AS THE COUNCIL carries out its own investigation into irregularities at Pembrey Country Park and other council leisure facilities, The Herald has been provided with credible information from more than one source which indicates that not only were there significant and widespread irregularities in the management and finances of the venue, but that senior council officers were made aware of them and took steps to cover them up.
The Herald has spoken to several current members of council staff and been given documents and recordings which suggest that the Council’s ongoing enquiry into Pembrey is likely to uncover not only who knew, but when they knew, and why the matter was brushed under the carpet by officers desperate to avoid a scandal.
The Herald understands that affairs at Pembrey were on the radar of senior then opposition councillors before Plaid took leadership of the authority last year.
We can also confirm that Executive Board Member for Resources David Jenkins launched an enquiry into the operation of the leisure operation at Pembrey having previously held concerns at the lack of clarity in certain figures relating to the Park’s operation. The result of that enquiry was the preliminary report presented to the Audit Committee on March 22.
That report suggested that there were ‘historic issues’ and that Council procedures had not been complied with.
We believe that at least one officer concerned in the allegations has recently left – or is shortly due to leave – the Council’s employment without facing disciplinary action and with a payoff.
Repeated assurances were given to councillors at a Full Council meeting that there was no evidence of dishonesty, with Deputy Leader Pam Palmer leaping in to defend officers from any suggestion of misconduct. It appears those assurances and Cllr Palmer’s wish to fling herself in front of a bullet for council officers, were sadly misplaced.
Responding to questions from members of the Audit Committee in March, Ian Jones, Director of Leisure and Regeneration, and Phil Sexton expressly denied that any fraud had taken place.
Mr Jones told the committee that, following the departure of the previous Director (David Gilbert OBE, who is now a member of the Swansea Bay City Region Board), staff had been asked to look at a number of issues. However, Mr Jones failed to expressly identify what those issues were or how they had arisen in the first place.
Mr Jones went on to claim that what the report had picked up on were ‘exceptions’ and that whatever the ‘historic issues’ were, they were not the norm across all sites.
The Director of Leisure and Regeneration claimed that the authority was a victim of its own success and change within his department. He cited challenges the authority had faced with staff leaving and with unidentified and unexplained ‘complicated Human Resource issues’.
Mr Jones said that areas needed to be strengthened and improved, while failing to identify why improvement was required, or at least how the circumstances giving rise to improvement’ necessity had arisen.
NO FRAUD, BUT
NO HIDING PLACE
Phil Sexton, the council’s head of audit, risk and procurement said: “It was made clear to the Audit Committee that no fraud had been identified. In terms of the review of the leisure facilities at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Park, which had been undertaken at the request of the Director of Communities, the committee was made aware that the weaknesses identified were being addressed and officers would continue to work closely with the audit section.
“Members were advised that an Action Plan was being prepared in respect of the issues in question and it was agreed that this should be brought to the committee at its next meeting.
“It was then resolved by the committee that, for monitoring purposes, an Action Plan be submitted to the next meeting detailing as to how the concerns raised following the review of the leisure facilities at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Park would be addressed.”
Speaking to Herald reporter Alan Evans after the meeting, the Executive Board Member for Finance, Cllr Dai Jenkins, said: “The audit committee have done their work and there is going to be an action plan to look into it further. If the allegations are as bad as they seem to be and are found to be true and if there are loopholes in the system they will be removed. The audit committee is only a tool of the full council as are all scrutiny committees.
“There is no hiding place. I don’t see any way shape or form that there can be a cover up. We will look at the review in full detail and report to full council accordingly.”
‘FOR F**K SAKE DON’T
GO TO THE POLICE’
The Herald can confirm that it has listened to a recording in which two senior council officers are heard pleading with a third party not to go to the Police with details regarding
Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’
RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.
The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*
Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.
Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.
As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.
They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.
People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.
All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.
Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.
People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.
Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.
Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.
The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:
- Swiss Valley
Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.
Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.
Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.
“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”
A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.
Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.
Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”
Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:
- Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
- The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
- The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)
There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0300 333 2222.
Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary
The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!
Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!
Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .
Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: email@example.com
Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon
A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.
Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled.
Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.
Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”
Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.
The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.
Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA.
“I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”
“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”
If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020
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