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Smarter working for a smarter workforce

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THE WAY an organisation responds to challenges is testament to its values, its planning and its employees.

Covid-19 has gathered pace which has been unprecedented – and is a situation that the majority of us could never have anticipated.

Facing this pandemic and being prepared has been a challenge for all tiers of Government – but Pembrokeshire County Council’s capability to reposition its workforce is thanks to embracing the Smarter Working approach.

Our investment in technology has enabled the organisation to have more than 750 staff working flexibly to keep vital services running.

Introduced in the summer of 2018, the Smarter Working project is about harnessing the potential of flexible working in a strategic way, to deliver benefits both for employees and the business.

It is well-recognised that the principles of Smarter Working acknowledge that technology and flexible working patterns are changing the way we work for the better.

Councillor Neil Prior, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Transformation and IT said: “The Council’s employees understand that we are in a fast-changing communication and technology world.

“Culture and behaviour change has enabled us as an organisation to benefit from the advances in IT and an improved flexible use of our estate.

“I’d like to thank the IT team who have been working incredibly hard to support our Business Continuity planning. The investment we have made in technology over the last couple of years has meant that we’ve been able to see a greater number of staff work from home, which is exactly in line with the Government’s advice to ‘work from home where possible’.

“I would also like to thank staff who have adjusted their working patterns and are going over and above in their efforts to prepare our County to respond in the best possible way to the current situation.”

The world of work is changing, and people no longer need be tied to a desk. Pembrokeshire County Council can now work smarter, in a way that saves money, time and improves productivity.

As part of the Council’s approach to smarter working and refining the estate – two key changes were implemented.

The conversion of Haverfordia House – which previously accommodated staff – into a reablement centre also enabled the Council to list the Cherry Grove building in Haverfordwest as surplus to requirements, ensuring cost avoidance over the next 10 years stretching into millions of pounds.

Regarding the response specifically to Covid-19 – the stats are impressive. They include:

  • 95 per-cent of IT department working remotely
  • Skype – average unique users logged in: 1,200
  • almost 14,000 one-to-one skype sessions – this equates to more than 1,200 conferences and in excess of 60,000 audio and video minutes used
  • figures showcase the Council’s ability to enable its staff to work flexibly and keep vital services running
  • Community Hub has received more than 700 calls
  • the Council’s Cabinet is continuing to meet via videoconferencing.

Councillor Prior added: “We take pride in the relationships that we are building with our communities – and I am extremely proud of the work that has gone into the planning and the commitment shown by the Council’s staff.

“Pembrokeshire County Council has a history of positive relationships with our colleagues within health, third sector agencies and emergency services – and we are all working together to support each other through this challenging time.”

Business

£66m in Covid-19 business grants paid to Pembrokeshire businesses

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WHAT has been described as an incredible team effort has seen Pembrokeshire County Council pay out more than £66m to county businesses in Covid-19 support grants so far.

And across Wales more than £1bn has now been paid to businesses since the start of the pandemic.

In Pembrokeshire 9,171 grants have been paid across the 10 grants introduced by the Welsh Government.

The total amount of £66,370,548 paid in Pembrokeshire is the fourth highest amount paid out so far across Wales.

And the figures are growing all the time with further payment runs undertaken this week.

The team is now currently focussed on the Restrictions Grant and working their way through the applications.

Cllr Paul Miller, the Cabinet Member for the Economy, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to ensure that the money available to support businesses through this
difficult period gets to them as soon as possible.

“The sheer number of applications processed and the money delivered is a testament to those efforts and we’re not done yet.

“We have now moved onto the Restrictions Grant and we’re ready to continue the effort to help Pembrokeshire businesses for as long as it takes.”

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Business

Online conference will give everyone a say on transport in South West Wales

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ANYONE interested in helping to shape the future of transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea is invited to attend a major online event that aims to set out a clear plan for transport in the region.

This event, titled Moving Forward Together – Regional Transport Conference – South West Wales, is organised by 4theRegion and Swansea Environmental Forum and sponsored by South West Wales Connected community rail partnership and Natural Resources Wales. It runs in the mornings of Tuesday, February 9 and Wednesday, February 10, beginning at 10 am on the Tuesday with an opening address from Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport, Welsh Government.

The conference will provide an open forum to explore key transport challenges and opportunities, and design new solutions to move towards a greener, cleaner, healthier, more inclusive and better-connected transport system for our region.

Topics to be discussed include the transport needs of local communities, how businesses address staff transport needs, innovative approaches to travel, potential for investments and what it would really take for people to leave their cars at home more often.

Participants will get their say on what the government should be investing in, what the local authorities could be doing, and how people, communities and businesses can be part of the solution.

Organisations, businesses and community groups involved in travel and transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and/or Swansea, are also being invited to get in touch regarding opportunities to showcase their work at this event.

Dawn Lyle, Chair of 4theRegion, said: “It’s time to take a fresh look at how we can better connect our region whilst reducing carbon emissions and improving health and well-being. This is an inclusive online event for car users, transport users, cyclists and pedestrians, even if you’ve never been involved in conversations about transport before. If you care about South West Wales and want to see our region flourish in the years to come, please get involved!”

If you represent an organisation, business or community group involved in travel and transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and/or Swansea, and would like to showcase your work at this event, email Zoe@4theregion.com.

Philip McDonnell, Coordinator for Swansea Environmental Forum and Low Carbon Swansea Bay added: “As we journey towards a low carbon society, transport is lagging behind and remains one of the most challenging issues in both rural and urban areas in our region. The current situation is simply bad for our health and totally unsustainable. We will need everyone to get on board if we are going to tackle this.”

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Business

Local businesses to benefit from Supreme Court insurance ruling

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THE SUPREME COURT has largely ruled in favour of policyholders and the City regulator in the landmark business interruption insurance case. 

In a judgment handed down today, the court said it “substantially allowed” the appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and campaign groups Hiscox Action Group and Hospitality Insurance Group Action. 

Tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance pay-outs across the UK covering losses from the first national lockdown. There are thought to be hundreds of businesses in Pembrokeshire which will benefit from the ruling.

One of the judges, Lord Briggs, said in the ruling: “On the insurers’ case, the cover apparently provided for business interruption caused by the effects of a national pandemic type of notifiable disease was in reality illusory, just when it might have been supposed to have been most needed by policyholders.

“That outcome seemed to me to be clearly contrary to the spirit and intent of the relevant provisions of the policies in issue.”

The insurers Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, RSA and QBE, have had their appeals dismissed. 

The ruling will provide guidance for a further 700 policies, potentially affecting up to 400,000 policyholders.

Richard Leedham, partner at Mishcon de Reya who represents the Hiscox Action Group today said: “The judgment should be a massive boost to all businesses reeling from a third lockdown who can now demand their claims are paid.”

“The hope and expectation of our clients is that the claim adjustment process starts immediately and that insurers will not continue to cause further distress by further unnecessary delay.”   

Following today’s decision the insurance industry is expected to pay out over £1.8bn in coronavirus claims related to the first lockdown, which includes business interruption policies.

The FCA, which brought the test case, said: “We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.”

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) confirmed insurers would settle claims as soon as possible.

“Customers who have made claims that are affected by the test case will be contacted by their insurer to discuss what the judgment means for their claim. All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun,” he said after the judgment.

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