PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’s Cabinet member Cllr David Pugh has issued an “unreserved apology” over remarks he made during a sustained and savage attack on Hakin’s Cllr Mike Stoddart at last Thursday’s county council meeting when the controversial property grants in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock were debated.
Cllr Pugh asserted that Cllr Stoddart had made false claims on his website (oldgrumpy.co.uk) regarding the area of rendering at the grant-aided project No. 25 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock.
According to the website, the area of hack off and re-render to the front and rear elevations in the tender (125 sq m) exceed that shown on the drawings (50 sq m) by two-and-a-half times and the area of paintwork to the same render (300 sq m) by six times.
Cllr Stoddart estimated that this over measurement had let to an inflation of the grant awarded by between £7,000 and £9,000.
But Cllr Pugh said he had visited the premises and, on accessing the backyard, discovered that Cllr Stoddart had failed to take into consideration a “third side elevation” measuring 8 m x 7 m which accounted for most of the discrepancy in the tender.
He told his fellow councillors:
“So whether this was a deliberate untruth, or sheer incompetence on his behalf in not checking the facts, I’ll leave you to decide”.
In response to this attack on his honesty and competence, Mike Stoddart posted photographs on his website that proved conclusively that this “third side elevation” to the rear of No. 25 was a figment of Cllr Pugh’s imagination.
He emailed Cllr Pugh demanding that this slur be withdrawn and on Wednesday morning the cabinet member replied admitting that the “third side elevation” belonged to a different building altogether. Cllr Pugh wrote to Cllr Stoddart, copying in all council members, “I freely admit that we made a mistake in looking at the rear of the properties in Dimond Street and confused Nos 25 and 27. I take full responsibility for the genuine error and hereby offer an unreserved apology for the remarks I made in Council regarding the rendering of no 25 Dimond Street.
“Having said that, I hope you will also take the opportunity to put on record that most of your allegations regarding these grant schemes have proved to be without foundation and incorrect.”
Mike Stoddart told The Herald: “It is rather ironic that, after accusing me of incompetence for not checking the facts, we now find Cllr Pugh admitting that his intemperate attack on me was based on the wrong property.
“At least he was in the right street.
“I would have expected him to have been accompanied on this visit by one of the council’s officers involved with these projects, so it is difficult to understand how he came to make such a schoolboy error.
“And it is a strange sort of ‘unreserved apology’ that is conditional on me admitting I was wrong about everything else.
“Cllr Pugh should realise that all I have ever written on this subject has been founded on careful research, including, as he now knows to his cost, my calculations regarding the rendering at No. 25 Dimond Street.
“During his poisonous attack he also accused me of conducting ‘a campaign of innuendo and smear’ and of making allegations ‘without any evidence – just his unjustified opinions and self-proclaimed expertise’.”
“Not satisfied with that, he concluded that I had made ‘many more spurious claims’ and that ‘getting at the truth is apparently not on his agenda’.”
“He even went so far as to suggest I was, like the fictional Don Quixote, afflicted by madness.
“As his apology is restricted only to his false claims about No. 25, none of this has been retracted.
“That is not a situation that I intend should endure.
“Finally, I hope that, having deployed their block vote to reject my notice of motion calling for more information on these grants to be released to elected members, the IPPG’s lemmings are feeling proud of themselves.
“And I have posted further information on the tender for No 25 on my website that Cllr Pugh might find of interest.”
Cllr Paul Miller told The Herald:
“Cllr David Pugh has, over the last few weeks, viciously attacked both Cllr Stoddart and myself for daring to question the oversight he, cabinet and officers have been giving to these grant schemes in Pembroke Dock. He even suggested during Thursday’s council meeting that Cllr Stoddart’s questioning of the rendering to 25 Diamond Street proved that he was either deliberately misleading council or incompetent. Well, this revelation proves two things. (1) That it is Cllr Pugh who is either incompetent or has been deliberately misleading council and (2) That there is indeed an issue with the grant paid for the rending of number 25 Diamond Street.”
He added: “So, over to the Pembrokeshire Public. Do you trust Cllr Pugh and Cllr Adams to get to the bottom of this? I’m afraid I don’t and I’m also afraid that my confidence in Cllr Pugh has been irreversibly damaged by this very unfortunate episode.”