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Health Board Charity Grabs £3.9 million

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charity123AN INVESTIGATION by The Pembrokeshire Herald has revealed that the Local Health Board has reclassified millions of pounds of charity funds – which were pledged by donors for various specific projects – and reclassified that money so it can be spent how it sees fit. 

In 2009/2010 the Board undertook a secretive accounting exercise that moved £3.427m from restricted funds to unrestricted funds, meaning that its own charity could use the cash as it wished. The Herald can also confirm that by moving the cash into unrestricted funds, the Health Board’s charity is able hold on to the money which was raised for a Cancer Day Unit (CDU), even if it did not build one in the county. The Herald can also confirm that if the Board Charity held on to the money raised for the CDU in Restricted fund and then did not build a CDU in Pembrokeshire, then it would have to return the money to those who made donations to that project. If the money is Unrestricted, it would not. The Board claims that its own health charities given “vital support beyond what the NHS currently provides”. But in one example of charitable funds expenditure uncovered by the Herald, £4.5K of charity funds were used to refurbish storage cupboards. In addition, a recent decision means that the income from investment funds enabling the purchase of equipment for cardiac care can be deployed to meet other financial needs. The move was welcomed at the time by the only elected representative on the Health Board’s Executive Committee, Labour turncoat and IPPG Cabinet member Simon Hancock. So shy is the Health Board Charity of providing information about its activities that minutes of its meetings are virtually absent from the Board’s website. A look at the Board’s website on Tuesday, July 15 revealed that no public record of minutes exist for the Charity Committee’s meetings before March 3, 2014. With the last recorded meeting taking place on June 17, 2014. One explanation for the absence of minutes could be the reconstitution of the charity. A move that also means that past records of fundraising and charitable accounts have been removed from the public record. That change means that the unilateral reclassification of restricted funds to unrestricted ones would not be contained within information publicly available via the charities’ regulator’s – the Charity Commission – website. The Board claims: “All our funds are reported in our accounts and Annual Report to the Charity Commission and are subject to external audit by Wales Audit Office.“ The reality is that the reclassification of £3.9m in 2009/2010 cannot be found by reference to the public record at the Charity Commission, as that health board charity no longer exists. The Herald has, however, obtained copies of minutes of Charity Committee meetings, accounts and correspondence that sheds a startling light on the Board’s handling of charity funds. While the Health Board charity’s publicity strategy emphasizes its independence from the Local Health Board, that position is difficult to square with repeated assurances given by former Board Chair Chris Martin and former CEO Trevor Purt that charitable funds would be used to underpin the services would be revamped. If the Health Board’s charity was truly independent, unfettered discretion as to the deployment of its funds would be subject to a decision of its Trustees in line with Charity Commission rules and its own constitution (or Trust Deed). An examination of past Charity Committee meetings minutes obtained by the Pembrokeshire Herald shows that the names of those attending the meetings and taking part in decisions to spend charitable funds have been obliterated to prevent their identification. The Health Board charity says it will work with other charities and fundraisers. It offers its services to Leagues of Friends. The Charity Committee and the Board were not so forthcoming when it decided to secretively reclassify donations given to it away from one type of fund to another. As an example, the Herald has noted that the Board delegated two members of the Committee to visit undertakers in Pembrokeshire to ensure that legacies that would otherwise have been donated to Ward 10 at Withybush Hospital were instead directed to Pembrokeshire Cancer Services. The Health Board charity’s use of undertakers to help it meet its fundraising target of £2m a year means that families of bereaved could be misled into making donations to a cause not of their own or their deceased loved one’s choosing. The important difference between the two is that a donation made expressly for the benefit of Ward 10 would be a restricted fund that could only be used to benefit Ward 10. A donation to Pembrokeshire Cancer Services would be to an unrestricted fund operated by the Board’s own Charity that it could deploy as and when it saw fit. The Board has claimed in public on a number of occasions that funds are “ring-fenced” to develop a CDU at Withybush and to refurbish Ward 10. That assertion was made in a letter to new Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb in a letter from Trevor Purt, the Health Board’s former CEO. That sounds like the money is set aside and cannot be used for other things. But it does not. Mr Purt’s claim that the funds were “ringfenced” does not mean that charity funds will be used to develop such services in the same way that they would if the funds the Board reclassified were still restricted for that sole use. The distinction can be summarised as the difference between the Board having to use donations for the purpose for which they were intended or saying it will use them for that purpose but without any commitment to do so. An analogy of that type of meaningless promise is that the Board told Pembrokeshire it would maintain paediatric care in Pembrokeshire and then ran the service in such a way as to force inpatient paediatrics to move to West Wales General Hospital. When we asked the Board to comment on the activities of its charitable fund, it told us: “In relation to the above Cancer Services Fund a total of £550,000 has been committed voluntarily by the Charitable Funds Committee to two projects. The refurbishment of Ward 10 (the main cancer ward in Withybush Hospital – amount committed £250,000) and the re-provision of a Cancer Day Unit (in conjunction with Bucket Full of Hope).” Campaigners suspect the Board re-designated the funds because of the preponderance of donations given to provide cancer services in Pembrokeshire that were restricted for use at Withybush or within our county. That sentiment appears to be justified by unfortunate minutes seen by the Herald that suggests that, after the funds grab took place, an investment of £550,000 for cancer services at Withybush should be announced to “appease” people in Pembrokeshire. One charity the Board thought would be appeased is the Bucketful of Hope Appeal was set up in memory of Adams Evans-Thomas, who while suffering from the leukaemia that ended his life, campaigned for leukaemia and cancer sufferers. After Adam’s death, his baton was picked up by his mother Chris Evans- Thomas, who was subsequently awarded the MBE for services to charity. Chris continues to be involved in the Appeal and recently made a public request for the return of money handed over to the Board so that the charity could make good on the numerous promises made by the Board to build a Cancer Day Unit it has never fulfilled. Interestingly, and as the Herald was able to reveal last week, in 2010 former Board Chairman Chris Martin did offer to return the money raised toward the CDU to the Bucketful of Hope Appeal. He accompanied that offer with a statement that the Board intended to press ahead with building a CDU. In the circumstances, the charity declined as the Board seemed about to make good on its promises. The Herald has spoken to others at the meeting where that offer was made. Judging from the stance since adopted by the Board, Mr Martin’s approach was either unauthorised and unlawful or a cynical ploy, as the Board recently claimed: “The Health Board did not receive donations and legacies from the public to the Cancer Services Pembrokeshire Fund with any specific wish that it is for the Bucket Full of Hope’ or any expressed restriction (most likely in the form of a legacy) that it be used in this way. “Instead it was received with the wish that it be used in Cancer Services in Pembrokeshire (in the form of unrestricted donations). “Further, the Charity Commission have confirmed that under charity legislation the Trustees have a duty to expend the funds under the objects of the charity to which they were donated and these are specifically NHS. It was further confirmed by them that the University Health Board’s Charity has no power to hand these monies wholesale to a non NHS charity. Therefore it is the hospital charity that is responsible for the public discharge of those funds under Charity Commission rules and charity legislation.” While the Board Charity now says it cannot disentangle the money given to fund the CDU from its combined funds, as the redesignation of those funds took place before Chris Martin’s offer to hand back fundraisers’ money, its assertion appears to be – at best – slightly disingenuous and potentially selfserving.

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Pembrokeshire airport lease expected to be completed by end of year

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HAVERFORDWEST’S council-run airport, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, is expected to be leased out by the end of the year following “reasonably complex” negotiations, councillors heard.

Back in May, members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet supported the leasing of Withybush Airport as part of plans to make the facility cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

That loss has been reduced to an expected £119,000 for 2023/24 “following an extensive review of the operations of the airport”.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s full council, a series of submitted questions on the airport were heard.

Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole asked: “With the council leasing out the Haverfordwest airport, can members be assured that the lease is at comparable rent with similar airport facilities, and the airport being offloaded purely as a cost savings measure?”

He also asked a second related question: “Are current users protected and assured that their tenancy and rents currently payable to the authority are taken into consideration?”

Responding, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said the proposed letting was considered to be “best letting,” with restricted private documents detailing the figures available to all members.

On the second question, he said existing tenants had been involved throughout the process, and once the new overall lease was in place tenants would be protected through legislation.

However, he stressed the new leaseholder would be able to change conditions in the future and the council would “not dictate terms” in the future.

A further question was asked by Saundersfoot South councillor Chris Williams: “On a recent services meeting back in 2023, we had a productive meeting at Withybush Airport to look at the impact regarding costs to PCC and to consider options with regards to its future operation.

“Can you please clarify if the airport is still owned and operated by Pembrokeshire County Council and if so at what cost since April 1, 2024?”

Cllr Miller said the airport was still currently owned by the council following the Cabinet decision, with “reasonably complex” negotiations ongoing, complicated by land ownership issues and the need to obtain the civil aviation licence.

“Hopefully by the end of the calendar year we will have completed that transaction,” Cllr Miller said, adding that £25,000 had been spent since April 1.

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Farming

FUW sets out its key priorities at the Royal Welsh Show

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THE Farmers’ Union of Wales has set out its robust asks of the UK and Welsh Governments despite the challenges presented by navigating through a constantly changing political landscape.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show this week, FUW President Ian Rickman reiterated the fact that the Union’s stance remains constant and relentless in an ever changing political arena.

“Welsh farming is at an important crossroads which will determine our future for decades to come. Whilst our direction of travel depends heavily on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the newly elected UK Government will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development.

“This, in turn, will have an impact upon the extent to which Welsh food producers can be expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“Despite these challenges, our focus as a Union is to keep-on lobbying governments relentlessly for the best possible outcomes for our members, Welsh agriculture and our rural communities.

“The recent Senedd Cabinet reshuffle and UK General Election certainly brought about considerable change to the political landscape in Wales, not least the appointment of Huw Irranca-Davies MS as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and a new UK Labour Government holding a majority at Westminster.

“However, turmoil in Cardiff persists as Vaughan Gething’s resignation leaves the door wide open for yet another reshuffle within a matter of a few months.

At a UK level, the FUW is calling for a fair, multiannual funding settlement of £450 million per year in EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales.

“The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

“We also need to see a far more robust approach to future trade deals with other countries and trading blocs if we are to protect Welsh farmers and UK food security. Food imports and exports must be subject to the same customs and adherence to similar standards if we are to provide a level playing field for both UK and EU producers.”

The FUW is calling for incentives and support for farmers to invest in on-farm renewable energy production that benefits local communities. Food production should be recognised as a national asset and the use of productive agricultural land to meet tree planting and other environmental targets should be halted.

Procurement policies must prioritise public sector support for Welsh and British businesses, recognising the range of benefits such properly designed policies can deliver for society. The newly elected UK Labour Government must also protect and promote the UK’s high animal health and welfare standards and bring in a law that ensures that all dogs should be kept on a lead in fields near or adjacent to livestock.

“Despite the uncertainty in Cardiff, we call on the Welsh Government to build strong relations with the newly elected UK Labour Government to ensure that Welsh agriculture receives the attention it deserves. EU CAP legacy funding allocated for Welsh agriculture and rural development must be protected for this purpose and such funding should continue to be co-funded using national funds.

“The ongoing process of negotiating a revised Sustainable Farming Scheme that provides stability for our food producing family farms must also continue if the scheme is to be implemented in 2026. It is crucial that the scheme considers economic, social and environmental sustainability on equal footings and is accessible and achievable for all active farmers in Wales.

“We also want to see the adoption of practical and innovative technological solutions as a central part of the Control of Agricultural Pollution ‘NVZ’ Regulations review. The process must be based on robust data and evidence while seeking to address water quality issues through innovation rather than regulation.”

Mr Rickman added that the Welsh Government has to, now more than ever before, adopt a scientific and holistic approach to bovine TB eradication in Wales by working with the Technical Advisory Group in investigating the effectiveness of current testing regimes and methods for addressing disease transmission by wildlife.

“Finally, moves towards net zero must be sustainable and based on robust science in such a way that actions carried out in response to short-term targets are not reversed. Reducing our carbon footprint must be manageable and realistic, and must not compromise production or the economic viability of farming businesses.

“The coming days are a celebration of Welsh agriculture and the farmers who continue to produce high quality food and protect the environment against a constant backdrop of political uncertainty and challenge.”

Mr Rickman said that the impacts of such uncertainty across the UK and some fundamental policy questions would be the focus of the FUW’s seminars being held over the coming days, as panels of professionals tackle a diverse range of areas of concern for Welsh farming.

“As always, in addition to these events, our staff and Presidential Team will be meeting officials and stakeholders in order to highlight FUW’s farming members’ good news stories and industry concerns. Rest assured, despite navigating a constantly changing political landscape, our constant and relentless stance remains; to represent the interests of Welsh farmers,” concluded Mr Rickman.

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Health

Health Board to make decision about the future of St David’s GP Surgery

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THE FUTURE of Primary Care provision for patients registered with St David’s GP Surgery in Pembrokeshire will be discussed by Hywel Dda University Health Board at a meeting on Thursday, 25 July 2024.

An engagement exercise was undertaken to gather patient and local stakeholder views on the future of GP services following the decision of the one GP who runs the Surgery to resign his General Medical Services Contract, which takes effect from 31 October 2024.

The engagement with patients and stakeholders included a drop-in event St David’s City Hall in June. This event was well-attended and gave people an opportunity to discuss their concerns in person with the Health Board and Llais, the patient’s voice organisation for Wales.

Patients and members of the local community were also able to share their views via a questionnaire which was available at the engagement event, and also from the Surgery, the local Pharmacy, online, or by contacting the Health Board by phone or e-mail.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long-Term Care, at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to feed back their views to us. The Health Board is committed to listening to and engaging with our local populations and we would like to thank patients and stakeholders for their involvement in the process so far.

“We would like to reassure patients that we are working to find a sustainable solution from the limited options available so that services can be delivered as locally as possible for patients from the 1 November.

The main themes picked up during the engagement period include concerns about the impact on the community of St David’s if the Surgery were to close, continuity of care and also travel to another GP surgery, especially with regard to public transport.

“People at the drop-in event were provided with information about the frequency of public transport and other transport support available in the community,” said Ms Paterson.

“There was also much appreciation expressed for Dr Stephen Riley and his team and for the care that they have provided over the years. We very much appreciate the continuing support given by the Community to the team at St David’s Surgery throughout this challenging period.”

On Thursday, 25 July, the Board will consider the feedback received.

Ms Paterson continued: “We understand local people will want to know what the future of their GP services will look like, and we will be writing to all patients to inform them of the outcome once a decision is made by the Board.”

To read the Board papers and watch the meeting on the day, please visit: Board Agenda and Papers 25 July 2024 – Hywel Dda University Health Board (nhs.wales)

An update, following the Board’s formal decision on Thursday, July 25 will be shared with patients and stakeholders.

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