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MINUTES MEDDLER UNMASKED

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gwynnevans

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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Health

Proposed locations for new hospital site to be reviewed

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HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD (UHB) will this week undertake a review of potential sites as part of the ongoing process to identify a suitable location for a new hospital.

Eleven sites will be assessed on Friday 22 October, including those identified by members of the public during the six-week engagement exercise, which took place earlier this year.

This stage of the process is intended to lead to the creation of a shortlist of sites. This will be subject to further detailed appraisal with significant public and wider stakeholder involvement. The final decision about the chosen site will be made by the health board, in agreement with Welsh Government.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “The building of a new hospital is a major long-term project, which is why we place great emphasis on being open and transparent about the process involved.

“The process we are following includes developing a programme business case to support our strategy for community and hospital-based health and care. As part of the process to apply for funding from the Welsh Government, we will submit the programme business case, and then individual outline business cases, then the final business cases for the new infrastructure we will need. The health board will therefore engage with the public on a regular basis between now and the submission of the final business cases to ensure your views are fully considered.

“I understand and recognise there are passionate feelings about a new hospital, but we strongly believe a new facility is essential for urgent and planned care in the south of the Hywel Dda area. It will provide trauma care and be the main emergency department for the south of our area.

“I can also reassure the public that we have no plans or intention to close either Glangwili or Withybush hospitals. We will engage further on how these hospitals could work alongside the proposed new hospital.”

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Unprecedented demand on health and social care services in local area

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Joint statement by Hywel Dda University Health Board, the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Pembrokeshire County Council, Carmarthenshire County Council and Ceredigion County Council

The urgent statement we have asked to publish is as follows:

THERE is currently an unprecedented demand on health and social care services across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, which is leading to significant delays in care provision. Put simply, the difficulty in discharging medically-fit patients from hospital – many of whom have complex personal circumstances and needs – is leading to significant bed shortages, and consequently, lengthy ambulance waits at the ‘front door’ of A&E departments, which mean that paramedics are unable to respond to other 999 calls in the community.Social care and Health teams are doing everything possible to support people who are well enough to leave hospital but need ongoing care. Priority is being given to the most vulnerable, and alternative health and care packages are being offered as a short-term measure. More carers and health staff are also being recruited to support people in need.

If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is well enough to go home, but is waiting to be discharged with homecare and community health support, you may be able to help them to get home more quickly if you and your family are in a position to support them at home. If your relative is waiting for a formal package of care, you may be able to offer support and care on a short term, temporary arrangement or you might want to consider whether your loved one could be supported in a temporary residential or nursing care setting. If you feel that this is an option that you could consider, please speak to the ward manager or your social worker to explore further.

Spending as little time in hospital is better for patients and means that NHS beds can be freed up for others with urgent care needs. Supporting older patients to get home from hospital efficiently is an important part of their recovery and it also protects them from negative consequences of hospital admission, such as hospital acquired infection, falls and a loss of independence.  You can find out more about the hospital discharge process and guidance here: Inpatient information – Hywel Dda University Health Board (nhs.wales)

Your support not only helps your loved one, but it is a huge support to the NHS and social care services as well.

Thank you.

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News

Child taken to hospital following collision with car outside school

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AN EARLY morning collision outside Ysgol Harri Tudor school, Pembroke, has seen a child taken to hospital.

The collision happened between a child and a car on Pembroke Road, Pembroke, at approximately 9am this morning.

A secondary school pupil has been taken to hospital via ambulance for what is said to be minor injuries.

Police and ambulance service were on the scene and were helped by school staff to manage the incident.

A police spokesperson said: “Dyfed-Powys Police attended a road traffic collision involving a car and a secondary school pupil this morning, 21st October 2021. The collision occurred on Pembroke Road, Pembroke at approximately 9:00am.

“The Ambulance Service also attended and escorted the teenage boy to hospital with what are believed to be minor injuries.”

A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that there has been an incident outside Ysgol Harri Tudur in Pembroke this morning where a pupil came into contact with a car. 

“The police and ambulance have been on the scene and were assisted by school staff. We are not able to release any further details at present.”

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