Posted: Sat 16th Mar 2024

Man Overturns Council Recommendation to Keep Report on Alleged Property Grant Scheme Fraud Private

news.wales / newyddion.cymru

A council recommendation to keep a report, following an alleged commercial Property Grant Scheme fraud in Pembroke Dock more than a decade ago, in private was overturned by the man who brought it to light.
More than a decade ago Hakin county councillor Cllr Mike Stoddart uncovered irregularities in a council-administered Commercial Property Grant Scheme (CPGS) in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).
Irregular payments of around £60,000 were found to have been made to a developer – in respect of properties on Dimond Street and Meyrick Street – who offered to pay back a total of £180,000 having received payments for other projects.
The council had to repay £309,000 to WEFO and take steps to rewrite the CPGS procedure manual to close loopholes in order to minimise the opportunities for fraud stated Cllr Stoddart.
After much fighting – and facing false accusations from fellow councillors of lying – Cllr Stoddart’s evidence was reported to police following a formal review in 2014.
In 2019 the Crown Prosecution Service said there would be no charges following the five-year investigation. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Citing county council witness statements with ‘conflicting evidence’ and a missing hard drive that could contain vital evidence, the CPS dismissed an appeal to reconsider bringing charges. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At the March meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council,a long-awaited council report along with recomendations of what to do were imcluded, with the matter recommended to be discussed out of public session, as ‘private and confidential’.
Councillors had access to the associated documents but the public did not until a successful call was made by Cllr Stoddart.
In calling for the matter to be heard in public, Cllr Stoddart said: “I have an interest in this matter and I’d like to see it discussed in open session.”
In the interests of fairness for some named in the original reports for private consideration, he proposed some names be redacted, but stressed the importance of the matter being held out in the open.
“If we want trust from the public we should discuss as little as possible in private session,” said Cllr Stoddart, adding: “There’s an awful lot that has no business being discussed in private session.”
He stressed: “What’s in this report helps to set the record straight, not just for me but for the public; they deserve to have the full truth.”
Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said: “For me, what happened here was a realty poor show all round for this authority, for the police, for everyone involved.
“We owe it to do a really clean sweep, trust in politicians is important; on balance it is in the interest that we tell the people what happened.”
Cllr Jacob Williams said: “All you councillors, you know what’s coming next, you all have the benefit of the report. I totally agree with holding it in public, the truth has come out, we would be doing a public service by holding it in public.”
Cllr Stoddart’s amendment was passed by 34 votes to 17, with one abstention. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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