecessary to test the entire household if they are not symptomatic.

The Covid-19 symptoms are:
● a new continuous cough
● a high temperature
● loss of or change to sense of smell or taste

Booking a Covid-19 test:
Hywel Dda University Health Board recommends testing only for those with a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or loss of or change in the sense of taste or smell.

If a child does not have symptoms of Covid-19 but has other cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, they do not need to be tested and they and you do not need to self-isolate. Your child can go to school if fit to do so.
If a Covid-19 test is required, this should be arranged via the UK Booking Portal, https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-test or by ringing 119. Testing is available within Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire or via a home testing kit delivered to and collected from your home. The Covid-19 test is undertaken via a throat swab or combined throat and nose swab.

 Self-isolation:
It is essential that people who have Covid-19 symptoms, or who share a household with someone who has symptoms, must self-
isolate, even if your symptoms are mild. To protect others, you must not attend school, nursery, other childcare settings, work, or go to or to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started. They can return to school or work after 10 days if they are well enough to do so. A pupil must remain fever free for at least 48 hrs.

Anyone in the household who does not have symptoms must self- isolate for 14 days from when the first person in the home started having symptoms.

If a parent thinks their child has symptoms BUT chooses not to put them through a test all household members must remain in self-isolation for 14 days from the onset of symptoms.

If you receive a positive test result, you will be contacted by the Test, Trace, Protect Team who will advise you further.

Non-household members/contacts:
If a person has been in contact with an individual experiencing symptoms, they should carry on as normal until that individual
receives their test result. If this is positive, the Test, Trace, Protect Team will contact those people identified as contacts and advise accordingly.

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Jessica ready to help in access officer role

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Pembrokeshire County Council has a new Access Officer.

Jessica Hatchett took up the role earlier this month and has always
been passionate about disability equality in Pembrokeshire.

Jessica, from Neyland, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and uses a
wheelchair or a walking frame to get around.

She believes her experiences as a disabled person will give her a
different perspective on the role which aims to build on the Council’s
commitment to making Pembrokeshire an accessible county to all.
A founder member of the Young Voices for Choices youth forum,
Jessica has previously featured on the cover of two access guides, as
well as the cover of a Bus Buddies project leaflet.

And Jessica is hoping to continue the good work of her predecessors,
Trever Owens and Alan Hunt.

Jessica said: “This job is an absolutely fantastic opportunity to help
make Pembrokeshire even better.

“Inclusive, accessible designs don’t just benefit disabled people –
they make life easier for parents with buggies, people with broken
legs or anyone who might not be steady on their feet.

“Simple design changes make a world of difference to someone with
additional needs.”

The Access Officer role involves responding to requests, comments
and concerns on accessibility issues; liaising with community access
groups; ensuring the Authority’s duties and responsibilities with
regard to the Equalities Act (2010) are met; supporting the work of
Pembrokeshire Access Group and giving advice on all access design
issues such as ramps, disabled parking bays, welfare facilities and
much more.

Jessica, a former journalist with the Western Telegraph, added: “I’m
really looking forward to meeting new people and giving them the best
advice that I can – and if I don’t know the answer I will find someone
who does.

“Also, whilst I am going to investigate good practice collaboratively
with other Local Authorities, I am keen for Pembrokeshire to set the
standard for access issues and introduce new and innovative ideas to
improve people’s quality of life.

“I’m also looking forward to doing my first site visit. I know I have an
important job to do and will take it seriously, but I can’t wait to see
what I look like in a high-vis jacket and hard hat!”

To get in touch with Jessica, call 01437 775148 or email
jessica.hatchett@pembrokeshire.gov.uk.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Brexit update

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AS THE Brexit transition period draws to a close in the New Year, Pembrokeshire County Council is working closely with the Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association and other organisations.

The Authority’s aim is to minimise any potential for Brexit to negatively affect Council services and the county’s businesses and residents.

The transition period ends at 11pm on December 31, after which many changes come into effect.

To this end, the Council is publicising a number of websites providing Brexit information. 

They include:

https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support/pembrokeshire-preparing-for-brexit

https://gov.wales/preparing-wales/

https://www.gov.uk/transition

EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens who need to apply for Settled Status can find support from Welsh Government and Home Office-funded organisations here: http://www.eusswales.com/en/index.html

Meanwhile, public-facing frontline staff working in support organisations and local authorities throughout Wales are being made aware of the issues involved.

This will enable them to direct EU/EEA nationals and their family members who have queries to the appropriate specialist staff.

For public information on the Settlement Scheme go to: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

Pembrokeshire County Council also has a generic Brexit enquiry email address at: brexit@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

 

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