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Another Pembrokeshire Herald Exclusive

THE WEEK before last the Herald exclusively revealed that an unnamed senior officer at Pembrokeshire County Council tampered with the minutes of panel meetings where applications for European cash grants for notorious building restoration projects in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock were considered.

The grant schemes are mired in controversy and in February the council had no option but to self-refer allegations of fraud to the police after clear evidence came to light in one project of favourable treatment in the tendering process to the successful building contractor.

The county council is protecting the identity of the officer who tampered with the grant panel minutes, however the Herald can now exclusively reveal it was GWYN EVANS, the authority’s key manager overseeing European funding

In A scarcely believable twist of events, the Herald also understands after higher up council personnel became aware of the scale and nature of Mr Evans’ alterations to numerous grant panel meeting minutes, he underwent disciplinary proceedings resulting in just a WRITTEN WARNING.

Mr Evans has worked as ‘European Manager’ at Pembrokeshire County Council since August 1996 according to a publically accessible professional profile he created online.

His page on the popular vocational social networking site LinkedIn – the business sector equivalent of Facebook – outlines a comprehensive career in high profile European funding roles.

Previously working as a ‘Principal Admin Officer (EU Funds)’ at Bridgend College between 1994-1996, Mr Evans says on LinkedIn that his role there “involved overseeing the projects to ensure they complied with regulatory requirements and project closure,” and during the prior twelve year period he held ‘various accountancy positions’ at Mid Glamorgan County Council.

Under the ‘Skills & Expertise’ section of his LinkedIn profile, Mr Evans boasts dozens of talents including ‘Governance, Compliance, Project Management,’ ‘Contract Management,’ and ‘Report Writing.’ He also states he is a “Past chairman of Welsh European Officers Group.”

Fiddling with documents relating so closely to the grant scheme which is now under police investigation as well as internal review by the authority’s Audit Committee is something the council’s Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Michael Williams, told the Herald is “a shocking revelation.”

Cllr Williams, who’s served Tenby as a councillor for over 45 years and doesn’t know the identity of the officer, told the Herald: “Quite frankly I’m becoming lost for words. What on earth will be next? If elected members are no longer able to trust senior officers to properly record decisions and maintain council documents, then we are lost.”

Adding: “The entire basis of democratic accountability is seriously threatened by what has been going on in Pembrokeshire for too long now. I was elected first in 1968, and at that time I had complete faith in officers and fellow members. Under the present regime that trust has been seriously eroded, and it’s not hard to see why.”

The fact that Mr Evans tampered with the council’s records of grant panel meetings only recently came to light after he was brought to task by an internal disciplinary process. It is not known who discovered the alterations Mr Evans made, or how, but he made them directly following a Freedom of Information request submitted to the council by Milford Haven (Hakin) Councillor Mike Stoddart on 29 May 2013.

Cllr Stoddart’s FoI request sought copies of the minutes of all grant panel meetings of the Commercial Property Grant Scheme (CPGS). Following receipt of Cllr Stoddart’s request, Gwyn Evans made several alterations to the minutes of multiple panel meetings that have all been seen by the Herald, many of which make it appear as though more scrutiny of grant applications took place than was recorded in the unaltered minutes.

Following Mr Evans’s written warning, Cllr Mike Stoddart was sent a letter by the authority’s Head of IT and Central Support Services, John Roberts, outlining the alarming discovery and apologising that the documents disclosed to him under the FoI act in 2013 were not accurate as they had been fiddled with in-between his submission of the request, and the documents being provided to him.

All of the alterations were made to the minutes of grant panel meetings which recommended grant funding be awarded to properties owned by controversial developer Cathal McCosker, or companies of his. The panel, made up entirely of unelected officers, recommended that the council’s elected cabinet should formally award public cash for 10 Meyrick Street at a meeting held on 15 December 2011, 29 Dimond Street at a meeting on 13 February 2012, and 31 Dimond Street on 4 May 2012.

Many of the changes concerned the addition of detail and tidying up of sentences, but some also introduced completely new elements which were not included in the untampered minutes. Added to the minutes concerning 29 Dimond Street (occupied then, as now, by Paul Sartori charity shop) was a completely new sentence: “The Panel agreed that the existing photos showed the building to be in a poor state of repair and in clear need of renovation.”

Changes were not only written to conceal they were added in after the fact, but a further alteration to the 29 Dimond Street panel meeting minutes was cunningly crafted to imply panel members showed an element of foresight, by the addition of the text: “…whilst jobs created/accommodated and enterprises accommodated outputs are not expected in the short term (as the Sartori Charity Shop is expected to remain here in the immediate future), there is a possibility that a new enterprise may move into the premises before the end of the Programme.”

As well as pointing out all of the alterations that had been made, Mr Roberts sent Cllr Stoddart full copies of the original unedited documents, and referred in his letter to the relevant statute which relates to the “Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure.”

Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was quoted, which states that any person is guilty of a criminal offence “if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled”.

Concluding his letter, Mr Roberts told Cllr Stoddart he would be making a formal referral of the matter to the relevant authorities: “I will be making the Information Commissioner’s Office aware of this matter in order that the Information Commissioner may give it consideration.”

The maximum fine that can be imposed following conviction of the crime of altering documents intended to prevent disclosure of information to which a person is entitled, is £5000, though where multiple documents are concerned, it is unclear if each would be treated as a separate charge under the legislation.

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MPs to examine opportunities for defence manufacturing and cyber security in Wales



THE WELSH AFFAIRS COMMITTEE has today launched (Mar 27) a new inquiry examining the defence industry in Wales, looking specifically at defence manufacturing and cyber security.

From Airbus to Kent Periscopes, Raytheon to Qioptiq, there are over 160 companies supporting the defence sector that are based in Wales. Wales’ defence sector is further enhanced by the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Defence and Electronics Components Agency (DECA), based in North Wales, which has a £0.5 billion contract with the US Department for Defense.

However, there are concerns that a decrease in investment from the MOD will erode the prominence of Wales’ defence sector. In recent years, the number of jobs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector has declined and MOD spending in Wales has fallen by £300 million since 2018. The Committee is keen to examine trends in defence spending and how SMEs can benefit from available opportunities.

Over the course of the inquiry, MPs will look at how important the sector is to the Welsh economy, investigate the opportunities for growth and examine the role of the UK Government in further promoting the defence sector in Wales.

Welsh Affairs Committee Chairman, Stephen Crabb, said:

“From maintaining fighter jets to hosting one of the most advanced aircraft surveillance and intelligence systems in existence, in Wales we have a ground-breaking defence sector that is routinely punching above its weight.

“However, MOD investment in Wales has decreased, as have the numbers of jobs and SMEs in the Welsh defence sector. Over the course of our inquiry, we will be considering the future opportunities and challenges to ensure defence industries in Wales – from defence manufacturing to cyber security – thrive.

“The defence sector is a major employer and helps support local economies across our nation and it is in all our best interests to support Wales’ defence prowess.”

The Committee is inviting written submissions by Friday 5 May. These should focus on, but not be limited to:

  • What are the reasons underlying the trends in MoD spending in Wales since 2019?
  • What is the MoD’s understanding of how funding flows from prime contractors to small and medium sized defence sector businesses in Wales?
  • What is the relationship between Wales-based prime contractors, Welsh academic and research bodies, and the development of new defence technologies?
  • Can Wales play a role in enhancing the UK’s defence industrial capacity?
  • Do skills and knowledge exist within Wales’ workforce to support the growth of the Welsh defence sector?
  • How might the reorganisation of Wales’ defence estate affect employment in the defence sector in Wales?
  • Will the 10% social value weighting applied to MoD procurement support the Levelling Up agenda in Wales?
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Dog in difficulty rescued between St Nons and Caerfai Bay by RNLI



ST DAVIDS inshore lifeboat was tasked at 11am on Monday (Feb 27) to a dog in difficulty at the bottom of cliffs between St Nons and Caerfai Bay.

Marian and Alan Clayton made best speed to the scene where a HM Coastguard team from St Davids assisted the crew by locating the dog.

Once recovered from the base of the cliffs, “Bosun” was reunited with its relieved owners at Porthclais Harbour.

Pictured are crew members Ellen, Tom and Martin with Bosun.

The lifeboat returned to Station before a wash down and refuelling, ready for service by 12:42pm, according to an online report from the RNLI

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Economy Minister congratulates Celtic Freeport consortium on winning bid



ECONOMY MINISTE, Vaughan Gething, was in Port Talbot today to congratulate the Celtic Freeport consortium on their successful bid to be Wales’ first freeport, which is set to deliver tens of thousands of new, high-quality jobs in south west Wales.

Last week, the Welsh and UK governments jointly announced the Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot, and Anglesey Freeport on Ynys Mon, have been chosen as Wales’ first freeports.

The two freeports aim to collectively create around 20,000 jobs in the green industries of the future by 2030 and attract up to £4.9 billion in public and private investments.

The Celtic Freeport will be based around the port of Port Talbot in Neath Port Talbot, and the port of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire.

The freeport plans focus on low carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind (FLOW), hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) and biofuels to support the accelerated reduction of carbon emissions.

The freeport aims to attract significant inward investment, including £3.5 billion in the hydrogen industry as well as the creation of 16,000 jobs, generating £900 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) by 2030, and £13 billion by 2050.

The Minister visited the port of Port Talbot earlier today, which will become one of the focal points of the new Freeport – which is expected to be operational later this year.

Speaking during a visit to Port Talbot, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “It was great to be in Port Talbot today to congratulate the Celtic Freeport team on their successful bid.

“From off-shore energy to advanced manufacturing, the Celtic Freeport will help create tens of thousands of new, high quality jobs in the green industries of the future. it will support our highly ambitious plans to reach net zero by 2050, while also supporting our young people to plan their futures here in Wales.

“All this will help us transform the economy of south west Wales, helping us create a stronger, fairer and greener future for local people and communities.”

Roger Maggs MBE, Chair of the Celtic Freeport consortium said: “Wales is on the cusp on an exciting green journey.

“The freeport decision will cause a chain reaction.

“Upgrading our major energy ports in Milford Haven and Port Talbot will enable floating offshore wind, create the cradle to nurture new green tech companies and take a step on the path to greening Wales’ steel industry.

“Now is the time for action so that Wales captures the renewable energy supply chain.”

Andrew Harston, Director, Wales and Short Sea Ports, Associated British Ports (ABP) said: “The roll-out of floating offshore wind, or FLOW, in the Celtic Sea provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Wales. Port Talbot is the ideal location for the deployment of FLOW, and ABP is ready to invest over £500m in new and upgraded infrastructure to enable this and to ensure first-mover advantage to capture this global market. The Celtic Freeport provides a huge opportunity, and not just for FLOW, but for sustainable fuels and hydrogen too.

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