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Councillors condemn embattled chief

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embattled chiefCHIEF EXECUTIVE PENSION PAYMENTS SCANDAL

FOLLOWING the publication of the WAO report last week, The Pembrokeshire Herald can confirm that Dyfed Powys and South Wales police forces are seeking legal advice from the Crown Prosecution Service about whether there is any evidence to support criminal charges in relation to unlawful pay supplements given to Pembrokeshire County Council Chief Executive Bryn Parry Jones and Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive, Mark James.

The Pembrokeshire Herald now understands that the referral to the police was made by Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who wrote to the chief constables of Dyfed Powys and South Wales police forces.

Meeting due to be held

WITH THE County Council due to hold a special meeting to consider the report within the next three weeks, it is unclear whether the intervention of the authorities will have any effect on the timing of such a meeting.

In light of dithering at the head of the Council and no sign of a date being set for the crucial meeting, a motion has been submitted for an emergency meeting to discuss the report’s content.

One question that any meeting must address is whether Bryn Parry Jones will be compelled to repay the unlawful pay supplement he has received over the last two years. While the County Council has the power to request repayment of any and all sums paid under the tax dodging scheme, it is not clear whether it will – in fact – do so. In addition, it is not clear whether any personal tax penalties will have accrued to the tax dodge’s beneficiaries.

Councillors tell Herald “Bryn should go”

COUNTY councillors across the political spectrum have already been in touch with The Pembrokeshire Herald giving their views as to the future of controversial chief executive, Bryn Parry Jones. The majority of those who have provided their opinion is in favour of the Council setting up its own investigation into the affair and suspending their CEO while the investigation takes place.

Some Pembrokeshire councillors have also called for the suspension of those who sat on the Senior Staff Committee that approved the unlawful payments to Bryn Parry Jones in September 2011.

Second officer shielded

PEMBROKESHIRE County Council continues to refuse to reveal the identity of the second officer who has benefited from the unlawful payments agreed by the Senior Staff Committee. A Council spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald:

‘We are not prepared to identify the second staff member who took up the new pension arrangements agreed on September 28, 2011.’

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that the Council’s refusal to disclose the identity of the second staff members is simply delaying the inevitable revelation of their identity when it publishes its annual accounts. It was the appearance of the Chief Executive’s name in the authority’s accounts that gave rise to the current and ongoing scandal.

Leader’s email row

AS THE storm over the unlawful payments made to Bryn Parry Jones continues to rage around County Hall, a communication sent to IPPG members using the Council’s own IT infrastructure has caused further controversy.

IPPG leader Jamie Adams sent the email below from his County Council email address.

email row

 The email, which seeks to reassure members of Cllr Adams’s IPPG party, is a response to the scandal that has engulfed the Council over an unlawful pay supplement implemented to help senior officers avoid tax on their publicly-funded pensions.

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that, in using his Council email address, Cllr Adams has potentially broken rules about the use of Council emails for party political purposes.

We were notified of the email’s existence by Hakin Cllr Mike Stoddart, who has also published the story on his website.

The use of the Pembrokeshire County Council facilities for party political purposes has been a past cause of significant controversy for the supposedly “independent” IPPG. Former Councillor and IPPG Cabinet member David Wildman was heavily criticised by the Ombudsman for using Council IT facilities for party ends: “During the investigation the Ombudsman considered the twenty three files containing election literature for former colleagues … Councillor Wildman accepted at interview that he was recorded as being the author or the last person to have saved the files, and that he used Council computer systems to create the election material. He said that he had been given election material because some candidates had difficulty working computers and that he had prepared their manifestos.”

Having resigned before the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, Cllr Wildman escaped further censure. The Pembrokeshire Herald understands, however, that the Ombudsman is to consider the activities of a separate and current Cabinet member in relation to the same conduct.

The use by Cllr Adams of the Council’s own infrastructure to transact party business appears to be a similar breach of the rules as that in which Cllr Wildman became embroiled.

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council told The Pembrokeshire Herald:

“The Monitoring Officer has confirmed that elected Members are allowed to manage group business using Council resources to facilitate Council business. This applies to all political groups.”

Carmarthenshire set the date

ACROSS the border in Carmarthenshire, the Council have adopted an aggressive and assertive approach to the Auditor’s findings of unlawfulness.

The date has been set for an extraordinary meeting for Carmarthenshire County Council to debate the Wales Audit Office reports.

The Leader and Executive Board have called for the meeting which has now been agreed by the Chair of Council Cllr Terry Davies. It will take place on Thursday, February 27, and the only items on the agenda will be reports regarding the two WAO issues.Council Leader Cllr Kevin Madge said: “It has been difficult being unable to speak out, particularly knowing the full facts and having seen all the evidence, it will be a great relief to be able to share that with all county councillors and with the public.”

Evidence relating to the two issues is being shared with all county councillors in advance of the matter going before council. This includes advice from QCs and previous communication with the Wales Audit Office.

Carmarthenshire Council has also published the advice of Tim Kerr QC relating to the costs indemnity it gave to its own Chief Executive, Mark James to bring a counterclaim for libel against Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqueline Thompson.

Carmarthenshire County Council instructed Mr Kerr, a specialist in local government law, jointly with Pembrokeshire County Council in relation to the pensions tax dodge that bother authorities passed entirely coincidentally in 2011. It is not clear why the tax dodging advice has not been published, although the nature of the joint advice means that both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire would have to agree to its publication.

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Carbon capture option Pembroke Power Station

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RWE, who operates Pembroke Power Station, has signed a contract with Fluor – a global  engineering and construction firm that specialises in carbon capture projects.  The project will investigate the feasibility of retrofitting post-combustion capture of carbon at Pembroke Power Station. The study is expected to take six months, completing in early 2023.

This feasibility study is part of RWE’s ambitious decarbonisation plans centred around the Pembroke Net Zero Centre, which brings together knowledge and expertise from across RWE’s offshore wind, gas-fired generation and hydrogen businesses to develop green energy solutions for both Pembrokeshire and the South Wales region. This is the second project to come out of RWE’s Pembroke NetZero Centre (PNZC), which launched earlier this year.

This report will form part of the analysis required for RWE to participate in the UK Government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) cluster sequencing process. This was a commitment to deploy CCUS in a minimum of two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s, and four by 2030 at the latest in support of the UK’s transition to net zero.

RWE is developing options for the decarbonisation of its 2.2 gigawatt gas-fired Power Station in Pembroke, among them post-combustion carbon capture and the introduction of hydrogen as a clean fuel. Pembroke’s South Wales location provides it with the unique advantages of being within an industrial hub and creating collaboration opportunities with partners from within the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) who together cover the full low carbon value chain, including – from the necessary ship transport and storage of CO2 to the supply of clean hydrogen.

Richard Little, Director of the Pembroke Net Zero Centre , said: “RWE is committed to decarbonising its business by 2040, a date that in the UK fits nicely alongside the Government’s ambition for a net zero power sector by 2035. Through our PNZC we will create a hub for our green energy projects, including the development of floating wind in the Celtic Sea, the development of a hydrogen electrolyser and decarbonisation of Pembroke Power station through a mixture of carbon capture and hydrogen fuel. We are already working with South Wales businesses to help them meet their decarbonisation targets, while supporting the Welsh Government to achieve its ambitions for Net Zero.”

Julian Marschewski from RWE Generation’s Strategic Development department , said: “Kicking off this technical feasibility study with Fluor is an important step towards creating tangible options for our lighthouse decarbonisation project at Pembroke. The experience gained will also give us a better understanding on how to decarbonise RWE’s wider fleet of gas-fired assets.”

RWE is at the forefront of green innovation and is aiming to invest £15 billion in the UK in green energy projects by 2030. The company has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the development of hydrogen projects across Europe, and at the same time creating skilled green jobs.

The feasibility study has been partly funded by South Wales Industrial Cluster; a consortium of Wales’s major industry, energy, infrastructure, law, academic and engineering organisations of which RWE is a key member. The cluster was successful in securing support from the public and private sector to develop a range of partner decarbonisation deployment projects for the region.

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Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre welcomes manager of Lucasfilm

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THE NEW Millennium Falcon exhibition at Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre welcomed a very special visitor recently, one whose major support and contributions made the unique project possible.

Lynwen Brennan, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Lucasfilm Ltd – who was brought up in Pembrokeshire – had a first hand insight into the Pembroke Dock Falcon exhibition, which opened earlier this year.

Detailing the construction of the first complete version of the iconic Millennium Falcon for use in the Oscar winning ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, the exhibition has been an amazing success over the summer, attracting thousands of Star Wars fans to West Wales.

The spaceship was constructed in a Pembroke Dock aircraft hangar over 40 years ago.

Brennan was welcomed by Trust Chairman Graham Clarkson and Exhibition Project Manager Mark Williams along with Trustees Rik Saldanha, Gareth Mills and Martin Cavaney.

When viewing the many images on display, most of which had been kindly supplied by the Lucasfilm Archives, Brennan paid special attention to the photos that had been taken by some of the workers at the time of the construction. 

She remarked: “This is such a wonderful personal story to the people of Pembroke Dock; I am so

happy that this has finally been made possible.”

She also praised the scale model of the Falcon that takes centre stage in the exhibition, demonstrating the stages of construction, “This is a very clever way to show exactly how the Falcon was put together,” she added.

Brennan was given a special preview of the centre’s plans to develop and expand the exhibition by integrating both virtual and augmented reality experiences. Her son particularly enjoyed playing with the virtual Falcon model.

Project Manager Mark Williams commented: “This visit means so much to us all at the centre. After all of the hard work put in by everybody, it was a pleasure to show the results to the person who effectively made the whole project possible. We look forward to when we can welcome Lynwen and her family back to her home county again.”

Remember to vote for the Pembroke Dock Falcon exhibit in the National Lottery Awards Project of the Year competition.

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Education

MHS Big Picture on tour

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DID you know that being creative can reduce stress, anxiety and help reduce symptoms of depression? 

Milford Haven School Art Club does, and that is why they want to invite our community to join them in creating a Big Picture together for World Mental Health Day.

Charities and organisations such as 2Wish, Samaritans and Liss Listens will be teaming up with Milford Haven School to help paint our Big Picture. 

Our Big Picture will go on to be donated to the community and be displayed in Milford Haven to spread joy and positivity.

Join them on Friday, October 14 between 10am and 2pm at Pill Social Centre. No experience is needed, everyone is welcome and all equipment and refreshments will be provided on the day.

They can’t wait to see you all

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