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Audit Committee to complain about delayed investigation

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Audit Committee has agreed to complain to Dyfed-Powys Police over the length of time taken in investigating the Commercial Property Grants Scheme in Pembroke Dock.

The meeting was held on Tuesday (Jan 30), where a notice of motion from Cllr Mike Stoddart was discussed which called on the council to complain about the situation.

The council has previously written to the police about the investigation with Cllr Jacob Williams saying in 2016 that the investigation was ‘dragging its heels’.

Cllr Stoddart found that there were irregularities in payments made to developer, Cathal McCosker, for two properties in Pembroke Dock on Dimond Street and Meyrick Street.

The Commercial Property Grant Scheme is run by the Council and is also funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).

WEFO has already claimed back some money from the Council and Cathal McCosker had offered to pay back the amount he had received under the council’s scheme.

Following a lengthy battle by Cllr Stoddart, he was able to see a number of documents relating to the scheme and in 2014 the police commenced an investigation into what had gone on.

The Council has also had a number of assurances that action would be taken ‘soon’ but nothing has materialised.
Cllr Stoddart said he was ‘disappointed ‘ with the recommendation that stated that the Chief Executive could have a conversation with the Chief Constable, adding: “That isn’t how things are done.”

He said: “I just cannot understand why it’s taken the police so long. You can go back two years and find them promising that something would be happening in the next couple of weeks.

“If you go back to the scrutiny committee in September 2013 there was a report there; ‘Internal audit has shared its findings with the council’s Monitoring Officer and is satisfied there is no mal-administration or non-compliance with the governance arrangements’.

“I then put a notice of motion calling for all the information to be made available to members because I knew there was something amiss but I wasn’t quite sure what and I wanted to see the bills of quantities and various other documents and that was the infamous meeting of December 2013 when the Cabinet member spent ten minutes calling me a liar and eventually I did get to see the documents and I did find several irregularities.

“There was £60,000 worth of irregular payments that I identified, in fact the developer who received the payments offered to pay back £180,000 and every penny that he had received on these contracts. Why he would do that is anybody’s guess.

“Cllr Jacob Williams and I found a tender document which there was a defect in it as much as the preferred builder was tendering on an entirely different specification to all the others which gave him a £10,000 lead over all the others.

“We took it to Mark Lewis, who was then the Head of Finance, and Mr Haswell and eventually the police were involved.

“In January of 2014, the council sent their own quantity surveyor to no.29 Dimond Street or Paul Sartori and he wrote a report and there was a payment for electrical work which is added to my submission and he wrote about that payment; ‘this is assumed non-eligible works and therefore no further consideration has been given to this work’.

“Well of course, he didn’t have to make that assumption because the final account for this job had been in the council’s possession six months before that and at Item F13, electrical improvements and additions, £9,800, it attracted a grant of £3,920.

“So the council knew or ought to have known about that before Jacob and I turned up this information and I’m sorry to say there was a huge attempt at a cover up by this council which is why I don’t trust this cosy chat between the Chief Executive and the Chief Constable as a method of going forward.”

Cllr Guy Woodham added: “There is too much that hasn’t happened in relation to this that should have happened by now and I think we would be failing in our duty as a committee if we didn’t refer this as a complaint to the right body within the police.”

Cllr Jacob Williams said: “The smoking gun that we found showed indisputably that the awarded tenderer was bidding on a contract which was different to all of the other tenders and that was clear evidence of favourable treatment to a contractor which happened to be for that applicant, always the awarded contractor.

“One thing we can be clear on is that there is a lot of doubt where this case now sits. In May 2016, the Audit Committee was told by Detective Inspector Anthony Griffiths that he was confident that arrests and criminal prosecutions would follow, when pressed on a time frame he was not committal but there was certainly an impression it was imminent.

Cllr Stoddart stated he felt there were two or three previous incidences where the police and the council had ‘conspired to pervert the course of justice’ and was ‘suspicious’ that something similar was going on.

The committee resolved that they would write to the police to complain about the length of time of the investigation and that Cllr Stoddart’s notice of motion go before the next full council meeting.

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Multi-agency response to house fire in Siskin Close, Haverfordwest

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FIRE crews are attending a domestic fire in a property on Siskin Close, Haverfordwest.

As of 11.45pm on Monday evening crews were still dampening down a fire which enfulfed two floors of a domestic property.

It is understood the alarm was raised after 10pm.

Our reporter on the scene said that there were four fire crews in attendance as well as three ambulances as well as police, who had set up a perimeter, controlling access to the scene.

A large number of local residents were watching on from a safe distance as the incident was being dealt with.

At the time of writing the street was blocked off to traffic with a large number of emergency vehicles parked up, all the way around the corner to the top of Harrier Road.

All of the emergency services have been contacted for a comment.

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Outdoor hospitality given go-ahead and rules on mixing outdoors relaxed in Wales

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SIX people will be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday 24 April while outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26 April as cases of new COVID-19 infections continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed today.

The current rule provides for up to six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) from a maximum of two households to meet outdoors.

The new rules from Saturday will allow six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) to meet outdoors.

People should observe social distancing from people from outside their household or support bubble when meeting others outside.

The rules for meeting indoors remain unchanged.

The First Minister has also confirmed outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April 2021.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “The public health context in Wales remains favourable, with cases falling and our vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength. Because meeting outdoors continues to be lower risk than meeting indoors, we are able to bring forward changes to allow any six people to meet outdoors.

“This will provide more opportunities for people, especially young people, to meet outdoors with their friends. This will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing.

“I’m also pleased to confirm outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April.

“These changes will help the hospitality sector recover after a difficult twelve months.

“It is thanks to the continuing efforts of people across Wales we are able to introduce this change. Together, we will continue to keep Wales safe.”

On Friday (23rd April 2021), the First Minister will confirm further relaxations to the covid rules that will come into force on Monday 26 April 2021.

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Police ‘enforcement and engagement’ to curb anti-social behaviour in Tenby

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POLICE in Tenby will be using enforcement and engagement in a bid to curb future incidents of anti-social behaviour, they said on Monday (Apr 17)

The announcement comes after Tenby was left with empty cans, broken bottles and fast food wrappers strewn everywhere, after over two hundred young people gathered to enjoy the weekend – perhaps expected whilst pubs remained closed.

Licensed establishment have not yet been able to open in Wales, but they are open in England for outdoor refreshments. They are opening on Monday.

There were reports of young people walking through the town with boxes full of alcohol, with other people buying takeaway drinks from licensed premises before making their way to the harbour.

The sheer number of people meant people were urinating in the streets, some residents told The Pembrokeshire Herald.

A Dyfed-Powys police spokesperson said: “With the continued easing of the regulations designed to keep us safe and the weather getting warmer we have seen an increase of people visiting and out and about in the Pembrokeshire area.
“While it’s great that people are now able to visit Pembrokeshire again, the behaviour of some placed additional pressure not only on the police but on the local authority as well.
“Tenby in particular attracted a large crowd on Saturday evening, April 18, resulting in anti-social behaviour, especially in the harbour area.

Chief Inspector Louise Harries said: “We recognise the concerns of residents and businesses after the anti-social behaviour seen in Tenby on Saturday evening. We are working with partners to avoid these issues re-occurring in the future.
“Police officers will be patrolling the area over the coming weeks and while the priority will be to engage with the public, enforcement action will be taken where necessary”
“We want to see people enjoying and the majority of people are doing so in accordance with the regulations, however the minority who don’t are spoiling it for others.
“We will continue to engage with our communities and visitors to the area to ensure that everyone enjoys in a safe manner.”

(Cover photo courtesy Pure West Radio)

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