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John Evans’ resignation: Council has no ‘appetite for change’

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john evans
LAST WEEK the Pembrokeshire Herald reported on the resignation of John Evans MBE, independent external chair of the County Council’s Audit Committee and the effect it was likely to have on the progress of the ongoing investigation into alleged impropriety in grants schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.

 

When we first learned of Mr Evans’ resignation we approached the Council for a statement and a copy of his resignation letter. On that occasion, we were informed that the letter was not the Council’s to publish. Unknown to us, former Labour party councillor David Edwards had made a request for the letter under the Freedom of Information Act and the Herald has been informed that Mr Evans subsequently assented to its release. The letter reveals how after a meeting with two senior Council officers, named in the letter as Head of Revenue Services Kerry MacDermott and the
newly promoted Jon Haswell, who is Director of Finance, Mr Evans concluded that: “The vision I held when I

Resignation Letter

Resignation Letter

was appointed in Lay Member is no longer aligned with the appetite for change held by the Authority.” The Herald asked for the Council to comment on what was discussed at that meeting, but a spokesperson told us that they were not privy to its events and could not comment. Applicants for the new post are being directed to apply to Jon Haswell, who will no doubt be seeking someone more prepared to be aligned with his appetite for change. Councillor David Simpson, who sits on the Audit Committee and took over the handling of the grants scheme in a Cabinet reshuffle after the scandal broke, told the Herald: “We thank Mr Evans for his past work and look forward to appointing a new independent member of the Committee as soon as possible.” The date of the resignation letter, May 29, is also the date scheduled for a meeting of the Audit Committee which was postponed to allow Dr Steven Jones’ department to respond to specific issues raised in an internal audit report. Dr Jones’ department is the one responsible (entirely coincidentally) for controlling the Town Heritage Initiative and Commercial Property Grants Scheme currently under Police investigation. In further developments in the grants saga, the Herald can report that the Welsh European Funding Office met recently with Hakin Councillor Mike Stoddart. Cllr Stoddart has told the Herald: “When Cllr Jacob Williams and I inspected the files, we discovered that the council had accepted as evidence of defrayment a photocopy of the counterfoil of a cheque supposedly issued to the builder by the developer. “When we queried this with a member of the Council’s ‘highly regarded and experienced European funding team’ we were told that developers didn’t like producing their bank statements. To which we replied, in unison, that if developers didn’t like the rules they shouldn’t apply for grants. “From our conversation with the internal auditors, it seems that our view has prevailed. “In addition, I was visited a couple of weeks ago by a threeperson team from WEFO. We had a lengthy and fruitful discussion about the administrative failings of PCC including the proof of payment issue. It transpired that they, too, agree with me that photocopies of cheque book stubs don’t cut the mustard. “One thing that did emerge from the meeting with WEFO is that Cathal McCosker is so reluctant to provide his bank statements that, rather than do so, he is prepared to pay back the grant monies he has received.” Quite why Irish property developer Cathal McCosker should be so reluctant to back up the claims he has made on the public purse in Pembrokeshire by allowing his bank records to be examined can only be a matter of conjecture and is likely to be the subject of further examination by other authorities in due course. The refusal to allow inspection of bank records means that Mr McCosker has breached the terms under which payments were made to him. As a result now liable to repay the whole amount of the monies he and his brass plate companies received from the Town Heritage Initiative and Commercial Properties Grants Scheme. The Herald is now able to report that a planning application made by Mr McCosker to redevelop the Old School site in Pennar was withdrawn by Council officers when Mr McCosker failed to complete the purchase of the site on schedule. 50 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock, for which Mr McCosker was allocated a grant before either purchasing the property OR submitting plans for its redevelopment, failed to sell at a recent auction. On the basis that the grant awarded, £122,000, amounted to 40% of the redevelopment costs, the cost of that project was scheduled to be £305,000. The property was marketed at auction with an indicative value of £210,000. Mr McCosker bought the vacant lot for a recorded price of £17,500. Mr Evans refers in his resignation to his desire to improve transparency, openness and scrutiny. It remains to be seen just how much further scrutiny those involved in the grants scandal are able to bear.

 

 

 

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Crime

Police appeal after girl, 15, assaulted at Lydstep Point to Point

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DYFED-POWYS-POLICE says it is investigating an assault which occurred at Lydstep Point to Point event near to the announcers stand, between 4.30-4.45pm on Monday, April 1, 2024.

The victim, a 15-year-old girl, was allegedly assaulted by two other females, one believed to be in her late teens and the other in her late thirties. The young victim sustained facial injuries.

Police are now appealing for anyone who attended the event that may have information that could help them with their investigation to contact PC 772 Boyt either through a direct message on social media, online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing [email protected] or by calling 101.

Quote reference: 24*310890

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Major search in the area of The Cleddau Bridge and Hobbs Point

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A MULTI-AGENCY rescue response was initiated first thing on Saturday following reports of a person in difficulty in the area surrounding The Cleddau Bridge, The Herald has been told.

Police were joined by two coastguard rescue teams, the RNLI and a coastguard rescue helicopter during the search.

A police launch was also used in the operation.

Details are still unclear, but we understand that the search has now been stood down.

MORE TO FOLLOW.

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BBC Wales finds baby was infected with HIV after top doc ignored own rules

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THE latest episode of BBC Wales Investigates – broadcasting on BBC One Wales on Monday, April 15 at 8pm – has found that a 10-month-old baby was infected with HIV after a top doctor ignored their own rules.

When Colin Smith contracted HIV through contaminated blood, his parents’ house was daubed with ‘Aids dead’ and his father was forced to leave his job, the programme – Blood Money – finds.

Now 34 years on from his death from Aids at the age of seven, his family are facing another injustice.

BBC Wales Investigates reporter Wyre Davies has uncovered new evidence that Professor Arthur Bloom, the world-renowned doctor who gave him the infected imported blood product, Factor VIII, broke his own rules to do so.

NHS internal guidelines, written by Prof Bloom’s department, clearly shows that children should not be treated with imported blood because of the serious risk of infection.

“This wasn’t an accident,” said Colin senior, speaking in the programme.

“It could have been avoided.”

“I’m telling you, it was all behind a curtain,” said Colin’s mum, Janet.

“Everything Bloom done was not face-to-face it was behind-the-scenes if you like. What Prof said, what Prof done – we knew nothing about.”

Colin was born with the bleeding condition haemophilia. He was one of around 3,000 haemophiliacs who died after being infected with HIV and other viruses, like hepatitis, in imported blood products in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

These viruses got into the supply chain when high-risk donors, such as drug addicts and prisoners, in countries like the USA were paid to give blood donations. Those products were then bought by the UK.

Another victim, speaking for the first time on condition of anonymity, has kept his HIV condition a secret for almost 40 years.

He’s convinced Prof Bloom kept his HIV diagnosis from him while his wife was pregnant, and even tried to convince the couple to abort the child.

“They explained to us the situation that I was HIV positive and not to tell anyone – that was the biggest thing that hit me. Don’t tell anyone, we don’t want to frighten people. Keep it to yourselves and there’s nothing to be done. There’s no treatment available for it,” they tell the programme.

“I just hope to God it never happens again.”

“I think it’s our duty to tell this story because of the number of us that are already dead.”

BBC Wales Investigates has trawled through hundreds of pages of evidence. These documents show that drugs companies making the blood product Factor VIII, which is used to treat haemophiliacs, were aware of the risks of serious infection from the hepatitis virus as early as the 1970s.

The programme reveals that documents from Immuno AG – a pharmaceutical company which made the Factor VIII product used in the UK – shows senior executives knew products made from USA donors had a higher risk of viral infections, but they said the UK market would accept that risk because it was cheaper.

The programme captures the moment Colin Smith’s parents are shown the document for the first time.

“They weren’t worried about people’s health as far as I’m concerned. You get to a stage when you read things like that, to us it was murder,” said Colin’s mother, Janet.

Another Professor, who was mentored by Bloom and treated patients with infected blood products, told the programme that doctors and companies knew imported blood products carried serious health risks.

Prof Edward Tuddenham said: “If you go on selling a product that you know is potentially deadly just because you made a good profit from it, you’ve obviously rated your profit above the health and actually the life of the people who have been given the product.”

“There was a period when we were exposing patients to clearly horrific risk but we didn’t appreciate them or make the correct calculation of risk- benefit.”

Professor Bloom died in 1992.

The programme also examines the role of the UK Government, as the scandal was emerging, and asks why ministers continued telling the public there was “no conclusive proof” that AIDS could be carried in blood products.

And while victims, and families of victims, wait for compensation, the programme speaks to one woman who has been denied a payout, despite being able to prove she was infected with Hepatitis C through a blood transfusion in 1992 – after a cut-off date previously imposed by the government.

“It’s the recognition,” said Caz Challis. “It’s the not being told you’re not worth it. You don’t count. It’s the justice for the people who have been ignored.”

The infected blood inquiry is due to publish its final report on May 20th.

BBC Wales Investigates: Blood Money will be on BBC One Wales on Monday, April 15 at 8pm. It will also be available to watch on BBC iPlayer from Sunday.

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