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Truthfulness versus accuracy in minutes row

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A little less certain of her words: Cllr Meryl Gravell

A little less certain of her words: Cllr Meryl Gravell

A CLAIM made by a member of the Executive Board was the subject of significant backtracking at Wednesday’s (Feb 10) Full Council meeting.

The routine approval of the minutes of an Executive Board Meeting that took place on January 4 took a controversial turn when comments made by Cllr Meryl Gravell and recorded in the meeting’s minutes were challenged by three councillors, including opposition leader Jeff Edmunds.

Cllr Gravell had claimed at the Executive Board that a Lottery bid in relation to funding for Parc Howard had been derailed because of the opposition from local residents.

Cllr Bill Thomas challenged the minutes and claimed that Cllr Gravell’s remarks were untrue and unsupported by evidence. Cllr Thomas claimed that the claim was being examined by the Lottery Commission, who had uncovered no evidence to support Cllr Gravell’s slur on Llanelli residents.

Chair Peter Hughes Griffiths interrupted to establish whether or Cllr Thomas was challenging the minutes’ accuracy, or making a point about their content.

Councillor Thomas pressed on: “If the member for regeneration has either emails or letters that implicate people as having meetings with the Lottery Commission that scuppered this bid then I think we in the council should have sight of those letters.”

Peter Hughes Griffiths asked Cllr Thomas to identify the offending section of the minutes.

Councillor Thomas did so and continued: “As I say, it was investigated and we had a letter of unreserved apology. If the member has documented evidence either email or letters saying that people from Llanelli were implicated in meetings with the Lottery Commission and scuppered the bid, I think this chamber should have sight of those or it should be withdrawn from the minutes.”

Cllr Jan Williams joined in the challenge: “I would just like to ask if there is documented evidence that we could see that shows that it was completely the opposition of local residents that scuppered the bid. My understanding, having read why the bid was unsuccessful is not as claimed. I’d like that clarified because some of us have had spurious accusations made against us.”

Bill Thomas got up again and pressed on: “I would like the member for Trimsaran to give us an answer as to whether she has letters or emails implicating anybody as having meetings with the Lottery Commission. If not I would like that removed from the minutes and from the previous minutes and from the next set of minutes that are coming out.”

Cllr Gravell rose and responded, “That was the information I was given at the time.”

Bill Thomas responded: “That is not the question, Chair. I am asking for evidence.”

Peter Hughes Griffiths said that he would not permit an argument: “It’s going to be a debate and I only ask for questions and answers. I have been accused so many times of not being democratic and so on but you are pushing me too hard from time to time and I must say those are the rules and if you’re pushing me all the time I will stick harder to the rules won’t I? That’s my response all the time as Chair: to be fair with everybody.”

County Councillor Jeff Edmunds asked for clarification from the Chair.

Peter Hughes Griffiths responded: “Clarification about what now again?” He went on to suggest that a rationing quota applied to matters of business as they arose: “It’s a question and you’ve already had three questions today.”

Cllr Edmunds directed a query to the Monitoring Officer, who replied: “I hear what is being said from the floor and a few members challenging the basis of part of the discussion at executive board but the accuracy of the minutes of the executive board meeting are matters for the executive board to confirm.”

Following the Monitoring Officer’s intervention, Peter Hughes Griffiths drew the matter to a conclusion with the words: “In other words, end of story.”

The issue of the minutes’ truthfulness, as opposed to their strict accuracy recording what was said, is an argument that councillors are unable to resolve.

CLLR GRAVELL’S CLAIM

We examined precisely what Cllr Gravell had said which had caused such ill-feeling.

At the Board Meeting on January 4, she referred to a £5m plan to revitalise Parc Howard being presented with a business plan to ‘the Lottery’. She then continued to claim:

“The local people went behind our backs to the Lottery to say they didn’t want it to go ahead. That is just to clarify that is the case.”

As statements of certainty go, that certainly takes some beating. Cllr Gravell not only made a claim local people sabotaged the plans for Parc Howard, but did so by stealth. In addition she clarifies the position to underline her point.

But at the meeting of Full Council, when that version of events was challenged and she was confronted by the results of a Lottery Commission investigation into the claim, she was rather less certain and claimed that her assertion came from ‘information given to me, at the time’.

The issues that arise from Cllr Gravell’s retreat from certainty to something considerably less than certain is the identity of the person or persons who gave her what was manifestly incorrect information and why she continued to repeat the lie when it had been nailed by the Lottery Commission.

It is certain that Cllr Gravell’s words have exacerbated suspicions in Llanelli that the Council is not playing straight with the town.

Perhaps Cllr Emlyn Dole, who is attempting to relieve the miasma of rumour and suspicion surrounding past dealings with Llanelli, could make sure that when members of the Executive Board make assertions such as those made by Cllr Gravell, they are backed by something akin to evidence – i.e. that which can be examined. Or at least challenged to produce it.

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Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach

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THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.

Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.

The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.

Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.

The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.

The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.

In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.

If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.

With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.

If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.

If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.

The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.

Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.

The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.

During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.

They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.

A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.

“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”

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Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler

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Carole was a teacher for 30 years at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Llanelli. She loved children and they loved her. 

As one of her past colleagues said: “I know she made such a difference to every child she taught.” She was very popular with staff and well respected and loved by parents. She was dedicated and conscientious, always 100% for the children. She led the music there and was always popular with her guitar accompaniments for services and concerts. 

Likewise, she was a valued member of the choir at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Gendros, Swansea, where she would often accompany hymns with her guitar and gave guitar lessons to the children in the church’s Saturday Music Club. She was also a keen member of Côr Persain, Ammanford. 

She was talented, loved and in demand. A convicted and devout Catholic all her life, through good and bad.

Carole was an avid and very gifted crocheter and was always crocheting or knitting something for someone. She had been spending her time recently, during the Covid crisis, crocheting NHS teddies in scrubs and rainbows, with many given to practising nurses. Carole had recently started learning to make bobbin lace. She was also capable of some very decent sewing, too. 

She was also learning Welsh, doing ‘pilates’ and was considering taking up yoga lessons as well.

She was a busy lady! As one of her work colleagues said of her: “She was wise, strong, beautiful, generous, devout and feisty. And I loved her for all those qualities.”

Above all, she was an immeasurably loved Mam, daughter, sister and a doting Mamgu and so much loved by her fiancé. Having been together for 14 years, they would have been married last July 20th had covid allowed! 

Her premature passing at 61 is tragic and she is already sorely, painfully missed. She leaves behind a huge chasm in so many hearts that cannot be filled.

“Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, may perpetual light shine about her, may she rest in peace.”

If anyone witnessed the collision or may have been travelling on the M4 at the relevant time, please contact the Serious Collision Unit quoting police reference DPP-20210113-317

Police can be contacted either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash

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A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.

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