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Expenses claim ‘swept under the carpet’

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not happyMEMBERS of the Audit Committee of Pembrokeshire County Council on Thursday discussed the controversial expenses claims made by Council Leader Jamie Adams. Cllr Adams claimed £4,649 worth of expenses over a four year period that dates back to 2008, which is before Cllr Adams lost his seat, and reclaimed them when he was re-elected, despite the forms stating expenses should be claimed within a three month period. Cllr Tessa Hodgson said:

“Members of the public have a low opinion of politicians, which is a great concern among councillors. Councillors should not just be whiter than white, they should be seen as whiter than white.

“I propose a wording change on the forms to say expenses ‘must’ be claimed within three months. This will help confusion with expenses and improve the public view.

Welsh Audit Officer, John Dwight said: “I’m confident that claims as part of audit were checked and authorised. Nothing stops you making a claim after the time specified”.

The Director of finance and leisure, Mark Lewis said:

“It’s a difficult issue. When you read the regulations it says you must set a limit. On a personal view, I think there needs to be some review. It’s not the most easy thing to deal with. With regards to this, payments can still be settled”.

Cllr Jacob Williams told the committee: “I’m very disappointed with the director’s report. I don’t think it’s as complicated as you say. Cllr Hodgson mentioned the public view and I think they’re very angry. If anybody’s head is on the block it is Cllr Adams. In a way, I’m not happy that the director wrote the report.

“The council has to show reasonableness in its decision. There were 44 claim sheets for 400 separate journeys, which were handed in April 10, 2013 and approved April 13, 2013. I know that it would take a long time to clear that. That’s very quick to go through each and every claim to make sure he was where he said he was.

“It is reasonable to accept a claim after three months if the person is ill and unable to hand it in on time. The director of finance and leisure has responsibility and to approve travel claims that are four years out is in no way reasonable. And for Cllr Adams to do it for the reason of ‘poor book keeping’ is most certainly unreasonable and I can’t believe it’s being swept under the carpet”.

John Allen-Mirehouse said: “Late claims disrupt accounting. I think Jacob’s claim was that the director was not entitled to do what he did, but he is. Although we say claims must be put in within three months, it is not the law. Payments will be made after whatever is deemed reasonable. It is an unfortunate delay of four years, but the director acted within his power. What has happened is extremely awkward, careless and inexcusable”.

Cllr Thomas Richards said: “If we just deal with the Notice of Motion, we can move on to the future, whether it’s done today or not”.

Cllr Jacob Williams replied: “It seems that I’m the only one who sees it as unreasonable. It was an unreasonable decision to have approved them. We would have to submit Notice of Motion if they weren’t approved. Previously the director wrote a report and approved the payment. The legislation has holes in it, but let’s forget that for now. We mustn’t think it’s reasonable”.

Cllr Allen-Mirehouse said: “You may have a point, but the director was in his remit. Whether or not you think he should or shouldn’t approved it doesn’t matter. There is a chink in the armour, but he was obeying the law, even though I agree that a four year payment is unreasonable”.

Committee chairman,Cllr John Evans said: “We acknowledge affairs, but we need to have greater clarification to deal with the investigation of the first part. Then we will look at how we’re going to propose recommendation of expenses. In addition, we need commentary from Monitoring Officer, Laurence Harding so we have complete pictures. I also request the Welsh Audit office to prepare a new report combined with a statement and commentary from John Dwight for absolute clarity. Proposals are then to be discussed at the next meeting”.

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Residents invited to a Pembroke Tunnel drop-in event

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NETWORK RAIL is inviting residents to a drop-in event to find out more about essential maintenance work at Pembroke Tunnel, west Wales, which will improve the resilience and reliability of the railway for passengers.
The work includes essential vegetation management and rock netting in the area with work taking place for a week in December before the main work takes place in January and February.
Ahead of the work residents are invited to a drop-in event on Monday 18 November from 3pm to 6.30pm at the Dutton Suite, Pembroke Leisure Centre, Bush, Pembroke, SA71 4RJ.
No appointments are necessary and members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions.
Then between Saturday 14 and Friday 20 December Network Rail will carry out drilling work overnight to install rock anchors at the top of the railway cutting as Network Rail prepare for the main phase of the works.
That will then take place between Sunday 19 January 2020 and Saturday 8 February 2020 where engineers will work day and night to install rock anchors and bolts before installing the rock netting across the railway cutting using road rail vehicles and specialist machinery.
Michael Pinkerton, scheme project manager for Wales and Borders, said:
“We would like to thank residents in advance for their patience and understanding as we carry out this work at Pembroke Tunnel.
“All this planned essential work forms part of our commitment to maintain a safe and reliable railway that is fit for use now and in the future. We are working closely with our partners to keep disruption to the local community to a minimum and encourage anyone wishing to find out more about this work to come along to our drop-in event later.”

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“We have a duty to win” says Crabb at campaign launch

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STEPHEN CRABB has launched his 2019 General Election campaign, highlighting the ‘duty and responsibility’ the Party has to win.
The Welsh Conservative candidate is hoping to be re-elected on December 12, having served as MP for the last 14 years.
At the launch at Martha’s Vineyard on Milford Marina, Stephen addressed a crowd of supporters with a promise to continue being a strong voice for Preseli Pembrokeshire in Westminster.
Stephen Crabb has consistently been one of the hardest working Welsh MPs with a strong track record of standing up for the local community.
Speaking at the campaign launch, Stephen said: “This General Election will be the most important for many years.
“We face a choice between the Conservatives who have a clear plan to unblock Brexit and improve Britain – or a coalition of opposition parties under Jeremy Corbyn, who want more years of delay and division.
“That is not in our national interest nor is it in the best interests of Pembrokeshire. The Conservative Party has a serious duty and responsibility to go out and win this election.
“Over the last 14 years I have fought tirelessly for local people and local businesses and if re-elected, I will continue to work hard to give Pembrokeshire a strong voice in Parliament.”
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Christmas shopping misery for west Wales rail users

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RAIL USERS in west Wales face festive misery due to engineering works which will close the Carmarthen to Milford Haven link for almost a month.

The line will be closed from this Sunday, until the Sunday before Christmas, at a time when many take the train to Swansea and Cardiff shopping for gifts for friends and family.

Signs have already been posted at railway stations confirming the delays.

Trains will be replaced by buses; rail officials have said.

A spokesman from Network Rail said: “Due to essential maintenance work, rail replacement bus services will run between Carmarthen and Milford Haven from Monday, November 18 until Sunday, December 22.

“Pembroke dock and Fishguard services are also affected on Sunday November 24.

“On all other days of operation, the train services will continue to stop at Whitland, Clynderwen and Clarbeston Road, Fishguard and Goodwick, Fishguard Harbour and stations to Pembroke Dock.

“We apologise for any inconvenience.”

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