Truth to tell

Last Friday’s “question time” organised by Haverfordwest Civic Society in St Mary’s Church led to some robust, though mostly good-natured, exchanges.

One sour note came when a questioner from the floor asked Jamie Adams about my allegations that he had lied about his trip to the attic at Coronation School during the council meeting on December 12 last year.

As the questioner said, this is an important issue because, if my allegations are true, the normal rules of democracy demand that Cllr Adams should resign as Leader of the council.

Unfortunately, this was not the right forum for such a question and it might have been better not asked. However, as it was, the genie is now out of the bottle.

Cllr Adams advised the audience to visit the webcast (at 1.40) to see exactly what he had said – advice which I would unhesitatingly recommend – and then went on to say that he “totally refuted” my allegations.

It was neither the time nor the place to refute the Leader’s refutation, but I wouldn’t want anyone to run away with the idea that I go about calling people liars without good cause.

As regular readers will recall, the issue at stake was whether the whole of the roof at Coronation School Pembroke Dock had been reslated – because that is what had been paid for.

I had published photographs on my website which seemed to show that large parts of the roof were undisturbed, and that the chimneys/turrets, which were supposed to have been rebuilt in the past couple of years, had quickly sprouted a healthy growth of ferns and other vegetation.

Since then, other evidence has come in to my possession which seems to show beyond doubt that the whole of this roof hasn’t recently been reslated.

In October 2013 I put down a notice of motion calling for all information regarding these grants to be made available to members. This was first debated by Cabinet on 2 December 2013. As part of my supporting submission I stated:

“According to the final account for this project £46,924 was paid to the builder for slate, felt and batten”.

“As far as I know, no one has yet mastered the art of felt and battening a roof with the slates in situ”.

“There is other evidence that these slates have not been disturbed”.

These claims were disputed in a report to cabinet authored by the council’s internal audit service:

“The roofing works were included in the original tender and were eligible for grant funding. The whole [my emphasis] roof was stripped off and recovered in a mixture of new and recycled natural slate on new felt and battens. These works commenced in May 2010 and were completed in July 2010 with the works to the chimney stacks happening at the same time the roof was stripped.”

Photographs were flashed up on a projector screen showing the inside of the roof with what was clearly modern breathable felt of a type not available when the roof was originally slated 50 or more years ago.

Emboldened by this evidence, Cllrs Adams and Pugh, accompanied by the project officer who had supervised the contract, made a visit to Pembroke Dock and climbed up into the attic at Coronation School to inspect the inside of the roof for themselves.

And so it was that when the matter came before full council on December 12, the Leader felt able to claim:

“I do have in my possession here today signed letters from, for example, the main contractor and indeed the subcontractor for the roof at Coronation School Meyrick Street Pembroke Dock which indicate that the entire [my emphasis] roof was stripped and reclad in new and used natural slates on new felt and batten. And, as Cllr Pugh has indicated, both he and I have been in those lofts and have seen that for ourselves.”

Pugh had earlier told the meeting:

“The whole [my emphasis] of the roof was stripped off and re-covered in a mixture of new and recycled natural slates on new felt and battens. I personally have been up in that roof and checked it, as has the Leader. That work has been done to the specification.”

In an attempt to trash my credibility, Pugh also told the meeting about the “third side elevation” at 25 Dimond Street and “most of the inside” at No 29 (Paul Sartori charity shop) both of which turned out to be untrue.

However, blessed with some knowledge of roof construction and the photographic evidence of the outside of the roof, I was not convinced.

After all, the photographs of a few square metres of the inside of the roof shown to Cabinet on December 2 were not proof that the “whole” or “entire” roof had been recovered. And statements by the builder and roofing contractor, both of whom were implicated in this alleged scam, could hardly be classed as compelling evidence.

So I made some enquiries of the council as to how Pugh and Adams had gained access to the roofspace.

I was told that there were just two open access points – at the top of the two main staircases.

Now, the roof at Coronation School with its several different levels and hips, valleys, gutters is a complicated structure and a tribute to the carpenter’s art. It is also my understanding that building regulations require roofs such as this to be compartmentalised to prevent the spread of fire though the roofspace.

So it occurred to me that the two hatches at the top of the stairs – the lowest upper-floor ceilings in the building – wouldn’t allow an inspection of the “whole” or “entire” inside of the roof.

During the audit committee’s site visit in February this year I decided to put my theory to the test by asking the officer who had supervised the project whether it was possible to inspect the whole of the roof from these two access points.

He answered in the negative and explained that to see the “entire” underside of the roof would require cutting holes in the ceilings of the upper floor flats.

I recall that the, then, chairman of the audit committee Mr John Evans MBE, who was present during this exchange, suggested that this should be done as soon as possible in order to remove any uncertainty.

For whatever reason this was never done.

So I put down a question at the council meeting in May 2014 which quoted what Cllr Adams had said at the meeting in December and challenged him to admit that his claim to have inspected the “entire” inside of the roof was untrue.

True to form, Cllr Adams wheeled out the time-honoured sub judice excuse. The minutes record: “In response, the Leader stated that the Authority had been advised against any further public discussion about the matter by the Police in order to avoid prejudicing their investigation.”

Though, as we know, the police hadn’t even commenced an investigation at that point and, so far as I’m aware, despite being handed a dossier by the council on April 8 this year, they still haven’t.

It also came to my notice that my question had been discussed at the IPPG’s secret get together just prior to the May council meeting when Cllr Brian Hall, who appears to have specialist knowledge of this building, confirmed what I had been told during the site visit: that it wasn’t possible to inspect the whole of the inside of the roof without cutting holes in the ceilings.

In addition, he pointed out that the flats were private property to which the council had no right of access and that the cost of cutting the holes and making good would cost a four figure sum.

So not only was Cllr Adams not telling the truth when he claimed to have seen for himself that the “entire” roof had been reslated, but all those members of his party present at that meeting knew he was lying.

It speaks volumes for the IPPG’s corrupt political culture that not one of them has publicly spoken out against this deception.

To return to what Cllr Adams told the meeting in December:

“I do have in my possession here today signed letters from, for example, the main contractor and indeed the subcontractor for the roof at Coronation School Meyrick Street Pembroke Dock which indicate that the entire  [my emphasis] roof was stripped and reclad in new and used natural slates on new felt and batten. And, as Cllr Pugh has indicated, both he and I have been in those lofts and have seen that for ourselves.”

It is my contention that this can only mean “both he and I have been in those lofts and have seen that [the entire roof was stripped etc] for ourselves.”

Nothing else makes sense to me, though IPPG ultra-loyalist, Cllr Rob Summons, claims to have detected a different meaning.

Back in early October, I offered him the opportunity to share his interpretation with readers of this website, but he has been rather slow to respond.