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BRYN ‘MUST RESIGN’

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must resignCouncil Chief In Unlawful Payments Scandal

AN EXPLOSIVE report by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) has decided that payments made by Pembrokeshire County Council to its controversial CEO Bryn Parry-Jones WERE unlawful.

The report concludes that the council did not have legal powers to implement its infamous tax-dodge scheme, and follows an investigation by the Assistant Auditor General for Wales, Anthony Barrett, who said (emphasis added):

“Pembrokeshire Council has acted UNLAWFULLY and URGENTLY needs to rescind the decision about pensions opt-outs and stop any further payments to senior officers. The public should be able to expect the highest standards of decision-making at local authorities and the Council MUST now address the procedural weaknesses I have identified in my report. It needs to demonstrate to its electorate that it is operating in accordance with the law and in line with good governance principles.”

• Bryn’s pension scheme “a pay supplement”

• Police now meeting with Audit Office

• Full Council to meet and consider report

• Payments must stop immediately

plaid callsPlaid Cymru calls for resignations

PLAID CYMRU representatives for Pembrokeshire have called on the leadership of Pembrokeshire Council to consider their position following a damning report by the Wales Audit Office report on ‘unlawful’ pensions opt out payments at the council.

Mid and West AM Simon Thomas, Shadow Education Minister for Plaid Cymru commented: “Over £50,000 has been paid to the Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire Council and one other senior officer. My Plaid Cymru colleague Rhodri Glyn Thomas and his team have worked to strengthen accountability over the remuneration packages of local authority chief executives, and have been successful in seeing changes to salaries being scrutinised by the independent remuneration board.”

“The Wales Audit Office is clear that the pension opt out payments at Pembrokeshire Council were ‘unlawful’. In light of this report the leadership of Pembrokeshire Council should consider their position. Pembrokeshire taxpayers will want the council to revoke the decision on pension pay-outs and halt any further payments to senior officers.”

Leader of Plaid Cymru on Pembrokeshire Council, Councillor Michael Williams, who sat on the council’s audit committee added: “I questioned the legality of these payments at the time. I’m sad that the Wales Audit Office has ruled that Pembrokeshire Council has acted illegally. “We have one of the highest paid senior management yet we stumble from one crisis to another. Pembrokeshire Council has failed our young people on education and let our most vulnerable down on social care. “Pembrokeshire Council was on the cusp of being put into special measures and we were only redeemed by the intervention and assistance of the Ministerial Board.

voices concernCllr Paul Miller voices concern

“THIS REPORT from the Audit Office backs up what I, the Labour Group, opposition Councillors and to be fair, the Pembrokeshire Herald, have said all along. The council never had the power to make this decision and never should have made it in the way it did.

Bryn Parry-Jones, with the assistance of 6 long standing Councillors, awarded himself a 5 figure pay rise. Discussions of complex and technical pension arrangements have always been a smoke screen for what is a back door pay rise, pure and simple.

A key question your readers may be asking themselves though is why? Why through the back door? This council have never been afraid in the past of simply declaring ‘you have to pay the best to get the best’. Well we all know the reason and that’s because in 2011 when this decision was taken the council was in the process of implementing its new pay model for staff. That pay model took thousands of pounds a year away from some of the authorities lowest paid staff and so instead of asking themselves if it was right, morally right, to give Bryn an extra £20,000 while taking thousands from someone cutting the grass on £15,000 a year the question became, well how can we get away with giving him £20,000, without it looking like a pay rise?

I was clear when this started that the arrangement should be terminated immediately and the chief executive suspended pending a formal investigation. We will be calling for an extraordinary meeting of council as soon as possible and insisting that motion is put to an all member vote!

Pembrokeshire’s council tax payers are going to be furious again and yet again feel powerless to act.

Well I can assure them that I will be acting and I would encourage them to talk, lobby, accost if necessary their local councillors, particularly their local independent group Councillors, and demand they put a stop to the shady, back door way this council is determined to operate!”

‘Petition for Change at Pembrokeshire Council’ page on facebook and my petition (over 350 signatories so far) at www.paulmillerpembrokeshire.com/councilchange

 

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Planning approved for change of use in Tenby’s ‘drinking quarter’

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THE RESTROSPECTIVE planning applications made by Mike Evans were granted approval by national park planners.

A former national park member who changed of use of historic buildings without permission was unrepentant about making a retrospective application.

Since last July, former stables in Tenby’s Sergeant’s Lane have been rented out to be used as a seating area for the nearby Harbwr Brewery.

A planning application seeking retrospective change of use of the Grade II listed buildings and previously derelict and overgrown stable yard for the serving of food and drink, made by by Harbwr Brewery owner Mike Evans, was approved by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority planners on Wednesday, 1 February.

The application – recommended for conditional approval – was brought to the National Park’s Development Management Committee as Mr Evans was a recent member of the national park authority.

Also approved were works to the listed building roof.

At the meeting, members expressed concern about the retrospective native of the application, made by a former member of the planning committee.

Ted Lewis of nearby Rock Terrace raised concerns about potential waste and officers’ support for the retrospective application, claiming Mr Evans had shown “a complete failure” to abide by conditions imposed on a previous application.

He also referred to recent references to Sergeant Lane as being Tenby’s “drinking quarter,” adding: “I was horrified at that, if it becomes a ‘drinking quarter’ it will drive out local residents.”

Former county councillor Mr Evans, unrepentant at the retrospective nature of the application, said the area had been transformed from one of “pigeons, rats and dog [mess],” to one with five thriving businesses.

He said the development was providing “good, exciting and well-paid jobs,” adding: “At the core of everything we do is sustainability, we do nothing to harm the area and community we live in. At our own expense we clean and maintain the lane regularly.”

He described retrospective planning applications were “a legitimate route for planning,” adding it was the usage of the buildings that “has evolved,” rather than structural changes.

Tenby Civic Society has previously raised concerns about potential noise nuisance to nearby residential properties.

Until the late 1990s, many of the buildings on Sergeants Lane were used as warehousing and stores for Hermann Thomas and Co Plumbers.

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MP’s call for better County rail links to boost tourism

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has called on the Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething to improve rail services into Pembrokeshire as a vital step in boosting the number of overseas visitors to the County.

Mr Crabb claimed that too many West Wales services do not carry on beyond Carmarthen, while other services are cancelled or delayed. The MP has previously written to the Train operators about the quality and reliability of rail services to and from Pembrokeshire.

During the meeting of the Welsh Affairs Committee, which he chairs, Mr Crabb said Pembrokeshire is “Wales’s outstanding tourist destination”.

During this final evidence session of the Committee’s inquiry into Wales as a global tourist destination, Welsh MPs quizzed Minister Gething MS, as well as UK Government Tourism Minister, Stuart Andrew MP, and Patricia Yates the Chief Executive of Visit Britain about what steps they are collectively taking to boost tourist numbers in Wales. Recent data findings show that Wales currently underperforms when it comes to attracting international visitors in comparison to the rest of the UK.

Questions regarding Welsh Government’s proposed Tourism Tax; the performance of Visit Britain and Visit Wales in marketing Wales successfully; and transport connections into Wales were put to the panellists.

Commenting after the Committee hearing, MP Crabb added:

“During the summer months, people flock from all over the world to visit Pembrokeshire’s beautiful coastline, it is a fantastic visitor destination for individuals and families alike. But, for many, car travel remains the only reliable option for travel to the County due to the poor rail services.”

“Far too many services stop short at Carmarthen or are cancelled. Welsh Government must urgently look to increase the number of services available, as well as the quality of train services if we are to compete on the global tourism market.”

The committee session can be watched in full here: Parliamentlive.tv – Welsh Affairs Committee

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Dyfed-Powys police precept to rise by 7.75 per cent

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has announced a 7.75 per cent rise in the Dyfed-Powys Police precept for 2023-24, following a meeting of the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel.

The Police and Crime Commissioner is responsible for setting the budget for the police, which includes setting the precept which is the element of council tax that goes to the police.

After a process of extensive scrutiny, Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel unanimously supported the Commissioner’s precept proposal for 2023/24, which will raise the average band D property precept by £1.87 per month or £22.49 per annum

In setting the precept, Mr Llywelyn considered an array of factors, including the Chief Constable’s future resourcing requirement, Police Officer recruitment targets, the level of reserves, future investment requirements for critical infrastructure, efficiency and productivity plans, in addition to feedback from residents of the Dyfed-Powys area.

Mr Llywelyn said: “I am painfully aware of the pressures that the cost-of-living crisis is putting on our communities.

“Sadly, these challenges have hit us hard and despite careful financial planning, there will be increasingly difficult decisions to make over the next few years.

“There is a fine balance between ensuring an efficient and effective Policing Service and ensuring the safety of the public, whilst also ensuring value for money for the taxpayers and sound financial management. These have been paramount in my considerations.”

To inform his considerations for 2023/24 and in order to fulfil his responsibilities as Commissioner, Mr Llywelyn consulted with the public to obtain their views on the level of Police Precept increase.

Of the 1,194 respondents, 67.2% noted that they would be happy to pay between 5% and 12.5% towards local policing, with 47.7% of those happy to pay between 7.5% and 12.5%.

The 7.75% increase announced today by the Police and Crime Commissioner, will set a precept of £312.65 per Band D property for 2023/24.

This increase will raise a total precept of £72.518m and will provide a total funding of £133.414m, representing a £5.970m (4.68%) increase for 2023/24.

Mr Llywelyn added: “The financial landscape continues to be both unpredictable and challenging, but I would like to thank the public for providing their views through the consultation, and to the Police and Crime Panel members for their continued support.”

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