Back in November last year I published a photograph of the roof at Coronation School Pembroke Dock which seemed to suggest that either the whole of the roof hadn’t been reslated as claimed in the project’s final account, or that they had some fast-growing species of lichen in that part of the world.
The council’s internal audit service produced a report on this and other matters which was presented to Cabinet on December 2 when it debated my notice of motion calling for the documents relating to these grants to be made available to all elected members.
As part of that report, which sought to dismiss all my allegations, the internal audit service asserted:
“The whole roof was stripped off and recovered [my emphasis] 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.”
During his presentation to Cabinet, the internal auditor showed some photographs of the inside of the roof which clearly showed new felt and batten.
However, it occurred to me that a photo of a few square metres wasn’t proof that the whole of the roof had been renewed.
So I asked the council which part of the roof featured in the photographs.
In an email dated 6 December, they helpfully told me:
“The photographs were taken from ceiling accesses in the north and south stairwells, these being the only open access points to the roof space.”
My “self-proclaimed expertise”, as Cllr David Pugh has put it, told me that the construction of this roof – which is on several different levels – would make it difficult to inspect the whole of the loft-space from these two access points.
This is especially so since the ceiling level at the top of the two stairwells is some 6-10 feet lower than other parts of the building.
However, between the Cabinet meeting on December 2 and full council on December 12 The Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, and Cabinet member Cllr David Pugh made a visit to Pembroke Dock accompanied by the authority’s project coordinator.
During that expedition they climbed up into the roof at Coronation School to have look-see.
And this is what Cllr David Pugh told the council meeting on December 12
“If you take Coronation School Pembroke Dock, this is Cllr Stoddart’s submission: ‘According to the final account for this project, £46,000 has been paid to the builder for slate, felt and batten. As far as I know no one has has yet mastered the art of felt and battening a roof with the slates in situ’. Now we looked at that and we also checked with the builders and checked with the building control. The whole of the roof [my emphasis] was stripped off and re-covered in a mixture of new and recycled natural slates on new felt and battens.
These works commenced in May 2010 and were completed in July 2010 – the work to the chimney stacks happening at the same time.
There is photographic evidence of this and there are statements from the builder and subcontractor.
We also have evidence from neighbouring properties and other builders who witnessed that work being done.
I personally have been up in that roof and checked it, as has the Leader. That work has been done to the specification [my emphasis].”
And, at the same meeting, the Leader told members:
“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 entire roof [my emphasis] 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 [my emphasis].
I hope, genuinely, that that is a demonstration for Cllr Stoddart of the propriety and probity that has been extended throughout these two grant schemes.
I give you my assurance that the Cabinet member [Pugh] and I have been there; we have seen it [my emphasis] and I hope you can consider your position in terms of this authority.”
Now this was said with such confidence that I came to seriously doubt my theory that it was not possible to inspect the whole of the roof from the two access points.
After all, my assessment of the situation was based on viewing the roof from the outside, while we now had the leader of council and a cabinet member telling full council that they had actually been inside the roof and seen it all for themselves.
However, I wasn’t totally convinced because during his speech on 12 December Cllr Pugh had also told council about the fictitious “third side elevation” at No 25 Dimond Street and the imaginary “most of the retail space” at No. 29.
With that in mind, it occurred to me that it was probably unwise to rely too much on the truth of anything he said.
So, as we stood outside Coronation School during the Audit Committee’s visit to Pembroke Dock, I asked the project coordinator whether it was possible to inspect the whole of the inside of the roof from the two open access points.
The answer was a firm no.
Indeed, it transpired that it wasn’t even possible to inspect most of the roof from these two vantage points.
So it is not just the “propriety and probity” of the grants scheme that is in question.
And I should add that, despite the best efforts of the council’s European Office, internal audit service, the Leader and Pugh, nobody has yet managed to show that anything I have said about this grants business is not the truth.
On the contrary, my revelations over the past twelve months have now forced the council to call in the police to investigate.
That it has taken so long for them to face up to the facts, speaks volumes about the sort of regime that holds sway in the Kremlin on Cleddau.