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Audit Committee to see key correspondence

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Evil?: Cllr Mike Stoddart

Cllr Mike Stoddart

FOLLOWING a lengthy – and at times angry – debate, councillors voted to pass a motion from Cllr Mike Stoddart to allow the audit committee to have access to documents relating to the controversial Commercial Property Grants Scheme in Pembroke Dock. Cllr Stoddart’s original motion asked for all councillors to have access to correspondence between the authority and WEFO and Mr Cathal McCosker but he amended the motion so that Audit Committee members alone could have access. Many councillors in the chamber felt they should all have access to the information in order to make a proper decision. Cllr Stoddart said: “This is a matter of some importance because public money is at stake here.

“Mr McCosker has offered to pay back a rather large sum of money – £189,000 is the figure I’ve been given. “There is also a sum of money that this council has got to pay back in respect of administrative payments that WEFO have made to this council. “The audit committee have a duty to look into this to see just how much this is going to cost the council, that’s what the audit committee was set up for.

“I am not talking about the police disclosing information; this is about the council disclosing information that is already in its possession. I’m not asking for the police to disclose it. He added: “Suggesting otherwise is another red herring being dragged across the floor.” Cllr Bob Kilmister said: “This is very important information for the debate and we need to see it, but once again members are being asked to debate without seeing any of the information that is required.”

Cllr Jamie Adams said: “Any information will be made available to members on conclusion of the police investigation and we have a process in following that investigation and I believe it’s very important that we recognise effectively the polity that should remain around any evidence that should remain following legal proceedings from that situation. “Members will have full information but as a body of council we must recognise that there is a time limit on it in terms of when that information is appropriate. “It may be appropriate for the audit committee to consider that advice, but I would suggest that it’s not really the function of full council to undertake that, and I am confident in the ability and the desire that is held within audit committee to get to the bottom of these matters with the assistance of the police. “Now is not the time for us as members to discuss the matter.”

Cllr Jacob Williams said: “How times have changed! At our Christmas meeting in 2013, Cllr Stoddart put forward a very similar motion and Cllr Pugh gave a number of facts, and subsequently it was revealed he wasn’t telling the whole truth and he has since been sacked from the Cabinet. “At that stage everybody was in denial in the IPPG group and a vote was taken, but that vote was taken on duff information. “Everything Cllr Stoddart has said about the grant scheme has proved to be correct.

The police investigation is ongoing – I don’t know what stage it is at, but isn’t that a long way we’ve come? Information was denied and it’s still being denied now. “One thing remains constant, and that is the ethos of this county which is to keep elected members in the dark. “Cllr Pugh denied there was a problem but now there is going to be a loss to the authority and I think you should all know about that.” Cllr Paul Miller said: “Clearly we are responsible for the budget. There is a financial issue in terms of a loss or a reclaim and we need to understand that.

That is part of our core remit as members, and this information is key to understanding that. I don’t how we can be in a position when we are not given the information.” Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse said: “The committee was requested by the police not to divulge the information which the police are using during the investigation. The legality of this was confirmed to the committee by the acting head of paid service. Assurance was given that in due course, at the conclusion of the police investigation the documentation would be made available to all members of this council. It is no good listening to what people think, we need evidence.”

Retired senior police officer Cllr Tony Brinsden said: “I’m rather concerned that so many red herrings are being dropped across the floor in front of us. I’m surprised that our leader had to go to council to find out that simple fact.” Cllr Mike Evans said: “This is information that is with the council, this is what we are debating.” Indicating the advice given by officers, he continued: “We open up this advice here and the first line says: ‘In this case I have been asked to advise upon a request by councillors who have access to information obtained by the police. This is not the case.

“How much has this one question cost us? What is the point of asking a question about information in the possession of the police? We all know that we have no right to see their documents. Cllr Bob Summons, a former police constable for over thirty years, said: “An email came in yesterday from the sergeant who is running the investigation. It says: ‘As discussed the police investigation has commenced and as part of the investigation team it is important that we have all material in relation to this matter.”

He continued, quoting the email: “Until any trial it is good practice for all materials to be classed as confidential. I am aware that information is available within Pembrokeshire County Council, which councillors have asked to be disclosed to them. “I would recommend at this stage of the enquiry that this material is not disclosed upon this request.” Councillors were not deflected from their pursuit of the matter by the red herrings offered in response to Councillor Stoddart’s motion: it was passed by 28 votes to 24 with four councillors (Mike Evans, Brian Hall, Stan Hudson and Steve Joseph) abstaining.

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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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Natural Resources Wales approves Ireland-UK interconnector licence

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GREENLINK INTERCONNECTOR LIMITED says it welcomes the decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to approve its application for a Marine Licence for the Greenlink electricity interconnector project, which will link the power markets of Great Britain and Ireland.

An important project for Pembrokeshire, and the UK as a whole, NRW’s go-ahead is one of several consents required for the construction of the project and covers installation of the marine cable in UK waters.

The approval is a major milestone for Greenlink and joins the onshore planning consents granted unanimously in July last year by Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Greenlink’s proposed 190km subsea and underground electricity cable will run beneath the Irish Sea to connect National Grid’s Pembroke Power Station in Wales and EirGrid’s Great Island substation in County Wexford, Ireland. It will have a nominal capacity of 500 MW.

The Wales-Ireland link is just one of four interconnectors being installed

Nigel Beresford, CEO for Greenlink Interconnector Limited, said: “We are delighted by Natural Resources Wales’s decision to grant this licence. This marks a significant milestone for Greenlink and another important step towards project construction, which we expect to commence later this year.

“The Greenlink team has worked constructively with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh marine stakeholders to find workable solutions to the many technical and environmental challenges facing a large infrastructure project like this, and this has been reflected in the quality of the final proposal.

“The thorough environmental and technical assessments we have undertaken, supported by the practical and value-adding feedback we have received from key marine stakeholders, have ensured that we move forward confident that we are delivering a well-designed project with the interests of the Welsh marine habitat at its core.”

The subsea section of the cable will be approximately 160km in length and uses high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology. The preferred route and installation methods were chosen following the conclusion of subsea surveys and consultation with key stakeholders.

In Ireland, a Foreshore Licence application was submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Foreshore Unit) in 2019 and the onshore planning application was submitted to An Bord Pleanála in December 2020.

Greenlink is one of Europe’s most important energy infrastructure projects and brings benefits on both sides of the Irish Sea for energy security, regional investment, jobs and the cost-effective integration of low carbon energy. The project will offer important local supply chain opportunities and plans are being drawn up for ‘meet-the-buyer’ events in the local area prior to construction.

Once fully consented, Greenlink is expected to have a three-year construction programme, with commissioning planned by the end of 2023.

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Appeal from Fire and Rescue Service to install working smoke alarms

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AT 01:17am this morning, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, crews from Milford Haven were called to a property fire in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to a pan on a stove in the kitchen area and extinguished by firefighters using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

Crews also ventilated the property and fitted smoke alarms within the property.

The Fire Service left the incident at 02:00am.

Watch Manager Alun Griffiths, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said “This fire was the result of cooking left unattended. It is so important to remove all pots and pans from a heat source when you are called away from the cooker.

“Thankfully, the occupiers of the property managed to exit the property before our firefighters arrived, but it could have ended very differently as there were no smoke alarms fitted in the property.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of installing working smoke alarms in your homes and testing them regularly. In the dreadful event of a fire, they can alert you to the danger sooner and could mean the difference between life and death.

“As a Fire and Rescue Service, we provide Home Fire Safety advice which is free of charge. We also offer Safe and Well Visits which you can arrange by phoning us on 0800 169 1234 or by visiting the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone us on 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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