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Bid to suspend Bryn collapses

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The extraordinary meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council to decide if the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry Jones should be suspended has collapsed, amongst unprecedented scenes at County Hall today.pensions investigation

Opposition Councillors received legal advice from a top QC that they should withdraw from the meeting due to comments they had made in the press.

Tim Kerr QC, the lawyer advising the Council on the ‘tax-dodge’ pension arrangements read out a list of Councillors who he felt could not participate in the meeting due to negative comments they had made about Bryn Parry Jones to The Pembrokeshire Herald and The Western Telegraph.

In light of this, most members of the opposition walked out of the council chamber and the one remaining signatory to the notice of motion that Mr. Parry-Jones be suspended, Cllr Phil Baker, withdrew the vote.

Cllr. Phil Baker told the Herald just now: “I knew something was afoot when the QC was allowed to remain after the Wales Audit Office report was discussed.”

He added: “I think that a lot of IPPG members as well as opposition Councillors are not happy about what has happened today. Very shabby indeed, its like the old East Germany.”

PEMBROKESHIRE ALLIANCE

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group have made a statement about the  meeting

A spokesman said: “This meeting was an insult to democracy. The people of Pembrokeshire deserve openness, transparency and good governance and this meeting was an example of what happens when these principles are quite deliberately not followed.”

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group says it is now in discussions with other opposition groups and non affiliated Councillors as to what should happen next.

AM WANTS BRYN STRIPPED OF RETURNING OFFICER POWERS

reWELSH Labour AM Rebecca Evans has called for embattled chief executive of Pembrokeshire Council Bryn Parry-Jones to be stripped of his role as Returning Officer for Wales in the European elections this May until local Councillors are allowed to debate the issue properly and the police investigation has concluded.

This follows last week’s full council meeting that descended into farce after the council enlisted lawyer declared a number of people had pre-determined the outcome of the discussion which led to a walk-out and prevented a vote on suspending Mr Parry-Jones.

Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales said: “After the embarrassing spectacle that was Friday’s ‘extraordinary meeting’ of Pembrokeshire council, it is clear that the Pembrokeshire council leadership is content to allow the debate to descend into farce rather than grapple openly and in public with the serious issues presented by the Wales Audit Office reports.

“It would now be utterly preposterous for Bryn Parry Jones to preside over the European Ballot as Returning Officer while his pension payments are still under police investigation. The public must have complete confidence in the election process, and in all of the people involved. Until the police investigation is concluded, alternative arrangements must be made – and that means relieving Bryn Parry Jones of his Returning Officer role.”

Paul Miller, leader of the Labour group in Pembrokeshire said:
“Sometimes, particularly around planning issues, pre-determination rules help ensure fairness but last week it was worrying to see those rules used to stifle debate and silence critics in a totally unjust and undemocratic way. Many opposition Councillors felt cornered having a QC tell them that they had to leave. Having sought legal advice, I know that no Labour councilors pre-determined the debate. Pre-determination is a matter for individuals not lawyers. Enlisting a barrister in a crude attempt to undermine our roles as Councillors and prevent us from seeking to represent the views of our constituents on this hugely important issue is nothing short of Orwellian.

“The public deserve reassurance that this matter is being dealt with properly. I will not lie down and be silenced by the puppet administration running Pembrokeshire, and will continue to fight to ensure that full council are able to debate this.”

PLAID CYMRU SPEAKS OUT

Pembrokeshire Plaid Cymru leader Cllr Michael Williams has called on the Welsh Government to intervene in the running of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Cllr Williams told The The Herald: “The recent events are yet more evidence of the gross incompetence of the Independent Group which presently masquerades as the controlling group of the Council. We say “masquerade” as it is patently obvious that the authority is run by a small cabal of out of control senior officers orchestrated by the Chief Executive, who are bringing the Council into disrepute.”

He added: “After their appalling performance in the Council meeting on Friday, is it any wonder that PCC is the laughing stock of Wales? Pembrokeshire tax payers deserve better. We deserve honesty and integrity, and they have consistently failed to deliver.”

“This Council staggers from crisis to crisis, from travel claims which were years late from the Leader to the misuse of Council computers by Councillor Rob Lewis to produce Independent group election literature.  This together with failures to properly safeguard our children, a failed social care provision and recently dubious grant dealings in Pembroke Dock render them unfit.”

It was amazing to see on Friday their efforts to extricate themselves from their self inflicted problems. Legal advice of forty five pages. which we as elected Members were not allowed to see, and the costs of at least one Q C, with another expert flown in from Edinburgh. This plus the mysterious brown envelope left on the passenger seat of the Council vehicle which transported the Q C with information enclosed selectively identifying those Members who had stated that the CEO should go. The rulers of North Korea would be proud.

Mr Parry-Jones should step aside immediately, and take his poodle, Jamie Adams with him. The Welsh Government should immediately install Commissioners to take over the running of PCC” he concluded.

LEGAL ADVICE WAS  ‘WRONG’

The Pembrokeshire Herald took independent legal advice before publishing comments made by County Councillors this month, in the days leading up to the vote over the suspension of chief executive of Pembrokeshire council, Bryn Parry Jones.

During the extraordinary meeting of Full Council, members were given legal advice by a barrister appointed by senior officers and leaders of the authority.

Mr Tim Kerr QC told members that some of them had ‘crossed the line’ by showing predetermination over whether the chief executive should be suspended. Mr Kerr told members that this predetermination was demonstrated by comments made in the newspaper article.

Mr Kerr had been given photocopies of selected press cuttings from The Pembrokeshire Herald’s February 8 edition by the monitoring officer, Mr Laurence Harding. He told the meeting that the newspaper article had been ‘brought to his attention’ but refused to say by who. However, Deputy Leader, Cllr Rob Lewis told members that he also had copies of the same documents. He did not admit to giving them to Mr Laurence Harding, however.

Pembrokeshire Herald editor Thomas Sinclair said: “There is legislation regarding the issue of predetermination that was not brought up at the meeting. Section 25(2) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that ‘a decision-maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making the decision just because the decision-maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision-maker took’.”

Mr. Sinclair added: “This legislation clearly applies to all County Councils in the United Kingdom, but this law was not followed at the meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council on Friday.”

He concluded: “In the newspaper’s view if Tim Kerr QC was acting in the best interests of all the members of the council, rather than just those on the side of Mr. Bryn-Parry Jones then, he would have advised members of the existence of this critical piece of legislation, which has been on the statute books for three years.”

 

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Mark Drakeford says: ‘Thank you Wales for going red’

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LABOUR is staying in power in Wales after matching its best-ever Senedd election result. It won exactly half of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament with all results now declared

Labour has 30 seats, with the Conservatives on 16, Plaid Cymru on 13 and the Liberal Democrats one.
Mark Drakeford thanked Wales for “going red” and has vowed to be “radical” and “ambitious” in government, as Labour looks to solidify its leadership in Wales.

Labour’s Vaughan Gething, health minister in the Welsh government, told the media that the party didn’t “have to look at a formal coalition” because they had done so well.

“We do, however, have to talk to other groups within the Senedd,” he said.

Mr Gething said Labour had a “strong mandate to govern” with 30 of the Senedd’s 60 seats.

The Wales Green Party failed to win a seat in the Senedd elections but they say they recorded their highest-ever result in Wales. Leader Anthony Slaughter said the “results demonstrate the appetite for change” across Wales.

A very happy Mark Drakeford on Saturday, May 8 (Photo Welsh Labour/Twitter)

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said: “We seem to be getting votes from all of the parties and support on that regional list as people increase their knowledge of the voting system.”

Adam Price, who held Carmarthen East and Dinefwr with a reduced majority, said he would not stand down as Plaid Cymru leader.

Despite no gains, Mr Price said the party had increased its share of the vote and its stance on independence had been a “net positive”.

“I’m not walking away from anything, because this is the moment when Wales needs leadership,” he said.

“This is a historic challenge, because of the way that the politics is moving in this island, but it’s also a historic opportunity for us.

On the campaign trail, Plaid leader Adam Price (Pic Plaid Cymru)

“We can move our nation forward and I’m looking forward to playing my part, it’s not something that anyone can do on their own.

“I have a role to play, we all have a role to play and that’s what’s exciting about politics at the moment. Wales is on the move Wales is on the march. I’m going to be part of that.”

Later, on social media, Adam Price said: ” I extend my congratulations to Mark Drakeford on securing a mandate to lead the next government. Although disappointed not to be returning more Members to the Senedd, I am proud that we ran a positive campaign based on a transformational programme.

“Our Senedd group will bring renewed energy and fresh ideas and I look forward to working with all my colleagues as we continue to build the case for independence. We will be a constructive but forensic opposition as we enter a crucial period of pandemic recovery.

“However, the sixth Senedd will be poorer without one of Wales’s most remarkable politicians. No one has given more to the party or to her community than Leanne Wood – an inspiring role model for so many.

“Leanne’s commitment to the Rhondda is unparalleled and I know she will continue to make an important contribution to the future of our nation and the pursuit of social justice which always has and always will drive her politics.

“Westminster’s attack on devolution is only just beginning and Wales needs a plan – that plan must focus on taking our own future into our own hands so we can build a nation that is fair and free.

TORYS CLAIM BEST RESULT EVER

The Welsh Conservatives say that they have secured the party’s best ever result in a Senedd election, winning 16 seats in the Welsh Parliament.

In a statement to the press the party said: “Today’s final election results have seen the Welsh Conservatives secure two regional list seats in both South Wales Central and South Wales East.

“Welsh Conservatives polled 289,802 votes (share up 5.0) across 40 constituencies – 26.1% of the vote – winning eight seats including gains in both the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire.

“On the five regional lists, Welsh Conservatives secured 278,560 votes (share up 6.3), winning eight seats. The result will see the Senedd return its first ever female from a BAME background, with Welsh Conservatives’ Natasha Asghar making history with election in South Wales East.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies with Joel Williams on election day (Pic RT Davies/Twitter)

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies said: “Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to our outstanding set of Welsh Conservative candidates, activists and staff who’ve worked incredibly hard throughout this campaign and secured the party’s best ever Senedd result.

“The team has gone above and beyond and deserve great credit for the positive campaign we’ve run right across Wales, and I am thrilled to see Natasha Asghar make history in South Wales East by becoming the first female from a BAME background to be elected to the Senedd.

Newly elected Conservative member of Senedd, Sam Kurtz, talking to BBC reporter Aled Scourfield (Pic J Coles/Herald)

“As a party we are also delighted to have secured constituency seats in the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire, and increased seats on the regional lists, resulting in our highest ever representation in the Senedd with 16 members.

“It’s been an unconventional campaign and it’s clear incumbency and continuity has played a significant part. To that end, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour on a successful campaign.

“The election has been fought in good spirit by political parties in Wales and I would like to pay a final word of thanks to the many officials across the country who’ve allowed this election to take place in a safe and effective manner.”

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC

Ian Price, director of CBI Wales, congratulated Labour. He said: “This is a critical time for the Welsh economy and the new parliament must have a laser-like focus on rebuilding from the devastating impact of the pandemic,” he said.
“That means all parties pulling together and working with business to protect jobs, rebuild livelihoods and create a fair and sustainable recovery that addresses the longstanding structural challenges our economy faces.”

Royal Town Planning Institute, largest professional body for town planners in the UK and Europe, commented on the election result saying: “The Welsh Labour Manifesto meets many of the issues raised by the RTPI, including tackling climate action, investing in public transport and active travel, and the delivery of quality affordable homes, including a focus on strengthening Welsh language communities.

“The manifesto commits to strengthening the autonomy and effectiveness of local government to make them more successful in delivering services. We have highlighted the need to invest in planning services to enable the delivery of Welsh Labour’s priorities.”

LABOUR “RESILIENT”

Speaking to the BBC, political commentator Prof Roger Awan-Scully said: “I think it’s been an astonishingly resilient performance by the Welsh Labour Party, amidst disasters for Labour elsewhere in the UK.

“The Conservatives are also performing strongly, but not quite bringing it home in terms of the number of constituency victories that they might have expected.

“For Plaid Cymru I think this has to be said to be a deeply disappointing election.”

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Conservatives hold on to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat

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THE CONSERVATIVES have held on to their Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat despite Labour closing the gap.

Sam Kurtz will take over the seat from the outgoing Angela Burns who held a majority of 3,400 at the last election.

This time, the gap was just 936 to Labour’s Hassan Riaz who picked up 10,304 votes.

Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell picked up 6,615 votes.

The turnout in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was slightly up to 52.12% from 51.2% in 2016.

However, with a larger electorate thanks to votes for 16/17-year-olds, the number of votes cast went up by almost 3,000.

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Paul Davies re-elected as Conservatives hold Preseli Pembrokeshire

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PAUL DAVIES has been re-elected to represent the Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency.

He won with 12,295 votes, while there were 10,895 votes for Labour’s Jackie Jones.

Plaid Cymru candidate Cris Tomos gained just over 6,000 votes and there were also 1,239 for Reform UK candidate Alan Dennison.

There were over 3000 more votes cast in 2016, down largely in part to the fact that 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote in this election.

Both the Conservatives and Labour received more votes than before while the gap to Labour closed to just 1,400.

After being elected, Paul Davies said he would continue to ‘fight for Pembrokeshire’ and thanked those who had been involved in his campaign.

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