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Police letter ending grants case raises new questions

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IN A LETTER to Council Chief Executive Ian Westley, Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that NO prosecutions will take place in relation to the Commercial Property Grants scandal affecting Pembroke Dock.

The scandal revolved around the gross misuse of European grant money to build bedsits in Pembroke Dock instead of regenerating the town’s commercial centre, which was the schemes’ supposed intention.

The scandal came to light when Councillors Mike Williams and Mike Stoddart raised a series of inquiries into the scheme’s administration and the purposes to which it was being put. Cllr Stoddart and Pembrokeshire’s Best Magazine continued to pursue to the matter, uncovering a web of company ownership involving a single person, Cathal McCosker.

The magazine dubbed Mr McCosker ‘The Baron of the Bedsits’.

Mr McCosker and his companies had cornered the market in obtaining grants from the Council under the Commercial Property Grants Scheme. Suggestions of cosy links between Mr McCosker and prominent councillors and council officers were vigorously denied.

However, after a stormy Council meeting in December 2013 and a visit to locations in Pembroke Dock which had purportedly been the subject of extensive renovations using public money, it became clear that – at best – works claimed for had not been done. Had any inspection by council officers who signed off the works actually took place, the situation would have been obvious.

In one property, the former Chemists shop at 29 Dimond Street, it was obvious that no material changes had taken place in the commercial premises – even the original shop’s racking was still in place – and that grant money had been spent developing bedsits to the property’s rear.

An examination of documents by three councillors, current Council Leader David Simpson, Cllr Jacob Williams, and Cllr Mike Stoddart led to the discovery that different Bills of Quantities had been provided to different firms. Mr McCosker’s favoured construction partner received at least one significantly cheaper schedule of works for delivery than their tendering rivals.

Cllrs Williams and Stoddart reported what they found to senior officers, who shortly thereafter, in March 2014, referred the matter to the Police.

The Herald revealed that internal records had been doctored by an officer and we have confirmed that former Chief Executive Bryn Parry Jones interfered directly in efforts to discipline staff involved in handling the scheme. One employee, intimately concerned in the supervision of Cathal McCosker’s projects, was allowed to retire on ill-health grounds. A further member of staff fiddled the minutes of grants committee meetings to show that scrutiny took place when it had not.

Now – over five years later – and with Cathal McCosker having voluntarily repaid a large sum of money to the Council, the CPS has decided not to prosecute anyone.

One of the key reasons given for not prosecuting is that the evidence of council officers is inconsistent and contradictory, key documents have gone astray, and a piece of evidence contained on an officer’s hard drive no longer exists.

You can add to that the reality that it would be difficult for a court to rely on documents when there was clear evidence that some – at least – had been doctored by officers.

An effort to shift the blame on to an unnamed councillor operating a blog – which can refer only to Cllrs Williams and Stoddart – is fatally flawed.

The Police claim they asked the unnamed blogger to stop coverage of their Keystone Cops investigation: they approached neither Cllr Stoddart nor Cllr Williams with such a request.

The key questions are: which officers’ evidence is inconsistent and contradictory and why?

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Dale Road: Several have minor injuries after two vehicle accident

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EMERGENCY SERVICES are attending a two-vehicle road traffic accident on the B4327 Dale Road.

Two fire crews from Haverfordwest as well as police were called at around 3pm today (Aug 16).

A van and a car are involved.

Avoid the area at the present time

The Herald understands that several people are being treated for minor injuries.

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Tenby: Hotel goes into administration as new owner’s business empire collapses

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A POPULAR Pembrokeshire hotel has gone into administration.

The Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby how faces an uncertain future. It’s parent company Northern Powerhouse Developments reportedly suffered a £14m operational loss last year.

The 40-bedroomed hotel, which had been in the ownership of the same family for over 70 years, was bought by Northern Powerhouse Developments for an undisclosed sum in January 2017.

New boss Gavin Woodhouse said at the time: “This is the first of four hotels we are acquiring and opening in South Wales to complement our existing hotels up and down the coastline of the United Kingdom.”

“The Fourcroft will be the sister hotel to the Llandudno Bay Hotel and Spa and part of the group’s premier hotel collection.

“We are keen to compliment the local businesses and hope to be part of the future success of Tenby and the surrounding areas.”

NPD was founded by Gavin Woodhouse to focus on investment in the leisure and tourism industry.

According to ITV News, at the High Court hearing, Justice Alastair Norris was told that Woodhouse had been withdrawing tens of thousands of pounds from a bank account he had kept secret from administrators.

Below: Video by The Guardian regarding the missing millions which have plagued Gavin Woodhouse’s businesses

Appointment of Administrators

In the High Court of Justice

Court Number: CR-2019-005297

FOURCROFT HOTEL (TENBY) LIMITED

(Company Number 00772050)

Nature of Business: Hotels and similar accommodation

Registered office: Unit D2 Elland Riorges Link, Lowfields Business Park, Elland, HX5 9DG

Principal trading address: The Croft, Tenby, SA70 8AP

Date of Appointment: 8 August 2019

Names and Address of Administrators: Philip Francis Duffy (IP No. 9253) and Sarah Helen Bell (IP No. 9406) both of Duff & Phelps Ltd, The Chancery, 58 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 1EW

Further details contact: The Joint Administrators, Tel: 0161 827 9000. Alternative contact: Chloe Chan, Email: Chloe.Chan@duffandphelps.com

Ag JG50885

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Coastguard call-out after missing cliff climbers fears

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EMERGENCY services were called to the Stack Rocks area on Thursday August 15, following concerns for the safety of two climbers.

The emergency services were called following fears over the safety of some climbers when climbing gear had been found at the top of the cliff near Bullslaughter Bay, with the owners nowhere to be seen.

At 9.11pm, Tenby Coastguard rescue team, St Govan coastguard rescue team, Tenby Lifeboats RNLI ALB, Angle Lifeboat RNLI ALB and Coastguard rescue helicopter 187 were called to search for possible missing persons in the vicinity of Stack rocks.

Tenby’s RNLI all-weather lifeboat was launched just after 9pm and made best speed towards the scene, 10 miles west of Tenby, while Tenby and St Govans Coastguard rescue teams and Coastguard rescue helicopter 187 also made their way.

An RNLI spokesman said: “Once on scene, the volunteer crew began their search from Stackpole Head towards Bullslaughter Bay.

“With darkness fast approaching, it was decided to launch Angle all-weather lifeboat so that the search for anyone in difficulty could be widened.

“Sometime later, the helicopter spotted some climbers and directed Angle lifeboat to their position, and, while speaking to them, they confirmed it was their climbing gear and that they were in no difficulty.

“All units stood down and returned to their respective stations, with Tenby lifeboat arriving back on station at about 12.15am.”

H M Coastguard Tenby, posting on Facebook, added: “Coastguard and RNLI were quickly on the scene with the Coastguard officers searching from land along the coastline and RNLI lifeboats commencing a water search.

“Once Coastguard rescue helicopter 187 arrived on scene they managed to quickly locate two climbers using FLIR [Forward-Looking Infra-Red].

“Angle RNLI was then directed to the persons and made contact with the climbers and confirmed that the equipment found belonged to them and that they did not require assistance.”

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