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Expenses claim ‘swept under the carpet’

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not happyMEMBERS of the Audit Committee of Pembrokeshire County Council on Thursday discussed the controversial expenses claims made by Council Leader Jamie Adams. Cllr Adams claimed £4,649 worth of expenses over a four year period that dates back to 2008, which is before Cllr Adams lost his seat, and reclaimed them when he was re-elected, despite the forms stating expenses should be claimed within a three month period. Cllr Tessa Hodgson said:

“Members of the public have a low opinion of politicians, which is a great concern among councillors. Councillors should not just be whiter than white, they should be seen as whiter than white.

“I propose a wording change on the forms to say expenses ‘must’ be claimed within three months. This will help confusion with expenses and improve the public view.

Welsh Audit Officer, John Dwight said: “I’m confident that claims as part of audit were checked and authorised. Nothing stops you making a claim after the time specified”.

The Director of finance and leisure, Mark Lewis said:

“It’s a difficult issue. When you read the regulations it says you must set a limit. On a personal view, I think there needs to be some review. It’s not the most easy thing to deal with. With regards to this, payments can still be settled”.

Cllr Jacob Williams told the committee: “I’m very disappointed with the director’s report. I don’t think it’s as complicated as you say. Cllr Hodgson mentioned the public view and I think they’re very angry. If anybody’s head is on the block it is Cllr Adams. In a way, I’m not happy that the director wrote the report.

“The council has to show reasonableness in its decision. There were 44 claim sheets for 400 separate journeys, which were handed in April 10, 2013 and approved April 13, 2013. I know that it would take a long time to clear that. That’s very quick to go through each and every claim to make sure he was where he said he was.

“It is reasonable to accept a claim after three months if the person is ill and unable to hand it in on time. The director of finance and leisure has responsibility and to approve travel claims that are four years out is in no way reasonable. And for Cllr Adams to do it for the reason of ‘poor book keeping’ is most certainly unreasonable and I can’t believe it’s being swept under the carpet”.

John Allen-Mirehouse said: “Late claims disrupt accounting. I think Jacob’s claim was that the director was not entitled to do what he did, but he is. Although we say claims must be put in within three months, it is not the law. Payments will be made after whatever is deemed reasonable. It is an unfortunate delay of four years, but the director acted within his power. What has happened is extremely awkward, careless and inexcusable”.

Cllr Thomas Richards said: “If we just deal with the Notice of Motion, we can move on to the future, whether it’s done today or not”.

Cllr Jacob Williams replied: “It seems that I’m the only one who sees it as unreasonable. It was an unreasonable decision to have approved them. We would have to submit Notice of Motion if they weren’t approved. Previously the director wrote a report and approved the payment. The legislation has holes in it, but let’s forget that for now. We mustn’t think it’s reasonable”.

Cllr Allen-Mirehouse said: “You may have a point, but the director was in his remit. Whether or not you think he should or shouldn’t approved it doesn’t matter. There is a chink in the armour, but he was obeying the law, even though I agree that a four year payment is unreasonable”.

Committee chairman,Cllr John Evans said: “We acknowledge affairs, but we need to have greater clarification to deal with the investigation of the first part. Then we will look at how we’re going to propose recommendation of expenses. In addition, we need commentary from Monitoring Officer, Laurence Harding so we have complete pictures. I also request the Welsh Audit office to prepare a new report combined with a statement and commentary from John Dwight for absolute clarity. Proposals are then to be discussed at the next meeting”.

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Inquest opened into tragic death of Ianto Jenkins, 3, at family’s farm

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THE CORONER has opened and adjourned the inquest into the tragic death of a three-year-old boy who died after being hit a vehicle at the family farm.

The inquest, in Llanelli, was adjourned with a date to be fixed in four months.

Ianto Cerwyn Sior Jenkins was sadly pronounced dead at Rhosfach Farm near Efailwen, which is north of Clunderwen, at about 19:40 HRS on August 3.

He had been playing with his sister and cousin at the time.

It was explained Ianto was struck by a pick-up truck and trailer while playing on his bicycle.

Coroner’s officer Hayley Rogers said the emergency services were called to the farm at 19:00, after reports that a child had been in a crash with a piece of farm machinery but he died at the scene.

Coroner Paul Bennett extended his “belated personal condolences” to the family and told them the coroner’s service would conduct its enquiries with the “appropriate diligence and propriety”.

Ianto’s mother, Chloe Picton, previously paid tribute to her “blue-eyed boy… who was always smiling and laughing. He loved being out on the farm and going on the tractor with his daddy. Ianto and I had a very strong bond, he was ‘mummy’s little boy’ and was always by my side everywhere we went, now that’s been taken from me.”

Inquiries by the Health and Safety Executive and police are still ongoing.

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A40 accident leads to three people being airlifted to hospital

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POLICE are appealing for witnesses following a serious accident on the A40 on Friday (Sept 25) near the turning for Trecwn. The accident happened just before midnight .

Three people were airlifted to hospital with suspected life-threatening injuries, and a further four people were injured.

Dyfed-Powys police told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We are appealing for witnesses following a serious collision on the A40.

“Three people were airlifted to hospital with suspected life-threatening injuries, and a further four people were injured.

“Ambulance and fire service also attended, with Coastguard helicopter assisting.

“The road was closed overnight as investigations took place.

“If you saw what happened, or noticed a white Skoda or red Chrysler travelling along that stretch of road in the time before the collision, please contact police by calling 101, or share what you know anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

A spokesperson for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue told The Herald: “We can confirm that two fire engines were on the scene with the first call received at 11:55pm.

“We had two engines there with crews from Fishguard and Haverfordwest at the scene. There were numerous casualties with two vehicles involved. Casualties with numerous injuries were transported to hospital by ambulance crews on the scene.

“One person was trapped and there were two walking wounded.”

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Pembrokeshire pensioners set to be hit by removal of triple lock pension

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THE WELSH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have published figures showing that Pembrokeshire is set to be hit hard by the Government’s decision to break its manifesto promise and suspend the triple lock on pensions after Conservative MPs voted to approve the change.

Figures released by the Party show Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is set to be the 9th hardest-hit area in Wales with 18,753 people or 23.9 percent of the constituency consisting of state pensioners. 

Meanwhile Preseli Pembrokeshire will see 18,244 people or 22.9 percent of the constituency hit, ranking 12th hardest hit in Wales. Both of Pembrokeshire’s Conservative MPs, Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb voted in favour of ending the triple lock.

The figures are based on analysis by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats had tabled an amendment to the Social Security Bill that called for additional support to address the impact of the pandemic on the two million pensioners currently living in poverty and making the uplift to Universal Credit permanent. However, the Conservatives, including Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb, voted against the amendment.

Commenting, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and Mid & West Wales MS, Jane Dodds stated: “The Conservatives have broken yet another manifesto promise that will hit people in the pocket.

“With so many pensioners living in poverty, the triple lock was a guarantee that vulnerable elderly people were relying on. Yet this winter the Government will instead turn its back on the poorest pensioners, some of whom risk no longer being able to heat their homes as energy costs spiral.

“The Conservatives claim that suspending the triple lock is just a temporary move, but how can pensioners have any faith that this is the one promise ministers will keep?

“I and the Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to demand that the Government doesn’t leave pensioners living in poverty high and dry and that we don’t return to the days of the derisory 75p rise to the state pension.”

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