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Grants scandal: Ex-cabinet member speaks out

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• ‘I found dodgy payments in a matter of minutes’
• Council director ‘refused’ to discipline staff involved

Cllr David Williams

Cllr David Williams

A NEW perspective was given to the Pembroke Dock grants scandal by former Cabinet Member David Simpson. Speaking exclusively to The Pembrokeshire Herald about the insight he had gained, Councillor Simpson, who is also a magistrate, told us: “I have several concerns about the grants investigation. When Councillor Mike Stoddart started to put things on his webpage, I had nothing to do with grants. I wasn’t even on the Audit Committee. I would read his page and I would go in the next morning and always question David Pugh about what was going on.

Inevitably, I would end up speaking to Gwyn Evans (the council’s European Manager). I was reassured over and over again over months that everything in the grants system was whiter than white. So, I questioned everything Mike Stoddart said. When I got on to the Audit Committee, I started to see more information. John Evans (the former Audit Chair) was very supportive of efforts to investigate and look at the grants. There was an instance at council when Cllr Stoddart wanted to see the documents relating to the grants.

I disagreed because I thought that would give one councillor exclusive access to information. So, I said that the right way forward was through the Audit Committee. “ He went on to explain: “The grants issue had been brought up before by Michael Williams and I wanted the Audit Committee to get a grip of it. I actually went in to County Hall one morning and spoke with Jon Haswell and asked him if I could see the fi les. I was particularly interested in 29 Dimond Street. Within 20 minutes I had found £8,000; in another hour and a half I had found £22,000 of irregular payments with the potential for a further £23,000.

There was around £46,000 of wrongful payments on that spreadsheet. I am no auditor, I’m just an ex-businessman. I can only confi rm that what I saw is the same as what everybody else saw. It went through Audit Committee. All the documents were put in a sealed room so everyone could see them.” Cllr Simpson continued: “Councillor Stoddart found out what I did and more and on other properties. The work of the Audit Committee was being done properly. Councillor Stoddart was involved in it, not even a member of the Audit Committee, but he was involved and acted very professionally. John Evans wanted a full audit of every project involving Mr McCosker, but I said to do 29 Dimond Street as a sample, because once we have found one set of problems we can then do the rest.

There was a bit of argy-bargy about the content of the Audit Report. It was decided the Director with responsibility for the grants (Dr Steven Jones) should have access to that report and be allowed to comment and to make adjustments. Which he did do (long pause) he did do. He acted upon 95% of all mistakes that were brought up. There was one thing he didn’t do, which was about offi cers’ conduct. He didn’t do anything about that until the last meeting on Monday (Sept 22).I have asked him on many occasions – many occasions – why were no offi cers suspended, when there is gross incompetence on the part of one or more offi cers. I went through the Audit report with Steven Jones.

One of the main concerns for me was that disciplinary action was needed. I asked why one member of staff had not been suspended and he told me he was not going to suspend him. So that was that! His reply was that he was not going to suspend him even though I know for a fact that Jon Haswell (now Head of Finance) and Kerry MacDermott (Head of Revenue Services) in the same circumstances would have suspended the member of staff concerned.”

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Roy Mcgurn

    November 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Could it possibly be that no one is suspended because they had been told to fiddle the grants? If sacked in such circumstances wouldn’t they “spill the beans”.
    Look at the motive, let’s say converting external grants for retail regeneration into “affordable housing”, and maybe a few bob in McCoskers pocket on the way.
    I’m sure if he really tried, Dr Jones can explain much more than blaming a faulty manual and his hapless minions! Does it go higher than Dr Jones? Did anyone have to go and see “him upstairs” for orientation on this matter?

  2. tomos

    November 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

    If these councillors can find (and let’s be kind and also be concerned about being sued 🙂 ) a few mistakes in a few minutes then why oh why can all these councillors with extra payments and overpaid managers not find anything – none so blind as those who don’t want to see?

  3. Flashbang

    November 23, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Corruption is corruption no matter what spin is put on it. Is the Police investigation still on or has it been slipped under the carpet again? Finally why is this story buried in the Herald instead of jumping out from the webpage?

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Charity

Calls for help over VHF radio may have been a hoax, say RNLI

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THE ANGLE All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch on service at 10:23am this morning, Monday (July 22).

Following a call to the Coastguard from Milford Haven VTS, the crew were tasked after the VTS operators overheard a female voice calling for help on VHF channel 12.

After narrowing down the transmission to having been received on the Pembroke aerial site, the crew were requested to conduct a search.

Launching at 10:30am, the lifeboat made best speed to the moorings at Hazelbeach, and a hasty search was requested by the Coastguard of any moored vessels. The crew began making their way amongst the moorings, heading up to the moorings off Neyland. With nothing untoward sighted, the crew proceeded to search the moorings off Hobbs Point, Barnlake Point, Burton, Llanion and Rudders Boat Yard.

With nothing found, the Coastguard requested that the crew continue their search up river to Picton Point. The lifeboat continued searching up the western shore encompassing Llangwm before altering course just past Landshipping and searching the eastern shore back down the river, calling in to Lawrenny on the way to check any vessels moored there.

The RNLI said that the search continued back down as far as the Cleddau Bridge.

On Facebook the organisation posted :”Following a thorough visual, communications and radar search the crew were subsequently stood down when no further information or calls had been received.

“The tasking was therefore deemed to be a hoax call.

“The lifeboat was back alongside and readied for further service by 1pm.”

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Crime

Police investigating after man injured during altercation in cemetery

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POLICE have confirmed that they are investigating a report of an altercation which occurred in the cemetery off Gelliswick Road, Hakin, Milford Haven sometime between 4.30 and 5.00pm, Wednesday 17th July, 2024.

Following the incident, a 32-year-old man went to hospital for treatment and was later released.

A 19-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail pending further police enquiries police have confirmed.

The incident caught the attention of locals, who said there was a large police response to the incident included armed officers.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: 394 of the 17th

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org

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Crime

West Wales man jailed for rape after victim’s cries heard

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A WEST WALES man has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for raping a woman in an attack that ended only when her cries for help were heard by others. Charlie Evans, a 22-year-old former Exeter University student, ignored his victim’s repeated pleas for him to stop during the 45-minute ordeal.

The incident took place after Evans and his victim had attended a party, where both had been drinking. The court heard that after kissing, the pair left together, with the woman under the impression that Evans lived in a flat with her friend.

Upon returning to the flat, the woman used the toilet before Evans raped her, despite her repeatedly saying no. The prosecutor described the victim as crying hysterically and added: “She did not want these things to happen.”

During the attack, one student testified they could hear the victim not consenting and begging Evans to stop. Another person said they were so concerned they inquired about what was happening.

Police were alerted after the incident was reported to campus staff, who then contacted the emergency services. Evans was told to leave his flat and was subsequently removed from the university. He denied the offence during his police interview.

Evans, of Victoria Avenue, Mumbles, Swansea, was convicted earlier this year at Exeter Crown Court of rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced on July 12. In a victim statement, the woman said her life had been forever changed by Evans’s actions. She expressed feelings of fear, confusion, and shame during the incident and continues to suffer from nightmares. She now feels distrustful of men and has sought support to cope with her trauma, the court heard.

Christopher Quinlan KC, defending, presented multiple good character references for Evans, describing him as a “kind and respectful” young man who was “always positive, compassionate and thoughtful.” He argued that his client’s life was “in ruins” as a result of his actions.

However, Judge Stephen Climie told Evans he had “completely misrepresented” his victim’s position, adding: “She was so far away from wishing to engage in your sexual activity that the only explanation for your attitude and approach was alcohol that blinded you to what was clearly and obviously the word ‘No’.” He continued: “So far as your life is concerned you will be crushed as a result of the sentence I’m required to impose.”

Following the sentencing, DC Michele Hicks from Devon and Cornwall Police’s major crime investigation team praised the victim for her courage and resilience throughout the investigation. She said: “I hope this case reassures the community how seriously the police take reports of sexual violence against women and girls and gives people the courage to come forward in future.”

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