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Tenby talks: did Adams listen?

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AT a meeting in the mayor’s parlour on Tuesday, May 27, IPPG Leader Jamie Adams responded to an invitation to meet with Town Councillors and respond to their concerns about the conduct of business at County Hall. 

Expressing concern about the services being delivered to Tenby, Cllr Christine Brown told the meeting: “People in Tenby feel that they are not getting the service they should from Pembrokeshire County Council because of the stories they are hearing in the media. Is it right when services are being cut that the local authority is paying for a top barrister to defend its actions over the Chief Executive’s pension? “We give YOU the money – each person who pays tax – and it is being used wrongly in my opinion!” she added. Seeking to mollify the Town Councillors, IPPG leader Jamie Adams gave a remarkable account of the pension fiasco: “In terms of the Authority’s position, we were challenged by the Welsh Audit Office about process. The Auditor had a different view to us after they had taken legal advice, and when the Public Interest Report had been published there was an exchange of legal views. “The Council did not want to be standing accused without checking its legal position. The Audit Office said they didn’t mind that” he told councillors. Going on and not mentioning that the County Council had conceded that its actions were unlawful, the IPPG leader suggested: “The Local Government Act 1972 is clear on the responsibilities which officers and members have, and the Auditor’s interpretation of that law is now different.” Cllr Christine Brown responded to the IPPG leader: “What we all have in our hearts is the standards of our town. They need to be as high as we can make them. We are been drip fed comments and cuts, and this is affecting us badly.” Cllr Brown added: “This all stemmed from us having no warning of cuts. Pembrokeshire County Council is seen as a failing authority. You can read it in the press, and you can watch it on TV. Tenby is the premier town for tourism, and we see no future at the moment. Why PCC decided to side automatically with the CEO strikes me as incredible. “ Jamie Adams said: “The pension scheme was never about individuals, we have 30 senior staff. There was a police consideration to evaluate any wrong doing by any person, it terms of process – it was not the best in terms of the way that it was undertaken.” Pension decision was ‘clumsy and clunky’ Jamie Adams said that members of the Town Council just needed “a little bit of understanding” and that this would be “useful” to members in appreciating how the decision was made. Councillor Adams then repeated the discredited tale he had told County Councillors about the unlawful payments scheme being concocted as the Council had found it too difficult to recruit senior officers and that three prospective appointees had not reported to their posts because packages had not been competitive enough. He added: “I admit that it was a clunky and clumsy decision. Hindsight is a great thing and in the future we will do things differently.” He tried to placate councillors by saying: “I have no intention of implementing the pension scheme again in the future.” Move forward ‘as one team’ Jamie Adams continued: “What worries me is that there now seems to be more focus on process than on the delivery of services to the people of Pembrokeshire. When people see one side of decisions, and money spent to defend decisions people see that it is linked [that services could be cut because of them].” Astonishingly, a less than contrite Cllr Adams then appeared to fix the blame for the scandals engulfing the Council as the responsibility of those Councillors and others trying to pierce the veil of secrecy at County Hall to investigate them: “The [pensions] matter could have been dealt with sooner, but it has suited some people to drag it on. Our focus should be on services. This and other matters have been a distraction.” Continuing to claim that the ends justify the means, the IPPG leader continued: “My focus is on outcomes above process. I communicate this with great regularity. Some members are more focussed on process than on the people of this county. I’d like to see the council move forward as one team without internal strife.” ‘Killing the goose’ Referring to the Council’s cut to gardening services and its effect on Wales in Bloom, Mayor of Tenby, Cllr Sue Lane said: “At times we get the perception that we are an annoying distraction and not a full partner in the delivery of services. The local authority could work more effectively with us. We have worked together but the cuts were a bolt from the blue. We are not privy to everything that was happening. “Revenue from Tenby is vital to the county and we can’t let standards drop. We are not getting the real deal at the moment” Jamie Adams responded by suggesting that after cutting the service he wished to shuffle its burden onto others: “I am aware of the impact of Wales in Bloom. This Authority is struggling with watering flowers and we should engage with community partners to help with this work, or change the plants.” Cllr Mike Evans said “The slashing, slashing, slashing is now killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Cllr Christine Brown asked why Pembrokeshire County Council wants to have the lowest council tax in Wales, but then struggles to pay for services. To this question Cllr Adams said that people were struggling and could not afford higher taxes, adding: “If this challenge of finances is about anything it’s about making the Authority fit for purpose.” Councillor Adams’ appearance before Tenby’s Town Council follows hot on the heels of the vote of no confidence in the County Council by Pembroke’s Town Council reported in last week’s Pembrokeshire Herald and the strongly-worded letter sent to the IPPG leader by Solva Community Council, which stated that the County Council was bringing the whole of local government in Pembrokeshire into disrepute. Dissatisfaction with the County Council has been caused by a series of revelations about the way in which the IPPG-led authority has continued to insulate its highest paid officers from the effects of deep cuts in budgets – including funding a luxury German sports saloon for its CEO – while effecting deep cuts in services to the general public and to the wages of its lowest paid employees. The IPPG leader’s eagerness to rewrite history also appears to have permeated into the officer cadre at County Hall, with European Manager Gwyn Evans disciplined for doctoring reports of meetings of a grants panel. The question that has to be asked is which town or community council will be next to express its own concerns about the effect IPPG governance is having on the County.

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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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‘We don’t want it’: councillors object to HGV tanker park plans

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PEMBROKE DOCK town councillors have objected strongly to plans to build a HGV tanker park in the town.

The tanker park would be located on the south-western side of Criterion Way, behind the ASDA petrol station.

However, at a meeting of the town council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, April 13, councillors were in agreement that it would create more problems for the town.

Councillor Jonathan George said: “I’ve noted the public input on this and they don’t seem very happy about where it’s going to be put.

“It is close to a small park area and I don’t think it’s suitable to put this here. I won’t be supporting this.”

Cllr George Manning added: “There are many aspects of this which are totally inappropriate for Pembroke Dock. There are many other sites available but they haven’t looked at any of them.

“This does not do anything for the Future Generations act and it will bring more disruption to the town.

“This does not bring about any improvements to the existing transport infrastructure. There are lots of things about this, we don’t want it. I don’t think they have looked into it in enough detail.”

Cllr Gordon Goff said that the impact it would have on the public and wildlife would be ‘astronomical’.

He went on to say he was not happy with one of the statements in the application and said they ‘don’t want to be blackmailed’.

One of the documents submitted with the application states that if the development was not approved it would mean that the applicants, Certas, ‘will either have to find a different site’ or ‘will have to cease operating in the area’.

Cllr Terry Judkins said that the Port Authority wanted to ‘use Pembroke Dock as a dumping ground’ and added that he could not support it.

Cllr Maureen Colgan added that she was ‘totally against’ the application and said that the area should be kept for leisure and be developed as an area where people can sit and enjoy themselves.

The application is due to be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council at a later date.

Cllr Paul Dowson has already called in the application for it to be debated by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

In his request he states that it is too near habitation, it is within the Pembroke Dock conservation area and that children have been using the area near the bandstand as play area for over 20 years.

The area had also previously been the subject of an application for a marina and other leisure facilities but that investment was written off in 2017.

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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