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New council group will tip balance of power

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Councillors outside the meeting on Sunday night (August 3)

THE HERALD can exclusively reveal that a meeting took place at the Milford Haven home of IPPG County Councillor Stephen Joseph tonight at which members of Pembrokeshire council’s ruling independent group (IPPG) discussed plans to form a new party.

Cllr Joseph has said that his new party will be called ‘Pembrokeshire First’ and will have the slogan ‘people not politics’.

A number of County Councillors were spotted entering Cllr Joseph’s home and a tip off led to Herald Editor Tom Sinclair heading to the scene of the get-­together.

As a result, we are able to disclose that attending the rendezvous were IPPG County Councillors Lyn Jenkins (Solva), Mark Edwards (Haverfordwest: Prendergast), and Labour member Alison Lee (Pembroke Dock Central).

POWER SHIFT

The new group would take notional overall control of the authority away from Jamie Adams’ IPPG coalition and could significantly affect the balance of power on the Council, including the ability of the IPPG leaders to use patronage to persuade disaffected members to remain under the IPPG umbrella.

While the IPPG would remain the largest group on the Council, the new grouping would be able to assert a right to seats on key Council committees.

The Herald has previously reported growing disquiet within the IPPG about the group’s defence of embattled CEO Bryn Parry Jones and the series of scandals that has engulfed the Council under his stewardship. In recent key votes the IPPG has depended upon the support of supposedly “unaffiliated” Councillors ­ such as Phil Kidney (Manorbier) and Owen James (Scleddau) ­ to boost its backing in key votes. Cllr James votes so frequently with the IPPG that he seems to be a “banker” vote for the Group in close calls.

The IPPG has also been able to rely on the occasional support of former Tory leader Stan Hudson (Milford Haven North), who sat on the Senior Staff Committee that made the decision to make unlawful payments to the Council’s CEO.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, Cllr Joseph said: “At the present time no councillors have decided to join my new party. I called a meeting of friends and collegues to discuss my plans to launch Pembrokeshire People First. The wise man takes counsel from many advisors.”

MUDSLINGING AND SELF-PRESERVATION

He added: “My reasons for starting this party is that there is too much mud slinging at the council, and not enough positive stuff goes on. The culture at county hall is just self preservation, mud slinging, and people there for their own political gain. These are not the reasons why people should be county councillors. I made it clear to the councillors who came to the meeting tonight that I was not trying to recruit them. I wanted them to see my plans and then go home and sleep on it. They will make their decisions in their own time.”

Speaking about who will lead the new party, Cllr Joseph said: “After Pembrokeshire First has been operational for a few months I will hold an election to decide who the leader of the group will be.”

stevej

Cllr Joseph wants positive change for Pembrokeshire

Cllr Joseph told The Herald: “When implementing change we need to focus on building the new, and not fighting the old.”

Herald Editor, Thomas Sinclair, asked Cllr Joseph if he thought that the change in the balance of power would mean the end for Bryn Parry Jones. Cllr Joseph replied: “Yes, I hope so – that would be a positive step. But Bryn Parry Jones is not the only problem at County Hall – there are other things that need to be put right too.”

ASHAMED TO BE A COUNCILLOR

Cllr Joseph said: “I recently was wearing my Council ID badge whilst buying petrol. I don’t often wear it but for some reason I had it on that day. I noticed a woman looking at the badge and reading it. I felt ashamed and took it off. I want to be be proud to represent Pembrokeshire County Council, not embarrassed. Hopefully with this new party I will be able to proud to be a Councillor again. I want people to feel proud about Pembrokeshire.”

He added: “I voted for secrecy at the last council meeting when Bryn’s pension was being discussed because it would have been legally incorrect to discuss it in public. He is legally entitled to privacy, just like any other council employee. However, that does not mean that I am supporting Bryn Parry Jones’ pension in any way. I did receive criticism for that, but was voting for what was legally correct.”

FACEBOOK ANNOUNCEMENT

Cllr Joseph made an announcement on his personal Facebook page. He wrote: “I joined the Independent Group as I believed it was the right thing for my ward and for Milford. I have been banging my head against a brick wall, arguing for change for many months now. This has been both in private meetings and in public. Today I decided to leave the Independent Group and have written to every county councillor inviting them to join me. If I stand alone, so be it but hopefully some will decide to stand with me. The invitation has gone to all councillors because I am not starting a political party but want to work with a group of councillors who want to do what is right for their towns and Pembrokeshire as a whole.”

“The group is called Pembrokeshire First – people not politics. The first challenge is to get rid of the captain on the ship but the whole culture of the council needs to change. Some councillors are very vocal on fb but are just interested in promoting their own political careers and that needs to change too. Pembrokeshire Council needs to be about the people not about politics.”

“My phone number is 07785 685 035 if anyone wants to talk further about where I stand or how they can support this new revolt!”

REACTION FROM THE PEMBROKESHIRE ALLIANCE

Cllr Bob Kilmister of The Pembrokeshire Alliance was one of the first with a reaction to the news. Posting on social media, he said: “I welcome any Councillors who leave the IPPG and there is no doubt they are doing the right thing. What confuses me though is the statement from Steve Joseph which says, ” The ‘Pembrokeshire First’ party is not a political party. In my view, politics has no place in the council and I am not proposing myself as the ‘leader’ but merely facilitating change. A leader can be elected by those that come forward in the coming months. We should all be making decisions for the best for our wards and the county not for political reasons.”

Cllr Kilmister added: “The first thing you have to do when starting a new group within the council is elect a leader. You cannot wait. The other issue is what do they want to see happen, there is no vision but I fully accept that could come later. We set our Group up last November and it has taken a great deal of time and effort and money to get where we are now. Our Group was set up to allow disgruntled IPPG Councillors find another home, so I really hope they talk to me as we have so much in common. I have written to the Councillors mentioned and hope to speak with them soon.”

CLLR JOSEPH IS ABANDONING A SINKING SHIP, SAYS PLAID

Council Plaid leader Cllr Michael Williams said: “It must have been very clear to Cllr Stephen Joseph well before he joined the IPPG what he was getting in to.”

“What we see now is a person with no principles abandoning a sinking ship as the entire corrupt edifice begins to crumble, he is simply seeking to save his own skin. He has looked very at home with his IPPG colleagues, who include Rob lewis who misled the ombudsman ,and used electoral practises which wouldn’t be allowed in a banana republic, together with Jamie Adams, the ultimate master of the half truth, and one must not forget that that paragon of virtue, Brian Hall was a leading light of this group well before Stephen Joseph jumped ship the first time.”
He added: “He claims that his motive is concerns about Bryn Parry Jones. The problem goes well beyond the CEO, it comes from a complete lack of political leadership, which has allowed senior officers to set the agenda.”

Cllr Williams went on to say: “Time for a change? Certainly – but are the likes of Cllr Kilmister and Cllr Stock the answer? Cllr Stock has since 1996 been a bulwark of a corrupt system, and is another that seeks self preservation by seeking to reinvent himself.”

Plaid’s leader concluded by saying: “Cllr Stephen Joseph has let down his electorate. He replaced Mrs Anne Hughes, and just what did Milford get? I will leave that question for others to answer.”

THE LEADER SPEAKS OUT

In a prepared statement, Cllr Jamie Adams, Council Leader said:

“I am sorry that Steve has decided to leave the Independent Plus Group. I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with him, but I respected his commitment to achieve a more positive position for the residents of Milford Haven, which I share.

Needless to say, I don’t accept the picture that Steve has sought to create in his letter to all councillors. Pembrokeshire has good and improving services, the lowest Council Tax in Wales and, compared to others, low charges for many of its services.

I am thankful that the majority of my colleagues on the Council have demonstrated their ability to rise above the petty vendettas pursued by some and maintain a focus on the long-term. I am also grateful to those Members who have sought to engage in our attempts to improve personal relationships within the Authority. Pembrokeshire’s future must come before any desire to satisfy the headline writers.”

 

A LETTER TO ALL COUNCILLORS

The Herald can bring you the full text of a letter that Cllr. Joseph has sent to all councillors:

Dear Councillor,
Tonight I have decided that I cannot continue being a councillor in Pembrokeshire as long as the current culture exists.  I cannot be a part of a regime that continues to support Bryn Parry Jones. He is the captain of our ship and after hitting so many ice bergs, there comes a time when the captain has to take responsibility for the series of mistakes. 
On one hand we are told that we cannot discuss his pension openly because he is an employee with employee’s rights (which is why I voted as I did), yet on the other hand there is an investigation into him and yet he maintains his position. Any other employee would be suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry.
This is obviously a huge issue which needs to change but there is also a wider issue for me. The current culture is one of fear & frustration, people being bought with promises of positions and others opposing right decisions merely because of who proposes them or for individuals own political gain. 
There should be a culture of doing what is right with integrity and moving forward. Given the budget cuts, we have huge issues to discuss and these are not being discussed because of the unhealthy situation we have in the chamber.
For as long as I’m not standing against the current situation, by default I am contributing to it, so I have to make a stand for what is right. I will be leaving the IPPG group this evening, not to join another political group but to stand with anyone who wants to join me in making right decisions for the people of our wards and the people of Pembrokeshire. 
The ‘Pembrokeshire First’ party is not a political party. In my view, politics has no place in the council and I am not proposing myself as the ‘leader’ but merely facilitating change. A leader can be elected by those that come forward in the coming months. We should all be making decisions for the best for our wards and the county not for political reasons.
The biggest issue is obviously Bryn as captain of the ship but this is not just about him, it’s about the cabinet system and the culture that currently exists in the council – a culture of control and preserving peoples positions of power.
I want to work for a change of culture. The long term goal is to see 60 councillors having equal say, in all the important issues facing. I know it is a big task changing the system but unless someone takes a stand, it will never change. There are a lot of positives in PCC, which aren’t even acknowledged, let alone celebrated. The current situation is rotten to the core. I have tried my hardest to fight the status quo but to no avail. Socrates said “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” So that’s what I intend to do. The people of Pembrokeshire are crying out for change, the morale amongst employees of PCC is rock bottom. It is time to draw a line in the sand.
If you want to make a stand too, no matter what your political allegiances are, then let me know. I firmly believe that each one of us became a councillor for the right reasons.
It is time again for all of us to do what is right. 
Steve Joseph

 

 

 

 

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Ambulance terror response fears in Wales over hospital delays

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Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter

AMBULANCE chiefs in Wales say they may not be able to respond properly to terror attacks because of hospital handover delays.

It follows a report highlighting the risk of “catastrophic harm” to the public if crews are busy at A&E departments during major incidents – this includes concerns about the availability of ambulances following a fire on a ferry heading to Fishguard last year.

The Welsh Ambulance Service service raised concerns after a mass-casualty simulation found it would have failed to provide an adequate response three out of four times.

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to prioritise cutting handover delays.

The tests were conducted after the Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry.

That found a host of failings by emergency services in the attack’s aftermath.

The warning follows the service’s claims some medics could not to respond to an explosion at Treforest Industrial Estate, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, in December 2023 because they were stuck outside Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

A major incident was declared after the blast in which a woman died.

Next week a report will be given to the ambulance service board alleging hospital officials failed to release crews from the hospital site.

Swansea Bay University Health Board denied this, saying ambulances were freed.

The ambulance service has questioned the effectiveness of release procedures.

Chief executive Jason Killens has written to Welsh health boards for assurances.

It fears it may not be able to respond to them properly because of hospital handover delays
The ambulance service fears: It may not be able to respond properly because of hospital handover delays

The ambulance report said if a major incident was declared there was a risk an “effective, timely, or safe response” may not happen.

“(This would result in) catastrophic harm (death) and a breach of the trust’s legal obligation,” it said.

The main reason for this was “lost capacity due to hospital handover delays”, over which, it said, it had no control.

It added it was not assured hospitals had plans to release ambulances effectively.

Welsh Ambulance Service operations chief Lee Brooks said it had plans to deliver an effective response to major incidents.

He recognised handover delays were a problem.

“Our ability to send a large-scale response to an incident may be hindered if our people and vehicles are not immediately released by emergency departments,” Mr Brooks said.

The report also highlighted two other occasions where the service had been concerned about ambulances not being released.

These included the fire on the Fishguard in 2023 ferry as well as a gas explosion in Swansea the month after.

Swansea Bay health board said it took its responsibilities seriously and had major incident plans.

Jason Killens
Welsh Ambulance Service boss Jason Killens says as many as 30,000 hours are lost each month due to waits to transfer patients to hospital

“These include agreed protocols to enable the rapid release of ambulances from the emergency department in the event that a major incident is declared,” it said.

“We can confirm that on the evening of the Treforest Industrial Estate fire our major incident plan was invoked and that we did release ambulances.”

Handover delays were raised in the Senedd last week after the health committee was told ambulance crews often see only one patient a shift.

Mr Killens said as much as 30,000 hours were lost monthly in Wales due to waiting to transfer patients to hospital.

Patient safety was at risk, he said, with handover times averaging more than two hours. The target is 15 minutes.

Sam Rowlands MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “It’s not good enough for the Labour Welsh Government to just ‘expect’ Health Boards to solve handover delays.

“We need substantial reform of the entire health system to clear the backlogs of getting patients out of hospital as well as in.

“Our Welsh Conservative plan of NHS reservists, along with care hospitals will deliver that immediate support needed to enable the Ambulance Service to save lives.”

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to cut patient handover delays as a priority over the next six months.

It said this year it was investing an extra £180m to help health boards and regional partnership boards manage more people in the community and avoid ambulances and hospital admission.

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Joy as St Davids Cathedral Music Festival gets into full swing

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THE ST DAVIDS Cathedral Festival is in full swing, offering a captivating array of performances that have enthralled audiences and celebrated the rich tradition of music in the historic setting of St Davids Cathedral. The event bring world-class musicians in Britain’s smallest city, running from 24th-29th May.

The programme of events kicked off on Friday, May 24, with The Children’s Chorus and Band, and Vox Angelica, Vicars Choral and Choral Scholars by Candlelight.

On Saturday night, May 25, festival-goers were treated to a truly stunning performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) under the baton of renowned conductor Martyn Brabbins. The evening’s programme featured masterful renditions of works by Brahms, Sibelius, and Mathias, with the extraordinary violinist Inmo Yang delivering a particularly unforgettable performance.

Audience members and performers alike expressed their appreciation for the concert, with many calling it an evening to remember.

Photographer Chris Limbert captured the essence of the night, showcasing the cathedral’s breathtaking atmosphere and the musicians’ passion.

Earlier that same day, one of the festival’s most anticipated events took place: the ‘Choristers Unplugged’ concert.

This event, a favourite among the choristers, saw the young singers performing to a packed audience.

The concert featured a delightful and whimsical pink theme, with choristers donning costumes inspired by ‘Wonka’, ‘Barbie’, ‘Six’, and other popular themes.

The performance was a resounding success, demonstrating the choristers’ versatility and love for music of all genres. Special recognition was given to the Head Chorister, who was praised for expertly curating the programme.

Festival attendees Laurence and his companion expressed their joy at being part of the event, noting how the concert’s atmosphere allowed them to share in the choristers’ enthusiasm and appreciation for a wide variety of music.

The St Davids Cathedral Festival continues to be a highlight in the regional cultural calendar, bringing together talented musicians and appreciative audiences in one of the country’s most iconic and spiritually significant venues.

As the festival progresses, it promises more remarkable performances and memorable experiences for all who attend.

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Injured climber rescued from cliffs near St Govan’s Head

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AN INJURED climber was rescued from the cliffs near St Govan’s Head on Friday afternoon, May 24, in a dramatic operation involving multiple agencies. The climber found themselves stranded on the perilous rocks, prompting a swift response from coastguard rescue teams and an RNLI lifeboat.

At approximately 3.50pm, HM Coastguard Dale, St Govans, and Tenby teams, along with the Angle RNLI lifeboat, were paged to assist in the rescue. The lifeboat was the first to reach the climber, providing immediate casualty care. However, due to the climber’s precarious position, evacuation by boat was deemed impossible.

In a statement on their Facebook page, HM Coastguard Dale praised the collaboration, stating, “This was another great example of multiple agencies working together for a positive outcome.”

The coastguard teams then initiated a rope rescue operation. Using a rope rescue stretcher, they successfully extracted the injured climber to the top of the cliff. The climber’s partner, who was also on the cliffs, was safely recovered during the operation.

Once the casualty was safely at the top, paramedics took over, providing necessary medical care. The coastguard teams were subsequently stood down, concluding a successful multi-agency rescue effort.

The quick and efficient response highlights the vital role of coordinated efforts in emergency situations, ensuring the safety and well-being of those in perilous conditions.

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