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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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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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Natural Resources Wales approves Ireland-UK interconnector licence

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GREENLINK INTERCONNECTOR LIMITED says it welcomes the decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to approve its application for a Marine Licence for the Greenlink electricity interconnector project, which will link the power markets of Great Britain and Ireland.

An important project for Pembrokeshire, and the UK as a whole, NRW’s go-ahead is one of several consents required for the construction of the project and covers installation of the marine cable in UK waters.

The approval is a major milestone for Greenlink and joins the onshore planning consents granted unanimously in July last year by Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Greenlink’s proposed 190km subsea and underground electricity cable will run beneath the Irish Sea to connect National Grid’s Pembroke Power Station in Wales and EirGrid’s Great Island substation in County Wexford, Ireland. It will have a nominal capacity of 500 MW.

The Wales-Ireland link is just one of four interconnectors being installed

Nigel Beresford, CEO for Greenlink Interconnector Limited, said: “We are delighted by Natural Resources Wales’s decision to grant this licence. This marks a significant milestone for Greenlink and another important step towards project construction, which we expect to commence later this year.

“The Greenlink team has worked constructively with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh marine stakeholders to find workable solutions to the many technical and environmental challenges facing a large infrastructure project like this, and this has been reflected in the quality of the final proposal.

“The thorough environmental and technical assessments we have undertaken, supported by the practical and value-adding feedback we have received from key marine stakeholders, have ensured that we move forward confident that we are delivering a well-designed project with the interests of the Welsh marine habitat at its core.”

The subsea section of the cable will be approximately 160km in length and uses high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology. The preferred route and installation methods were chosen following the conclusion of subsea surveys and consultation with key stakeholders.

In Ireland, a Foreshore Licence application was submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Foreshore Unit) in 2019 and the onshore planning application was submitted to An Bord Pleanála in December 2020.

Greenlink is one of Europe’s most important energy infrastructure projects and brings benefits on both sides of the Irish Sea for energy security, regional investment, jobs and the cost-effective integration of low carbon energy. The project will offer important local supply chain opportunities and plans are being drawn up for ‘meet-the-buyer’ events in the local area prior to construction.

Once fully consented, Greenlink is expected to have a three-year construction programme, with commissioning planned by the end of 2023.

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Appeal from Fire and Rescue Service to install working smoke alarms

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AT 01:17am this morning, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, crews from Milford Haven were called to a property fire in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to a pan on a stove in the kitchen area and extinguished by firefighters using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

Crews also ventilated the property and fitted smoke alarms within the property.

The Fire Service left the incident at 02:00am.

Watch Manager Alun Griffiths, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said “This fire was the result of cooking left unattended. It is so important to remove all pots and pans from a heat source when you are called away from the cooker.

“Thankfully, the occupiers of the property managed to exit the property before our firefighters arrived, but it could have ended very differently as there were no smoke alarms fitted in the property.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of installing working smoke alarms in your homes and testing them regularly. In the dreadful event of a fire, they can alert you to the danger sooner and could mean the difference between life and death.

“As a Fire and Rescue Service, we provide Home Fire Safety advice which is free of charge. We also offer Safe and Well Visits which you can arrange by phoning us on 0800 169 1234 or by visiting the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone us on 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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