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Grant scandal: Judge for yourself who’s telling the truth, says Stoddart



grant scandalJUST BEFORE Christmas, the Herald reported that Cllr David Pugh, Cabinet member for economic development, had been forced to issue an “unreserved apology” to Hakin councillor Mike Stoddart for comments he made at the council meeting on December 12.

The offending remarks came during a debate on Cllr Stoddart’s notice of motion calling for information on property grants in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock to be made available to all elected members on a confidential basis.

Mike Stoddart has posted several articles casting doubt on the probity of some of these grants on his website

One issue was the apparent discrepancy between the amount of external render (125 sq metres) and painting (300 sq metres) in the tender for No 25 Dimond Street Pembroke Dock compared to the 50 square meters shown on the drawings.

During the December meeting, Cllr Pugh launched into a savage personal attack on Cllr Stoddart who, he claimed had failed to take into account “a third side elevation” at No 25, which, when included, brought the tender into line with the area on site.

Not content with pointing out this alleged error, Cllr Pugh then asked members to decide “Whether this was a deliberate untruth, or sheer incompetence on his behalf by not checking the facts?”

However, Mike Stoddart posted pictures on his website that proved that this “third side elevation” didn’t exist outside of Cllr Pugh’s imagination and the cabinet member had no option but to apologise.

Although the apology was said to be “unreserved”, there was a sting in the tail because Cllr Pugh insisted that Cllr Stoddart should withdraw all his other allegations regarding these grants.

The Hakin councillor was having none of that, however, because he had issues with other claims Cllr Pugh had made, particularly with regard to No 29 Dimond Street which is currently occupied by the Paul Sartori charity shop.

According to the final account for this project £53,000 had been spent on refurbishing the retail space, but on visiting the premises Cllr Stoddart, an experienced former building contractor, could see nothing that would justify this level of expenditure.

The walls of the shop were still covered in the original wood-chip wallpaper and the ceilings still sported the Artex that had obviously been there for years.

And the lighting, which was supposed to have been renewed, comprised three ancient, blackened fluorescent fittings.

However, Cllr Pugh told the December meeting that, had he bothered to look more carefully, Cllr Stoddart would have seen that “most” of the retail space was given over to storage and cleaning clothes and it was here that the £53.000 had been spent.

Mike Stoddart wrote to Cllr Pugh pointing out that what he described as “most” was a partitioned-off area to the back left rear of the shop measuring roughly 2.5 meters square, or 7 sq metres in all.

As the total floor area was 50 sq metres this made up less than 15% of the whole.

He asked the Cabinet member for an explanation, but Cllr Pugh has replied that he doesn’t wish to continue with the “dialogue”.Mike Stoddart told the Herald: “I can understand why Cllr Pugh would want to keep his head down over this.

Having already been forced to issue one apology, to have to issue a second would destroy what little is left of his credibility.

He had plenty to say for himself at full council when he though he had the upper hand, but now the boot is on the other foot he has taken a vow of silence.

During his speech at full council he said of me: “But then getting at the truth is not on his agenda. Your readers can judge for themselves who is being cavalier with the truth.”

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery



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’



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:

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



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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