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THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY

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Farcical scenes: The Council Chamber last Friday

Farcical scenes: The Council Chamber last Friday

THE EXTRAORDINARY meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council to decide if the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry Jones should be suspended has collapsed, amongst unprecedented scenes at County Hall last week.

On Friday, February 14, opposition Councillors were told by a top QC that they should withdraw from the meeting due to comments they had made in the press.

A stunned Cllr Bob Kilmister stood up and said “Can I just have a point of clarification please before other members go, I gave a response to the “Pembrokeshire Herald” and the question that they asked me was ‘Do you as an elected member support the growing calls for the chief executive to resign?’ Now I’m not aware that we have got that motion before us, I don’t believe that that is something that we can actually vote on as nobody is actually calling on him to resign.”

He added: “Now we have a notice of motion that is in that uses the word suspension. Suspension is a highly different thing to resignation. Resignation can only be done by the person concerned. I was asked my question about resignation and I said it in the chamber already that those people in that position should consider their position including that resignation.”

Cllr. Guy Woodham was next on his feet, saying: “I am one of the signatories on the notice of motion. When I gave the quote that appeared in the Pembrokeshire Herald, it said I believe it said the chief exec should be suspended pending an investigation. To me that doesn’t show pre-determination.”

Cllr. Reg Owens told the meeting: “Mr Chairman, are these names just the ones that came from the Pembrokeshire Herald? Because my name wasn’t read out and I gave my quote to the Western Telegraph. You have only been given the press cuttings from the Pembrokeshire Herald, You haven’t been given the press cutting from the Telegraph!”

Tim Kerr QC, the lawyer advising the Council on the ‘tax-dodge’ pension arrangements read out a list of Councillors who he felt could not participate in the meeting due to negative comments they had made about Bryn Parry Jones in the local press.

In light of this, most members of the opposition walked out of the council chamber and the one remaining signatory to the notice of motion that Bryn Parry-Jones be suspended, Cllr Phil Baker, withdrew the vote.Cllr. Phil Baker told the Herald after the meeting: “I knew something was afoot when the QC was allowed to remain after the Wales Audit Office report was discussed.”

He added: “I think that a lot of IPPG members as well as opposition Councillors are not happy about what has happened today. Very shabby indeed, it’s like the old East Germany.”

Labour leader: Cllr Paul Miller

Labour leader: Cllr Paul Miller

Pembrokeshire Alliance

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group have made a statement about the meeting:

A spokesperson said: “This meeting was an insult to democracy. The people of Pembrokeshire deserve openness, transparency and good governance and this meeting was an example of what happens when these principles are quite deliberately not followed.”

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group says it is now in discussions with other opposition groups and non-affiliated Councillors as to what should happen next.

AM wants Bryn stripped of returning officer powers

Welsh Labour AM Rebecca Evans has called for embattled chief executive of Pembrokeshire Council Bryn Parry-Jones to be stripped of his role as Returning Officer for Wales in the European elections this May until local Councillors are allowed to debate the issue properly and the police investigation has concluded.

Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales said: “After the embarrassing spectacle that was Friday’s ‘extraordinary meeting’ of Pembrokeshire council, it is clear that the Pembrokeshire council leadership is content to allow the debate to descend into farce rather than grapple openly and in public with the serious issues presented by the Wales Audit Office reports.

“It would now be utterly preposterous for Bryn Parry Jones to preside over the European Ballot as Returning Officer while his pension payments are still under police investigation. The public must have complete confidence in the election process, and in all of the people involved. Until the police investigation is concluded, alternative arrangements must be made – and that means relieving Bryn Parry Jones of his Returning Officer role.”

Paul Miller, leader of the Labour group in Pembrokeshire said: “Sometimes, particularly around planning issues, pre-determination rules help ensure fairness but last week it was worrying to see those rules used to stifle debate and silence critics in a totally unjust and undemocratic way. Many opposition Councillors felt cornered having a QC tell them that they had to leave. Having sought legal advice, I know that no Labour councillors pre-determined the debate. Pre-determination is a matter for individuals not lawyers. Enlisting a barrister in a crude attempt to undermine our roles as Councillors and prevent us from seeking to represent the views of our constituents on this hugely important issue is nothing short of Orwellian.

“The public deserve reassurance that this matter is being dealt with properly. I will not lie down and be silenced by the puppet administration running Pembrokeshire, and will continue to fight to ensure the full council are able to debate this.”

Angela Burns urges Bryn to step aside

AM Angela Burns has called for Pembrokeshire council’s chief executive to step aside.

She said: “I would say that he should stand aside. I’m perfectly happy for the status quo to be restored, providing the police investigation comes up saying that everything is as it should be.”

Mrs Burns said: “I would like to see an independent investigation being undertaken because I feel that the councillors involved here have acted with the most extraordinary behaviour.”

Plaid Cymru speaks out

Pembrokeshire Plaid Cymru leader Cllr Michael Williams has called on the Welsh Government to intervene in the running of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Cllr Williams told The Herald: “The recent events are yet more evidence of the gross incompetence of the Independent Group which presently masquerades as the controlling group of the Council. We say “masquerade” as it is patently obvious that the authority is run by a small cabal of out of control senior officers orchestrated by the Chief Executive, who are bringing the Council into disrepute.”

He added: “After their appalling performance in the Council meeting on Friday, is it any wonder that PCC is the laughing stock of Wales? Pembrokeshire tax payers deserve better. We deserve honesty and integrity, and they have consistently failed to deliver.”

“This Council staggers from crisis to crisis, from travel claims which were years late from the Leader to the misuse of Council computers by Councillor Rob Lewis to produce Independent group election literature. This together with failures to properly safeguard our children, a failed social care provision and recently dubious grant dealings in Pembroke Dock render them unfit.

“It was amazing to see on Friday their efforts to extricate themselves from their self-inflicted problems. Legal advice of forty five pages, which we, as elected Members, were not allowed to see, and the costs of at least one Q C, with another expert flown in from Edinburgh. This, plus the mysterious brown envelope left on the passenger seat of the Council vehicle which transported the Q C with information enclosed selectively identifying those Members who had stated that the CEO should go. “The rulers of North Korea would be proud.

“Mr Parry-Jones should step aside immediately, and take his poodle, Jamie Adams with him. The Welsh Government should immediately install Commissioners to take over the running of PCC” he concluded.

QC advice was ‘not the whole story’,says Herald

The Pembrokeshire Herald took independent legal advice before publishing comments made by County Councillors this month, in the days leading up to the vote over the suspension of chief executive of Pembrokeshire council, Bryn Parry Jones.

During the extraordinary meeting of Full Council, members were told to withdraw by a barrister appointed by senior officers and leaders of the authority.

Mr Tim Kerr QC told members that some of them had ‘crossed the line’ by showing predetermination over whether the chief executive should be suspended. Mr Kerr told members that this predetermination was demonstrated by comments made in the newspaper article.

Mr Kerr had been given photocopies of selected press cuttings from The Pembrokeshire Herald’s February 7 edition by the monitoring officer, Mr Laurence Harding. He told the meeting that the newspaper article had been ‘brought to his attention’ but refused to say by who. However, Deputy Leader, Cllr Rob Lewis told members that he also had copies of the same documents. He did not, however, admit to giving them to Mr Laurence Harding.

Pembrokeshire Herald editor Thomas Sinclair said: “There is legislation regarding the issue of predetermination that was not brought up at the meeting. Section 25(2) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that ‘a decision-maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making the decision just because the decision-maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision-maker took’.”

Mr Sinclair added: “This legislation clearly applies to all County Councils in Wales & England, but a very restrictive interpretation of it was given to Councillors at Friday’s meeting.”

He concluded: “In the newspaper’s view if Lawrence Harding was acting in the best interests of all the members of the council, he would have advised members of any issue with what they had said before the meeting.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Teifion

    February 28, 2014 at 7:59 am

    So let’s get this right, a London QC paid for by the Pembs. tax payer basically stops councilors who have expressed an opinion NOT favourable to Bryn Jones are told they cannot vote BUT those who support him through thick and thin and have told the press they will continue to do so and as I understand get special allowances from the Council ARE allowed to vote – No wonder the place is called the Kremlin on the Cleddau.
    I can only hope the more decent and honest members of the IPPG have been disgusted by actions and acts conducted in their name will revolt against Mr Adams when the vote comes

  2. rath_riviera

    March 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Seems there is a lack of understanding in Council between the technicality of the law and the spirit of the law. If speaking to the press provides rationale for stating pre-determination, then any pre-meeting conversation could be construed the same so that IPGG meetings would be an equivalent technical problem? The payment of a QC under these circumstances appears a questionable use of public funds: as a tax-payer, how am I gaining by paying for certain individuals being able to de-rail a Council meeting by show-boating a QC? Did full council have notice a QC would be present (and why)? It is reasonably foreseeable that the outcome would be a publically funded Council meeting being de-railed so that a vote the whole County wants cannot take place. Why not have him pop out of a cake? Whatever the technicalities, perception of foul-play is undermining integrity and trust. On top of the apparent shambles with pension funds, educational degradation, and current investigations into property, are we obtaining value for our money? Who sanctioned the QC payment? When was the last time the accounts were independently audited?

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Pembroke Dock: Man hospitalised after ‘jumping through pizza shop window’

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A PEMBROKE DOCK man has been taken to hospital after becoming injured by glass in Pembroke Dock.

According to a passing motorist a male was seen shouting and screaming in the street – he was being restrained by others.

He then jumped into the glass window of the PizzaTime take away in Meyrick Street, cutting his stomach on the glass.

Multiple police vehicles and an ambulance attended the incident which took place at around 15.30 HRS.

The road was temporarily blocked.

Once police car remains on scene (16:49 HRS)

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Welcome for rail investment pledge

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TRANSPORT FOR WALES has announced the details of the £194 million investment plan to improve all 247 railway stations across Wales.

The Station Improvement Vision highlights what improvements customers and communities can expect to see at their local stations over the next fifteen years.

The ambitious programme will deliver free WiFi, improved shelters, CCTV, improved provision for cycle storage and improved passenger information, at every station.

Where possible, Transport for Wales will also create new retail facilities, presenting opportunities for local businesses and work in partnership to develop community spaces at stations.

The improvements include expanding the Secure Station Accreditation programme, a UK accreditation in conjunction with the British Transport Police, which will make stations safer and more welcoming for customers.

Demonstrating their commitment and supporting Welsh Government’s plans to create a more sustainable Wales through deduction in carbon emissions generated through transport, TfW will create at least 1,500 additional car parking spaces across the network, making it easier for people to leave their car and use public transport.

The Vision also highlights how accessibility will be enhanced across the network with the delivery of eleven Access for All schemes by 2024, with the installation of footbridges with lifts or ramps, partly funded by the UK Department for Transport.

As part of their plans to reinvest into the communities they serve, TfW has held events and workshops aimed at small and medium enterprises in Wales, providing opportunities for them to bid for work linked to the Station Improvement Vision.

James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said: “Transport for Wales is transforming transport throughout Wales and the launch of our Station Improvement Vision indicates the start of a £194 million investment programme. This investment into all our 247 railway stations will improve the way they look, make them safer and provide more commercial and community opportunities.

“We want to improve the overall customer experience and also work collaboratively to develop partnerships with local businesses and communities.”

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport said: “I warmly welcome Transport for Wales’ Station Improvement Vision, which will see a £194 million investment in railway stations the length and breadth of Wales and the Borders. Over the next 15 years, this huge investment will vastly improve important gateways to our cities, towns and villages.

“The vision has been launched in Swansea – as it celebrates its 50th year as a City – where it will contribute to the development of a metro system ready to meet the transport needs of the future. There are ambitious plans to deliver an improved railway and public transport network across all of Wales and the investment announced today will be a significant step towards that.”

In July this year, Carmarthenshire County Council leader Emlyn Dole welcomed the announcement of a new parkway station at Felindre.

Speaking at the time, Cllr Dole said: “This is very welcome news, which will benefit Carmarthenshire businesses and residents. An initial 14-minute reduction in journey times to Cardiff and onto London will make a significant difference to passengers travelling that route.

“New infrastructure, with supporting additional rail journeys to West Wales, is essential to boost the regional economic prosperity. And with traffic continuing to grow on key trunk roads across West Wales, an improved offer from rail both in journey time, frequency and quality of service is vital to help tackle congestion and improve connectivity.

Labour Assembly Member, Eluned Morgan also welcomed the investment.

Ms Morgan said: “This is an ambitious plan from the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales to improve the passenger experience at railway stations across the Welsh network. There is a sharp focus on making railway stations cleaner and safer for passengers.

“Lighting is already being upgraded at many stations including Clunderwen and new litter bins and local area maps will be coming – in an answer to calls made to improve Pembroke Dock station.”

Carmarthen station, earmarked as an ‘interchange station’, will benefit from new retail facilities, information screens and accessible toilets for all.

Marc Tierney, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire added: “The announcement today is positive for communities across the area, bringing them up to date and maximising their potential as transport hubs in the heart of our towns and villages. There is also the prospect of a brand new station at St. Clears.

“The Welsh Government feasibility study into reopening a railway station at St. Clears has put plans for the station through to the next stage.

“Re-opening a station at St. Clears would complete a missing piece in the network in West Wales. I trust the UK Government will make the necessary funding available as soon as possible.”

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Haverfordwest’s Regeneration Plans Unveiled

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Haverfordwest’s Regeneration will be the order of the day today as Pembrokeshire County Council releases its initial plans for the redevelopment of the town centre.

The consultation event at County Hall (2pm – 7pm) today will enable members of the public to view and discuss the plans with designers and council officers, together with Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Regeneration.

The plans, which include the Ocky White site and the Riverside area of the town centre, have been created to give the public a glance of what can be achieved in Haverfordwest. The Council are also clear that the plans sit at a stage where public suggestions and contributions can influence the final outcome.

“We want to create a new Haverfordwest experience that is for everyone and one that enables residents and tourists to enjoy the experience of a revitalised County Town,” said Cllr Miller.

“Public consultation isn’t lip service – it’s about seeking opinions and feedback on the current plans and encouraging those with great ideas to come forward and contribute to the redevelopment of their town. The opportunity is there and we are looking forward to engaging with those in attendance.”

The project design team will be in attendance this evening, together with representatives from Welsh government; an example that Pembrokeshire’s regeneration plans are gaining traction and awareness on a national stage.

“We are proud of the progress now being made on our county-wide regeneration and we are finally starting to see plans become reality, delivering what we feel is a value-for-money investment in our communities, towns and marketable tourism assets,” said Cllr Miller.

“Regeneration will be inclusive of those who want to work with us to build a new, vibrant and successful Pembrokeshire.”


To attend the event, report to County Hall Main Reception where you will be directed to the Consultation Event. (2pm – 7pm, Thursday 19th September)

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