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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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New Eco Feature For Haverfordwest

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Plans have been submitted for a ‘living green wall’ to be planted in the centre of Haverfordwest in a bid to enhance local biodiversity and wildlife.

The green wall would be situated alongside the river opposite Glan-yr-Afon, the town’s library and cultural centre, and planted with 25 species of native plants including ferns, grasses, flowers and wild herbs including basil, sage and clary.

As well as providing an important habitat for pollinators, the wall would also be an attractive natural feature in its own right, says Sara Morris, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Development Plans and Conservation Manager.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to re-introduce nature in the heart of Haverfordwest,” she said. “As with all planting, it will take some time for the plants to grow and flourish but given time it will look very attractive.”

The maintenance of the wall, which is scheduled for installation towards the end of October, would be carried out by a team of volunteers. New benches made from Welsh slate would also be installed to encourage residents and visitors to enjoy spending time in the area.

The green wall is part of the Cleddau Reaches partnership project which forms one of the priorities in the Haverfordwest Regeneration framework.

The Cleddau Reaches partners are Pembrokeshire County Council, the Bridge Meadow Trust, Haverfordwest Town Council, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Haverfordwest Kayak Club.

Pembrokeshire College and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority have also supported the project.

The aim is to improve and enhance the rights of way network in and around Haverfordwest and in particular, around the Western Cleddau, through several different inter-linked schemes.

Grant funding of approximately £250,000 has been provided by the NRW, Haverfordwest Town Council and the Landfill Disposals Tax Community Scheme.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Leisure and Culture, says the project’s focus on the river follows recognition that for too long, it has been an under-utilised resource despite being one of the town’s key natural assets.

“The Cleddau Reaches project brings together many ideas which the community has put forward over the last 20 years,” he said.

“As well as boosting biodiversity, the project forms part of the wider package of investments we are bringing forward to support Haverfordwest Town Centre.

“This administration is determined to revive the fortunes of the County Town, transforming Haverfordwest Town Centre from a traditional retail centre that’s being left behind into a vibrant leisure destination where residents and visitors alike want to spend their time.”

Some of the work currently taking place as part of the Cleddau Reaches project includes new riverbank paths near the Bridge Meadow with plans to create a new footbridge connecting to the Old Mill Grounds.

Other plans include creating habitats for sand-martins, otters and lampreys upriver, creating a trail linking up with the Town Council’s Priory Saltings project, and installing five interpretation boards along the route describing the flora, fauna and history of the local area.

The green wall planning application is currently registered with Pembrokeshire County Council for determination.

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Homes in Pembrokeshire can get free boilers and insulation

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PEMBROKESHIRE HERALD is teaming up with Blackburn based company Euro Insulation, who are working on a Pembrokeshire County Council backed energy scheme called the ECO: Help to Heat programme.

The scheme intends to utilise government funding for the reduction of fuel poverty within the county.

The council says that it has worked for many years to improve homes locally, and is keen for as many households to sign up as possible.

The local authority is working with ECO energy installers.

Funding is only available for private owner occupiers and private rented tenants. Qualification of flexible eligibility in Pembrokeshire will be determined by certain criteria.

Grants are available to a range of households including those with someone aged over 60, with a child under 5, and homes with children in primary or secondary school, or with a pregnant mother.

The Pembrokeshire Herald is letting as many homeowners know as possible about the scheme and has a call centre open to take queries on behalf of Euro Insulation who will be doing the work.

The aim is to reduce C02 emissions and make homes more energy efficient in Wales.

They are with the Welsh Assembly Government to show homeowners how they can get a brand-new boiler, internal wall insulation and room-in-roof insulation

The funding is only available until December.

To be considered for a FREE boiler or INSULATION call our call centre on 01437 70 70 70

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Fishguard: Armed police presence at Fishguard port

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ARMED officers from Dyfed-Powys Police were on scene at the port in Fishguard this morning (Sept 18).

Border Force and the RNLI were involved in the operation, which reportedly involved a vessel being escorted into the harbour.

Details of the incident are still unfolding, and the police have been contacted for a statement.

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