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Audit Committee Chair quits

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john evansA SMALL item of news on the County Council’s website is all the local authority has placed on the record about the departure of John Evans MBE, the lay chair of the Council’s Audit Committee. 

The announcement invited people to put themselves forward to be a lay member of the Council’s Audit Committee with a closing date for applications of 8th July and directing applicants to write to the Council’s CEO in application. The announcement made no mention of Mr Evans’ resignation, neither did it thank him for his service nor his contribution to the Council’s scrutiny mechanism. John Evans MBE had been in post since September 2012. A senior Council official told The Herald that Mr Evans had not endeared himself to Council officers allegedly “used to getting their own way” by trying to bring some of the rigour and discipline of his successful business background to bear on the Council’s audit machinery. John Evans, who lives in Saundersfoot, received his MBE in 2004 for services to the electronics industry. Described by Bloomberg Business as “a pivotal figure in consumer electronics manufacturing, with over 30 years top-level experience”, Mr Evans is known to have strong views about the rewards the Council pays to its top officers. In February 2011 the Tenby Observer carried a letter from Mr Evans in which he detailed ways in which the Council could cut costs by freezing Councillors’ allowances, cutting the pay of top earners and abolishing the post of Chief Executive Officer, suggesting a more appropriate level of salary for the post would be around £70,000. Bryn Parry Jones received over £200,000 in remuneration and unlawful “pay supplements” from the local authority in the year to April 2012. Mr Evans is understood to have handed his letter of resignation to controversial CEO Bryn Parry Jones after a key meeting of the Audit Committee was postponed. Cllr Mike Stoddart told the Herald: “Although the grants schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock have now been referred to the police, at Mr Evans’ insistence the audit committee was pressing on with its probe into the administration of those grants which are outside the criminal investigation. “The committee was due to consider a report on this subject by the Council’s internal auditors at a meeting on 29 May, but that was cancelled without explanation. “I hear on the grapevine that the reason for the cancellation was to give the Director of Development Dr Steven Jones, the opportunity to answer any criticisms of his department and explain what steps were being taken to correct any flaws in the current procedures. “That meeting had been rescheduled for later this month but, following Mr Evans’ departure, it will not now take place because there is a statutory requirement that the audit committee must have at least one lay member. “So, during the time it takes for the council to advertise the post and appoint a replacement, the committee is in limbo – possibly until September.” Mr Evans’ resignation is a blow to those who are seeking to hold the Council to account for the shambolic organization of grants schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. December’s County Council meeting in which the IPPG leadership attempted to prevent scrutiny of the Council’s conduct of the grant schemes by smearing those seeking to get at the truth, was followed in January by the Audit Committee under Mr Evans launching a wideranging investigation into the schemes. At that meeting, John Evans MBE confirmed that not only would Audit Committee members have access to the previously secret documents, but that all Councillors would have the opportunity to scrutinise the material. A step which went beyond the very limited request for access made by Cllr Stoddart in December. Shortly after that investigation was launched, Cllrs Mike Stoddart and Jacob Williams provided evidence gathered from the documents to the then Director of Finance Mark Lewis. The material handed over suggested that a contractor had received preferential treatment in relation to one development in the Town Heritage Initiative. After delay until after a Council meeting due to discuss the unlawful pay supplements made to its CEO, the Council referred the alleged irregularities to the Police and they continue to be under investigation. Concerns raised at the time that some of the files made available to Council members to inspect had been “filleted”, were sharpened when it emerged that the Council’s European Manager, Gwyn Evans (no relation), who has overall responsibility for the Commercial Property Grants Scheme, had carefully re-written the record of grants panel meetings to suggest greater caution and scrutiny of proposed developments than was actually the case. Gwyn Evans has been the subject of the Council’s internal disciplinary procedure as a result and is at risk of further action from the Information Commissioner in relation to his law-breaking. We asked the Council for a copy of John Evans’ MBE’s letter of resignation, but were told that it is not the Council’s to publish. A request made before last week’s edition made direct to CEO Bryn Parry Jones was met with the news that he is on holiday until the end of the month and unable to respond. Speculation is mounting as to the letter’s content and the opinions the usually direct Mr Evans expressed within it. The Council seems determined to draw a veil over the reasons behind the departure of the genuinely distinguished chair of a key Council committee and speculation is mounting as to what he said in his letter of resignation. Certainly, the low-key way the Council is going about replacing John Evans MBE suggests that it is now seeking a rather more biddable person who will not rock the boat and ask too many awkward questions.

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Sentencing delay for money theft case

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A CROWN COURT has delayed the sentencing of a Narberth man who has admitted stealing from a local community organisation.

Lee Squelch, 37, of Caerau Farm, Llandewi Velfrey, had denied the charges but changed his plea to guilty on March 5.

However, due to over running cases at the Crown Court, the sentencing date has been put back until Wednesday, April 21 – the case was due to be concluded on April 15.

Squelch has admitted that between April 2014 and March 2018 he stole money from The Pembrokeshire Byways and Bridleways Association.

It is understood that Squelch was in a position of responsibility within the said organisation when the alleged offences took place.

Pembrokeshire Byways and Bridleways is a community focused organisation which aims to improve the bridleways around Pembrokeshire, to keep horse riders safely off the roads. It is affiliated to the British Horse Society.

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The Pembrokeshire man on the Titanic

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ON the morning of April 15 1912, in the North Atlantic some 450-miles south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic slowly slid beneath the sea just two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.

Stories from that night are famous, from the lookouts misplacing their binoculars to the ship’s band playing even as the sea washed over their feet, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special place in the public consciousness and continues to grab our attention some 109 years after the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank.

Over 1500 people lost their lives in the biggest maritime naval disaster at that point.

Among the dead were American and British millionaires, White Star Line employees and countless anonymous immigrants from across Europe who were all seeking a better life in America.

908 crew were on board the Titanic when it left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage, one of the crew was a man called Charles Essex Edwards, 38, who sometimes gave himself the first name of ‘Clement’.

Charles was born in 1862 to John and Harriet Edwards of St. Martin’s Place, Haverfordwest.

He worked as a carpenter as a 19-year-old man and would end up moving out of Pembrokeshire and going to sea.  By the time he married a lady called Lavinia Ann Poulter, from Llanstadwell, in May 1892 he was living in Newport.

Lavinia, a Pembrokeshire woman herself, was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Poulter who lived on Lawrenny Terrace in Neyland.

By 1895, Lavinia had returned to Pembrokeshire following the death of her mother. Charles and Lavinia’s marriage suffered but Charles would continue visiting Lavinia and stayed at his father-in-law’s house when he was on shore leave.

Although still married in the eyes of the law, Charles and Lavinia were basically separated by 1901.

Charles signed on to work on the brand new RMS Titanic after it had completed its sea trials in Belfast Lough, he gave his address as 7 Brunswick Square, Southampton. He worked on the Titanic as an assistant pantry-man steward who earned a monthly wage of £3 15s on his previous ship the SS Zeeland.

SS Zeeland: The ship Charles worked on before the Titanic

When RMS Titanic left Southampton a massive crowd had gathered to see the newest addition to the White Star Line fleet depart. Charles Edwards was there. He was there when the ship picked up more passengers at Cherbourg and Cobh.

He would’ve been working during the day, his job entailed keeping the ship’s pantries stocked with food and wine, a vital job on a ship with such a high-class passenger list as the Titanic.

He was, more than likely, sleeping when Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg in the ship’s path at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14. He would’ve been woken by the noise of metal on ice and the ship shuddering as it was torn open on the starboard side.

As the ‘unsinkable’ ship took on water Charles, as a White Star Line employee, would’ve been given the unenviable task of waking up passengers, informing them of what happened and getting them to put on their lifejackets.

Once the scale of the situation on the Titanic became apparent, the command structure effectively disintegrated.

Captain Edward Smith would’ve cut a forlorn figure as he wandered around near the wheelhouse and his last words to his crew, according to reports at the time were:

“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you.

“You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

This would’ve been around 2:10am, at that point Charles would’ve faced a literal up-hill battle with male members of the crew only having a 24% chance of survival and many people gathering ‘like bees’ on the stern of the stricken liner which, experts say, raised to a 12 degree angle.

The Pantryman-stewards from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic

Many male crew members elected to stay at their posts as, according to Victorian culture it was better for men to die than to live and be perceived a coward, so the lights of the ship remained on until about 2:18am, just two minutes before Titanic broke apart and began its journey to its final resting place some 12,000ft below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But now you know there was a man named Charles Edwards who was born in Haverfordwest and who died when the Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified and we don’t even have a picture of him.

When news of the disaster broke, The Pembroke County Guardian described the tragedy as ‘one of the most appalling calamities in the long history of shipwreck’.

Four men from Maenclochog, it was later revealed, had a lucky escape as their plans to emigrate that April on the Titanic were thwarted by one of their number being unable to travel, so the group decided to wait for their friend. That decision saved their lives.

Pembrokeshire responded to the sinking by raising money for the Titanic Relief Fund, Pembroke Dock raised £12 2s 0d through a collection at the Royal Dockyard and, in Haverfordwest, Sidney White, who would later go on to own The Palace Cinema, hosted benefit performances to packed houses which raised £5 15s.

Lavinia, after a legal battle with Charles’ brother William, was given £192 in compensation for Charles’ death and went on to look after her father at Railway Terrace, Neyland until he passed away.

Lavinia went on to move to Middlesex where she lived until 1934. She left her estate to her chauffeur.

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Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

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A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week.

Derek Lister, 72, of Marloes is accused of making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared before the bench, on Tuesday (Apr 13).

Lister was represented by Redkite Solicitors.

The court heard that between June 2009 and November 2019 in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, Lister allegedly created 3 indecent category A images of a child, 14 indecent category B images of a child and 152 indecent category C images of a child.

He will now appear at Swansea Crown Court on May 11 at 10am for the next hearing after the local court declined jurisdiction.

Lister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Derek Lister: Accused of making child abuse images
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