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Police investigating missing charity funds at Narberth fire station

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Where is the cash?: Money from fundraisers was never banked

DYFED-POWYS Police have confirmed to The Pembrokeshire Herald that they are investigating allegations of dishonesty concerning raffle and fundraising efforts involving Narberth Fire Station.

The Herald was contacted by members of the public and family members of Narberth firefighters expressing their concern that ‘a considerable amount of money’ that has been raised for charitable causes has gone missing from the station.

Alarm bells started ringing last year, after funds raised in memory of local firefighter Josh Gardener, were never banked.

Josh Gardener, tragically died aged just 35-years-old, during a training exercise conducted by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) in September 2019.

A source told us each local station took charge of their own fundraising for the cause, but it was overseen by Milford Haven Station and all raised money was to be collated together by staff there.

It is alleged that around £500 was raised by Narberth station. However, officers at Milford Haven raised suspicions, after no money was received.

A source also told us that each year, two members from Narberth’s crew don full uniform to sell raffle tickets in the town’s High Street.

One source claims that those concerned have been unlawfully fundraising, as they do not have the relevant licences in place to do so.

We asked Pembrokeshire County Council to confirm whether Narberth Fire Station had an up to date licence which would enable them to fundraise publicly in such a manner.

A spokesperson said: “Pembrokeshire County Council has contacted the organisation involved for further information and to offer advice on the rules regarding lotteries.”

It is alleged money raised from these raffle tickets, which sources tell us is also ‘a considerable amount’, is unaccounted for.

We asked Dyfed-Powys Police to confirm if they were investigating allegations of theft at the station, a spokesperson said: “We are investigating an allegation of theft from Narberth Fire Station.

We were told: “Enquiries are ongoing.”

The raffle tickets were sold on the basis that all funds raised were being donated to The Firefighters Charity and Narberth First Responders.

We contacted The Firefighters’ Charity to ask if they had been receiving regular donations from the station, they told us that they had been asked by MAWWFR not to comment.

All monies raised from fundraising is said to be kept in a locked safe within Narberth Station before it is banked, said our source.

They added that the only crew members who have keys which would enable them to have access to the safe are those who’ve sold the raffle tickets.

Due to an ongoing active police investigation into the thefts, we are unable to name the two individuals.

It has also been brought to our attention that since the investigation opened, last year, a member of staff allegedly took early retirement due to illness.

This newspaper has recontacted Dyfed-Powys Police to clarify whether they suspect a break-in or another possible explanation, we await their response.

However, the police have made no appeals to the press or public for information that would relate to the possibility that a burglary may have occurred.

The Herald asked MAWWFRS whether they had a licence in place to sell the raffle tickets lawfully, did all raised funds reach the advertised charities, and what procedures would they be implementing to ensure funds raised reached their intended target.

A spokesperson said: “Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service take any allegations around the conduct of our staff seriously and have procedures in place to deal with such concerns appropriately.

“We also take our responsibilities in terms of respecting the personal confidentiality of all employees seriously and as such will not comment further in this regard.”

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Simon Hart MP says that First Minister is ‘reckless’ to say that the UK is ‘as it is, over’

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THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WALES, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, said that the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford is wrong to suggest that the United Kingdom has had its day in its current form.

The First Minister’s exact words were “the UK as it is; is over”.

Mr Drakeford’s has said a new union should be created to reflect a “voluntary association of four nations”.

In his conference speech, the Welsh Labour leader called for “home rule for Wales in a successful United Kingdom”.

In a strong rebuke of Mark Drakeford’s comments Simon Hart MP said on the BBC’s politics Wales programme on Sunday (Mar 7) that his suggestion was “reckless” and “an overt act of flirtation with Plaid Cymru.”

Mr Hart added: “I think he realises if he wants to remain first minister he has to do a deal with Plaid, it’s the only option on the table. He hasn’t denied that, I’ve heard.

“In order to do that he has to start making noises about the union that has to appeal to his Plaid Cymru colleagues. I think it’s quite a reckless thing.”

Mr Hart explained that the UK “benefits” Wales and that the UK-wide procurement of Covid-19 vaccines proves this. He added: “It demonstrates just one example that the UK is a positive influence but it doesn’t mean that some of the other arguments are not valid”.

Plaid Cymru wants to hold a referendum on Welsh independence if it wins May’s Senedd election, but the power to do so lies at Westminster.

There has been a growing interest in more independence for Wales in the last few years, with a huge surge in membership of the non-political Yes Cymru group since the start of the pandemic.

Plaid leader Adam Price, speaking on the same programme, said: “We sincerely believe that independence is ultimately the only sustainable way whereby Wales can achieve its incredible potential as a nation that isn’t being delivered at the moment and whereby we can achieve social and economic justice for everyone that lives in Wales.”

Giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Thursday, which The Herald was invited attended via a Zoom, Mr Drakeford explained said his idea of home-rule meant “the powers we have, and the devolution settlement we develop, would be guaranteed and would not be interfered with in the way we have seen so vividly in recent months”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I do think the effect of the pandemic and last 12 months has been to polarise opinion in Wales about how Wales should be governed.

“There are some people who take a lesson that we would be better off handing Wales back to Whitehall, there are some Conservative candidates standing in the Senedd elections who apparently take that view.

“It has undoubtedly strengthened interest in those people who believe Wales should be taken out of the United Kingdom altogether.”

The company which runs The Pembrokeshire Herald, Herald News UK, has recently launched a national news website for Wales which is sympathetic to Welsh independence.

This is something which could not have happened without a shift in feeling by many in Wales that as a nation it should have more autonomy.

Speaking on ITN’s News at Ten on Thursday (Mar 4), Herald.Wales South and West Wales Editor, Tom Sinclair said: “From our test marketing we can see that there certainly is a huge appetite for news that is about Wales, made in Wales, and owned by a company which is actually Welsh.”

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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