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Badger and the magic carpets

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WHAT a rum old week, last week was! Back in the news was Tony Blair, both boosting Ed Milliband and as the potential focus of the Sir John Chilag’s Badger85imagelong-running inquiry into the Iraq War. It is likely that as long as the current state of affairs continues at County Hall, the Audit Committee’s inquiry into shady dealings in Pembroke Dock will take even longer to conclude. Lest we forget readers, the Audit Committee looked at one property as a test case with the clear intention under the then committee chair, John Evans MBE of looking further if they found something amiss. They found a lot amiss readers. But in the period between discovering that council officers were complacent lazy and smug bureaucrats who had missed a scam so obvious that it raises questions about their ability to organize the proverbial in a brewery and the writing of the final report, Chair John Evans MBE left. He was dismayed by the council’s ‘lack of appetite’ to be honest and straightforward about the extent of their officers’ incompetence. Your friend Badger has it on particularly good authority from a number of separate people that there was a widely held view that two officers in particular had displayed a level of incompetence that went beyond mere dim-wittedness and strayed into the realms of almost unbelievable crass stupidity. Badger blows those officers names and he knows who mark the final decision not to discipline them.

We now have a new Chair of the Audit Committee. One-time legal representative of John Allen-Mirehouse and onetime partner in a firm that has previously advised our County Council, Peter Jones was the only applicant for the post of lay member of the Audit Committee who came forward during the Council’s extended deadline period. Badger wonders how Mr Jones became aware of the exciting opportunity to renew his acquaintance with Johnny M and the rest of the not so great and less than good members of the council. This newspaper asked the council for details at the time it announced Mr Jones’ appointment. It was told that the council had extended the deadline for applications for the lay member’s post as the original advert had attracted insufficient applicants. We can infer from that the ideal number of applicants was the total of original applicants plus one. Now, readers all of this might seem like ancient history re-heated but we are now getting to the crux of the matter.

Having found irregularities in the sample property, one would anticipate that a new chair would he keen to press on with the investigation and fulfil the Audit Committee’s role. For that role’s definition we need look no farther than the Council’s Annual Statement of Accounts: ‘The Audit Committee, made up of County Councillors and a -non-elected” independent Chair, considers matters related to the authority’s financial affairs and the appropriateness of its risk management, internal control, corporate governance and internal/ external audit arrangements. The Audit Committee provides the forum for formal and transparent scrutiny of these arrangements, whilst improving oversight and accountability of the authority’s governance arrangements.” So, Badger anticipates, readers might envisage a new Chair rolling up their sleeves and getting ready to crack on with the work in hand about the grants scandal in Pembroke Dock. Not a bit of it. Let’s all move on and forget all about it, seemed to be

the order of Mr Jones’ day way back in September 2014. It’s all a long time ago and things are all better now. Best not to dwell, eh? How usefully uninquisitive, readers. Mr Jones’ broom swept exceedingly clean. The carpets at County Hall must be getting mighty lumpy with all the things brushed underneath them: the Audit Committee’s investigation into the grants scandal in Pembroke Dock being just one addition to the towering pile of ordure lurking under the Axminster. And now the latest piece of idiocy. At public expense and miffed at being proved so often wrong 11. Jacob Williams, the Council \ legal team approached a banister to try to spike his goo, Naught> Councillor Williams had offered an opinion that the advice given that allowed ClIr Mike James to chair a meeting of the Audit Committee in December when the letter of the law prohibits it was dead wrong. So, off went the Council’s legal team to pool their own ignorance with council tax-payers’ money and scurry off to St John’s Chambers.

Bristol for some advice. Simon Morgan, for that was the barrister instructed to advise the Council’s legal team, is an experienced practitioner, called to the Bar in 1988 and in practice as a solicitor before that. Mr Morgan is not, however, a specialist in Welsh local government law. His mightily impressive CV -and it truly is impressive, readers -shows a host of experience in serious criminal cases and health and safety prosecutions. Able he undoubtedly is a specialist in the relevant field he is not.

On the face of his CV, calling on Mr Morgan was the equivalent of calling on a plasterer to sort out your central heating. And mighty strange was Mr Morgan” advice. You see readers. Cllr Mike James – to whom Badger attaches no blame for this farrago.

Williams’ refusing to give up the point, Mr Jones enquired whether Jacob Williams was a lawyer. A wily old legal campaigner, readers, Mr Jones would not ask a question to which he did not already know the answer. His put-down, disguised as a question wanted those present to draw a clear inference: Lawyers are all terribly clever chaps – in the case of the acting head of legal. an honorary chap – and that mere mortal councillors should not enquire too closely of their expertise 1 e s t Icarus like they plunge to their farrago – was not Chair of the committee in Mr Jones’ absence; he was only chairing a meeting of the committee. You might think that is a distinction without a difference.

The Wales Audit Office did, It backed ClIr interpretation of the relevant regulations. Now Mr Jones is a mighty experienced lawyer, also. He found it within himself to attend last Thursday’s meeting. Mr Jones’ response to the conflicting advice was pretty straightforward. He backed the officers. He stuck with the status quo. The legal advice given by the council’s own legal officers was correct. Mr Morgan was correct. The WAO was correct. It was all the fault of the government for drafting such imprecise guidance. No harm, no foul. And then, with pomposity that bespoke his exasperation at ClIr

doom,. Rather like the child in Hans Christian Andersen’s Nay tale, Cllr Williams was having none of it. The emperor not only had no clothes but was so blinded by his own magnificence that he could not conceive his exposed position. The idea that literacy and an eye for detail was all ClIr Williams required escaped the Audit Chair. Cllr Williams is surely right that, where regulations are ambiguous, there should not be a rush to interpret them in favour of a convenient status quo; rather. calm reflection as to whether it is worth the risk of taking unlawful decisions in the event the regulations are breached. Ever willing to do a chap a favour however Johnny M proposed that the carpets at County Hall would not be damaged by having one more thing swept under them. Best not to be too curious. eh readers? Best not to dwell.

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Fleet Air Arm veteran donates ‘a lifetime’s research’ to heritage centre

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A CENTENARIAN Fleet Air Arm Veteran has made a nostalgic return to Pembrokeshire to donate documents, photographs and books – a lifetime of research – to Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre.

Hugh Langrishe, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday, lived in Pembrokeshire for 25 years – initially at Llanfallteg and then at Saundersfoot – with his late wife, Pam, who died last year. Since 1994 he has lived at Bromyard, Herefordshire.

He was joined by his son Jack and partner Julie Cavanagh, and friend Cliff Morris.

Hugh served as an engineering officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II and was attached to Royal Navy squadrons at air stations in Australia which supported the British Pacific Fleet. This prompted his research into many aspects of aviation history. When living locally he was a very active member of the Pembrokeshire Aviation Group.

This was his first visit to the Centre and he commented: “I did not expect to find such a professional museum. Everyone involved has done a job which is absolutely outstanding. The result is better than many a professional museum or collection I have seen. It deserves any award it might fetch.”

John Evans, of the Heritage Trust, added: “We were honoured to welcome Hugh back to the county and to be entrusted with his archive which includes a remarkable photographic collection.”

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First drive-thru Starbucks in Pembrokeshire approved

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PEMBROKESHIRE is to get its first drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop after a scheme was backed by county planners today, May 21.

An application – expected to create 20 jobs – by Magic Bean Company Ltd to site an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station and drive through Starbucks coffee shop on land adjoining Days Garage, Fishguard Road, Haverfordwest, was recommended for conditional approval when it came before the May meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee.

A report for planners said: “There are two principal elements to the proposed development. The provision of an EV charging station with eight charging points and a drive through coffee shop, which will provide 20 full time jobs.

“A further 13 parking spaces are provided to serve the development, including two spaces for people with disabilities. The coffee shop will be situated at the western end of the site opposite the proposed EV charging station, which is centrally located within the site. “

It added: “The coffee shop building will be single storey with a ‘tower’ feature in the west elevation where the customer collection point will be located beneath a timber finished pergola.”

The report said the proposal represented a more effective use of the application site than its current car parking use.

10 representations from members of the public raised concerns about the proposal, issues including: no need for additional coffee shops locally, adverse impact on existing small local coffee shops and that the planning authority should not be supporting “multinational businesses,” and littering and highway issues.

While Starbucks was not mentioned in the planning documents, Magic Bean Company Ltd, on its website, says: “Established in 2014, The Magic Bean Company opened our first store and became the first licensee to open a Starbucks Drive Thru.

“Since then, we have gone on to become Starbuck’s only national growth partner covering England and Wales, developing our green electric vehicle Starbucks platform.”

Speaking at the May 21 meeting, Magic Bean Company Ltd agent Matthew Gray said the drive-thru coffee shop would be a Starbucks, adding: “The application is driven by the requirement for Days to diversify, following a slowing of vehicle sales across the UK.”

He added: “It’s pretty well reported that car sales are slow in the UK in the past few years, this is an opportunity to boost the viability of their [Days’] own operation.”

He said the eight EV charging units would be provided by Ionity, one of Europe’s largest charging providers, with a need for more such facilities in west Wales.

After Cllr Alistair Cameron raised concerns from members of the public about potential littering, Mr Gray said Starbucks had a standard approach to litter management, with staff maintaining the area, and coffee outlets having a lower level of litter than some other drive-thrus.

Concerns were raised by Councillor John Cole on highways grounds, fearing the combination of the drive-thru and a nearby school, along with the nearby annual County Show, could create “havoc” with parents stopping off for a coffee.

Following an approval call by Cllr Brian Hall, members unanimously backed the application.

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Lifeboat crew rescues stranded yacht following gearbox and engine failure

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THE ANGLE RNLI lifeboat crew sprang into action after two yachts were stranded due to gearbox and engine issues.

At 6:47 am on Monday, May 13, the crew responded to a Pan-Pan call – a distress signal indicating a serious issue that is not immediately life-threatening – from a yacht experiencing gearbox failure just north of Thorn Island.

Concerns arose that the disabled yacht might drift into the shipping channel, prompting the swift launch of Angle’s lifeboat. Upon arrival, the crew conversed with the yacht’s skipper and subsequently towed the vessel to safety. The yacht was secured at Milford Marina, and the lifeboat was back at the station and ready for further service by 9:00 am.

A day earlier, on Sunday, the lifeboat crew received a call from the coastguard regarding a yacht with engine failure south of Skokholm Island. The lifeboat was promptly launched and reached the scene within approximately 20 minutes.

After assessing the situation, it was determined that the best course of action was to tow the 12-metre yacht back to Milford Marina. Once the yacht was safely docked, the lifeboat crew returned to base, preparing the vessel for future missions by 11:00 am.

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