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Councillors condemn embattled chief

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embattled chiefCHIEF EXECUTIVE PENSION PAYMENTS SCANDAL

FOLLOWING the publication of the WAO report last week, The Pembrokeshire Herald can confirm that Dyfed Powys and South Wales police forces are seeking legal advice from the Crown Prosecution Service about whether there is any evidence to support criminal charges in relation to unlawful pay supplements given to Pembrokeshire County Council Chief Executive Bryn Parry Jones and Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive, Mark James.

The Pembrokeshire Herald now understands that the referral to the police was made by Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who wrote to the chief constables of Dyfed Powys and South Wales police forces.

Meeting due to be held

WITH THE County Council due to hold a special meeting to consider the report within the next three weeks, it is unclear whether the intervention of the authorities will have any effect on the timing of such a meeting.

In light of dithering at the head of the Council and no sign of a date being set for the crucial meeting, a motion has been submitted for an emergency meeting to discuss the report’s content.

One question that any meeting must address is whether Bryn Parry Jones will be compelled to repay the unlawful pay supplement he has received over the last two years. While the County Council has the power to request repayment of any and all sums paid under the tax dodging scheme, it is not clear whether it will – in fact – do so. In addition, it is not clear whether any personal tax penalties will have accrued to the tax dodge’s beneficiaries.

Councillors tell Herald “Bryn should go”

COUNTY councillors across the political spectrum have already been in touch with The Pembrokeshire Herald giving their views as to the future of controversial chief executive, Bryn Parry Jones. The majority of those who have provided their opinion is in favour of the Council setting up its own investigation into the affair and suspending their CEO while the investigation takes place.

Some Pembrokeshire councillors have also called for the suspension of those who sat on the Senior Staff Committee that approved the unlawful payments to Bryn Parry Jones in September 2011.

Second officer shielded

PEMBROKESHIRE County Council continues to refuse to reveal the identity of the second officer who has benefited from the unlawful payments agreed by the Senior Staff Committee. A Council spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald:

‘We are not prepared to identify the second staff member who took up the new pension arrangements agreed on September 28, 2011.’

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that the Council’s refusal to disclose the identity of the second staff members is simply delaying the inevitable revelation of their identity when it publishes its annual accounts. It was the appearance of the Chief Executive’s name in the authority’s accounts that gave rise to the current and ongoing scandal.

Leader’s email row

AS THE storm over the unlawful payments made to Bryn Parry Jones continues to rage around County Hall, a communication sent to IPPG members using the Council’s own IT infrastructure has caused further controversy.

IPPG leader Jamie Adams sent the email below from his County Council email address.

email row

 The email, which seeks to reassure members of Cllr Adams’s IPPG party, is a response to the scandal that has engulfed the Council over an unlawful pay supplement implemented to help senior officers avoid tax on their publicly-funded pensions.

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that, in using his Council email address, Cllr Adams has potentially broken rules about the use of Council emails for party political purposes.

We were notified of the email’s existence by Hakin Cllr Mike Stoddart, who has also published the story on his website.

The use of the Pembrokeshire County Council facilities for party political purposes has been a past cause of significant controversy for the supposedly “independent” IPPG. Former Councillor and IPPG Cabinet member David Wildman was heavily criticised by the Ombudsman for using Council IT facilities for party ends: “During the investigation the Ombudsman considered the twenty three files containing election literature for former colleagues … Councillor Wildman accepted at interview that he was recorded as being the author or the last person to have saved the files, and that he used Council computer systems to create the election material. He said that he had been given election material because some candidates had difficulty working computers and that he had prepared their manifestos.”

Having resigned before the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, Cllr Wildman escaped further censure. The Pembrokeshire Herald understands, however, that the Ombudsman is to consider the activities of a separate and current Cabinet member in relation to the same conduct.

The use by Cllr Adams of the Council’s own infrastructure to transact party business appears to be a similar breach of the rules as that in which Cllr Wildman became embroiled.

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council told The Pembrokeshire Herald:

“The Monitoring Officer has confirmed that elected Members are allowed to manage group business using Council resources to facilitate Council business. This applies to all political groups.”

Carmarthenshire set the date

ACROSS the border in Carmarthenshire, the Council have adopted an aggressive and assertive approach to the Auditor’s findings of unlawfulness.

The date has been set for an extraordinary meeting for Carmarthenshire County Council to debate the Wales Audit Office reports.

The Leader and Executive Board have called for the meeting which has now been agreed by the Chair of Council Cllr Terry Davies. It will take place on Thursday, February 27, and the only items on the agenda will be reports regarding the two WAO issues.Council Leader Cllr Kevin Madge said: “It has been difficult being unable to speak out, particularly knowing the full facts and having seen all the evidence, it will be a great relief to be able to share that with all county councillors and with the public.”

Evidence relating to the two issues is being shared with all county councillors in advance of the matter going before council. This includes advice from QCs and previous communication with the Wales Audit Office.

Carmarthenshire Council has also published the advice of Tim Kerr QC relating to the costs indemnity it gave to its own Chief Executive, Mark James to bring a counterclaim for libel against Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqueline Thompson.

Carmarthenshire County Council instructed Mr Kerr, a specialist in local government law, jointly with Pembrokeshire County Council in relation to the pensions tax dodge that bother authorities passed entirely coincidentally in 2011. It is not clear why the tax dodging advice has not been published, although the nature of the joint advice means that both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire would have to agree to its publication.

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42 new officers for Dyfed Powys Police in the first wave of police recruitment

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DYFED Powys Police has a recruitment target of 42 new officers in the first wave of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to increase officer numbers across the UK.

The Home Office on Wednesday (Oct 9) confirmed the officer recruitment targets for every police force in England and Wales for the first year of the unprecedented drive to increase their ranks by 20,000 over the next three years.

Stephen Crabb, Preseli Pembrokeshire MP has said that this is ‘a strong start’ to helping Dyfed Powys tackle new forms of crime and keep West Wales as one of the safest parts of the country.

Following the Home Office announcement, Stephen Crabb said: “Forty-two additional police officers for Dyfed Powys Police is a strong start to strengthening frontline policing and making people feel safer.

I praised the good work local officers do in tackling County Lines drug gang in Parliament earlier this year and asked that additional resources be provided to help them stamp out this and other terrible crimes. I’m pleased the Prime Minister listened and is delivered on his pledge to increase officers numbers.”

Strengthening police numbers is a priority for the government, which is providing £750 million to support forces to recruit up to 6,000 additional officers onto our streets by the end of 2020-21, the first stage in this new uplift. This is thanks to the additional funding announced by the Chancellor in the Spending Review.

Every single police force in England and Wales will be able to recruit additional officers this year to help keep all of our communities safer.

All officers recruited as part of the 20,000 uplifts will be added to those hired to fill existing vacancies. They are also on top of the extra officers already being recruited because of the £1 billion increase in police funding for 2019-20, which includes money from council tax and for serious violence.

Government funding for recruitment in 2020-21 will cover all associated costs, including training and kit.

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Anti-Slavery campaigner receives medal

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A Pembrokeshire woman who has committed herself to combating modern slavery has been presented with the British Empire Medal.

Dr Anne Kelly of Saundersfoot was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June.

A Swansea University lecturer, she sits on the Dyfed Powys anti-slavery forum that meets in Carmarthen. Much of her work is done
through the Soroptimist International organisation.

Through her personal commitment, she is contributing to more victims of slavery being identified, recovered and supported as well as
bringing their perpetrators to justice.

It is partly through her determination and constant lobbying of MPs that the Modern Slavery Act became law in March 2015.

Dr Kelly was presented with the British Empire Medal by the Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sara Edwards, in a ceremony at County
Hall on Friday (Oct 11).

Dr Kelly was accompanied by family members.

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A letter and petition in support

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PUPILS from Milford Haven school were outside County Hall on Thursday (Oct 10) handing out letters to Councillors as they entered the main building to attend a meeting which had Milford Haven School on the agenda.

A PLEA TO DECISION MAKERS

Stevie Joseph, 14, who wrote the three-page letter said that it contained the reasons why she felt that the sixth form should stay open.
“The college is just not the same for some of us”, she said, “we need the pastoral care and support that a sixth form gives us”.

“The decline in pupil numbers is something we have noticed but Milford now has one of the biggest primary schools in Wales so its stupid to close the sixth form…. The numbers are going to go up. We should not close it now and then wait to see that improvement.”

Stevie’s classmate Rebecca said: “I would like to be in an environment where I know people. I have known these teachers for many years, and it will be weird [if I go to college and] they will not be there.”

PETITION AGAINST CLOSURE

A petition to Pembrokeshire County Council has been started on Change.org.

At the time of going to press around 500 people had signed.

Organiser Jenny did not give her last name but wrote on the page: “Milford Haven School may have to close the doors to their current sixth form department.

“The residents of Milford Haven hold the sixth form very close to their hearts as a lot of them attended themselves.

“As a community, we are all deeply saddened to hear this could be coming to an end. In previous years, this sixth form was thriving.

“As a collective, hundreds of thousands have been raised for Children in Need as well as other good causes and charities.

“Sixth form has provided pupils with vast amounts of opportunities and helped them to mature into respectable young adults. It has given students the chance to further their education in subjects they are extremely passionate about. In some instances, Milford Haven Sixth form has provided options that wouldn’t be offered anywhere else in the county.

“As it stands, if our sixth form was to close down, all pupils in year 11 and younger would have to attend either Pembrokeshire college or one of the last remaining sixth forms in the county which is Haverfordwest High which would be the closest in distance to attend.
“But in college you lose the family and community connection you have when you become part of the sixth form family.”

To sign the petition online click the link on the Pembrokeshire Herald Facebook page.

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