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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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Man arrested over illegal body piercings on teenage girls

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A 69-YEAR-OLD man from Haverfordwest has been arrested by police, under suspicion of illegally carrying out body piercings on teenage girls.

The suspect, whist in Pembroke Dock, is alleged to have agreed to pierce the genitalia of a number of girls under the age of 18 years for free. This was allegedly on the proviso, The Herald understands, that he could take indecent photographs of them.

The man has been released on bail, but with conditions.

Dyfed-Powys Police have been contacted for a comment.

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Bar 10 licensing hours extended

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THE COUNTY COUNCIL’s Licensing Sub-Committee granted an extension of hours to a Tenby pub this Tuesday (Feb 18).
The Committee considered an application from the licensees of Bar 10 in St George’s Street to allow it to remain open until 2:00 am.
Tenby Town Council objected to the application and Cllr Paul Rapi represented the Town Council in front of the Committee.
Cllr Rapi told the Committee that people walking past the premises during the day tended to avoid the front of the premises ‘because it can be a bit lively for some people’.
Licensing officers issued a noise abatement to the bar in September last year.
Cllr Rapi said that he and other councillors continued to receive complaints about noise from the pub, even though those complaints had neither been recorded nor reported.
He continued: “Tenby Town Council want to see some sort of control over this noise that’s coming out of Bar 10.
“It’s the main street in Tenby, the sort of rowdiness that occurs between 5 and 7 pm in the summer is not acceptable.”
The Committee also heard from Police that there general noise and disturbance were prevalent in the confines of Tenby’s town centre during the summer months. The area around Bar 10 is a ‘cumulative’ noise area caused by the presence of a significant number of pubs and bars in the vicinity
A report regarding noise pollution prepared by the local authority said that ‘despite a number of complaints and interventions by … the Designated Premises Supervisor has not shown sufficient consideration and understanding of the need to control noise from activities at the premises to ensure disturbance is not caused to nearby residents’.
When cross-examined by the solicitor acting for the applicants, Mr David Lewis, the Council officer presenting that report, Nathan Miles, confirmed his department received no complaints about noise since a noise abatement was issued the preceding September. Questioned once more by Mr Lewis, Mr Miles also confirmed no complaints were received by the Council following the issue of seasonal temporary extensions granted to the premises over Christmas and New Year.
Objections to the hours’ variations raised by the Licensing Inspector, Geraint Griffiths were also examined both by members of the Committee and David Lewis.
Licensing inspector Geriant Griffiths said in the past there had been issues with CCTV not working and there was a “serious disregard for licensing objectives.”
During questioning, it emerged that the Licensing Inspector had no information about the premises following his previous visit to it over two years ago. The Licensing Inspector agreed that comments about the quality of CCTV in his report were similarly out of date. Mr David Lewis pointed out that the premises’ owners installed a new CCTV system at considerable expense after the Licensing Inspector’s 2017 visit. The Licensing Officer could not contradict the applicant’s solicitor on that point.
The most contemporary information in front of the Committee came from Dyfed Powys Police’s Pembrokeshire Licensing Officer, Nigel Lewis.
The Licensing Officer set out that he met with the applicants to discuss their application and conducted ‘amicable mediation’ regarding the most contentious elements of it. He explained how, once he related the level of opposition to the original proposal, the applicants eagerly embraced the opportunity to address concerns and alter their application from its original form.
Nigel Lewis was questioned closely by Cllr John Davies about public order incidents and related the only one linked to the premises in the last year was one in which staff were assaulted. The Herald reported that incident in our February 7 edition and confirm that a Torfaen man pleaded guilty to assaulting staff when he was asked to return inside the pub to prevent a public nuisance.
The Licensing Officer reported during mediation, the applicant accepted there appeared to an issue of noise escaping from the premises and they needed show diligence regarding it in the future
After retiring to consider their decision, the Committee reconvened and approved the application subject to the following conditions with immediate effect: Bar 10 would be permitted to serve drinks until 1:00 am on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday each week with the premises to be closed at 1:30 am; recorded music would end at midnight on each night; two qualified door staff would be engaged for weekend nights and also for other evenings to which extended hours applied; on Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and on Sundays before a Monday Bank Holiday, Bar 10 could supply alcohol until 1:30 am and the premises must close by 2:00 am. On each of those dates, recorded music must stop at midnight.
Committee Chair Cllr Tim Evans concluded by adding the mediation conducted between Nigel Lewis and the applicants had ‘enhanced the application’.

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Tesco grant boost for Haverfordwest children

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AN ORGANISATION working with children in Haverfordwest has received a £1,000 grant from a special costal voting round of Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme.

The grant for Clybiau Plant Cymru will go towards delivering workshops and out of school childcare clubs that encourage children to play outdoors and connect with nature in coastal areas.

Alex Fudge, the Regional Manager for Clybiau Plant Cymru, said the funding will help combat issues of childhood obesity in Wales, giving children the opportunity to play freely and get active away from distractions such as social media.

“We’re truly grateful to Tesco for its support and funding through the Bags of Help scheme,” she said We aim to promote health, wellbeing and environmental awareness through fun, outdoor activities, so every donation has a huge impact on kids’ lives.

“The clubs provide valuable play and learning opportunities outside of the school day, enabling parents to work and train, which in turn drives economic growth, tackles poverty and reduces inequalities.

“Through the funding we are delivering six workshops within three clubs in the Haverfordwest area to children and our staff,” she added. “It will engage up to 100 individuals, as well as providing skills and knowledge which staff can apply on an ongoing basis to provide quality childcare for years to come.”

Tesco shoppers in Haverfordwest cast their votes using blue tokens handed out at checkouts as part of the special voting round supporting groups in 42 coastal communities across the UK. More than 100 projects working to improve Britain’s coastline shared the combined funding pot worth £300,000.

Bags of Help, run in partnership with the charity Groundwork, sees funding awarded to thousands of local community projects every year. To date £80m has been awarded through the scheme, with more than £5m awarded to projects in Wales.

Claire de Silva, Tesco’s Head of Community, said: “Bags of Help has been a huge success since we introduced the scheme and we are glad to be able to support great projects, including this coastal scheme in Haverfordwest.

“We saw a fantastic mix of projects shortlisted and I’d like to thank customers for casting their votes for projects that will have a positive impact within their community.”

The scheme is ran in partnership with community charity Groundwork. Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said: “Bags of Help continues to enable local communities up and down Britain to improve their local spaces and the places that matter to them. We’re pleased to be able to be a part of the journey and provide support and encouragement to groups enjoying, protecting and improving Britain’s coastlines.”

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