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ELECTION FRAUD PROBE

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election scandalTHE FINDING of guilt by a council committee investigating the electioneering activities of Council Deputy Leader Rob Lewis might only have resulted in two weeks’ suspension for the representative from Martletwy, but The Pembrokeshire Herald now understands that there could be significantly wider fallout from the affair.

The preparation of candidates’ election leaflets by Cllr Lewis and former County Councillor David Wildman, and their printing by a commercial printer, could mean that candidates who failed to declare who published and printed their election material could have their election declared void and be debarred from public office.

QUESTIONS continue to arise from the conduct of Deputy Leader of the County Council, Rob Lewis of Martletwy. Also the scandal could spread and affect candidates whose literature and promotional material was prepared by Cllr Lewis and then printed and circulated without proper declarations required by election law being made. In a breach of the Council’s clear rules of conduct, Cllr Lewis used and abused Council facilities to plan election campaigns for supposedly “independent” councillors, who were members of an IPG slate in the 2008 & 2012 Council elections.

For those breaches, Cllr Lewis was controversially suspended from the Council for only two weeks and tried throughout to deflect blame by painting himself as a victim of wrongdoing. The scandal about the IPPG’s election tactics and abuse of publicly-funded facilities was blown wide open by East Williamston councillor Jacob Williams on his online blog jacobwilliams.com.

It appears that his explosive revelations about the conduct of senior IPPG Councillors David Wildman and Rob Lewis, will have considerable further fall out.

Online comments made by other Councillors have suggested that far from being at all contrite Cllr Lewis has expressed no remorse since the suspension was handed down.

The new questions arise out of declarations that candidates for election must make on their campaign material as to who has published and printed their election literature.

Cllr Lewis was found to have prepared election literature and commissioned its printing from a business run by a Council employee who works in the Council’s own printing department. The rules on elections provide that Candidates must ensure that all their election materials (leaflets, posters, placards and all other printed materials), clearly bears on the front of the material, details of:-

• The name and address of the printer of the document

• The name and address of the promoter of the material

• The name and address of the person on behalf of whom the material is being published (and who is not the promoter)

For example: printed by Bloggs & Co of Anytown, published by Mrs Candidate on behalf of Mr Candidate of Anytown.

Failure to observe these requirements may lead to summary conviction and a fine, even if the candidate was unsuccessful. An elected candidate who is found guilty can have his/her election voided. As the duty of care in respect of the offence requires no criminal intent but a finding of fact as to whether the material used to promote a candidate is misleading, the offence is one of strict liability. In other words, a candidate is stuck with the penalty for wrongdoing, even if he was unaware what they did was illegal, as they are supposed to make sure they are aware of the relevant election laws. As advice to potential candidates on an English county council’s website puts it, quoting a former Lord Chief Justice:

“People who employ crossing sweepers to mend watches, cannot complain if the result is unsuccessful”.

The consequences for the ruling IPPG group could be particularly serious. The Pembrokeshire Herald is aware of once instance at least in 2012 where an unsuccessful candidate appears to have had his election literature prepared by Rob Lewis and printed by a commercial printer but failed to declare the same.

The candidate on that occasion, Byron Frayling, stood against David Bryan in the Haverfordwest Priory Ward.

Certainly, the pre-press versions of many candidates” election literature which were then commercially printed are in breach of election law.

The number of IPPG candidates who are potentially affected include members of the current Cabinet. A Councillor whose election literature was potentially in breach of election law even appeared on a list of “recruiters” for the then IPG at the election counts in May 2008. His role was to hand out cards inviting new, unaffiliated councillors to a meeting to join the IPG. That Councillor subsequently stated publicly that he had not decided to join the IPG until a time

AFTER the election took place.

On computer files seen by The Pembrokeshire Herald that candidate, Cllr Ken Rowlands, the Cabinet Spokesperson for Education, appears in a list of IPG candidates for canvassing on Tuesday April 29, 2008, a few days before the election. That file is shown as being printed on April 22, 2008 and created on April 7, 2008.

It is not clear whether Cllr Rowlands literature was printed by Clive James, the printer Cllr Lewis says printed IPG material, but Mr Rowlands election literature in the 2008 election was created and edited in mid-April by former Councillor David Wildman and current Deputy Leader, the suspended Rob Lewis. That is contrary to the declaration on that literature’s face, which states that the document was printed and published by the candidate’s wife.

Similarly, the properties of the material for Mr Rowlands election in 2012 show that it was created by his then fellow Cabinet member, David Wildman, despite a declaration on the same material that it was printed and published by Mr Rowlands himself.

We can re-assure Mr Rowlands, and we are happy to confirm in print, that not only did we not receive the material we publish today from Cllr Jacob Williams, but that it was provided it to us by a concerned third party. We have not discussed the story with Cllr Williams, other than to ask whether he would be happy for us to credit his website with breaking the story in the first place.

The Electoral Commission told the Herald that it has no powers to investigate allegations of election fraud, and that allegations of illegality should be immediately reported to the Police. The Commission also referred us to its online guidance, which suggested that it works closely with Returning Officers to monitor elections. The Returning Officer for Pembrokeshire is Bryn Parry Jones.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Teifion

    March 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Every week you think things cannot get worse and then another story pops up and you realise things ARE worse, to top it all those skunks don’t even apologise or act remorseful.
    Still nothing happens – where are those coppers, what are they doing ? or is it a case of “I was taught to be cautious” ;-(

  2. Kate Becton

    March 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Teifion – have just been on ‘that other website’, where there is an interesting and wide ranging discussion and where the redoubtable John Hudson has just posted the information that the police cannot investigate breaches of election law, unless the complaint was made within 12 months of the alleged offence taking place.

    I don’t know whether it was against the Code of Conduct – I doubt it, the only hope might be that it is against the Code of Conduct to authorise others to produce your election material using Council resources – how to prove it???

    A little depressing is’nt it.

  3. Robin Howells, Chair, Preseli Pembrokeshire Labour Party

    April 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    What next? Each week I wonder what’s the next scandal going to be in County Hall amongst IPPG. Sad thing is they are still the ruling group. When the next local authority elections come around that’s hope people remember what’s going on in County Hall and think to themselves it’s time for a change. If there was any honour amongst them and compliance with the code of conduct then we would be seeing some resignations but no, IPPG really do think they are serving the public and are public servants – but reality is they serve their own self-interests for short term personal gain. A disgrace to this county. It’s good to see though Councillors like Paul Miller (Labour Group Leader and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Pembrokeshire for 2015) coming forward and exposing what goes on in the Kremlin on the Cleddau. Just think what a great MP he would be for this county. Talking of MP’s where is Stephen Crabb whilst all this going in County Hall? Very quiet on the issue – sometimes silence does say quite a bit. It’s action I like in am MP not apathy.

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Last chance to have your say on National Park’s new Local Development Plan

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Coast National Park Authority is seeking your views, having made amendments to its forthcoming Local Development Plan following the recent Examination Hearing Sessions.

These amendments are called Matters Arising Changes and any comments received will be passed on to the Inspector for consideration.

The relevant documents and representation form are available on the National Park Authority’s website: www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/haveyoursay and in paper format at Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre, St Davids and the Authority’s main office in Pembroke Dock.

Copies of the documents are also available for inspection free of charge on publicly accessible computers at local libraries during their normal opening hours.

Representations should be sent by 4.30pm on Friday 13 March 2020, either by email to devplans@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk or in writing to:

Park Direction
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority
Llanion Park
Pembroke Dock
SA72 6DY.

For further information or assistance, email devplans@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk or call 01646 624800 and ask to speak to someone in the Park Direction Team dealing with the Plan.

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Education

No opt-out for learning about religion, relationships and sexuality

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PARENTS will not be able to prevent their children from learning about religion, relationships and sexuality in the new curriculum.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement this week, emphasising the need for ‘careful and sensitive implementation’ of the decision.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams told The Herald: “Our responsibility as a government is to ensure that young people, through public education, have access to learning that supports them to discuss and understand their rights and the rights of others.

“It is essential that all young people are provided with access to information that keeps them safe from harm.

“Today’s decision ensures that all pupils will learn about issues such as online safety and healthy relationships.

The announcement was made following an eight-week Welsh Government consultation on ensuring access to the full curriculum, including the teaching of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Religious Education (RE).

Kirsty Williams added: “I recognise this is a sensitive matter and the consultation responses reflected a wide range of views.

“There is clearly a need for us to work with communities and all interested parties in developing the learning and teaching for RSE and RE – this work will be vital to enable everyone to have trust in how the change is implemented.”

The Minister outlined plans for implementation which include the creation of clear guidance, resources and professional learning for schools and the creation of a Faith/BAME Community Involvement Group to hold its first meeting this February.

The group will engage in the development of RSE guidance, develop a shared understanding of the new curriculum and address the concerns raised by faith and community groups during the consultation.

The Minister continued: “It is vital that we continue to work with communities across Wales to ensure parents have the right to develop, care for and guide their children into adulthood while allowing our schools to provide a broad and balanced education.  

We will build on the community engagement which accompanied the consultation with a long term investment in listening to our communities and finding ways to address the issues which concern them.

The Minister also confirmed plans to establish a new RSE Working Group that will oversee the refinement of the new RSE statutory guidance to form part of the new curriculum guidance.

The Minister added: “I want to take the opportunity in 2021 to test the approach for RSE prior to it being made statutory in the new curriculum.  

This will provide valuable intelligence to inform the refinement of our approach and will also enable learners, parents and carers and communities to see it working in practice and to feedback their views.”

Further details on this approach will be announced over the coming weeks.  The consultation also showed support for renaming the subject ‘Religious Education’.

The most popular choice from respondents was ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’ and, as a result, the Minister confirmed the subject name would change when the new curriculum comes into effect. The Terrence Higgins Trust said that the news was something they very much welcomed, and said that they have been campaigning for this for a number of years. The Trust said that Wales has very much lead the way on this one as the UK Government has resisted calls to remove the parental opt-out for lessons when RSE lessons become compulsory in England from September. Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at the trust said: “By guaranteeing access to Relationships & Sexuality Education lessons for all pupils, Wales is leading the way. We’ve campaigned for compulsory RSE lessons for nearly four decades and until now far too many young people have learned about sex through whispers in the playground. 
“This decision by the Welsh Government will go some way to fixing this. It’s absolutely vital lessons are LGBT+ inclusive and have a strong focus on HIV and sexual health so all young people have the knowledge they need to form healthy and fulfilling relationships. We are now looking to the Welsh Government to continue leading the way by providing all schools with the resources and training they need to deliver these new lessons to the highest standard across the board.” 

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Business

Air Link Wales now flying from Haverfordwest

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AVIATION company Flitestar Private Air have launched their new Air Link Wales Programme connecting Haverfordwest, Caernarfon and Cardiff with other regional airports in the UK and Europe.

The company has opened an office in Menai Bridge on Anglesey – managed by James Blackler – and said it is particularly committed to improving air connectivity from North Wales.

The Air Link Wales network currently offers flight charter services from Caernarfon Airport to destinations such as Isle of Man, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton as well as London for connections to and from Gatwick and Heathrow.

They believe Southampton will be particularly popular for passengers connecting to cruises who wish to avoid the long road or rail trip down south.A flight to the south coast for two passengers from Caernarfon would cost £1,820 per person on a Piper PA34 Seneca plane.

Neil Baines, CEO of the Chester based company, said: “As a resident of Wales myself, I’ve often been frustrated by the lack of air connectivity and we are pleased to start to address this through our new Air Link Wales Charter programme which is ideally suited to both leisure and corporate customers.“Flying private can save hours of travel time which is of particular value to Wales-based organisations.”

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