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Council workers criticise bumper pay-off for chief executive

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COUNCIL workers employed by Pembrokeshire County Council have expressed their shock at the bumper pay-off for the authority’s out-going chief executive, according to the public services union.
UNISON says it is outraged such an enormous sum has been agreed at a time when Pembrokeshire residents face the greatest social and economic uncertainty of recent times.
The trade union has criticised council executives for a lack of transparency in the decision and said paying thousands of pounds was offensive to low paid care workers, school support staff and others, who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic.

Jonathan Lewis, UNISON Pembrokeshire branch secretary, told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “£95,000 is a lottery-size win and an incomprehensibly large amount of money for the thousands of low paid council staff who have continued to serve their community throughout the lockdown in very difficult circumstances.
“This deal was agreed behind closed doors and gives the impression the council is awash with money when the reality is key community services have been reduced by spending cuts.
“Council executives need a reality check. Their decision represents a crass lack of awareness for what their employees and local people have been going through for the last six months. UNISON is calling for an immediate review of the pay-off.”
Pembrokeshire County Council’s Conservative Group said would be the first to thank and acknowledge the huge contribution of Mr Ian Westley in nearly two decades of service to the Council.

In a statement, the group said: “£95,000 is being reported as a settlement which has been authorised by the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr David Simpson. Clearly the council tax payers of Pembrokeshire will want to know, and deserve to know, why the Leader agreed this.

“Since the current political leadership of Pembrokeshire County Council took office in May 2017, they have presided over an inflation busting Council Tax increase of 27.4% over just 3 years, and this settlement again prompts serious questions about their spending priorities that are being paid for by the hard-working tax payers of Pembrokeshire.”

As we reported in our print version of The Herald on Friday (Sept 11), the agreement for the payoff was reached through negotiation and is the maximum pay-out available for departing public sector employees.
Mr Westley’s payment was a matter delegated through the Council’s internal procedures to its leader, Cllr David Simpson, who authorised the agreement – executed by Director of Finance and Transformation Jon Haswell on Tuesday, September 1.
Settlement agreements are legally binding contracts which can be used to end an employment relationship on agreed terms. They are voluntary and parties do not have to agree to them or enter into a discussion about them. There can be a process of negotiation during which both sides make proposals and counter-proposals until an agreement is reached or both parties decide no agreement can be reached.

Negotiations regarding settlement agreements are confidential and neither party can disclose their content.

The existence of a Settlement Agreement works both ways. They are not proof of any legally actionable misconduct by either party and can be used to end employment for a variety of reasons, whether proposed by the employer or employee.
Speculation about what led to the negotiation is just that; although, as we reveal in this week’s paper, there were problems between Mr Westley and several members of the Cabinet and a blistering row between Mr Westley and another member of the Council’s senior management in the last few months.
In Mr Westley’s case, the Council – as Mr Westley’s employer – disclosed both the payment and settlement agreement’s existence (though not its other content or the negotiations) voluntarily at the time it was entered into.
Previous practice at Pembrokeshire County Council was to disclose the sums subject to such agreements either in response to a general request under the Freedom of Information Act or buried in the Council’s annual accounts – as was the case regarding the former Director of Education Graham Longster amongst other officers who left before 2017.
The case of previous CEO Bryn Parry Jones, and the amount of money sought by Carmarthenshire’s former CEO Mark James when he volunteered for redundancy directly contributed to the Welsh Government’s decision to cap senior staff’s pay-outs.

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Garage planning appeal dismissed

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A PLANNING inspector has upheld a Pembrokeshire County Council decision to refuse planning permission for a detached garage.

The Inspector dismissed the appeal by Mr Peter Baker against the Council’s decision to refuse the proposed development at Amroth Road, Ludchurch.

Planning Inspector J P Tudor agreed that the development would cause unacceptable harm on the character and appearance of the area.

The planned garage was to be placed in front of a detached bungalow.

Other properties nearby generally have garages situated to the side or rear or integrated into the main building.

The Inspector said: “Given its size and position, the garage would appear prominent in public views along the highway and be noticeable from neighbouring properties. It would compromise the existing sense of space and openness to the front of most dwellings.

“Therefore, the development would have an adverse effect on the character an appearance of the area.”

The appeal was dismissed.

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New guidelines for hospital visiting during Coronavirus outbreak

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NEW revised NHS Wales hospital visiting guidance during the coronavirus outbreak will be published on Monday 30 November 2020. This supersedes previously published guidance.

The revised guidance sets out the baseline for visiting in Wales during the pandemic, but allows health boards, trusts and hospices to have more flexibility to depart from the guidance.

This flexibility is due to the changing picture of coronavirus transmission across Wales, with significant variations in community transmission across different parts of the country and differences in the rate of nosocomial transmission.

The new guidelines allow health care providers to asses local factors and work with local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales when agreeing visiting arrangements.

Healthcare providers may depart from the guidance in response to:

  • rising levels of covid-19 transmission in their localities, including levels which result in a national lockdown and/or evidence of nosocomial transmission in a particular setting; or
  • falling levels of transmission in their local area.

In addition to allowing for this flexibility the revised guidance has been amended for maternity services after listening to feedback from women and families and consulting with Heads of Midwifery and Sonography/Radiography Services. Visiting in maternity services will now be based on a risk assessment approach by health boards. This will take into consideration local environmental factors such as room sizes, ability to socially distance and infection prevention and control risks in enabling partners to safely accompany pregnant women and new mothers. This risk assessed approach should be taken in collaboration with relevant health professionals, local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales. All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during active labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in an extremely limited number of circumstances.

The updated guidelines also recognise that some people may require an essential support assistant for specific additional support eg a support worker or interpreter. Essential support assistants will not to be classed as visitors, in some circumstances, where people receive care and support from a family member or partner, they may nominate this person as their essential support assistant.

Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, said: “We recognise that the restrictions on visiting has a huge impact on patients, their families and loves ones. We have announced further changes to the guidelines today to provide health boards, trusts and hospices with flexibility to depart from the guidelines in response to local levels of Covid-19 transmission. It is important to remember that the virus has not gone away and the health, safety and wellbeing of patients, communities and NHS staff remains an absolute priority for both the Welsh Government and health care providers. Tough choices will still need to be made but we hope the revised guidelines will allow more flexibility for health care providers. ”

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Education

Ysgol y Preseli in Crymych named Welsh secondary school of the decade

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NEWS that Ysgol y Preseli in Crymych is the Sunday Times Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade has been welcomed by the local authority.

The school is named in Parent Power, the Sunday Times Schools Guide, which identifies the 2,000 highest-achieving schools in the UK, ranked by their most recently published examination results.

The news will be published in The Sunday Times and online this Sunday, November 29th.

Nick Rodrigues, the deputy editor of Parent Power, said: “This bilingual school has risen around 300 places in our rankings since 2012 and now stands 186th overall. Last summer’s results were the best we had captured. The school is consistently moving in the right direction.

“Head teacher Michael Davies and deputy head Iola Phillips are both retiring this year which makes it especially poignant that Ysgol Y Preseli wins the Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade award. It marks the end of a fantastic era of dedication by two exemplary educators and is a fitting testament to their hard work.

“Under their leadership teachers have fostered productive working relationships with their pupils ensuring they are highly motivated.

“Officials noted during its last Estyn monitoring that ‘Ysgol y Preseli is an extremely homely community with an inclusive and caring Welsh ethos’ and emphasised teachers’ conscientious aim to support every pupil, making clear why this school is the perfect recipient for our Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade award.”

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear that Ysgol Preseli has been awarded Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade.

“This is a fantastic achievement and recognises the hard work and dedication of the whole Preseli education community. It is particularly poignant and timely that this comes as the Head and Deputy Head retire. My thanks and congratulations to all who have contributed to this award.”

Head teacher Michael Davies said it was fantastic news for everyone associated with Ysgol Y Preseli.

“To be ranked the top Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade is an incredible achievement,” she said.

“This is the culmination of ten years of hard work and I would like to dedicate the award to all the team at Ysgol Y Preseli, governors, senior management, staff, pupils, parents and the Pembrokeshire community.”

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