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CORONAVIRUS: It’s ‘crunch time’ for Pembrokeshire

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PUBLIC service leaders in South West Wales have issued a stark warning to residents and communities in Pembrokeshire after new figures showed coronavirus cases are growing in the county.
Pembrokeshire County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Dyfed-Powys Police are working closely with Public Health Wales and Welsh Government officials to respond to growing concerns about increased community spread of the virus.

They are urging people and businesses to take action now to avoid local restrictions being brought in that could affect people living in the county.

Numbers are now rising in Pembrokeshire with 37 new positive cases in the county in the seven days between the 3rd and 9th October.

Sadly, to date Public Health Wales have recorded 69 deaths in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area from people who caught the virus.

People are being asked to take the risk seriously and consider how their actions may impact on more vulnerable members of our communities.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, David Simpson, said: “I am imploring the people of Pembrokeshire – and visitors – to follow the advice from our health experts and to halt the spread of coronavirus in our county.

“This advice is based on scientific evidence and we must all play our part in reducing the spread of the virus.

“Make no mistake, failure to act now will impact on our daily lives and potential restrictions will be imposed on us

“This is crunch time. If we don’t follow the simple safety messages, we are increasing the risk of entering a lockdown situation again and nobody wants that to happen.

“So please, follow the precautions, look after one another and stay safe.”

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda, added: “Coronavirus remains a very serious illness, especially for the elderly and those with existing risk factors.

“What’s most concerning about the spread of the virus in Pembrokeshire is that we have not yet been able to identify a common pattern of infection – it appears to be affecting people from a number of age groups, backgrounds and geographical locations.

“As we and our partners in Public Health Wales and local authorities deal with these clusters, it’s of paramount importance that we protect our essential services as much as possible.

“I would urge the public to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings that cover the mouth and nose, keeping two metres away from others outside of their household bubble, as well as washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitizer if hand washing is not possible.

“It’s also critically important that people self-isolate if you or anyone in your household develops Covid-19 symptoms and that you book a test, as there is plenty of capacity.”

Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Mark Collins, said: “It is very concerning that we are seeing increased community spread of the virus in Pembrokeshire, and now is the time for each and every one of us to step up and be more vigilant in complying with the current necessary restrictions and behaviours.

“Please remember that in addition to the Wales-wide restrictions, Welsh Government can impose local restrictions for specified areas where there has been an increase in the number of cases of the virus.

“So, if we want to avoid these additional local restrictions, we must all act now and ensure that we support the current rules as far as possible.

“Our officers continue to be visible in our local communities, maintaining safe distances when we engage with residents, and will explain the circumstances and encourage people to do the right thing in complying with the restrictions.
“We know it’s tempting to gather with friends and family, but it’s vitally important that we stick to the rule of six indoors from an extended household only – including in pubs and restaurants, and outside only gatherings of up to 30 are permitted.
“Faced with non-compliance, and if considered necessary and proportionate to help stop the spread of the virus, we will take enforcement action against those flagrantly or persistently breaching the regulations.”

The key messages are simple:
• keep at least two metres distance from people not in your household
• wash your hands regularly
• wear a face covering in indoor public places, shops and on public transport
• do not meet with more than six people indoors from your extended household (not including children under 11)
• do not meet with more than 30 people outdoors.

The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:
• a high temperature: this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
• a new, continuous cough: this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
• a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste: this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

Anyone who develops any of these symptoms must follow self-isolation guidance and arrange a test as soon as possible, only leaving home to get tested.

If a Covid-19 test is required, this should be arranged via the UK Booking Portal: https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-test
or by ringing 119.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

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A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of senior council officers.

In November 2020, Mr Westley left Pembrokeshire County Council with a £95,000 pay-out, something which has been criticised by a number of councillors.

In a document before the Audit and Governance Committee on Tuesday (April 13), it says that termination payments to Chief Officers are routinely examined by Audit Wales but in the case of Mr Westley, the audit team was unable to locate a recorded decision to enter into the settlement agreement which led to a termination payment being made to the Chief Executive.

An Audit Office spokesperson said: “This appeared unusual and therefore the audit team decided to undertake an early examination of the process that resulted in the payment being made.”

No complaints were raised, by councillors or any other body, with Audit Wales but the number of concerns and questions being raised at following council meetings prompted them to commence an audit.

Audit Wales state: “Our audit fieldwork is substantially complete. However due to the complex nature of some of the issues involved we considered it necessary to take some external legal
advice. We are currently considering that advice. 

“In the near future we will draft a document setting out our provisional findings and conclusions. 

“Once this document is ready we will commence a clearance process to confirm factual accuracy. 

“If the document contains criticism of identifiable individuals, in the first instance we will provide those individuals with any extracts of the document that pertain to them. Once
we have confirmed the factual accuracy with individuals, we will send the full draft document to the Council’s Chief Executive to identify any remaining factual inaccuracies. 

“We will only issue the finalised document once the clearance process has been completed. #

“We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process.”

Only a handful of senior officers were involved in the procedure surrounding Ian Westley’s departure.

The inference which can be safely drawn from Audit Wales’ report to the Audit Committee is that some of its content will be critical either of councillors, senior officers, or both.

The process of asking those named to respond is known as Maxwellisation, a legal practice that allows persons who are to be criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication.

The report highlights the exceptional nature of the case at Pembrokeshire County Council and demonstrates the sensitivity of the issues raised.

If senior officers are sharply criticised or found to have failed in their duty to their employer, they will almost certainly have to go.

The council’s interim Chief Executive will read the document after maxwellisation.

It is also likely that the council’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Will Bramble, will have a chance to see it.

The Audit Wales spokesperson added: “We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process. We are unable to respond to queries about our emerging findings whilst the audit is progressing, and until we have finalised our conclusions.”

In January, Cllr Jamie Adams had called for the council to commence an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure but that was deferred to allow for the Audit Wales review to be completed.

Cllr Adams said that the decision of payment should have been a ‘democratic decision’ and has asked why that wasn’t the case.

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