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52 Comment


THE HERALD FRIDAY JANUARY 13 2017


Follow us on Twitter @pembsherald


BADGER AND THE DOCTOR’S NOTE READERS of this newspaper


last week might have noticed a letter purporting to be from ‘Dr SP Owens’. Badger apologises for the typo; it


should have read Dr SP Jones, Director of Development, who believes in using his official work title in personal correspondence and not providing a return address – even those set in mature grounds, with rather nice extensions, at the end of a private road. Or at least that’s what the planning record shows. When Badger was asked his view


of the letter, he expressed a measure of dubiety that its content could have originated with Dr Steven Jones, Director of Development, Pembrokeshire County Council. I mean, readers, it is one thing to be thought a fool without writing a letter to the editor and dispelling all doubt. So, Badger cautioned against publication pending investigation of the letter’s origins. Badger was aghast to discover - after


the letter’s accidental publication - that the letter was, indeed, from Dr Jones. Badger wants to deal closely and with


relish with the letter’s content – at least, in part; others in this paper’s pages have taken Dr Jones to task on his missive’s content and Badger doesn’t think it is fair to beat Dr Jones over the head twice on the same topic. But there are things that he wrote that need to be tackled head on. Here is what Badger wrote, to which Dr Jones took exception: ‘So far, Dr Jones has overseen the


CPGS - £300K plus of grant funding down the pan and an ongoing fraud investigation; the Town Heritage Initiative - £170K plus being clawed back and revealed by independent study as being chaos on stilts; the cock-up in Haverfordwest with Foley House - ongoing, he is now proposing to do up Foley House before selling it; the successive cock ups at the site of the former Narberth School - including slashing the sale price and offering a seven-figure loan to help the developers along; the decision to use town centre regeneration funds to help Milford Haven Port Authority build flats near the docks for the benefit of its own redevelopment scheme; the acquisition of offices at Cherry Grove; closing Haverfordwest Library without a plan for replacement; assets stripped; schools closed; the destruction of Haverfordwest Town Centre’. But first, an apology. Of course it


was unfair to give the impression that Dr Jones is responsible for the closure of schools. Serial mismanagement of construction projects that leave schools built both over budget and underequipped is a matter for the whole council, not just Dr Jones. Badger apologises for not making that clear.


Dr Jones is quick to defend the


conduct of the CPGS. Everything was – he says – okay, because it was all audited and cleared by someone else. This is the truth, readers: an officer in Dr Jones’ department fiddled with minutes to give the impression that due diligence had been done when it hadn’t; the same officer ignored the provisions of a procedure manual he had written; a further officer (now departed) lied and lied again in reports that were never checked by officers more senior than him; and, having spoken to another senior officer, Badger can assure Dr Jones he damned well knows who that officer was and only does not name him in case potential criminal proceedings are jeopardised; developers were reimbursed for works that either were not done, were incomplete, were not carried out to standard, or were wholly fictitious; at least one officer in his department was responsible for allowing that state of affairs to continue; officers in Dr Jones’ department were well-aware what critical examination of the record would reveal and did their best to thwart investigation; in the end, WEFO colluded with council officers to reorder the CPGS files so they were compliant – and this happened while officers were maintaining the fiction all was well. Badger does not accuse Dr Jones of


any part in a failed cover up for fraud and deceit on an industrial scale, not least as it would beggar bloody belief if Dr Jones did know of it and then wrote the letter published last week. Dr Jones - all that happened on your


watch. You are the boss. You get the big bucks, you take responsibility. Anyone relying on your response as being the whole truth about the CPGS would be gravely misled. And that could not have been your intention. It would be like claiming the effect of regeneration projects in Pembroke Dock had been to create seven times more jobs than was established to be the truth by Oxford Brookes University when they attempted to verify the council’s claims: inaccurate precis. And what about more recent


instances of grants scheduled for use in commercial projects being used to provide infrastructure for residential buildings not yet constructed? A happy accident. Badger thinks not. And that is on your watch, Dr Jones, buck pass as you may. As for Foley House - well, dear doctor,


you joined the local authority in 2007. You have had nine years to sort it out. You haven’t and show no sign of doing so, save to throw more public money at the property in the hope someone will take it off the council’s hands. In the meantime, the car park remains gated and locked


and the building continues to moulder. BRAVO, Dr Jones! Whether you were there when the


mistake was made is not germane. You have made no progress in remedying the situation, save for occasional hand- wringing and – now – buck-passing. Accepting what you say about the


THI clawback, Badger has a couple of questions about it: name the buildings involved, any developers concerned, and explain why when it was originally presented to a council committee it was not only buried but presented as being part of the same clawback as the CPGS money. I am sure that members of several


council committees who have received briefing documents from you on Narberth School, both public and private, will be entertained by your apparent attitude that the farce is their fault and not the responsibility of the officer who sold them a pig in a poke on more than one occasion. Officers hiding behind councillors is as unedifying as the reverse position. You are both to blame, but you are the professional and particularly culpable. You advised the council both on the original deal and subsequent amendments to it. Badger, being a badger, can spot bull-you-know-what a mile off. And his detector is pinging like mad when he considers your views on Narberth School. Notably, Dr Jones does not take


issue with Badger pointing out it was his department’s decision to use town centre regeneration funds to help Milford Haven Port Authority build flats near the docks for the benefit of its own redevelopment scheme. Dr Jones, you then go on to claim that


the acquisition of Cherry Grove and the closure of Haverfordwest Library were decisions taken by the former CEO Bryn Parry Jones. Perhaps Bryn’s departure has made you ever so brave, Dr Jones. But those damned minutes… May 23, 2011. Cabinet Acquisition of Office Accommodation


Decision: that the property


identified on the Location Plan attached to the report of the Director of Development be acquired on terms acceptable to the Director of Development. You should ask someone for a do-over on those, Dr Jones. YOUR report on terms acceptable


to YOU. All that apparent discretion when, according to you, it was not your decision anyway. One logical inference to be drawn


by the unfortunate collision between the minutes and your letter’s words is that you were inclined to put your name to anything Bryn asked you to


      you’d like Badger to talk about, why not get in touch with us. Email editor@herald.email.


without question. Otherwise, why would the report appear with the imprimatur of your expertise and professional standing? In addition, and when it comes to deciding what roles should be transformed in the future, as you have suggested you were redundant in relation to at least two major decisions, perhaps we have to question what need there is for you and your £130K salary at all. By the way, Badger was at Cherry


Grove recently. What a pity you ran out of money for it! What a pity that the windows leak so that pots have to be placed in them to catch the drips! Dr Jones, after crowding nine years


in post you really should have stopped blaming others for problems you have not solved. And the old saw goes if you are not part of the solution. And as for £25m in grants in eight


years, that is good news. £25m! Rejoice, Pembrokeshire! Badger just wonders if it includes the


£300K grant from the Welsh Government announced for Haverfordwest Library in April 2013. You know, the closure of which you had nothing to do with. By the way, Dr Jones, here’s a question: all those empty buildings around that big car park – any ideas for that space? £25m, Pembrokeshire! Never mind


the quality, feel the width! Dear Dr Jones, when Badger thinks


about a post-truth world, he knows precisely where to start looking.


Dazed and confused


DEAR SIR, I guess in this ‘post-truth’ world,


anything goes. With regards to ‘Badger sends for the doctor’, in the December 2 issue of The Pembrokeshire Herald, your readers may contemplate whether such a misleading article is contributing to the historical low score of 24% that journalists achieved in the Ipsos Mori 2016 Veracity Index. In the interest of balanced


reporting, readers may like to know that:


The CPGS regeneration


programme was externally audited (no issues identified) and the independent consultants’ evaluation report - which members of the council and stakeholders contributed to - concluded ‘the programme has performed well against its regeneration objectives’. The funding arrangements for


the Townscape Heritage Initiative (which subsequently involved £170k clawback) were in place well before I joined the council. The Foley House project predates


my employment with the County Council. The sale price of Narberth School


was based on figures provided by the Valuation Office Agency and the offer of a loan (at a commercial rate) was approved by Cabinet. The acquisition of the offices


at Cherry Grove and the closure of Haverfordwest Library were decisions made by the former Chief Executive; I had no involvement in either of these. The preparation and adoption


of a Masterplan and recent support of


regeneration projects in


Haverfordwest Town Centre are an attempt to address its decline, the seeds of which were sewn in the 1980s and 1990s. There is a statutory process for


closing schools and I have no role in these decisions. The decision to Egnedol


recommend


followed a decision to appoint by Welsh Government and due diligence undertaken by consultants engaged by Welsh Government. I probably wouldn’t


expect Badger to say anything about the £25 million of external funding


that has been secured in the last eight years, but never let the facts get in the way of a good story.


Dr SP Jones


Director of Development Pembrokeshire County Council


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