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Councillor blocked from asking questions at Full Council

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A COUNCILLOR’S quest to find out why the council is spending so much money on agency staff to cover a lack of social workers in Pembrokeshire has hit a stumbling block.  The member says it is because officers don’t want him to be asking awkward questions about poor planning and management regarding out of hours mental health social work.

Cllr Paul Dowson, who represents Pembroke Dock Central ward has told The Herald that temporary staff are being charged to the cash strapped Authority at £50 to £60 per hour, plus agency fees – but little or nothing is being done to recruit full time social workers, to assist with the long term care of local people in need.

Cllr Dowson submitted questions to be raised at the Full Council meeting on Thursday, May 10.

He is questioning how much money has been spent on out of hours social workers (Approved Mental Health Professionals) per year.

Cllr Dowson also wants to know what is being done to recruit for the posts, and what is being done to address the poor management complaints that the leavers were making.

However the legal officer for the council, Claire Incledon, has ruled that the questions were too late and cannot be raised at the meeting next week – because the questions were received at 1.34am on May 25 and not before midnight on May 24.

Cllr Dowson said: “This 94 minute delay, probably caused by the councils own servers being slow, makes no actual difference to the Authority as Committee Services do not work during the night. I have also had it on good authority that amendments or corrections to at least one other member’s questions were accepted the next working day – clearly showing that the council is trying to hide something or has a problem with me.”

He added: “I have also submitted a question about fly-tipping and dog fouling. The council has not had anyone qualified to issue fines or penalties to people fly tipping or dog fouling in the Local Authority area. With the summer coming up and holiday makers on the way, we need to get dog fouling under control – and we have all seen on social media the disgusting level of fly-tipping recently – but not one person in the Local Authority is qualified to enforce the law. That is wrong.”

“As a councillor I have been working tirelessly to get an enforcement officer for the last twelve months, and frustratingly so far this has not happened. My second question to Full Council, which also has not been accepted, sought to address this issue. It cannot wait until the July meeting as by then we will be well into the summer.

“The council needs to stop hiding behind petty excuses and archaic bureaucracy, and allow members to ask the questions which are important for the county. I understand there is a need for rules and deadlines, but an email received minutes late is not important to the people of Pembrokeshire – but tens of thousands of pounds being wasted on agency staff covering a lack of social workers who are mental health trained, dogs fouling in an important tourist area with no one to enforce the law, and a fly-tipping problem which we are nowhere to having a grip on is important to the people of Pembrokeshire!

“I know I am not popular with some officers in the Council because I am not a nodding donkey and don’t toe the line. A couple of weeks ago I was in a meeting the Chief Executive’s office and for some reason the Council’s Legal Officer Claire Incledon was present. She butted in to the conversation, in my view, unfairly, and I told her that ‘I didn’t give a f**k about her legal opinion.’

“Officers need to remember that it is not the tail which wags the dog, but the dog that wags the tail. This is now an officer led council, and we the democratically elected representatives of the people need our voice to be heard at Full Council on important issues. It is not a nodding shop for retired professionals to cover their funeral plans, but the collective voice of Pembrokeshire.”

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Former Cardigan Castle director sentencing delayed

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THE SENTENCING of a former director of Cardigan Castle who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft totalling over £40,000 has been delayed.

Former director, Jac Davies, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft was due to be sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) at Swansea Crown Court – but has now been delayed.

Davies who held the £40,000 a year post fraudulently obtained £33,098.75 and stole a further £7,932.97 from the award winning restoration project..

Davies held his position at Cardigan Castle from September 2017 to November 2019.

The defendant has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining £4,143.20 from the castle on December 21, 2017.

Again Davies admitted to fraudulently obtaining £28,955.55 between February 4, 2019 and November 3, 2019.

Two further charges of theft were also admitted – one charge of  theft from the castle of £1,908.18 between May 2, 2018 and May 24, 2019 and a further charge of theft from Cardigan Castle Enterprises to the sum of £6,024.79.

Dyfed-Powys Police conducted a year long investigation after being contacted by the castle board of directors.

Financial discrepancies were identified during financial monitoring.

An internal investigation was launched and Davies left his position within the castle in October 2019 following a disciplinary process.

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Dyfed-Powys Police criticised for failing to record thousands of crimes

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A SHOCKING new report says that Dyfed-Powys Police failed to record thousands of crimes, despite being told to improve two-and-a-half years ago.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the force had documented just 87.6% of reported crime – meaning upto 4,400 crimes are not recorded each year.

The report highlighted that of violent crimes, 85.4% were registered, which means about 2,400 went unrecorded, some involving domestic abuse or the vulnerable.

The force said it had “plans in place to improve its crime recording.”

HMIC reached their conclusion by comparing the number of reports to the police with recorded numbers. About 35,900 were reported.

In 2018, HMIC found that our local force was too often not recording crimes. And in 2014 it was reported the force was one of the worst in the UK at recording crimes. 

Dyfed-Powys Police T/Chief Constable, Claire Parmenter was quick to respond to the shocking finding. In a statement emailed to The Herald she said: “We accept the concerns and recommendations published by HMICFRS in respect of crime data integrity. As an organisation, we are firmly committed to supporting victims and putting them at the heart of everything we do. The force has plans in place to improve its crime recording and I am determined we will get this right.

“Since the previous HMICFRS inspection in 2018 we have made significant improvements in our response to Domestic Abuse victims, creating the vulnerability desk which provides real time intelligence to officers attending incidents of Domestic Abuse and ensuring that safeguarding arrangements are in place through a new partnership hub. Recent audits in April evidenced we were achieving a 98% compliance for the completion of risk assessments. This ensures that every Domestic Abuse victim is looked after and kept safe.

“We have a programme of change already in place which will deliver significant process and cultural change. The elements of this programme will improve the forces’ ability to manage demand, support victims, improve the timeliness and quality of investigations and supervision of crime. HMICFRS were unable to take this project into account as part of this inspection. Delivery plans commence next month (June 2021).

“Since the date of this inspection, we are already seeing improvements as a result of the swift additional action we have taken, achieving 100% crime recording compliance in respect of anti-social behaviour for February and March 2021 which is positive.”

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Firefighters extinguish blaze at St Catherine’s Fort, Tenby

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A CONTROLLED wood fire earlier in the day caused a fire to break out on Tenby’s St Catherine’s Island on Thursday (May 6).

Heat that was caused by a wood fire earlier in the day caused a ignition on the unburned wood nearby that was needed to be extinguished by Tenby fire crew.

Taking to their Facebook page, St Catherine’s island thanked Tenby Fire Brigade for their assistance.

No serious damage was caused by the incident.

The spokesperson said: “A massive shout out to Tenby Fire Brigade last night who were called to the Island last night after we left following a long day working on the Fort and burning off all the old flooring, having now replaced it all. 

“We had spent at least half an hour making sure that our controlled barrel fire was out. Unfortunately the ground was so hot it transferred to the rest of the unburned wood. 

“Thanks to our amazing local Fire Service, they were on hand to help us out and no damage occurred.”

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