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Complaint follows council carve up

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A VETERAN former local councillor has suggested that Council Leader Jamie Adams and his Cabinet broke the rules when they took part in a debate at a Full Council meeting on Thursday, December 11. William Rees MBE, who spent twenty-nine years as a community, district and county councillor has threatened to refer the conduct of the IPPG Leader and his Cabinet at a Council meeting that took place on Thursday December 11 to the Public Services Ombudsman.

Mr Rees was in the public gallery in County Hall and made a vocal interjection pointing out that Council Leader Jamie Adams had failed to declare a pecuniary and personal interest in a matter being debated on the floor of the Chamber. The key point to which Mr Rees has taken objection arose during the debate on Councillor Jacob Williams’ motion seeking to put in place a process that could lead to the annual election of the Council Leader. In Pembrokeshire, the Council Leader has wide and sweeping powers of patronage. With very little, or any, oversight the Leader has the power to appoint Cabinet members to their remunerated posts; the power to appoint councillors as the remunerated chairs of some committees; the power to appoint councillors to remunerated positions on public bodies outside the authority.

In the most blatant instance of gerrymandering positions outside the authority, when Cllr Peter Stock left the Independent Group he was replaced as the authority’s representative on the Dyfed Powys Police Authority by Independent Group loyalist Steve Yelland. When Cllr Adams had been challenged on the appointment of Cllr Stock shortly before he left the Independent Group, he claimed he had appointed Cllr Stock on merit as the best man for the job. It is apparent, therefore, from his subsequent act that Cllr Adams felt Cllr Stock’s then m e m b e r s h i p of the Independent Group Cllr Adams leads was the most merit-worthy of his qualities.

The issue of patronage and remuneration is important to Mr Rees’ point. In a letter addressed to Council Monitoring Officer Laurence Harding, he makes it clear that, as the current incumbent who could face loss of post if Cllr Williams’ motion was passed, Cllr Adams had, in his view, an interest in the outcome of the vote that he should have declared.

In addition, the members of Cllr Adams’ Cabinet also had an interest in the outcome both on the vote regarding the annual election of the leader and on an amendment proposing that the appointment of Cabinet members be vetted by the full Council. Neither Cllr Adams nor any member of his Cabinet declared an interest in the outcome of the vote. Monitoring Officer, Laurence Harding was challenged on the issue of whether Cllr Adams or his Cabinet had an interest in the votes’ outcomes.

Mr Harding told disbelieving councillors that as all of them were potential Cabinet members, Cabinet members were in no different a position than of other councillors. Mr Rees, who is a former Chair of South Pembrokeshire District Council, headmaster and schools inspector for Estyn, disagrees with Mr Harding and regarding Cllr Adams wrote: “Jacob Williams’motion, currently, is directly applicable to him but there was no declaration of interest.

As the position is salaried then surely there is a direct pecuniary interest. “There was an amendment to the motion [proposed by Cllr Paul Miller] that called for all members of cabinet to also be subjected to a vote at the AGM. A councillor asked for advice regarding members of cabinet being able to vote on a matter in which they had a direct pecuniary interest. You advised that as all councillors could be members of cabinet that all were entitled to vote. Surely the issue is not who could be members of cabinet but those who actually are.”

Mr Harding’s interpretation of the rules has been shown to be flawed in the past. In January, he was compelled to back down and release documents relating to the grants scandal in Pembroke Dock. In the month before last week’s Council meeting, Mr Harding was also forced into a humiliating public climb down – coincidentally by Cllr Jacob Williams – over his interpretation of the constitution affecting the election of the Council Leader. Mr Rees’ letter makes it plain that his letter is a formal complaint and that his letter has been seen by the Ombudsman’s office who regarding it that it should be treated as such. The Ombudsman has confirmed that Mr Harding has a twenty day period to reply prior to Mr Rees making a referral.

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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