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The Party’s over

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cllr1Pembrokeshire Alliance loses all credibility over ‘IPPG coalition’ Facebook announcement

ANY shred of credibility the Pembrokeshire Alliance had left was spectacularly obliterated last Friday (Oct. 3). In a shabby move which was very unfair on the party’s band of supporters, the Alliance’s leader, Cllr. Bob Kilmister announced on Facebook that he – personally, and not the party – had: “entered into negotiations with Jamie Adams the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council about a possible coalition agreement with the IPG.” The bombshell went down like a sack of the proverbial brown stuff among the Alliance’s supporters, who haven’t taken the news lying down. Cllr. Kilmister talks about democracy and accountability at every turn, so he’ll be happy that the Alliance’s members and supporters have been coming out in their droves to voice stern opposition, however the voices aren’t just in opposition to the carve-up coalition proposition, but the way it’s been handled.

A slew of highly outraged comments have been posted online in response, expressing shock and disgust in equal measure that a Pembrokeshire Alliance coalition with the toxic IPPG is even worthy of consideration. For those who thought democracy was on life support in Pembrokeshire, it must be refreshing to see the denouncements flooding in from teams of once party-loyalists, and universal recognition that the IPPG is the enemy whose administration of the authority has brought the council into the state it’s in.

Quite possibly JW’s favourite comment summing up the situation comes from Sally Sarre, who says: “Not happy about this, when a dog has fleas you do not sleep with it.” Though the discredited IPPG regime at County Hall is more akin to a rotting carcass than a dog with fleas, Cllr. Kilmister’s judgement appears to have been so wide of the mark that early indications suggest the Alliance is a spent force – even if nothing comes of the coalition negotiations. As yet, the Alliance’s supremo Cllr. Kilmister, who espouses his and his party’s openness and transparency until he’s blue in the face, is ironically refusing to reveal the proposal that’s been put to him by Cllr. Adams in exchange for a coalition agreement.

JW understands that the fruitiest element of the dastardly deal is the offer of the council’s deputy leadership position with responsibility for the economy portfolio – which would attract a salary not far shy of £35k. Such was the shock value of the announcement, in the early stages commenters wondered if the Alliance’s Facebook account had been hijacked. Peter Warrender said: “Maybe the site has been hacked,” which received the response from Dylan Morgan: “It would have been withdrawn pretty smartish if it was a hack.” Another correspondent asked “Is this a joke?” and in a similar vein, Jon Harvey posted: “When I first saw this I had to check the date wasn’t 1st April.

You have lost all your credibility through this!” It soon became clear that the news was definitely no laughing matter, and following the blistering social media reception came some back-tracking, to the extent that Cllr. Kilmister claimed he had not worded his announcement clearly enough, saying: “I am not subtle enough to consider how to phrase things.” A new post was also added reassuring members that, among other things: “We have agreed nothing and we are consulting with you. Transparency in action but you seem to want to shoot the messenger!”

However it seems the damage was already done, and Cllr. Kilmister’s candid lack of subtlety made his intentions crystal clear, thank you very much: he had decided, on behalf of the Alliance, that face-to-face discussions over a coalition and its terms could take place with Cllr. Adams. That is the bone of contention – that Cllr. Kilmister has even entertained the possibility of jumping into bed with the IPPG’s rotting carcass – rather than ruling it out from the start like the overwhelming majority of the Alliance’s brethren.

“So much for an alternative to the IPPG” said Jason Lewis, “Big mistake” said Graham Thomas, “this is alien to the Alliance manifesto,” positing: “Maybe it is time to forget the Alliance” before suggesting the resignees should form their own new political e n t e r p r i s e from the A l l i a n c e ’s wreckage. And a mass exodus appears to be on the cards as other supporters made their intentions clear: “At this stage, sorry, but I shall withdraw my support. As far as I was aware, this was not part of the deal or agreement when joining the Pembrokeshire Alliance. This goes against my principles and therefore I resign from any position within the group,” said David Lamb, the Alliance’s membership secretary. “And it’s a goodbye from me,” said Liz Riby. I have been unable to find a single positive reaction to the announcement – and they are still flooding in.

Given that the Alliance has consistently set itself out as a principled and democratic outfit which opposes the IPPG and all it stands for, Friday’s news would always have been outlandish under any circumstances, however the juxtaposition is made even more remarkable given recent comments that have been made, in public, by the Alliance’s leader. As recently as Monday, Bob was saying he could no longer trust Cllr. Adams or work with him effectively on the council, and was calling for the IPPG leader’s head on a plate. “You should resign as leader” – he said directly to Cllr. Adams, whilst looking into his eyes, during a public meeting on Monday morning at County Hall. In a prophetically titled post ‘A Test of Leadership’ on his ‘Bob on Friday’ blog, Cllr. Kilmister says of the coalition negotiations that: “The sole objective is to put Pembrokeshire first.”

“Be in no doubt – Pembrokeshire County Council is in crisis,” readers are told. Talk about getting your own house in order first! He recounts a telephone call he received from the leader, Cllr. Adams on Monday night, during which he agreed to Cllr. Adams’ request to meet with him on Tuesday. Cllr. Kilmister says: ““I cannot divulge exactly what was said because I gave an undertaking of confidentiality. However, after consulting my two Council colleagues Jonathan Nutting and Peter Stock twice, I again met with Jamie Adams on Friday.

We agreed to consider the possibility of a formal coalition agreement because of the current situation in which the Council finds itself. We have not yet agreed to anything – only talks about more talks.” In a bid to appease the rank and file non-councillor members of the Alliance, a meeting has now been arranged for the party’s ‘Executive Committee’ and its members to “discuss it fully,” which Bob says is “absolutely crucial to the negotiations” and where a decision will be made, reinforced with: “We are a democratic organisation and the decision is not mine to take,” though it appears he did take the decision by himself to enter into negotiations with Cllr. Adams.

The bizarre blogpost gets even more bizarre because Cllr. Kilmister then goes on to discredit Cllr. Adams and says it is “clear” that he “has no intention of resigning.” “The Opposition is not capable of bringing him down and only those in his own Group can currently do that.” In the unlikely event that this is part of a cunning plan, we should reserve some credit for Cllr. Kilmister. It’s occurred to JW that the Alliance’s double-dealing despot may get his wish, and an Alliance/IPPG coalition may actually succeed in “bringing him down.” Such a coalition could be the final council disaster that prompts the Welsh Government to parachute in the commissioners to administer the authority and place it in special measures.

That would certainly have the effect of removing Cllr. Adams’ hands from all levers of power. Cllr. Kilmister’s blogpost outlines his own knowledge of a rumour that’s been doing the rounds for days among County Hall circles: that the IPPG’s Cllr. Brian Hall is plotting with a number of colleagues to form a breakaway group which will leave the IPPG without its majority, which currently stands at 31-29. The suggestion is pretty clear: if Cllr. Hall’s breakaway group gets off the ground, it would force Cllr. Adams into forming a coalition with it to maintain his majority status and position as leader, presumably in exchange for one or both of the two vacant cabinet posts, or even the deputy leadership.

Cllr. Kilmister writes: “The thought of Cllr Hall being back in a position of real power should be enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. It would seem that the only way to stop this happening may be a Coalition involving the Pembrokeshire Alliance, which is why we are talking with the IPPG.” It would seem to this author that the only thing Cllr. Kilmister wants to stop is Cllr. Hall signing the dotted line on the sordid deal before he does. And as for shivers going down spines, he’s bang on the money, if you’ll excuse the pun. That the Alliance – or, to be precise, any of its three councillors – would even comprehend the idea of jumping into bed with the IPPG tells a lot.

That it would enter into negotiations with Cllr. Adams without consultation with any of its supporters who disagree with the idea – including its constitutionally elected-president – says so much more. Whilst its supporters out on the streets of towns and villages across Pembrokeshire are no doubt well-meaning, well-intentioned and amenable to its talk of openness and democratic accountability which is in stark contrast to that of the IPPG, when it comes to County Hall there isn’t much that separates the Pembrokeshire Alliance from the shady ruling cabal, and there would be less still if the coalition goes through.

The bare-faced hypocrisy of last Friday’s repugnant announcement will show its followers – in an unfortunately bruising manner, perhaps – that, at the very first whiff, the Alliance’s councillors were unable to resist temptation and were prepared to indulge in the sort of back-scratching patronage that’s blighted Pembrokeshire politics for generations, and which they professed to oppose.

 

President elect turns to Facebook

In an extremely well-written and considered Facebook post the party’s elected president, Hayley Wood, articulates her own position in the wake of the bombshell announcement in very clear terms. She also describes the lack of consultation that took place. Her post culminates with her resignation from the Pembrokeshire Alliance altogether: Following on from last Friday’s statement, I write with disbelief that only last week the leader of the PA said he did not trust Jamie Adams. Within hours, a telephone conversation took place, which led onto discussions/negotiations to form a Coalition. As elected President of the alliance no discussions have taken place between myself or any of the Cllrs within the party.

I am also unaware if any discussions have taken place with any of the Executive Committee for that matter. I was emailed Thursday evening where Bob asked me if I could attend a meeting 10am Friday morning and was informed that he, Jonathan Nutting, Peter Stock and Selwyn Runnet were the only ones involved. There was no information regarding the purpose of this meeting. I could not attend as this was too short notice and asked Bob to feedback to me. This did not happen. Last night an email was sent out from Bob to the Executive Committee inviting us to an emergency meeting saying ‘I have this week entered into preliminary negotiations with their leader Jamie Adams but I have not and I will not take any decisions until this matter has been discussed by this Executive Committee’. Clearly Bob is making the decision and not the Executive Committee.

It appears the Executive Committee is being used as a discussion forum rather than engaging in the decision making process. The Executive Committee have not met since June although several attempts have been made by me to do so by calling on the leader to arrange this. In my experience, when forming a new group consistency is key in order to achieve the aims of the group. A continuous dialogue between members and Cllrs is essential to further develop the party and promote engagement. I am well aware that things happen fast in politics but this depends on who is driving the agenda. At any time since Monday evening, Bob could have let the Executive Committee know what his intentions were. I even spoke to him on the phone Wednesday evening. From the messages I have received today from members and non-members, it is clear that these actions have created fear, panic and distrust amongst followers of the Alliance, reminiscent of a politics that the people of Pembrokeshire stand strongly against. Regretfully, I do not support the Cllrs decision to negotiate a coalition with a proven liar… Jamie Adams, and I will not enter into any discussions with them surrounding this absurd notion. It is with heavy heart I have decided to withdraw my support for the Alliance and resign as President.

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MP calls for cut in beer duty for pubs

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has written to the Chancellor ahead of next week’s Budget calling on him not to increase alcohol duties and to cut the tax on draught sales to help stop pubs going out of business.

Mr Crabb is one of more than a 100 MPs calling for a cut in the ‘keg tax’ to help pubs compete more fairly with supermarket sales of alcohol. 

Currently, beer drinkers have to pay around £1 in tax for every pint they drink in a pub, which is the highest rate in Europe and nearly twelve times higher than in Germany.

Commenting on the letter, Mr Crabb said: “Pubs are at the heart of so many of our communities and when a pub closes down something special is  lost. That is why I am calling on the Chancellor to reduce the beer duty from the keg. A cut will not only bolster our much-loved pubs across our towns and villages, but also have a knock-on boost for British agriculture and employment. 

“Over a hundred Conservative MPs and I hope that after a difficult period the Chancellor will give our pubs and clubs something to raise a drink to this budget.”

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County lines intensification week sees drug supply disrupted into west Wales

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Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police carried out 11 raids during a week of action tackling county lines drug gangs.

COUNTY LINES intensification week (Monday, 11 October to Sunday, 17 October) saw officers carry out warrants, intercepting vehicles potentially involved in the supply of drugs, and working with partners to raise awareness of drug-related crime.

Seventeen people were arrested during the week, with crack cocaine (0.8grams), heroin (77g) and cocaine (6g) seized.

The value of those drugs is estimated to be around £4,500, while officers seized £6,500 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Also seized were an extendable baton and an ammunition magazine.

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Cotterell said: “The county lines intensification week was successful for Dyfed-Powys Police, and we had a number of excellent results thanks to the proactive work of officers and police staff across the four divisions.”

As well as the front-line warrants and police work, a lot went on behind the scenes, leading to:

  • More than 2,000 people educated about County Lines and exploitation during the intensification week in the community and partner agencies.
  • Some 50 letting agencies/estate agents educated about the dangers of criminality, such as County lines activity in rented properties.
  • More than 150 businesses educated about county lines, with an emphasis on those who provide mobile top-up services and the use of ‘burner phones’.
  • 50 ‘at-risk’ or vulnerable children, young people and adults received targeted safeguarding support on a 1-2-1 basis and in group settings.

DCI Cotterell added: “Few people are aware of the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to support victims, or the measures we put in place to stop people from becoming repeat victims of drug-related crime.”

“It is very important to us as a force that while we act on all new intelligence to disrupt county lines, we also take a victim-oriented approach to working with those affected by these gangs to protect them from becoming repeat victims.”

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Pembroke Dock: Pensioner sentenced to 20 years for child sex offences

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A PENSIONER from Pembroke Dock has been given an extended sentence of 20 years in prison with a further year on licence after being found guilty of historical rape of a child in the 1980s.

Barry Lake, aged 70, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court today (22 October) having been found guilty of 10 counts of rape of a child and two charges of gross indecency with a child last month.

Lake, now of Newton-le-Willows in St Helens, had denied all 12 charges relating to offences between January 1986 and January 1989.

Lake was first questioned by Dyfed-Powys Police in April 2020 in what would become an intensive and complex investigation.

Investigating officer DC Claire Lewis said: “Lake denied all charges, putting his victim through the ordeal of a trial.

“As they have done throughout the investigation, they showed great courage and dignity in the face of adversity to help us convict their abuser.

“This was a long and intensive investigation with a lot of work to achieve this outcome today.

“This sentence shows that it doesn’t matter how long ago a victim has suffered sexual abuse, we as police are here to listen and take seriously any person who has suffered any form of sexual abuse albeit a day or 35 years after.

“Please do not be scared to come forward, we are here to listen to you.

“Once again, I would like to commend the victim for their bravery for coming forward and achieving this outcome today.”

After serving 20 years in prison Lake will serve another year on licence.

He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register indefinitely and made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

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