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Grants probe continues

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probe continues Councillor seeks fair treatment Stoddart steps up attack Pugh wins award

COUNTY COUNCILLOR Mike Stoddart has drawn attention to potentially preferential treatment given to requests for information made by members of Pembrokeshire’s ruling IPPG.

At December’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Rob Summons responded with information that purported to rebut a post that Cllr Stoddart had made on his website, oldgrumpy.co.uk. Councillor Stoddart said:

“The article on my website that inspired his request was first published on Saturday, December 7. So, the earliest his request could have been validated was on Monday, December 9. There he was just a couple of days later waving the reply around in the council chamber.

“So first thing on the morning of Monday 16 December I put in a request for the amount of grant paid in respect of slating at numbers 25 and 29 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock, both of which appeared to fall within Cllr Summons’ helpful definition of freely available information. This brought forward one of those “out of office” replies from the information officer telling me they were on leave until 18 December.

“Concerned that I hadn’t received the customary official acknowledgement, I emailed again on 19 December when another “out of office reply” came back from the same officer telling me they were now on leave to 6 January. Fortunately, it contained an alternative email address of someone who could be contacted in the case of urgency.

“This I did and have now been told that “the programme officers who provide this information are on annual leave over the holidays” and I can expect a substantive reply within the 20 working days allowed by statute, i.e. by January 20, 2014.”

Councillor Stoddart went on to explain:

The employees’ Code of Conduct
says that:

“ … Employees must serve the Authority as a whole … [T]hey must serve all Councillors and not just those from the controlling group…”

HAVING received an apology – of sorts – from IPPG Cabinet member David Pugh just before Christmas, Councillor Mike Stoddart has questioned how grant money was spent on refurbishing and redeveloping 29 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock: a property tenanted by a charity shop run by the Paul Sartori Foundation.

Councillor Stoddart points out that the total cost of works done to the property on the basis of a grant for £21,000 would have been in the region of £53,000, including works to remove asbestos from outbuildings. Councillor Stoddart points out that the outbuildings concerned were excluded from a calculation of the retail space which attracted the grants and goes on to explain:

“The work done to the rear of the building involved converting some rather scruffy outbuildings into four bedsits. Councillor Pugh told Full Council on December 12,

“The simple fact is that the developer has taken on much higher cost projects bringing semi-derelict buildings back into use both commercial and residential which incidentally is not grant aided.”

“I think the trick here is to suggest that, because these outbuildings were formerly part of the storage space for the shop, their conversion into bedsits can be classified as refurbishing retail space.

“The tender document calls for the removal of 80 sq m of asbestos sheeting and the disposal of 5 tonnes of the material.This sheeting weighs in at 1.25 cwt (62 kilo) per sq m.In fact asbestos sheets typically weigh about 3lb per sq ft which works out at roughly 14 kilo per sq m.

“Of course, when Cllr Pugh made his speech to council he was acting on behalf of the Cabinet and under the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility all members of that body are saddled with what he said.

“If they have any regard for the truth, they should be demanding that Cllr Pugh accompanies them to 29 Dimond Street and shows them where exactly this £53,000 has been spent on refurbishing the retail space for which the grant of £21,000 was paid.”

AFTER being forced to climb down from his assault on a fellow-Councillor’s probity, IPPG Cabinet member David Pugh’s New Year got off to a bad start when he was voted the winner of the first Golden Don Qui Award by visitors to East Williamston County Councillor Jacob Williams’ website.

The Awards, which take their name from Councillor Pugh’s now infamous comparison of Councillor Mike Stoddart to Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, were inaugurated by Jacob Williams after a post on his website made the suggestion. Councillor Williams explains:

“What happened at the Full Council meeting spurred a comment on my website from Paul Absalom. Taking into account the poor way Cllr. Pugh conducted himself at the council meeting, his outrageous comments directed towards Cllr. Stoddart, and then his humbling comedown when it came to the ‘facts,’

Paul Absalom suggests that, following the ‘Don Quixote’ gag: “I bet Cllr Pugh feels like a right ‘Don Qui’ now.”

“Cllr. Pugh (with 37% of the vote) beat council leader Cllr. Jamie Adams (29%) into second place, and is a thoroughly deserving recipient – congratulations. Publicly accusing another councillor of being incompetent or a liar is serious stuff, and even more serious when the accusation is based upon untrue information presented as fact. The main thread of Cllr. Pugh’s botched attempt at discrediting Cllr. Mike Stoddart at the December 12 full council meeting was based on something he had made up. He has since apologised, and will have come to realise that the only character he was assassinating in his bungling tirade, was his own.”

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Haverfordwest: Pupils collected by parents after feeling unwell in school following Italy ski trip

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THREE PUPILS from Haverfordwest High School have been collected by parents after feeling unwell today (Feb 25). It is understood that all the pupils involved were on a half term skiing trip to Italy.

This has been confirmed by a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson.

No case of COVID-19 has been confirmed.

The Pembrokeshire pupils were in the resort of Fanano, the council said.

In a letter to all staff, head teacher Jane Harries said: “The ski trip which returned from Italy on the weekend did not travel to the two areas of lock-down in Italy affected by the corona-virus. Advice is for staff or pupils who have returned from Italy (not the quarantined areas of Lombardy and Veneto) should they develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, they should immediately please follow this advice: stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would the flu, and call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country.
“They do not need to follow this advice if they have no symptoms.
“Staff who have any symptoms have been sent home and we are in the process of contacting all parents and pupils on the trip…”

A school statement released at 14:31 HRS on Tuesday reads: “We do have two pupils who were on family holidays in these areas and they have gone home.

“Three staff have been sent home as a precaution and we are in the process of contacting all parents of pupils on the trip. If they then feel that their son/daughter has any of the above symptoms they can come to collect them and follow the advice above.

“At the time of making this statement 15 parents have collected pupils although many of these are parents who are collecting pupils due to concern over messages on social media.  There are no confirmed cases of corona-virus at Haverfordwest High VC School.

“Over the border in England, one school has closed, and another has shut its sixth form today after students returned from half-term ski trips in Italy. The two schools, both in Cheshire, made the decision on Tuesday and comes as Italian authorities struggle to control an outbreak of COVID-19.

“A message to parents from Richard Pollock, the headteacher of Cransley School in Northwich, said the closure would remain in place for the rest of the week in order to “completely minimise” the risk of infection. Sky News reported that this comes after a number of students and staff at the school had visited Bormio – 350km from where the Pembrokeshire pupils were skiing – and had since been advised to self-isolate.

“Regardless of the current Public Health England advice (that the school should remain open to all other pupils) I have decided… to completely minimise possible spread of infection and close the school for the remainder of the week,” he wrote.

“During this time, the school will be able to conduct a deep clean and monitor the results of tests amongst those pupils who are currently showing flu-like symptoms.”

Meanwhile, Brine Leas Academy in Nantwich said on Twitter that is had decided to close its sixth form “due to staff shortages.”

 

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Folly Farm’s giving away 5,000 free places to primary school pupils

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IN CELEBRATION of the birth of a critically endangered Eastern black rhino in January, Folly Farm is offering primary school pupils in Wales the opportunity to visit for free to learn more about its conservation work.

The free school visits week will take place between Monday 01 June and Friday 05 June 2020 to coincide with World Environment Day on Friday 05 June. Folly Farm’s zoo keeping team will be running activities each day to highlight conservation work, breeding programmes and sustainable initiatives at the attraction to educate and inspire school children.

Tim Morphew, zoo curator at Folly Farm, said; “The birth of our critically endangered Eastern black rhino, the first rhino to be born in Wales, is such a significant event, not just for us here at Folly Farm but also for the breeding programme and the species. We wanted to use this amazing opportunity as a catalyst to highlight our conservation work and motivate the next generation to act.
“We’re delighted to be offering free school visits to primary schools across Wales for a week of organised activities designed to educate and provide school children with some key takeaways about how they can make better decisions for the environment.”

5,000 free places will be provided for the week, up to a maximum of 1,000 visits on each day. The successful schools will be chosen on a first come first served basis and notified by the 27 March 2020.

Primary schools in Wales need to apply for the free places by filling in an application form on Folly Farm’s website indicating their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of day and total number of pupils.

The application form can be found here: https://www.folly-farm.co.uk/news/free-school-visits/

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Stephen Crabb MP calls for an end to Cawdor closure plans  

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THE IMPORTANCE of Cawdor Barracks will be debated this week in Parliament thanks to Preseli MP Stephen Crabb.

In a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday (Feb 26), the local MP will discuss the importance to Pembrokeshire of the army base at Brawdy before urging the Minister for Defence to reconsider its closure.

The facility was first opened as RAF Brawdy in 1944 and, over the years, has provided a base for all three branches of the armed forces. During the Cold War, the US Navy also resided at Brawdy, to monitor underwater listening devices in the Atlantic Ocean. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, large-scale changes to NATO armed forces resulted in both the US Navy and the RAF leaving Brawdy.

The British Army’s 14 Signal Regiment, specialists in Electronic Warfare, took up residence in 1995. It is the only British Army Regiment capable of conducting sustainable electronic warfare in support of national operations worldwide.

Intended as a temporary base for the Regiment, Brawdy has proved a popular location for the soldiers and their families with many putting down deep roots in the County.  With the Regiment used heavily on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other overseas locations, Pembrokeshire people have turned out in their hundreds for local Homecoming parades. The Regiment has been awarded the Freedom of both St Davids and Haverfordwest.

With nearly 600 troops at Brawdy and over 120 children from forces families in Pembrokeshire’s schools, the barracks play an important role in the County. Economic analysis of the closure of Cawdor Barracks estimated the effect at £26-£30 million.

However, for more than 10 years there has been uncertainty over the future of Cawdor Barracks with plans for full closure put forward and then changed. The year 2024 is the current date for closure of the base.

In the lead up to the debate, Stephen Crabb said: “For over 75 years, Brawdy has played a hugely important role in our national security, and those who have been based there have become an important part of the Pembrokeshire community.

“The uncertainty surrounding its future, with its closure date being pushed back time and time again is unsettling for those soldiers and their families who have made Pembrokeshire their home.

“In securing this debate, I hope to highlight the importance of Cawdor Barracks to Pembrokeshire and I’ll be calling on the Government to end the uncertainty over the base, putting an end to the on-off closure plans that have caused so much confusion for the soldiers and for the local community.

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