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Narberth School site talks held in private

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Extraordinary Economy meeting July 18DISCUSSIONS surrounding Pembrokeshire County Council’s loan to a developer for the development of the old school site in Narberth were held in private yesterday (Jul 18).

An Extraordinary meeting of the Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee was called to debate the matter following a decision made by Cabinet which was called in by Cllr Jacob Williams.

At the Cabinet meeting on July 4, discussions were also held in private sessions but it was agreed that the council should accept a revised offer from the developer, Abbeymore Estates/Knox, and that a loan be made available to them in order to facilitate the development of the site.

It is understood that the loan is more than £2million.

The Extraordinary Economy committee convened and discussed whether or not the matter should be held in private.

Councillor Jonathan Nutting asked for the reasons why the meeting should be held in private but the director, Dr Stephen Jones, only repeated what was set out on the agenda.

Cllr Mike John said: “We’ve got a duty to the developer and we’re in a negotiation position with that developer and they are acting with us in good faith and it wouldn’t be right for that information to go out.”

Cllr Guy Woodham asked whether or not parts of the meeting could be held in private rather than the whole meeting.

The Council’s Legal officer, Clair Incledon, said that parts of the meeting could be taken in public but added that officers would not be able to provide information as confidently as they would if it was held in private.

Cllr John added that the reason for the meeting taking place was the financial aspects of the report.

Cllr Jacob Williams said: “Cllr Nutting asked a straightforward question; what information was likely to fall into that category and Dr Jones just repeated what’s on the agenda, he repeated there is likely to be information, but I was quite clear that Cllr Nutting wanted to know what information.

“I don’t accept that there is actually commercially sensitive information, what we regard as that could be that the developer is struggling or failing to attract private investment which is already a matter of public interest.

“We have to weigh up the public interest and I would ask the question; what is to be gained or what is to be lost by convening in public. What I think would be gained is public confidence or at least the ability for the public to know what actually has gone on.

“If we convene in secret today, it would be secrecy for secrecy’s sake and there is a lot to be gained by holding this meeting in public.

“A lot rides on this report and it is a fundamental part to the cabinet decision so I would say that should be in the public.”

Cllr Michael Williams said: “The report states that the Strategic Asset Management group discussed this application, I’m a member of that group but I’m not sure if we can make binding recommendations.

“I can’t see the difference between the loan we gave to Saundersfoot Harbour Commissioners of £1.5million which were discussed in public and yet when I asked to see the business plan I was told it was commercially sensitive and confidential and I had to sign a confidentiality document before I could see it.

“This is the allocation of public money and too often we retreat behind the cloak of privacy.”

Cllr Mike Evans said there was confidentiality but added: “It’s whether the principle of public knowledge, with public funds, outweighs this, and taking on board Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse’s comment that a developer might walk away, this is a game changer and I am interested in it that the authority uses some of our assets to enable development within the county.

“The terms of the loan that this authority might offer could well open up a new market and this might lead to developers walking in.”

Cllr Mike John proposed that the meeting be held in private session and that was passed by eight votes to five.

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Former Cardigan Castle director sentencing delayed

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THE SENTENCING of a former director of Cardigan Castle who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft totalling over £40,000 has been delayed.

Former director, Jac Davies, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft was due to be sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) at Swansea Crown Court – but has now been delayed.

Davies who held the £40,000 a year post fraudulently obtained £33,098.75 and stole a further £7,932.97 from the award winning restoration project..

Davies held his position at Cardigan Castle from September 2017 to November 2019.

The defendant has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining £4,143.20 from the castle on December 21, 2017.

Again Davies admitted to fraudulently obtaining £28,955.55 between February 4, 2019 and November 3, 2019.

Two further charges of theft were also admitted – one charge of  theft from the castle of £1,908.18 between May 2, 2018 and May 24, 2019 and a further charge of theft from Cardigan Castle Enterprises to the sum of £6,024.79.

Dyfed-Powys Police conducted a year long investigation after being contacted by the castle board of directors.

Financial discrepancies were identified during financial monitoring.

An internal investigation was launched and Davies left his position within the castle in October 2019 following a disciplinary process.

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Dyfed-Powys Police criticised for failing to record thousands of crimes

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A SHOCKING new report says that Dyfed-Powys Police failed to record thousands of crimes, despite being told to improve two-and-a-half years ago.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the force had documented just 87.6% of reported crime – meaning upto 4,400 crimes are not recorded each year.

The report highlighted that of violent crimes, 85.4% were registered, which means about 2,400 went unrecorded, some involving domestic abuse or the vulnerable.

The force said it had “plans in place to improve its crime recording.”

HMIC reached their conclusion by comparing the number of reports to the police with recorded numbers. About 35,900 were reported.

In 2018, HMIC found that our local force was too often not recording crimes. And in 2014 it was reported the force was one of the worst in the UK at recording crimes. 

Dyfed-Powys Police T/Chief Constable, Claire Parmenter was quick to respond to the shocking finding. In a statement emailed to The Herald she said: “We accept the concerns and recommendations published by HMICFRS in respect of crime data integrity. As an organisation, we are firmly committed to supporting victims and putting them at the heart of everything we do. The force has plans in place to improve its crime recording and I am determined we will get this right.

“Since the previous HMICFRS inspection in 2018 we have made significant improvements in our response to Domestic Abuse victims, creating the vulnerability desk which provides real time intelligence to officers attending incidents of Domestic Abuse and ensuring that safeguarding arrangements are in place through a new partnership hub. Recent audits in April evidenced we were achieving a 98% compliance for the completion of risk assessments. This ensures that every Domestic Abuse victim is looked after and kept safe.

“We have a programme of change already in place which will deliver significant process and cultural change. The elements of this programme will improve the forces’ ability to manage demand, support victims, improve the timeliness and quality of investigations and supervision of crime. HMICFRS were unable to take this project into account as part of this inspection. Delivery plans commence next month (June 2021).

“Since the date of this inspection, we are already seeing improvements as a result of the swift additional action we have taken, achieving 100% crime recording compliance in respect of anti-social behaviour for February and March 2021 which is positive.”

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Firefighters extinguish blaze at St Catherine’s Fort, Tenby

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A CONTROLLED wood fire earlier in the day caused a fire to break out on Tenby’s St Catherine’s Island on Thursday (May 6).

Heat that was caused by a wood fire earlier in the day caused a ignition on the unburned wood nearby that was needed to be extinguished by Tenby fire crew.

Taking to their Facebook page, St Catherine’s island thanked Tenby Fire Brigade for their assistance.

No serious damage was caused by the incident.

The spokesperson said: “A massive shout out to Tenby Fire Brigade last night who were called to the Island last night after we left following a long day working on the Fort and burning off all the old flooring, having now replaced it all. 

“We had spent at least half an hour making sure that our controlled barrel fire was out. Unfortunately the ground was so hot it transferred to the rest of the unburned wood. 

“Thanks to our amazing local Fire Service, they were on hand to help us out and no damage occurred.”

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