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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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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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