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Grants probe continues

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probe continues Councillor seeks fair treatment Stoddart steps up attack Pugh wins award

COUNTY COUNCILLOR Mike Stoddart has drawn attention to potentially preferential treatment given to requests for information made by members of Pembrokeshire’s ruling IPPG.

At December’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Rob Summons responded with information that purported to rebut a post that Cllr Stoddart had made on his website, oldgrumpy.co.uk. Councillor Stoddart said:

“The article on my website that inspired his request was first published on Saturday, December 7. So, the earliest his request could have been validated was on Monday, December 9. There he was just a couple of days later waving the reply around in the council chamber.

“So first thing on the morning of Monday 16 December I put in a request for the amount of grant paid in respect of slating at numbers 25 and 29 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock, both of which appeared to fall within Cllr Summons’ helpful definition of freely available information. This brought forward one of those “out of office” replies from the information officer telling me they were on leave until 18 December.

“Concerned that I hadn’t received the customary official acknowledgement, I emailed again on 19 December when another “out of office reply” came back from the same officer telling me they were now on leave to 6 January. Fortunately, it contained an alternative email address of someone who could be contacted in the case of urgency.

“This I did and have now been told that “the programme officers who provide this information are on annual leave over the holidays” and I can expect a substantive reply within the 20 working days allowed by statute, i.e. by January 20, 2014.”

Councillor Stoddart went on to explain:

The employees’ Code of Conduct
says that:

“ … Employees must serve the Authority as a whole … [T]hey must serve all Councillors and not just those from the controlling group…”

HAVING received an apology – of sorts – from IPPG Cabinet member David Pugh just before Christmas, Councillor Mike Stoddart has questioned how grant money was spent on refurbishing and redeveloping 29 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock: a property tenanted by a charity shop run by the Paul Sartori Foundation.

Councillor Stoddart points out that the total cost of works done to the property on the basis of a grant for £21,000 would have been in the region of £53,000, including works to remove asbestos from outbuildings. Councillor Stoddart points out that the outbuildings concerned were excluded from a calculation of the retail space which attracted the grants and goes on to explain:

“The work done to the rear of the building involved converting some rather scruffy outbuildings into four bedsits. Councillor Pugh told Full Council on December 12,

“The simple fact is that the developer has taken on much higher cost projects bringing semi-derelict buildings back into use both commercial and residential which incidentally is not grant aided.”

“I think the trick here is to suggest that, because these outbuildings were formerly part of the storage space for the shop, their conversion into bedsits can be classified as refurbishing retail space.

“The tender document calls for the removal of 80 sq m of asbestos sheeting and the disposal of 5 tonnes of the material.This sheeting weighs in at 1.25 cwt (62 kilo) per sq m.In fact asbestos sheets typically weigh about 3lb per sq ft which works out at roughly 14 kilo per sq m.

“Of course, when Cllr Pugh made his speech to council he was acting on behalf of the Cabinet and under the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility all members of that body are saddled with what he said.

“If they have any regard for the truth, they should be demanding that Cllr Pugh accompanies them to 29 Dimond Street and shows them where exactly this £53,000 has been spent on refurbishing the retail space for which the grant of £21,000 was paid.”

AFTER being forced to climb down from his assault on a fellow-Councillor’s probity, IPPG Cabinet member David Pugh’s New Year got off to a bad start when he was voted the winner of the first Golden Don Qui Award by visitors to East Williamston County Councillor Jacob Williams’ website.

The Awards, which take their name from Councillor Pugh’s now infamous comparison of Councillor Mike Stoddart to Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, were inaugurated by Jacob Williams after a post on his website made the suggestion. Councillor Williams explains:

“What happened at the Full Council meeting spurred a comment on my website from Paul Absalom. Taking into account the poor way Cllr. Pugh conducted himself at the council meeting, his outrageous comments directed towards Cllr. Stoddart, and then his humbling comedown when it came to the ‘facts,’

Paul Absalom suggests that, following the ‘Don Quixote’ gag: “I bet Cllr Pugh feels like a right ‘Don Qui’ now.”

“Cllr. Pugh (with 37% of the vote) beat council leader Cllr. Jamie Adams (29%) into second place, and is a thoroughly deserving recipient – congratulations. Publicly accusing another councillor of being incompetent or a liar is serious stuff, and even more serious when the accusation is based upon untrue information presented as fact. The main thread of Cllr. Pugh’s botched attempt at discrediting Cllr. Mike Stoddart at the December 12 full council meeting was based on something he had made up. He has since apologised, and will have come to realise that the only character he was assassinating in his bungling tirade, was his own.”

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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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