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Audit Committee to complain about delayed investigation

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Audit Committee has agreed to complain to Dyfed-Powys Police over the length of time taken in investigating the Commercial Property Grants Scheme in Pembroke Dock.

The meeting was held on Tuesday (Jan 30), where a notice of motion from Cllr Mike Stoddart was discussed which called on the council to complain about the situation.

The council has previously written to the police about the investigation with Cllr Jacob Williams saying in 2016 that the investigation was ‘dragging its heels’.

Cllr Stoddart found that there were irregularities in payments made to developer, Cathal McCosker, for two properties in Pembroke Dock on Dimond Street and Meyrick Street.

The Commercial Property Grant Scheme is run by the Council and is also funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).

WEFO has already claimed back some money from the Council and Cathal McCosker had offered to pay back the amount he had received under the council’s scheme.

Following a lengthy battle by Cllr Stoddart, he was able to see a number of documents relating to the scheme and in 2014 the police commenced an investigation into what had gone on.

The Council has also had a number of assurances that action would be taken ‘soon’ but nothing has materialised.
Cllr Stoddart said he was ‘disappointed ‘ with the recommendation that stated that the Chief Executive could have a conversation with the Chief Constable, adding: “That isn’t how things are done.”

He said: “I just cannot understand why it’s taken the police so long. You can go back two years and find them promising that something would be happening in the next couple of weeks.

“If you go back to the scrutiny committee in September 2013 there was a report there; ‘Internal audit has shared its findings with the council’s Monitoring Officer and is satisfied there is no mal-administration or non-compliance with the governance arrangements’.

“I then put a notice of motion calling for all the information to be made available to members because I knew there was something amiss but I wasn’t quite sure what and I wanted to see the bills of quantities and various other documents and that was the infamous meeting of December 2013 when the Cabinet member spent ten minutes calling me a liar and eventually I did get to see the documents and I did find several irregularities.

“There was £60,000 worth of irregular payments that I identified, in fact the developer who received the payments offered to pay back £180,000 and every penny that he had received on these contracts. Why he would do that is anybody’s guess.

“Cllr Jacob Williams and I found a tender document which there was a defect in it as much as the preferred builder was tendering on an entirely different specification to all the others which gave him a £10,000 lead over all the others.

“We took it to Mark Lewis, who was then the Head of Finance, and Mr Haswell and eventually the police were involved.

“In January of 2014, the council sent their own quantity surveyor to no.29 Dimond Street or Paul Sartori and he wrote a report and there was a payment for electrical work which is added to my submission and he wrote about that payment; ‘this is assumed non-eligible works and therefore no further consideration has been given to this work’.

“Well of course, he didn’t have to make that assumption because the final account for this job had been in the council’s possession six months before that and at Item F13, electrical improvements and additions, £9,800, it attracted a grant of £3,920.

“So the council knew or ought to have known about that before Jacob and I turned up this information and I’m sorry to say there was a huge attempt at a cover up by this council which is why I don’t trust this cosy chat between the Chief Executive and the Chief Constable as a method of going forward.”

Cllr Guy Woodham added: “There is too much that hasn’t happened in relation to this that should have happened by now and I think we would be failing in our duty as a committee if we didn’t refer this as a complaint to the right body within the police.”

Cllr Jacob Williams said: “The smoking gun that we found showed indisputably that the awarded tenderer was bidding on a contract which was different to all of the other tenders and that was clear evidence of favourable treatment to a contractor which happened to be for that applicant, always the awarded contractor.

“One thing we can be clear on is that there is a lot of doubt where this case now sits. In May 2016, the Audit Committee was told by Detective Inspector Anthony Griffiths that he was confident that arrests and criminal prosecutions would follow, when pressed on a time frame he was not committal but there was certainly an impression it was imminent.

Cllr Stoddart stated he felt there were two or three previous incidences where the police and the council had ‘conspired to pervert the course of justice’ and was ‘suspicious’ that something similar was going on.

The committee resolved that they would write to the police to complain about the length of time of the investigation and that Cllr Stoddart’s notice of motion go before the next full council meeting.

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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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