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Questions continue over chairman’s appointment

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woodhamAS REPORTED in last week’s Herald, the appointment of the new lay member of the Audit Committee, Peter Jones, has caused controversy over the way in which his job application was processed. There are also concerns that councillors sitting on the Urgency Committee were not allowed to scrutinise the appointment. They were prevented from doing so by the Council’s Monitoring Officer, Laurence Harding. Information provided to The Herald ahead of last Monday’s (Sept 22) extraordinary meeting of the Audit Committee reveals that Morgan Cole, the Cardiff law firm of which Mr Jones is a former senior partner, represented Hundleton councillor John Allen Mirehouse. Mr Jones represented Cllr Mirehouse when he was before a standards panel – investigating an alleged failure by him to declare an ‘interest’ in a planning matter involving land he owned on the Angle peninsula. Cllr Mirehouse sits on the Council’s Audit Committee – the committee which is now chaired by his former lawyer, Peter Jones. Mr Jones formerly represented Milford Haven Port Authority at the time Cllr Allen Mirehouse sat on the Authority. Cllr Guy Woodham proposed Mr Jones as Chair of the Audit Committee. The Pembrokeshire Herald asked him whether he was aware of the past professional relationship between Cllr Mirehouse and Mr Jones. Cllr Woodham told us: “No, I was most definitely not aware! I nominated Mr Jones as Chair believing that, as the Lay Member, he was the most appropriate member of the Committee to hold this position, rather than an Elected Member. I was not involved in the selection process of the Lay Member and therefore have not been made aware of any background information on Mr Jones, other than he told us about at Monday’s Audit Committee.” The Herald also spoke to Cllr Paul Miller about the appointment of Mr Jones: “This situation further underlines the issue that I raised about the conduct of the meeting that ‘rubberstamped’ Mr Jones’ appointment. We were not allowed to have any meaningful information before voting on his appointment. It seems as though  this is a further example of elected councillors being denied the chance to make properly judged democratic decisions. It seemed to me that most everyone present agreed with me when I expressed that view at the Urgency Committee, but four voted in favour of the appointment anyway.” The Herald notes that Mr Jones told members of the Audit Committee that he had dealings with the Council in the past. It is not clear whether those dealings or their extent were made known to the Urgency Committee when they were presented with the appointment panel’s recommendation, or even if the appointment panel were made aware of them. The Herald asked the Council’s Monitoring Officer, Laurence Harding, on whose advice the Urgency Panel rubber-stamped Mr Jones’ appointment, for a comment on Mr Jones’ appointment. Mr Harding failed to reply.

 

 

Mr Mirehouse’s interest

PETER JONES was intimately concerned in Cllr Allen Mirehouse’s defence of a claim he had failed to declare an interest in land when he decided policy that might affect it when sitting on the National Park Authority. Mr Jones billed the former IPPG Chair over £5,360 from a total bill including QC’s fees of around £40,000. The bill included meeting with Viscount Saint Davids, Mr Allen Mirehouse, and his land agent Anthony Owen of Owen & Owen. Following the conclusion of the case, in which the Adjudication Panel for Wales found in his favour, Cllr Allen-Mirehouse sought to have the National Park Authority repay him the whole of Morgan Cole’s bill and claimed the Authority was obliged to indemnify him wholly for the same. Cllr Allen Mirehouse’s claim for his costs rather ignored the belated admission made by his QC, Robin Tolson, that his client did own land which “was capable of being developed when he participated in the relevant meetings of the National Park Authority”. Cllr Allen Mirehouse had previously maintained the opposite position and significant costs had been spent examining that denial. However, Cllr Allen Mirehouse’s submissions largely fell on deaf ears with the National Park Authority’s Monitoring Officers, Dewi Davies and John Parsons, who disputed liability to pay any of the legal costs on the basis that the Councillor had incurred excessive costs (including an eye-watering 24 hours of billable time at £200 an hour for travelling to a meeting at Angle Hall when Cllr Allen Mirehouse could have travelled to Cardiff); that he had not sought permission from the Authority to incur the costs before he did; and that he had engaged a QC at significant cost when such a level of representation was not required. In response to that last point, Cllr Allen-Mirehouse opined in correspondence that he was entitled to brief a QC because of his prominent position in public life. That plea fell on deaf years, and the Councillor received £8,000 plus VAT towards his professional fees following a vote.

 

THE HERALD asked
the County Council a series
of questions about Mr Jones’
appointment as lay member of the
Audit Committee and received the
following answers.

Q: How many had applied before
the original deadline and how
many additional applicants were
received before the extended
deadline? Please confirm at
which point in the selection
process Mr Jones applied.
A: Four applications were received
before the deadline of July 8
but one withdrew. One further
application (from Mr Jones)
was received before the end of
the extended deadline of July 18
(note the deadline was actually
extended by ten days not one
week).

Q: Please let me know who made the
decision to extend the deadline
and why a week was felt to be an
adequate period.
A: Deadline extended by ten days by
Chief Finance Officer because
he desired at least three suitable
candidates for the Appointments
Panel to consider.

Q: Please let me know where the
advertisement for the revised
deadline for applications
was placed. As the original
advertisement was by public
notice, was this also done by
public notice? If so, in which
publication or via which medium
or media was it disseminated?
A: Extended ten day deadline was
advertised on Council website.

Q: Please let me know the identity of
the persons who sat on the panel
that considered applications.
A: The Appointment Panel
comprised: Mrs Lynette George
(independent Chair); Cllr Tom
Richards; Cllr Stan Hudson (all
County Council appointed).

Q: Please let me know whether
the panel were made aware of
Mr Jones’ past professional
relationship with Cllr John
Allen-Mirehouse.
A: We are not aware of any
professional relationship
between the two parties

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Health

Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin

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POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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Tenby’s famous walrus ‘Wally’ has been spotted again

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TENBY’S most famous marine animal has been spotted again after fears she had been scared away.

Wally was spotted on Friday evening by the seaside town’s Lifeboat station.

Thought to be a two-year-old male, the walrus’s return comes after it was feared she had been disturbed by people flocking to catch a glimpse of her and “getting too close”

The animal has attracted hundreds of people to the seaside town now that the travel restrictions with Wales have been lifted to coincide with the Easter school holidays.

Wally was last seen on Monday, but  members of the public were warned it was in the animal’s “best interests” to be “left alone” as much as possible and they were urged to “avoid the temptation to get near and disturb” her.

A joint statement was issued by the RSPCA, Tenby harbour master Chris Salisbury, Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Tenby lifeboat coxswain Phil John, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Natural Resources Wales and CSIP Marine Environmental Rescue said that they were concerned to hear that people had tried to get close by using personal watercraft or paddle and surfboards.

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Police plan to deter badly behaved youths from gathering in Tenby

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POLICE in Tenby responded to community concerns over antisocial behaviour and groups of between 15-20 youths gathering and clashing over the Easter bank holiday weekend. They moved the youths on, seized alcohol from them and stopped matters escalating when there were clashes between the groups. And they have a clear message ahead of this weekend – there will be extra police patrols and presence in Tenby, including on the trains, so this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers used powers under the Antisocial Behaviour Act to disperse groups of youngsters meeting to drink alcohol in and around Tenby, many of whom had travelled by train to the area to meet up.

Based on these scenes from last weekend, plans are in place as part of a joint operation with Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers and British Transport Police, to address and prevent any further gatherings.

A Section 34 Order is in place covering Tenby, which allows officers to move people out of the area and prevent them from returning for up to 48 hours.

Sergeant Stuart Wheeler said: “Following last weekend we had some concern from the community of Tenby, due to antisocial behaviour related to the groups of youths from Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Tenby, and subsequently those groups clashing. Alcohol consumption by these youngsters was a factor.

“Proactive action was taken, and we are keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour this weekend, and have therefore put plans in place. Additional resources have been allocated, which will allow us to respond quickly and prevent matters from escalating.

“Tenby Neighbourhood Policing Team and response officers, will be carrying out high visibility patrols in the area, covering areas known to be popular with youngsters. Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers will be assisting us in ensuring youngsters can’t buy alcohol in the area by visiting shops and reminding them of the laws around selling alcohol, and if they bring it with them it will be seized. And our colleagues in British Transport Police will be patrolling the train network to prevent problematic groups getting to Tenby by train.”

Police are also appealing to parents and carers to know where their children are, and what they are doing.

Sergeant Wheeler added: “We would like to appeal directly to parents to be aware of where their children are, and prevent them from gathering in large groups. This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby, and we are urging you to be accountable for your children’s actions.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only 6 people from 2 households can meet outdoors still. Please do your best to ensure they are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”

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