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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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Cllr Beynon suspended as school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL said that they are unable to comment on the suspension of a Pembroke Dock councillor as a school governor.

Cllr Beynon confirmed that he has been suspended as a school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur.

“I’m looking forward until when the ombudsman throws out the complaints,” Cllr Beynon said.

Paul Dowson, a fellow Pembroke Dock councillor, recently resigned from the board of school governors of Ysgol Harri Tudur.

Cllr Dowson said after he resigned: “I feel a recent smear campaign reflects badly on the school even though its untrue.”

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Pembrokeshire man admits catalogue of sexual offences against children

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A HAVERFORDWEST man has pleaded guilty to a huge catalogue of sexual offences against children, including possession of more than 9,000 indecent images.

Kevin David John has admitted 20 offences in total – including the rape of a girl under 16 – following a three-month investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The 49-year-old, who appeared at Swansea Crown Court on June 23, came to police attention in April when he was arrested and a search carried out at his Prendergast home.

In total 111 different storage devices were seized – including tablets, laptops and mobile phones – along with almost 1,000 disks.

Specialist officers spent hours combing through huge amounts of data, uncovering substantial evidence of further offending, and John was charged and remanded into custody.

John initially appeared at Swansea Magistrates Court on April 24 where he pleaded guilty to five counts: recording a person doing a private act, sexual assault, causing a girl under 16 to engage in sexual activity, and two of taking an indecent photograph of a child.

He later admitted a further 15, which comprised sexual assault, sexual assault by touching, four sexual assaults of a child, rape, possession of Category A, B and C indecent photographs, making Category A, B and C pseudo-photographs of a child, possession of a prohibited image of a child, and possession of extreme pornographic images.

Detective Inspector Richard Lewis said: “This has been a detailed and harrowing investigation from the outset, involving a number of vulnerable victims and witnesses.

“Their courage in speaking out has been humbling, and the information they shared with us was invaluable in getting John to court,” he said.

Darren Mutter, Head of Children’s Services at Pembrokeshire County Council, said the council’s social services department had also worked closely with police to support the victims and their families, and ensure all safeguarding was addressed.

Added DI Lewis: “Police officers throughout Pembrokeshire played a role in this enquiry, and I would like to convey my sincere thanks to all staff involved for their professionalism and dedication in what has been a challenging and sensitive enquiry.

“Thanks also to Dyfed-Powys Police’s digital cybercrime unit, whose rigorous interrogation of a mammoth amount of potential evidence enabled us to build a robust case that demonstrated the severity of John’s offending.”

John will appear for sentencing at Swansea Crown Court on July 17.

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Jail for sleight of hand fraudster

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A MAN has been jailed for four fraud offences after purposely confusing post office and bank staff with sleight of hand techniques.

Costel Ventel visited four post offices and a bank in Pembrokeshire in one day, tricking staff into handing over a total of £930.

Just hours later, the 20-year-old from Birmingham was reported to Dyfed-Powys Police for trying to use the same technique in Llanelli.

PC Olivia Jones said: “We were called to post offices in Tenby, Saundersfoot and Kilgetty, as well as HSBC in Tenby, on May 17, 2019, where Ventel had committed or attempted to commit fraud.

“He’d asked staff to exchange bank notes, then purposely confused them by using sleight of hand techniques. Ventel passed notes back and fore, managing to pocket £450 from one and £480 from another without the member of staff noticing.

“We believed he had travelled from Birmingham for the purpose of carrying out these acts of fraud, and enquiries immediately started to locate him.”

Later that day, Ventel travelled to Llanelli, where he tried to commit further offences at HSBC.

PC Jones said: “Thankfully, staff at the bank were alerted to their unusual behaviour and recognised them from descriptions circulated following the incident at the Tenby branch, and called police.

“Both men were arrested on suspicion of fraud offences.”

Initially Ventel was released under investigation, but following extensive enquiries over a number of months, four charges of fraud by false representations were secured against him.

He was summonsed to appear at court June 30, where he was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.

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