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Firms vie for £37m school construction contract

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County Hall

County Hall

PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has started pre-qualifying firms to build a secondary school and vocational centre.

The two-storey Pembroke Learning Campus building with a floor area of around 180,000 sq ft will include an autism centre and community learning zone.

The building programme is expected to run for three years. Works, which are expected to start in August 2015.

The Council have described the project as: “The construction of a new build secondary school, vocational and autism centre and community learning zone. The building is predominantly two storeys but also has a lower ground floor covering approximately 2750m2. The works will also include external work to include highways works, car parking, drainage, landscaping and sports pitch provision.”

Pembrokeshire County Council will be under considerable pressure to ensure the tender and documentation process is a transparent one. The Council’s extensive difficulties with holding fair tendering processes and efficiently monitoring projects have been under significant public scrutiny in relation to a number of publicly funded projects that utilised part-external funding.

In particular, the Council has been criticised by external bodies both for overstating the economic benefits of development and adopting opaque and confused management structures for dealing with external funding. Lessons that should have been learned from a comprehensive review of the Council’s mismanagement of Town Heritage Initiative projects conducted by researchers from Oxford Brookes University, were not reflected in the Council’s subsequent management of projects using external public funds.
The Council’s job is not made any easier in this instance by an insistence in the tender documentation that only tenders from Ceridigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire will be considered for acceptance. In addition, the tender will not necessarily go to the cheapest tendering developer.

With a lack of public scrutiny practically assured by the Council’s very restrictive interpretation of guidance about commercial confidentiality, the project could result in a massive payday for a builder/developer with a pre-existing relationship with the Council.

Firms have until January 12 to begin the tender process through the Sell2Wales website.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Andrew Lye

    December 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Only firms from Pembs, Carms and Ceredigion can tender?What a restrictive practise!How many could tender?What if a company from further afield could do it much better and cheaper?I thought we were in times of austerity….I don\’t have much confidence, I\’m afraid.miss as if someone is already lined up.

  2. Andrew Lye

    December 27, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Seems as if someone is already lined up.
    (that’s what the last line should read)

  3. tomos

    December 27, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    disagree andrew, good to see Pembs. supporting local businesses and local ppl – not sure it’s legal though after all seem to remember when HUGE contracts were given to foreign companies and ppl complained that these organisations were supporting foreig companies the defence was that it was EU Law to open the process to all and they were having to obey the law but when did PCC ever worry about obeying EU Law 🙂

  4. Anthony griffiths

    December 28, 2014 at 12:12 am

    We are in austerity caused by these pathetic tories! The state has a moral obligation to provide an acceptable eduacational , modern complex! Down with these rotten tories! Rotten to the core!

  5. John Hudson

    December 28, 2014 at 9:25 am

    My understanding is that our Councillors “got bounced” into supporting a successful £150m outline bid under the WG’s 21st Century Schools programme. PCC’s bid was the largest award of all Counties, and meant the Council had to stump up 50% of the total capital programme or £75m, subject to detailed projects.

    The aim of the programme would appear to be driven by the demographic needs of the future school populations where fewer, larger “centralised” schools are required to avoid surplus places in existing out of date school buildings.

    The 21st Century Schools programme is a priority of the Council and will be funded by contributions from the Council’s reserves, originally set aside to support other services, receipts from the sales of Council property assets, any surpluses arising at the end of the financial year, and borrowing.

    While new capital school buildings may be “a good thing”, which the council may not have got grant aid for providing, all the processes are now aimed towards delivering the programme, mainly directed by the Welsh Government.

    We have already seen a “consultation” in Hakin and Hubberstone where the council drew support from the divined views of future parents and children for a single school, as favoured by WG, which would not support a two school build.

    This overall significant project was apparently approved without any real understanding of the financial implications at a time the Council was entering a period requiring severe financial reductions and restrictions in the delivery of its services.

  6. Owen Llewellyn

    December 29, 2014 at 7:34 am

    With a reputation for self-serving backroom deals and the stench of corruption right through PCC I fear this will be another calamity that, considering the mediocrity of their combined wit, will be incapable of delivering without significant scandal. They are too busy feathering their own nests to think of the rest of us.

  7. John Hudson

    December 29, 2014 at 9:39 am

    The Council’s Standing Orders relating to Contracts includes the following provision:-

    Competitive Dialogue/Negotiated Procedure

    The Directives of the EC allow the use of the Competitive Dialogue Procedure and the Negotiated Procedure in certain circumstances. A decision to use either procedure for procurement exercises over the EU Procurement thresholds can be made by the Director/Corporate Head of Service following consultation with the Head of procurement.

    Is it right that unelected officers can make such decisions without any reference to or requirement for approval by Cabinet.

    Yet another significant authority delegated to the Head of Paid Service conducted in secret.

    How many contracts have been awarded in this manner?

  8. Flashbang

    December 29, 2014 at 11:57 am

    This is way beyond the capabilities of PCC. All I see happening is a series of fiascos, scandals and cover ups from day one if it’s left in their hands. If they can’t even put a roof on a small building without the job being anything but what the contract stipulated then this is going to be the mother of all f***ups.

  9. barry

    December 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

    That’s what you don’t want andrew lye firms doing it on the cheap thats when the influx of foreign labour comes into effect mate drive wages down and making fat cats fatter think about what your say mush.

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Proposal to give firefighters a council tax discount to go to Cabinet

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PEMBROKESHIRE on-call firefighters could enjoy a reduction in council tax “in recognition of the vital work performed” by them if a call is backed by senior councillors.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, a Notice of Motion submitted by Newport and Dinas county councillor, and leader of the Independent Group, Cllr Huw Murphy was heard.

Cllr Murphy’s call stated: “There is currently a significant and severe shortage in suitable applicants coming forward to be on-call fire fighters (retained) for the Mid & West Wales Fire Service.

“Currently there are vacancies for on-call fire fighters at all fire stations throughout the region, which impacts considerably upon the safety of both residents and visitors who may need the assistance of the Fire Service. Pembrokeshire is heavily reliant on our on-call firefighters.

“In recognition of the vital work performed by our on-call fire fighters (retained not full time employees of the service) and to encourage others to consider undertaking this vital role within our communities this Notice of Motion proposes that Pembrokeshire County Council offers every retained fire-fighter working and living in Pembrokeshire a 10 per cent reduction in the council tax they pay after achieving a qualifying period of service annually, to be determined by the Chief Fire Officer.”

At the July 18 meeting, members agreed Cllr Murphy’s call be considered by the council’s Cabinet at a later date.

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Newly elected Labour MP reveals how she was raped, age 15

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NEWLY elected Labour MP Natalie Fleet has bravely revealed how she was raped at the age of 15.
In a harrowing GBNews.com interview to be broadcast this Sunday (July 21), Ms Fleet says she still has “weekly nightmares” about what happened two decades on from the attack.
After being raped, Ms Fleet fell pregnant but says the daughter she gave birth to is now the “love of her life”.
Sitting down with GB News’ Gloria De Piero in an exclusive interview she explains that she’s decided to speak about what happened because the actions of her attacker – who told her to have an abortion – were “not ok”.
Ms Fleet also fears many women are suffering and unable to get the support they need.
That’s why she plans to use her platform in Parliament to use her teenage experiences, which also saw her spent a period homeless, as a catalyst for change.
Reflecting on what happened to her two decades ago, Ms Fleet, now a mother-of-four, said: “Today, 23 years later, I look back and I think, it wasn’t ok. That was an older man. I didn’t know we were having unprotected sex. I was a child and (it) is statutory rape. At the time this isn’t something that we were talking about. It’s not how I saw myself. I still have weekly nightmares about it.
“I have a huge privilege and advantage to be in Parliament and I’m thrilled to be here. But what happened in my childhood still has a massive impact on me, which is why I’m so excited about what the next Labour government is going to do.
“At 15, you definitely think you’re old enough to do all these things. I wanted to give my daughter the best life. But another thing that I can do now I’m in Parliament is I want to be a voice for all of those people, all of those women that have children in far from ideal circumstances.
“That’s why I wanted to talk about where my daughter came from and about what happened. It was really difficult for me to say to her, ‘I don’t think this was entirely consensual, and I think I might have been groomed, and I don’t think this is an appropriate relationship’. She took it really well. I Googled in advance f0r some tips, just a fact sheet or ‘how to deal with this’ and I found nothing.
“I found absolutely nothing. I found there were fact sheets about rape being used as a war crime. But there was nothing else. There’s no acknowledgement that it happens in the UK. And the more research I’ve done, I’ve found that there are over 3,000 conceptions every year from rape. But there’s no charity to support those women.
“There’s no help, advice, or support helpline that you can go to. No help on ‘how do I tell my child, that I love, that is everything to me, that this is where they came from?’”
Explaining why extra support in this area is so desperately needed she continued: “It is biologically very clear what happened to me because I was 15 years old, and he was older. I can prove where she came from, so that’s statutory rape. But there are so many women that this happens too who don’t speak about it.


“They dare not speak about it because they know they won’t be believed. And then even if by some miracle, we move to a society where women are believed, once you say this is your child, then that man can come and have access to that child.
“Even if you prove it’s rape, that man can have access to that child and help bring it up. And that’s absolutely terrifying. This is a perpetrator that has hurt the mother, who can then have access to the child.
“He told me to have an abortion at the time. He’s never met her. He never wanted anything to do with it. And he was very dismissive. He told me many times that he knew lots of ways that he wouldn’t have to pay a penny towards her, because all his friends had already evaded the CSA.”
Describing the relationship she now has with her daughter, Ms Fleet said: “So she’s 23 now and is the absolute love of my life. I am so proud of everything she is. I am thrilled. She makes me proud every single day. But at the time, when I was 15, I felt full of shame and guilt and responsibility. And all I was determined to do was make sure that she had a life that was as good as she would have had to any age parent. That was what I was determined to do.”
Outlining how she plans to use her role as an MP to push for change, she said: “I am a product of the last Labour government. It wasn’t a perfect Government, but it changed my life and it was transformational. When I was younger, things were tough and I had a Labour government.
“When we were homeless, the Labour government made sure that there was enough housing stock for us to be rehoused. And then when I had my first child at a very young age, I could send her to a Sure Start nursery. I could carry on, go to university with a first in the family scholarship.
“I could work in a minimum wage job. I could send my children because I’d got two by then, to a Sure Start nursery, and it just felt like I needed the support of the state. And my God, I got it.
“And, before I became an MP, I worked for a trade union and I was absolutely desperate to give back to my teachers. My teachers had invested in me. The Labour government made sure that my teachers had time to teach me and look after me, and I then saw that I was paying taxes and they weren’t being invested in young children like me or teachers. That’s why we needed a new Government?”
“On my estate, the estate where we were rehoused, I looked around and people struggled. And I see now there are people that I was close to when I was younger who are now suffering with addiction and poverty scars.
“What poverty has done to me has meant that I work and work and work and work and work. If somebody knocks on my door, I won’t answer it because I’m still scared it’s the bailiffs. That’s what happens to you in your childhood, it stays with you. In areas of Bolsover it’s absolutely heart-breaking.
“But I could either be angry about what’s happened over the past 14 years, sad and feel powerless, or I could come into Parliament and try and do something about it. I mean, what an honour.”

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Second home numbers in Pembrokeshire drop after council tax hike

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THE NUMBER of second homes and self-catering holiday properties in Pembrokeshire has declined year-on-year, while those seeking council tax exceptions have, in one class, gone up 255 per cent.

A call for an update on Pembrokeshire County Council’s position on a potential relaxation of the ‘182-day’ rule, allowing self-catering accommodation to avoid paying a council tax premium was heard at the July meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Last year, the rules on holiday lets in Wales changed; Welsh Government criteria saying holiday lets must be filled for 182 days a year – up from a previous 70 – in order to qualify for business rates rather than pay second homes council tax.

In Pembrokeshire, second homes, and self-catering businesses not meeting the criteria, are now paying a 200 per cent council tax premium in the county, effectively a treble rate of council tax.

At the July 18 meeting of full council, a question was submitted by Cllr Huw Murphy was heard, a follow-up from a previously unsuccessful notice of motion where he had called for a relaxation in the ‘182-day’ rules in the county down to 140 days.

After that notice failed last year, it was agreed the position be reviewed in 12 months, with Cabinet agreeing to write to Welsh Government to highlight concern over the 182-day occupancy rule.

In his question, Cllr Murphy said: “Can council be provided with an update of what data has been obtained since Dec 2023 to examine the impact of the 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering properties in advance of a review to be completed by December 2024 prior to any decision over what level of second home council tax to be levied for 2024/25 as it may be necessary to consider a reduction to support an industry under pressure?

“Have PCC received a reply from WG with regards to the concerns raised with regards to the 182-day rule and its impact on the Pembrokeshire tourism industry?”

In response, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance and Efficiencies Cllr Joshua Beynon said a decision on future council tax premiums would be made by full council at its October meeting, after earlier committee discussions, adding that the council is currently undertaking a consultation on the second homes and long-term empty property premiums and has included questions on using its discretion on properties which did not meet the 182-day rule.

“In the interim, the Revenues team are monitoring the movement in second homes and self-catering units and the number of properties receiving an exception to paying the council tax premium,” he told members.

Members heard, as of July 1, the main increases in the level of exceptions related to Class 1 exceptions, properties that are up for sale, which had increased by 97 in the last 12 months, a rise of 255 per cent, and in Class 6 exceptions, properties that have a planning condition prohibiting year-round occupancy, which had increased by 78, or 21.6 per cent, with an overall increase in the seven classes of exemptions of 37.45 per cent.

Councillors were told the number of second homes had dropped year-on-year on that date from 3,364 to 3,271, roughly a 2.7 per cent drop; self-catering units dropping from 2,621 to 2,425, roughly 7.47 per cent.

Members heard, in response to Cllr Murphy’s second question, the-then leader Cllr David Simpson had received a response in May.

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