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Badger goes to the farm

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potofgoldHELLO READERS! WELL, just when you thought that the aff airs of Pembrokeshire County Council could not slip any deeper into the realms of Whitehall farce (keep your trousers on, Huw!), we had the fi nal act in the saga of ‘A Funny Th ing Happened on the Way to the Dole Queue’, which Badger can only describe as not only being beyond parody but almost beyond belief. Back when Badger wrote his last column, our hero – Bryn Parry-Jones – was on his way out of County Hall, borne aloft on the narrow shoulders of the IPPG along a path strewn with palm fronds and rose petals, while Unison members sobbed with laughter. And then there was a surprise last minute twist of the type beloved by fi lm directors like Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher and Peter Rogers (the last being an auteur of the genre, being behind classic crime thrillers like Carry on Constable).

Rather like Banquo’s ghost rocking up at the feast, the Auditor made an appearance and threw over the council’s ‘best off er’ possible deal. Now, readers, to understand this you have to ask yourself a very straightforward question based upon events at County Hall over the last calendar year. Let us swift ly recap the situation, readers: • In September 2013, this newspaper exposed the fact that Bryn Parry- Jones had entered into a scheme designed to help him avoid tax on his seven-fi gure pension pot.

Instead, Mr Parry-Jones would receive the grossed up equivalents of the council’s contribution to his pot for him to invest as he wished for his retirement. • In January, the Assistant Auditor for Wales ruled that the payments handed to Bryn Parry-Jones in lieu of pension contributions were unlawful.

• In February, the council held an extraordinary meeting at which the council agreed to stop making the payments. • In May the Chief Executive was invited to repay the pay supplements.

• In July, the Chief Executive said, through his representatives, that not only would he not pay back the money he had received but that he was considering his position about suing the council to make it continue the unlawful payments.

• In August, the Chief Executive took a ‘period of absence’ aft er this paper revealed how he subjected two councillors to a tirade of abuse for not voting in accordance with his wishes and interests in relation to his repayment of the unlawful payments. • On October 16, the council agreed a £330K settlement package. Crucially, that settlement package included compensating the Chief Executive in respect of the unlawful payments he had not received since February and the unlawful payments were taken into account when calculating other elements of the compensation package. Several councillors parroted the view that, while it was a lot of money, the £330K was a triumph for tough negotiating and was the best the council could do.

• Last Tuesday, the Assistant Auditor for Wales stepped in and pointed out the logical fl aw in Baldrick Adams’ cunning plan. Can you guess what the Wales Audit Offi ce thought of compensating an offi cer for unlawful payments made to him? I bet you can, readers! But, apparently, the assembled brainpower of the council, its own legal team and their external advisors had not considered the Auditor might look askance at the prospect. For a few desperate hours, the carefully laid plans of mice and men (well, readers, certainly those of rodents) lay in tatters all about them. Contrary to the spin the council tried to put on events, this was not a case of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to the Auditor’s satisfaction. Th e Auditor made it clear that there was no agreement between him and the council to sign off on a deal which contained elements he had earlier this year ruled unlawful.

Drawing a comparison with modes of travel: it appeared as though that the council was in a small canoe on a well known brown and smelly waterway without a means of propulsion. Several issues arose: if the agreement was not signed, would Bryn return? Put another way: How could Bryn return when the leader of council, in an earlier interview, had related how much better things were now he had gone? More to the point, would the council need to call councillors together to vote on any revised deal? (Almost certainly) And what were then the risks of no deal being approved? Would the council allow the Investigatory Committee to meet and to potentially suspend Bryn to avoid him appearing at County Hall on Monday (Nov 3), like a cross between last night’s dodgy curry and Fu Manchu? But a deal was announced on Friday (Oct 31).

The council had appeased the Auditor by shaving the unlawful elements out of the deal. Bryn had taken a hit of £52K and would now receive a paltry £280K for piloting the council to public ignominy and to levels of ridicule that s u c c e e d e d in giving the impression that the council were to government what Laurel and Hardy were to piano moving. Now, readers, Badger has it from an impeccable source that his Royal Bryness’ opening gambit in negotiations was for a settlement around £550K in value. In the end, he has copped just over half that fi gure. And here, readers, here is the big question that arises from all of this?

If – on short notice – the former CEO of our council was prepared to shed over £50K from his pay off , what confi dence can we have that this was best settlement possible? Because the fact Bryn accepted over £50K less than the council agreed on October 16 suggests that, unless the council put another sweetener on the table to sugar taking £50K off the settlement, the £330K plus deal agreed originally was signifi cantly more than he would have settled for. The question for the thinking councillor is not whether or not they should have had the chance to scrutinise the lower deal, but rather whether they can have any faith whatsoever in the bland and blithe assurances of the council’s leadership that everything necessarily is as they are being told.

It is remarkable, readers, that a supposed group of independent councillors can come together – without whipping or direction – and as one not only back “the best deal possible” but churn out the same line of re-assuring drivel, self-justifi catory nonsense, and abuse of those who questioned whether £330K was the best deal possible. Pull the other one. It’s got bells on. No doubt another magnum opus from the council’s own Beria, former PC Rob Summons, is headed for the pages of another local newspaper explaining how – rather like the desperate propaganda put about by Squealer in Animal Farm – black is really white and that Boxer really was only taken to the hospital and not to the knacker’s yard. If Orwell shone the same light as on the Kremlin on the Cleddau, which animal would represent your councillor, readers?

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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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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent

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A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to a Herald reporter Callum Hicks said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, he said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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