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Council discusses scrutiny

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County Hall

County Hall

AT TUESDAY’S Democratic Services Committee, Councillors discussed a number of ways to help improve scrutiny. They discussed its effectiveness, ways to improve it, adequacy of support and public engagement. Cllr Owen James said: “There needs to be a recognition of how good they think scrutiny is. What measurement facilities are there?” Mark Elliot, Head of Public Protection, responded: “It’s very hard to define success criteria; the way it was done was all about a self-assessment process, identifying examples of good practice and areas for development. There is nothing previous to this but there is nothing set in stone other than the examples we have.”

Cllr Pat Davies said: “With my committee we evaluated where we were going and what we wanted to achieve. The task and finish group was set up as was the school standards. Each committee should be able to do a self-evaluation.” Mark Elliot added: “It is important to get member engagement. The starting point would be to begin with the template that the Welsh Audit Office has come up with and trial that. Then there can be some sort of judgement as to where we are.” Cllr Rhys Sinnett said: “I support trying it out and seeing if there are any gaps.

We won’t know unless we try it out.” Cllr James added: “With regards to member engagement – this is something that you need right across the authority. If everyone is involved it will be quite a pleasant environment, at the moment we don’t have that. You can’t do one without the other.” Huw Miller, Head of Legal & Committee Services, said: “The stance you are taking so far is good. There is a need to involve all members – members of scrutiny will change. You have to consider how you notify and involve all other members.”

He continued: “All chairs will produce annual reports and they will all be put on the website. The scrutiny website is building up quite nicely. Any member can see how scrutiny works.” Cllr Pat Davies said: “Scrutiny members sit in their groups; I don’t like that and I have switched names around in the past. They shouldn’t be there to sit in political groups.” Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse said: “I can see the point of this but it depends on the size of the committee and the size of the room and the business being discussed.”

Cllr Keith Lewis added: “I would always argue caution in terms of trying to over manage the situation. We are where we are, we’ve got to sit somewhere.” Cllr Allen-Mirehouse added: “Public engagement is very important; councillors are elected to represent their interests and views. It is very important that the public know what is happening. Somebody who does not know what is going on will come to a wrong decision. We are not trying to cut the public off; we all have a responsibility to our electors.”

Cllr Sinnett said: “We have to respond to our direct electors. The question is how we get their views of a topic we are looking at. We invite external views and this would be very useful to triangulate those. We are the ones who have to make the decision.” Cllr Keith Lewis said: “I agree with everything being said but you are missing out on one fundamental tier of government. “We should also consider the roles of community councillors. There are some which are very efficient and there are some which are useless.

“There have been examples recently like the public toilets; any decision we make will affect that area. “There have been different outcomes, other communities have said they would take them on but they haven’t”. Cllr Pat Davies said: “This could be a vehicle for trying to engage better with town and community councils”. Cllr Allen-Allen-Mirehouse added: “The community councils are very keen for the council to spend money in their wards. The town and community councils do not want a certain asset removed and this is where the role of the community council comes in. “It is good for democracy, that although a councillor may not get their way, their voice has been heard”.

Huw Miller then spoke about the adequacy of scrutiny support. He said: “This is the first report of adequacy of scrutiny. When the team was set up it was pointed out that there was a gap in terms of support for scrutiny. They have done a great job in taking the authority forward in terms of the scrutiny function. We are getting there, we are not there yet.

I don’t think there is perfect scrutiny and we’ve got to do our best to try and get as close to that as we possibly can.I’m certainly of the view that the current provision of staff is sufficient but it has to be kept under continual review.” Finally, Councillors spoke about public engagement, focussing on the forms that are available on the council’s website. Members of the public are free to submit their views on any agenda item that is being discussed and they can also submit a proposal for an agenda item.

Cllr Owen James said: “This is something new you’re engaging in. It may cause an awful lot of work. I think we should let this grow organically rather than push it out there.” Cllr Rhys Sinnett added: “It is down to the committee to decide whether or not and when to add it to its work agenda. It needs to be clear that you can suggest things but it won’t automatically be discussed. There is a process that has to be gone through by a committee.”

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Charity

Calls for help over VHF radio may have been a hoax, say RNLI

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THE ANGLE All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch on service at 10:23am this morning, Monday (July 22).

Following a call to the Coastguard from Milford Haven VTS, the crew were tasked after the VTS operators overheard a female voice calling for help on VHF channel 12.

After narrowing down the transmission to having been received on the Pembroke aerial site, the crew were requested to conduct a search.

Launching at 10:30am, the lifeboat made best speed to the moorings at Hazelbeach, and a hasty search was requested by the Coastguard of any moored vessels. The crew began making their way amongst the moorings, heading up to the moorings off Neyland. With nothing untoward sighted, the crew proceeded to search the moorings off Hobbs Point, Barnlake Point, Burton, Llanion and Rudders Boat Yard.

With nothing found, the Coastguard requested that the crew continue their search up river to Picton Point. The lifeboat continued searching up the western shore encompassing Llangwm before altering course just past Landshipping and searching the eastern shore back down the river, calling in to Lawrenny on the way to check any vessels moored there.

The RNLI said that the search continued back down as far as the Cleddau Bridge.

On Facebook the organisation posted :”Following a thorough visual, communications and radar search the crew were subsequently stood down when no further information or calls had been received.

“The tasking was therefore deemed to be a hoax call.

“The lifeboat was back alongside and readied for further service by 1pm.”

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Crime

Police investigating after man injured during altercation in cemetery

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POLICE have confirmed that they are investigating a report of an altercation which occurred in the cemetery off Gelliswick Road, Hakin, Milford Haven sometime between 4.30 and 5.00pm, Wednesday 17th July, 2024.

Following the incident, a 32-year-old man went to hospital for treatment and was later released.

A 19-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail pending further police enquiries police have confirmed.

The incident caught the attention of locals, who said there was a large police response to the incident included armed officers.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: 394 of the 17th

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

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Crime

West Wales man jailed for rape after victim’s cries heard

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A WEST WALES man has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for raping a woman in an attack that ended only when her cries for help were heard by others. Charlie Evans, a 22-year-old former Exeter University student, ignored his victim’s repeated pleas for him to stop during the 45-minute ordeal.

The incident took place after Evans and his victim had attended a party, where both had been drinking. The court heard that after kissing, the pair left together, with the woman under the impression that Evans lived in a flat with her friend.

Upon returning to the flat, the woman used the toilet before Evans raped her, despite her repeatedly saying no. The prosecutor described the victim as crying hysterically and added: “She did not want these things to happen.”

During the attack, one student testified they could hear the victim not consenting and begging Evans to stop. Another person said they were so concerned they inquired about what was happening.

Police were alerted after the incident was reported to campus staff, who then contacted the emergency services. Evans was told to leave his flat and was subsequently removed from the university. He denied the offence during his police interview.

Evans, of Victoria Avenue, Mumbles, Swansea, was convicted earlier this year at Exeter Crown Court of rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced on July 12. In a victim statement, the woman said her life had been forever changed by Evans’s actions. She expressed feelings of fear, confusion, and shame during the incident and continues to suffer from nightmares. She now feels distrustful of men and has sought support to cope with her trauma, the court heard.

Christopher Quinlan KC, defending, presented multiple good character references for Evans, describing him as a “kind and respectful” young man who was “always positive, compassionate and thoughtful.” He argued that his client’s life was “in ruins” as a result of his actions.

However, Judge Stephen Climie told Evans he had “completely misrepresented” his victim’s position, adding: “She was so far away from wishing to engage in your sexual activity that the only explanation for your attitude and approach was alcohol that blinded you to what was clearly and obviously the word ‘No’.” He continued: “So far as your life is concerned you will be crushed as a result of the sentence I’m required to impose.”

Following the sentencing, DC Michele Hicks from Devon and Cornwall Police’s major crime investigation team praised the victim for her courage and resilience throughout the investigation. She said: “I hope this case reassures the community how seriously the police take reports of sexual violence against women and girls and gives people the courage to come forward in future.”

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