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Badger treads Caerphilly

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badger_2087377bJAMIE ADAMS, ‘popular’ leader of the IPPG, took to the Western Telegraph this week to deride those councillors seeking to examine the Staff Remuneration Committee’s decision to give Bryn Parry Jones a wodge of Council Tax payers’ cash rather than pay tax on his blue chip pension.
Councillor Adams, who is known to have difficulty remembering when to submit his expenses claims, pronounced confidently on the complex legal issues involved.
Unfortunately, the IPPG’s leader appears to be ignorant of what the Wales Audit Office (WAO) decided in Caerphilly. That Council was subject to a Public Interest Report by the WAO following a probe into payments made to senior officers. It is not suggested that there is any evidence of criminality in the decision made by Pembrokeshire County Council’s own remuneration committee, but elements of the decision-making process seem remarkably similar.
In Caerphilly, Councillors attended a meeting – at which officers were present – and during which officers’ pay and conditions were discussed.
In Pembrokeshire’s case, Councillors attended a meeting – at which officers were present – and during which officers’ pay and conditions were discussed.
In Caerphilly, the officers did not declare an interest and leave the meeting while their pay and conditions were discussed.
In Pembrokeshire, the officers did not declare an interest and leave the meeting while their pay and conditions were discussed.
Of course, one big difference exists:
In Caerphilly’s case, the Council had additional and external guidance to assist Councillors. Pembrokeshire did not. Councillors in Pembrokeshire relied upon an internal guidance prepared by an officer who potentially stood to benefit from the outcome of the Councillors’ decisions.
But even the presence of the independent report did not save Caerphilly Council from the auditor ruling the conduct of the relevant meeting unlawful.
As Jamie Adams appears to be of the opinion that he – and not the auditors – is best placed to determine the lawfulness of the decision-making process, Badger –produces the relevant section of the Auditors’ report on Caerphilly so Jamie Adams can take the time to read and try to understand it:
“Certain officers who were among the beneficiaries of the decision were present throughout the Committee meeting on September 5 2012, and no declarations of interest were made. In addition, the report presented to the Committee was authored by the Chief Executive.
“A person is disqualified from participation in a decision-making process if there is a real possibility that he or she would be influenced by a pecuniary or personal interest in the outcome of the decision as established by case law. Such an interest has to be declared. Individuals having such an interest are not entitled to participate in the decision-making process unless the interest is too remote or insignificant to matter. As such, we would have expected:
* officers to have declared an interest in the proceedings;
* officers to have left the meeting whilst the members of the Committee discussed the recommendations in the Chief Executive’s report and reached their decision;
and
* the members of the Committee to have approved the terms of reference for the independent advice commissioned into remuneration (AS A MINIMUM –emphases added – in respect of the Chief Executive’s pay).
“… In my view, the participation of these officers in the decision-making process renders the decision of the Committee ultra vires and therefore unlawful, on this further ground.”
Badger is a bit stumped as to how Jamie squares this circle.
As Bryn and the other officers were present, Jamie Adams’ bold assertion in the Telegraph that “the legality of the meeting is not in question” as the officers were “not part of the decision-making process” seems to try and draw a distinction where there is no difference. Council members’ own guidance unequivocally states that the presence of those with an interest in the outcome of meeting – whether they speak or not – is deemed to influence its outcome. How reassuring it must be to Bryn the Merciless to discover that Councillors are accustomed to ignoring him!
If Sunny Jamie and his IPPG cohorts have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear from scrutiny. Instead they are running scared of giving Councillors the advice upon which they state they rely when making assertions of lawfulness and proper process.
When it is the conduct of Jamie Adams and his motley crew which is in question, the public have a need to know and a right to know.
Jamie Adams’ attack on the motives of Labour leader Paul Miller is a crass attempt to deflect criticism and play the man and not the ball. As a transparent and squalid attempt to smear a fellow Councillor, Jamie Adams’ comments are beneath contempt.
Badger asks his readers: why should the people of Pembrokeshire, let alone their representatives, put faith in Councillor Adams’ judgement or that of his discredited administration?

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Health

Health Board makes vaccination U-turn after queue-jumping complaints

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HYWEL DDA UHB today (Jan 23) announced a U-turn on its vaccination policy and will stick to the national priority scheme.

The move came after allegations it allowed Pembrokeshire County Council employees and other non-front-line workers to jump the queue for inoculations against Covid-19.
While surgeries in Pembrokeshire are still waiting for vaccines to inoculate its most eligible patients, the Health Board’s approach to delivering vaccinations breached Government guidance.

Yesterday (Friday, Jan 22), Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda University Health Board told The Herald: “The decision was made this week to extend the vaccine invitation to staff groups critical to the COVID response, without which we would not be able to run essential COVID response services.

“Many of these staff are currently redeployed from the frontline and patient-facing roles and employed by the health board, social care services, independent or third sector care services and fall within the JCVI’s priority group 2.”

The Welsh Government’s strategy is to inoculate frontline staff and then Over 80s. People in those categories are JCVI Priority Group 1.

However, this afternoon the Health Board issued the following statement: “In the past week, after offering frontline staff the opportunity to book vaccination, we expanded our eligibility criteria.

“We have reviewed the guidance and will now not be able to offer or vaccinate this group of staff currently. This is because it is increasingly difficult to draw the line around which staff should be included in this group and because we risk vaccinating before they are eligible.
“We must stay within the JCVI guidance which permits us only to vaccinate frontline health and social care staff, to protect patients and service users, at this point.
“We know that many other groups who are not part of the health and social care workforce are also critical to the wider COVID response and therefore it would be inequitable.
“We are so grateful to all key workers. We have throughout the pandemic continually strived to do the best for our staff and population, and we apologise for any confusion there has been around this issue over the past few days.”

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News

Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd

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PRESELI Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.

The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.

The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.

However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.

In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.

“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.

“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.

“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.

“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.

“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”

“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”

Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:

“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.

“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.

“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.

“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.

Commenting on the latest developments, William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire and former AM for Mid and West Wales said: ‘Paul Davies & Darren Millar have now done the correct thing in stepping down, to allow due process to take place, both within Cardiff Council and within the Senedd.
‘While they both need to reflect and learn from recent events, the Welsh Conservatives must now be given the opportunity to select an interim leader to take their party forward into the upcoming Senedd elections.
‘Schadenfreude is one of the unattractive features of our current politics and I want no part of it. I will simply work with my Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues to hold Welsh and UK Government to account on the management of the pandemic.
‘My own journey of Covid-19 illness and recovery is a reminder that we should unite to double down on the virus, support our NHS and other key workers and endeavour to do the right thing.’

Welsh Labour Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire has called out Paul Davies over his involvement in his apparent disregard of COVID rules in the Senedd and has expressed her concern that no actions have been taken to suspend him by his Party.

Commenting on the Welsh Conservative Group not taking any action against Paul Davies, Jackie Jones said: “I am flabbergasted that the Tory party is sitting on his hands and failed to recognise the public concern at the events described this week. The latest revelations suggest that he didn’t’ just breach the rules once but maybe twice. Now that this information has come to light, it is only right that the Tories look again at the decision they have taken today.

“As Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd he should be setting an example, not flouting the strict pandemic rules by supposedly drinking till 2 am on Senedd premises. Paul Davies constantly criticises the First Minister and Health Minister for implementing rules that are there to protect all of us, but here he is reportedly drinking till who knows when – maybe on two occasions – totally hypocritical.”

Ms Jones added that “I’m sure the constituents of Preseli will be equally annoyed by his behaviour, when they have had to abide by the rules, not going to pubs, not seeing loved ones for months at a time. It is completely out of order.”

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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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