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Badger enjoys the sweet smell of ‘success’

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badger_2087377bIt worries Badger that an administration so committed to cutting public services is headed by a man who finds remembering to file his expenses on time difficult and is a self-confessed bad book-keeper. All those alleged efficiency savings and service improvements (a.k.a. ‘cuts’) swimming around in the head of a man who forgot to claim £4649 in expenses; it cannot be easy for him, poor dab!

All the talk of those supposed service improvements, alleged efficiency savings and being kind to our environment cannot obscure the fact that Pembrokeshire County Council has embarked on a course of slashing low paid workers’ pay while preserving the obscene salaries paid to upper management as a reward for their collective past and continuing failure; on a policy (cutting bin collections) that will ensure that Pembrokeshire households will be regular stopping off points for Badger’s woodland chums Ratty and Foxy; and a policy that means that if you are caught short in a public place, you will be doing your bit for the environment by wearing reusable nappies.

How lucky we are then that the Council was this week able to announce that ‘Latest figures show that Pembrokeshire County Council’s performance improved again last year and was well above average when compared to other local authorities in Wales … Pembrokeshire’s performance was particularly positive in adult and children’s social care.’

Now that is good news, to an extent. If success is going to be measured as not failing as badly as everyone else, Jamie Adams’s breast must be swelling with pride.

We can all be proud of the Council’s achievement in closing a library before finding out how much it would cost to replace it and then having to back track on its plans for it; that its own estimate of capital works required to the education estate was wildly incorrect; that the Council’s view of success is maintaining ‘the lowest Council Tax in Wales’ by slashing public services and showering European grant money on a few private landlords and property speculators.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the figures that escaped Cllr Adams’s attention:

Cllr Jacob Williams’s motion about traveller pitches in Pembrokeshire and the need for the Council to ensure its procedures were appropriate rightly received widespread attention. The Council now has the chance to right a wrong and put its money where its mouth is. When the Council has an estimate for a requirement for expenditure of £1m in this financial year and has since the start of it spent £6,000, the need for rapid review instead of mere lip service is underlined.

Pembrokeshire County Council takes 78.6 days to discharge its primary duty to households determined to be homeless. That is 78.6 working days. Add in the weekends, because people don’t stop being homeless on Saturday and Sunday, and Pembrokeshire is proud to keep the homeless without a permanent roof over their heads for over four months. That is against a Welsh average of 128 working days and a target of 66 days. Hurrah. We are not the worst!

The Council’s desired ‘Key Outcome 1’ is that ‘Children, young people and families in Pembrokeshire have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.’ Not if you are a child with special needs, however: for those children, Pembrokeshire’s performance is woeful. Out of 23 statements of Special Educational Needs, only 3 – 13% – were issued within 26 weeks. For the sake of clarity, the same period last year produced an 88% performance against the same target. Success, indeed, then! No explanation is given for this pathetic failure in the papers recording the Council’s performance for special educational needs assessments other than that reports are ‘awaited’ from Health and Social Care.

Still?

Rocking on for six months after the end of the year to which those figures relate, the Council is STILL awaiting an explanation? Perhaps there is only one manual typewriter in County Hall and the typist is on long term leave.

Perhaps best value for money in education could be achieved by making an effort to recruit the best available permanent staff for Pembrokeshire’s schools instead of the below, a response to a Freedom of Information Act request:

SCHOOLS PAYMENTS FOR TEMPORARY / SUPPLY STAFF IN THE 2012/13 FINANCIAL YEAR:

Staff on fixed term contracts 7,014,631.23
Supply staff 1,546,187.07
Agency staff 119,098.76
Total 8,679,917.06

Mind you, Social Care and Education are responsible for every Compromise Agreement the Council confirms entering into since 2009. Think of those agreements as ‘we pay you to go away, not make a fuss and keep your lip zipped’ ways of ending employment. Note the startling figures for the current and immediately past financial years.

01/04/13 2 @ £48,720 + Payment in Lieu of Notice
01/04/12 – 31/03/13 2 @ £35,200 + PILON
01/04/11 – 31/04/12 0
01/04/10 – 31/03/11 1 @ £7,000 + PILON
01/04/09 – 31/03/10 1 @ £3,672 + PILON

Three of those agreements were in senior management positions.

We can all take comfort in the thought that scarce resources are being spent wisely and well and not ploughed into rewarding failure and mediocrity.

Something smells sweet around Jamie Adams and the IPPG. Perhaps it is success, after all.

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Milford Haven: Man charged over two burglaries and criminal damage

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE have released an update in relation to the spate of burglaries in Milford Haven

34-year-old Thomas John Picton has been charged with two burglaries and criminal damage in the town.

He is, say police, suspected of being involved in a burglary carried out at Cohen’s pharmacy of November 26, another at Heaven Scent shop and criminal damage to a door at The Precinct on the same date.

He will appear before Llanelli Magistrates’ Courts this morning (Dec 3).

An arrest has also been made in relation to a more recent burglary at the Royal British Legion on December 11. He was also arrested on suspicion of possession of class A.B and C drugs. He has been released under investigation.

One suspect is outstanding.

Some 11 arrests have now been made in connection with a spate of burglaries that has targeted businesses and homes in the town.

Dyfed-Powys Police has vowed to continue to crack down on suspects and prevent further burglaries in the lead up to Christmas.

Sergeant Terri Harrison from Milford Haven’s Neighbourhood Policing team said: “Hopefully this arrest provides some reassurance to the public following recent burglaries in the town. One burglary is one too many, and we will ensure that it will remain a priority for us, ensuring that we bring as much patrol cover and preventative effort as we possibly can.

“We are also aware of the impact that burglaries can have on individual householders and businesses alike. Don’t make it easy for them, stay alert to your surroundings and report anything suspicious to police immediately no matter how insignificant it may seem. The report of a suspicious vehicle or people acting strangely in your neighbourhood can help us to prevent and detect crime. We need to work together to tackle this.”

Chief Inspector Harries added: “There has been a significant amount of work carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department, response officers and neighbourhood policing teams from across the county to tackle this rise in burglary offences. We are committed to maintaining patrols in the area and seek support from the community to report any concerns.”

If you would like further advice on home security you can contact your local Neighbourhood Policing Team on 101.

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Carmarthen West & South Pembs still blue as Hart increases majority

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SIMON HART has retained his Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire seat with an increased majority.

Polling over 22,000 votes, he comfortably saw off the challenge of Labour’s Marc Tierney, who recorded just shy of 14,500 votes.

Plaid’s Dr Rhys Thomas polled over 3,000 votes in third. Alistair Cameron of the Liberal Democrats finished fourth.

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Stephen Crabb demolishes Labour with his biggest ever majority

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POLLING the largest ever number of votes for the Conservatives in Preseli Pembrokeshire, Stephen Crabb increased his majority in yesterday’s General Election.

Mr Crabb polled 21,381 votes against his nearest rival’s (Labour’s Philippa Thompson) 16,319.

Plaid Cymru finished third with 2,776 votes and the Liberal Democrats trailed home in fourth with 1,943 votes.

After Returning Officer Ian Westley announced the outcome, Mr Crabb gave a notably short victory speech in which he concentrated on thanking his opponents for a good campaign fought hard but with little personal rancour.

Philippa Thompson called on Mr Crabb to work for the benefit of all his constituents in response.

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