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Grants probe continues

probe continues Councillor seeks fair treatment Stoddart steps up attack Pugh wins award

COUNTY COUNCILLOR Mike Stoddart has drawn attention to potentially preferential treatment given to requests for information made by members of Pembrokeshire’s ruling IPPG.

At December’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Rob Summons responded with information that purported to rebut a post that Cllr Stoddart had made on his website, oldgrumpy.co.uk. Councillor Stoddart said:

“The article on my website that inspired his request was first published on Saturday, December 7. So, the earliest his request could have been validated was on Monday, December 9. There he was just a couple of days later waving the reply around in the council chamber.

“So first thing on the morning of Monday 16 December I put in a request for the amount of grant paid in respect of slating at numbers 25 and 29 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock, both of which appeared to fall within Cllr Summons’ helpful definition of freely available information. This brought forward one of those “out of office” replies from the information officer telling me they were on leave until 18 December.

“Concerned that I hadn’t received the customary official acknowledgement, I emailed again on 19 December when another “out of office reply” came back from the same officer telling me they were now on leave to 6 January. Fortunately, it contained an alternative email address of someone who could be contacted in the case of urgency.

“This I did and have now been told that “the programme officers who provide this information are on annual leave over the holidays” and I can expect a substantive reply within the 20 working days allowed by statute, i.e. by January 20, 2014.”

Councillor Stoddart went on to explain:

The employees’ Code of Conduct
says that:

“ … Employees must serve the Authority as a whole … [T]hey must serve all Councillors and not just those from the controlling group…”

HAVING received an apology – of sorts – from IPPG Cabinet member David Pugh just before Christmas, Councillor Mike Stoddart has questioned how grant money was spent on refurbishing and redeveloping 29 Dimond Street, Pembroke Dock: a property tenanted by a charity shop run by the Paul Sartori Foundation.

Councillor Stoddart points out that the total cost of works done to the property on the basis of a grant for £21,000 would have been in the region of £53,000, including works to remove asbestos from outbuildings. Councillor Stoddart points out that the outbuildings concerned were excluded from a calculation of the retail space which attracted the grants and goes on to explain:

“The work done to the rear of the building involved converting some rather scruffy outbuildings into four bedsits. Councillor Pugh told Full Council on December 12,

“The simple fact is that the developer has taken on much higher cost projects bringing semi-derelict buildings back into use both commercial and residential which incidentally is not grant aided.”

“I think the trick here is to suggest that, because these outbuildings were formerly part of the storage space for the shop, their conversion into bedsits can be classified as refurbishing retail space.

“The tender document calls for the removal of 80 sq m of asbestos sheeting and the disposal of 5 tonnes of the material.This sheeting weighs in at 1.25 cwt (62 kilo) per sq m.In fact asbestos sheets typically weigh about 3lb per sq ft which works out at roughly 14 kilo per sq m.

“Of course, when Cllr Pugh made his speech to council he was acting on behalf of the Cabinet and under the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility all members of that body are saddled with what he said.

“If they have any regard for the truth, they should be demanding that Cllr Pugh accompanies them to 29 Dimond Street and shows them where exactly this £53,000 has been spent on refurbishing the retail space for which the grant of £21,000 was paid.”

AFTER being forced to climb down from his assault on a fellow-Councillor’s probity, IPPG Cabinet member David Pugh’s New Year got off to a bad start when he was voted the winner of the first Golden Don Qui Award by visitors to East Williamston County Councillor Jacob Williams’ website.

The Awards, which take their name from Councillor Pugh’s now infamous comparison of Councillor Mike Stoddart to Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, were inaugurated by Jacob Williams after a post on his website made the suggestion. Councillor Williams explains:

“What happened at the Full Council meeting spurred a comment on my website from Paul Absalom. Taking into account the poor way Cllr. Pugh conducted himself at the council meeting, his outrageous comments directed towards Cllr. Stoddart, and then his humbling comedown when it came to the ‘facts,’

Paul Absalom suggests that, following the ‘Don Quixote’ gag: “I bet Cllr Pugh feels like a right ‘Don Qui’ now.”

“Cllr. Pugh (with 37% of the vote) beat council leader Cllr. Jamie Adams (29%) into second place, and is a thoroughly deserving recipient – congratulations. Publicly accusing another councillor of being incompetent or a liar is serious stuff, and even more serious when the accusation is based upon untrue information presented as fact. The main thread of Cllr. Pugh’s botched attempt at discrediting Cllr. Mike Stoddart at the December 12 full council meeting was based on something he had made up. He has since apologised, and will have come to realise that the only character he was assassinating in his bungling tirade, was his own.”