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Questions continue over chairman’s appointment



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 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

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
A: We are not aware of any
professional relationship
between the two parties

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Masks now advised in all secondary schools



PUPILS across Wales are now being advised to wear facemasks in all communal areas of secondary schools (including playgrounds), colleges and on transport to and from places of learning by the Welsh Government.

Although not compulsory, the new recommendations have been made by ministers to ensure a consistent approach in tackling COVID-19 across Wales.

People picking up and dropping off children are also advised to wear face coverings too to minimise the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.

The new guidance, aimed mainly at secondary schools, which the Education Minister has described as ‘easy to follow’ was announced today and now means that the only spaces where staff and pupils can safely remove their facemasks is in the classroom.

The majority of councils already require secondary pupils and staff to wear masks in corridors and on most school transport with those rules extended to primary pupils too in some areas.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said: “It is vital that young people, parents, adults and the workforce feel confident that all measures are being taken to ensure the educational environments are as safe as possible.

“We have been clear that we will keep every policy under review and will continue to follow scientific advice. The policy we are announcing today does just that”.

The new advice has been recommended by the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group (Tag), which has been looking at the “possibility of wearing face coverings for older age groups in more circumstances, including on public and dedicated transport” and could “even include in the classroom on a risk assessed basis…. balancing benefits with harms to overall wellbeing of students.”

Tag is also looking at how feasible a mass asymptomatic testing programme in schools and colleges could be, the Welsh Government has said it is considering that approach.

Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “Face masks and coverings in communal areas could have serious consequences for Wales’ 2,500 deaf children, almost all of whom rely on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate.
“Socialising in corridors, break time chats and playground games are all rites of passage, but deaf young people now risk missing out because they can’t understand what others are saying. They’re also more likely to experience loneliness, isolation and bullying.
“Public health is the priority, but schools and colleges must move quickly to introduce reasonable adjustments to help deaf young people during this difficult time.”

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Two day centres to close temporarily as a precaution



TWO north Pembrokeshire Day facilities for older people and people with learning disabilities are to close temporarily as a precaution following the rise in coronavirus cases in Ceredigion.

Bro Preseli Day Centre in Crymych and Wintern Day Centre, Goodwick, are to close temporarily from tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24).

The decision to close each site will be reviewed regularly.

It is emphasised that there have been no positive cases of Covid-19 detected at either site and the temporary closures have been put in place as a precaution.


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North Pembrokeshire schools remain closed



THE SIX North Pembrokeshire schools which were closed today (Monday, November 23) as a precaution following the increased spread of coronavirus in South Ceredigion, will remain closed tomorrow (Tuesday, November 23).

The Pembrokeshire schools are:

• Ysgol Preseli
• Ysgol y Frenni
• Ysgol Llandudoch
• Ysgol Eglwyswrw
• Ysgol Cilgerran
• Ysgol Clydau.

The Pembrokeshire schools are closed as a precaution as they share services – such as transport – with the Ceredigion schools.

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