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Audit Committee Chair quits

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john evansA SMALL item of news on the County Council’s website is all the local authority has placed on the record about the departure of John Evans MBE, the lay chair of the Council’s Audit Committee. 

The announcement invited people to put themselves forward to be a lay member of the Council’s Audit Committee with a closing date for applications of 8th July and directing applicants to write to the Council’s CEO in application. The announcement made no mention of Mr Evans’ resignation, neither did it thank him for his service nor his contribution to the Council’s scrutiny mechanism. John Evans MBE had been in post since September 2012. A senior Council official told The Herald that Mr Evans had not endeared himself to Council officers allegedly “used to getting their own way” by trying to bring some of the rigour and discipline of his successful business background to bear on the Council’s audit machinery. John Evans, who lives in Saundersfoot, received his MBE in 2004 for services to the electronics industry. Described by Bloomberg Business as “a pivotal figure in consumer electronics manufacturing, with over 30 years top-level experience”, Mr Evans is known to have strong views about the rewards the Council pays to its top officers. In February 2011 the Tenby Observer carried a letter from Mr Evans in which he detailed ways in which the Council could cut costs by freezing Councillors’ allowances, cutting the pay of top earners and abolishing the post of Chief Executive Officer, suggesting a more appropriate level of salary for the post would be around £70,000. Bryn Parry Jones received over £200,000 in remuneration and unlawful “pay supplements” from the local authority in the year to April 2012. Mr Evans is understood to have handed his letter of resignation to controversial CEO Bryn Parry Jones after a key meeting of the Audit Committee was postponed. Cllr Mike Stoddart told the Herald: “Although the grants schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock have now been referred to the police, at Mr Evans’ insistence the audit committee was pressing on with its probe into the administration of those grants which are outside the criminal investigation. “The committee was due to consider a report on this subject by the Council’s internal auditors at a meeting on 29 May, but that was cancelled without explanation. “I hear on the grapevine that the reason for the cancellation was to give the Director of Development Dr Steven Jones, the opportunity to answer any criticisms of his department and explain what steps were being taken to correct any flaws in the current procedures. “That meeting had been rescheduled for later this month but, following Mr Evans’ departure, it will not now take place because there is a statutory requirement that the audit committee must have at least one lay member. “So, during the time it takes for the council to advertise the post and appoint a replacement, the committee is in limbo – possibly until September.” Mr Evans’ resignation is a blow to those who are seeking to hold the Council to account for the shambolic organization of grants schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. December’s County Council meeting in which the IPPG leadership attempted to prevent scrutiny of the Council’s conduct of the grant schemes by smearing those seeking to get at the truth, was followed in January by the Audit Committee under Mr Evans launching a wideranging investigation into the schemes. At that meeting, John Evans MBE confirmed that not only would Audit Committee members have access to the previously secret documents, but that all Councillors would have the opportunity to scrutinise the material. A step which went beyond the very limited request for access made by Cllr Stoddart in December. Shortly after that investigation was launched, Cllrs Mike Stoddart and Jacob Williams provided evidence gathered from the documents to the then Director of Finance Mark Lewis. The material handed over suggested that a contractor had received preferential treatment in relation to one development in the Town Heritage Initiative. After delay until after a Council meeting due to discuss the unlawful pay supplements made to its CEO, the Council referred the alleged irregularities to the Police and they continue to be under investigation. Concerns raised at the time that some of the files made available to Council members to inspect had been “filleted”, were sharpened when it emerged that the Council’s European Manager, Gwyn Evans (no relation), who has overall responsibility for the Commercial Property Grants Scheme, had carefully re-written the record of grants panel meetings to suggest greater caution and scrutiny of proposed developments than was actually the case. Gwyn Evans has been the subject of the Council’s internal disciplinary procedure as a result and is at risk of further action from the Information Commissioner in relation to his law-breaking. We asked the Council for a copy of John Evans’ MBE’s letter of resignation, but were told that it is not the Council’s to publish. A request made before last week’s edition made direct to CEO Bryn Parry Jones was met with the news that he is on holiday until the end of the month and unable to respond. Speculation is mounting as to the letter’s content and the opinions the usually direct Mr Evans expressed within it. The Council seems determined to draw a veil over the reasons behind the departure of the genuinely distinguished chair of a key Council committee and speculation is mounting as to what he said in his letter of resignation. Certainly, the low-key way the Council is going about replacing John Evans MBE suggests that it is now seeking a rather more biddable person who will not rock the boat and ask too many awkward questions.

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A40 closed at Scleddau due to collision between car and motorbike

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EMERGENCY SERVICES have shut the A40 at in Scleddau due to a serious road collision.

The accident happened just before 2pm. The Herald understands that the collision involved a motorcycle and car at a junction near The Gate Inn public house.

Police said: “Emergency services are currently on scene and dealing with the incident. Please find an alternative route if possible. Update to follow.”

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Moley’s Ambassador March to support those who have lost a child

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ON SATURDAY (Jun 19), Andrew Cole (aka Moley) will set off on a 24 hour walk around Pembrokeshire with the aim of doing as many miles in as little time as possible. 

Moley is proud to have recently been made ambassador of the charity ‘2 Wish UponAa Star’ an organisation dedicated to supporting families that have lost a child under 25 years of age.

He will be setting off at 6am in the morning from Neyland and walking all day and night, finishing at 6am the following morning.

2 wish upon a star was set up by Rhian Mannings, who set up the charity after losing her own son.

By celebrating the lives of those lost, and offering support to families through their grief; Rhian and her team offer an essential service to the community and those families who have suffered the devastation of losing a loved one.

Appealing for support from the people of Pembrokeshire he said: “Please give generously to support the wonderful work of Rhian and her team. Also, if you happen to see me in the day, feel free to give me a beep of encouragement’

“If you would like to donate to Moley, and support the charity, you can visit his JustGiving page.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/moleycole

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Lifeboats and chopper in major air sea rescue off the coast of Tenby

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TWO RNLI lifeboats from both Tenby and Angle stations have been launched to assist a coastguard helicopter which has been scrambled from MOD St Athen.

It is understood that a search for a missing person or persons is underway.

Paged this morning: Angle Lifeboat is currently involved in the search south of Tenby

The alarm was raised before 10am this morning (June 18).

Tenby’s Y-boat is also involved in the operation, The Herald understands.

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Rescue underway: Coastguard chopper position at 1030HRS on Friday, Jun 18 (Pic MarineTraffic)
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