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Grants paid out ‘without any proper checks’



simonhart“WHAT a difference a year makes”, Cllr Mike Stoddart told the Herald after reading a report on the Commercial Property Grant Scheme (CPGS) in Pembroke Dock that is due to go before PCC’s audit committee next Monday. 

The Hakin councillor has been making allegations about this grant scheme for almost 18 months and in September 2013, after the matter was referred to the audit committee by Cllr Michael Williams (Plaid Cymru), and an investigation carried out by the council’s internal audit service, members were told: “Internal Audit has shared its findings with the Council’s Monitoring Officer who is satisfied that there is no evidence of maladministration or non-compliance with the governance arrangements relevant to the specific schemes or of any lack of competence in officers concerned with the administration of the schemes.”

Now, a year later, the council is singing a different tune and the report before next week’s meeting says that a further internal audit investigation into 29 Dimond Street (Paul Sartori) has found there is “No evidence of regular site visits being undertaken to ensure details agree with the specification and standards” and that “There was insufficient evidence of physical or financial completion of the project to support the authorisation of the grant payment.” Cllr Stoddart told our reporter: “If you cut through the jargon, what this means is that grant money was paid out without anyone carrying out proper checks that the work had actually been done” “So much for last year’s attempt to gloss over the problem with talk of ‘no evidence of maladministration’ or ‘any lack of competence’ by council officers.” “The only conclusion is that the report that went before the audit committee last September was either not properly researched or, more likely, one of the council’s trademark cover-ups.”

The latest report also concludes that: “Management and/or disciplinary action should be considered in respect of non-compliance with the process and procedures contained in the CPGS procedural manual, and the additional issues identified in this review.” But Cllr Stoddart says it’s a bit late for that. “A report was sent to the police in April this year containing allegations of massive overpayments at Paul Sartori for work that was either ineligible for grant aid, or, in many cases, simply not done at all.” “That was when disciplinary action should have been considered “, he told the Herald, “it’s probably too late now because, I understand, the officer who signed off these ‘irregular payments’ went on long-term sick leave just a couple of weeks ago”. Cllr Stoddart says that one of his main concerns was that the tender process was wide open to fraud.

He wrote to the council last September pointing out that not only was the tender opening process entirely in the hands of the developer’s architect, but, as eligible and ineligible works were intermingled in the Bills of Quantities accompanying the tender, it was possible for the rates for the eligible work to be inflated to attract a higher grant, while those for the ineligible work could be reduced to keep the tender competitive. As Cllr Stoddart said: “This is especially so if there is a collusive agreement between the applicant and the builder that the ineligible works will not be required to be done. That being the case the builder can submit whatever rates he likes for the private work without ever having to deliver.

The council’s internal auditors dismissed his concerns by claiming that as the developer didn’t know which items were eligible and which were not and “Consequently they have no ability to carry out the fraud suggested, whether they collude or not.” Mike Stoddart says it is simply not true that applicants don’t know which parts of the work are eligible for grants and which not and this latest audit report recommends that: “Grant funding should be based on the lowest tender for eligible works to ensure that the process cannot be manipulated and that best value for public funds is obtained.” The report also suggests that, in order to ensure the integrity of the process, in future, a council officer should be present when tenders are opened. Cllr Stoddart told the Herald: “This report bears out everything I have said about the flaws in this process.”

“People should wonder what sort of regime we are living under when a member is subject to a barrage of personal attacks by leading members of the ruling IPPG for simply telling the truth.” This is a reference to last December’s meeting of full council, when Cllr David Pugh, cabinet member with responsibility for grants, accused Cllr Stoddart of conducting “a campaign of innuendo and smear tactics” and making “spurious allegations” about the way the council had administered the CPGS; concluding his ten minute tirade: “But, then, getting at the truth is not on his agenda.”

At the same meeting, Pugh’s IPPG colleague Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse accused the Hakin councillor of being “someone who wouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”. But Mike Stoddart is defiant in the face of these attacks. “Sadly for them, they have backed the wrong horse”, he told the Herald, “the truth is all on my side”. As for the attempted character assassination, he was contemptuously dismissive. “I regard being attacked by buffoons like Pugh and Allen- Mirehouse as an honour. If they liked me, I would begin to worry that I had taken a wrong turn. “But what people will find hard to understand,” Mike Stoddart concluded, “is that nine months after launching this personal attack on me, based, as it was, on untruths and outright lies, Cllr Pugh is still trousering his £15,000 a year cabinet SRA.”

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New Information Centre opens at Withybush Hospital for those affected by Cancer



A NEW Macmillan Information and Support Centre has opened at the entrance to Hywel Dda University Health Board’s Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest to help those looking for advice and support about cancer.

The Centre has been officially opened by 10-year-old Ethan Llewelyn-Dimon, from Whitland. He recently raised a staggering £3,600 for Macmillan Cancer Support Wales by growing his hair to make a wig for the Little Princess Trust. Ethan’s family has been affected by cancer twice. His aunty Jo and mamgu had cancer. Sadly he never got to meet his aunty, as she passed away before he was born. Thankfully his Mamgu survived although she had three operations and lost her hair during the treatment. Ethan decided to grow his hair long enough to be made into a wig for children going through cancer and wanted to raise money as well to give something back to those who helped his family.

The new Information and Support Centre is open 9am – 5pm, from Monday to Friday. Helen Wood and Rachel Kersey, Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Coordinators, will be in the Centre to offer information and support.

Helen Wood said, “Being told that you have cancer is one of the hardest things that you hear, and it can be a scary time where sometimes you just need someone who you can ask for support and information about what is out there that might help. This is why we developed the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service and have been supporting people in Pembrokeshire for the past six years. We are there for anyone affected by cancer in many different ways from emotional support and someone to talk to, help to access psychological support from specialist Cancer Counsellors or a referral to the Macmillan Benefits Advice Team. We can provide both electronic and hard copies of the various Macmillan resources or signpost to other local and national organisations or support networks.” 

The pandemic meant support was only available over the phone but the opening of the Centre means face to face meetings are once again possible, but for the time being it must be a booked appointment to help keep everyone as safe as possible. 

Official opening of new cancer information and support centre in Withybush hospital

Rachel Kersey said, “It is always a privilege to be able to help, no question is too small and if you are unsure of what you need, just give us a call on 01437 773859.”

Anna Tee, Partnership Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said, “Macmillan is delighted to have designed and funded this fantastic new space for people who need cancer information in collaboration with Hywel Dda.”  

Gina Beard, Lead Cancer Nurse for Hywel Dda University Health Board said, “This is a service that is provided throughout Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and when circumstances allow, we will reach out to local businesses and attend events. The support service is here for people with concerns around a cancer diagnosis whether that’s the individual, friends or family. We are urging patients to come forward for diagnostic tests as we are concerned that many are still not seeking the care they need due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We want people who suspect they have cancer to know we are very much open for business.”

The way the public access NHS services has changed and the Welsh Government is encouraging people to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them as part of its Help Us, Help You campaign. The Macmillan support service can help with support and advice. The Health Board are also urging people to phone their local GP surgery if they think they might have symptoms of cancer, such as a new lump, pain, bleeding or sudden weight loss.

The Macmillan Information and Support Centre can be contacted by telephoning: 01437 773 859 or email:

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine in west Wales



FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to various locations in west Wales.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody.

They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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Fishguard RNLI rescues drifting pleasure boat and crew



ON SATURDAY evening  (Jul 24) a member of the public walking the coastal path near Carregwastad Point saw, in the fading light, a pleasure boat with people aboard apparently in difficulty. The member of the public then called 999.

This resulted in Fishguard RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat launching at 8.50pm with a full volunteer crew and speeding to the scene in calm sea conditions. Upon arrival at the location the lifeboat found a 7 foot pleasure boat drifting with four young men onboard.

Location of incident at Carregwastad Point, North Pembrokeshire (Image ONS)

The boat’s outboard engine had broken down and they had no auxiliary engine or any safety equipment, no lights, and no form of communication.

A tow line was attached to the boat and the men were transferred to the lifeboat.

One of the lifeboat crew went aboard the pleasure boat for the return journey to Goodwick public slipway where UK Coastguard personnel were waiting to speak with the four men.

The lifeboat returned to its station, arriving at 9.50pm.

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