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The ‘rubber stamp’ appointment

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John Evans MBE - resigned as Audit Committee chairman

John Evans MBE – resigned as Audit Committee chairman

OPPOSITION members on Pembrokeshire County Council’s Urgency Committee have criticised the method used to appoint Swansea solicitor Mr Peter Jones as lay (noncouncillor) member to the council’s audit committee. 

Mr Jones has been drafted in to replace Mr John Evans who resigned in controversial circumstances earlier this year. In his resignation letter, Mr Evans claimed that his attempt to have his committee examine certain issues regarding the grants scheme in Pembroke Dock had been blocked by council officers and that he had come to realise that the authority’s “appetite for change” did not match his own vision when he took up the post. In order to at least give the impression that they are independent of the ruling group, audit committees are required by statute to have at least one lay member, so, following Mr Evans resignation the committee has been in limbo.

Next Monday, the committee is due to discuss a critical report by the council’s internal audit service which catalogues the flaws, first identified by Hakin councillor Mike Stoddart over a year ago, in the way these grants have been administered. It was therefore imperative that a lay member be appointed ahead of that meeting – hence the use of the sevenmember urgency committee to endorse the audit committee appointment panel’s choice of Mr Jones. The members of three-person appointments panel, which, is not politically balanced; meets in secret; and produces no minutes, are Cllrs Tom Richards (IPPG), Stan Hudson (Tory) and a lay chairman Lynette George. Speaking at last Tuesday’s urgency committee, Cllr Tessa Hodgson (unaffiliated) said members were being asked to “rubber stamp” the appointment with next to no information on the qualifications of either the recommended candidate, or the other applicants. Cllr Tom Richards assured urgency committee members that there had been a lengthy interview process and that the panel had come to a unanimous decision that Mr Jones was the best person for the job. But that didn’t satisfy Cllr Hodgson who retorted that the committee had no information about the calibre of any of the candidates, or the job specification.

“How can we ratify a decision if we have no information?” she asked. Cllr Tom Richards assured members that, during the interviews, Mr Jones “stood out above the rest”. Monitoring Officer Laurence Harding explained that council had delegated the appointment process to the panel, which is required to make a recommendation back to council (in this case the urgency committee acting as full council). Cllr Paul Miller (Lab) said he was concerned that the authority “seemed to delegate anything it likes to panels” and that he was unsure that the panel had any legal status. But Mr Harding said this was the process used throughout Wales, though head of legal services Huw Miller agreed that just because other authorities used this system didn’t make it right. Cllr Hodgson complained “This is a public role on a public body – why shouldn’t people know about it” But Leader Jamie Adams told her: “Your position is totally unreasonable” to which Cllr Hodgson retorted that this was another example of “the council’s closed door mentality”.

“We are in the dark, we are the decision making body, but we have no information. I find it bizarre” she added, And Cllr Paul Miller agreed: “That is the crux of the matter,” he said ,“just sticking your hand up in favour of recommendations without knowing all the facts is dangerous. The process needs to be more open and transparent – people need to know how it works”. Head of legal services Huw Miller said he accepted the view that more information needed to be provided. But after Cllr Tom Richards said he was “entirely satisfied with the recommendation” the four IPPG members on the committee voted to endorse Mr Jones. Cllr Hodgson asked that it be recorded that she had voted against the decision and Cllr Miller abstained. A Council Spokesperson told The Herald: “The new lay member of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Audit Committee is Peter Jones. “ Mr Jones is a former senior partner with law firm Morgan Cole, Mr Jones is a former chair of the Board of Swansea College.

He was formerly vice chairman of Swansea Building Society. While at Morgan Cole, Mr Jones acted on behalf of a wide range of clients, including Swansea University, BP, a number of colleges in the further education sector, a number of housing associations in Wales, Milford Haven Port Authority and Wales and West Utilities. A Council spokesperson also said: “The deadline for applications was extended by a week as it was felt an insufficient number of people had applied for the post.”

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

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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: MacmillanCISSPembrokeshire.HDD@wales.nhs.uk

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

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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

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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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