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No breach of Westley agreement found



• Solicitors’ advice rejects Jamie Adams’ allegations
• Officers need to learn to live with criticism
• Advice received before key Committee meeting

LEGAL advice commissioned by the Council states no breach of confidentiality took place regarding the settlement agreement between the local authority and former CEO Ian Westley.

The settlement agreement covers derogatory statements by an employer about employee and by an employee about an employer.

A copy of the advice arrived at The Herald’s offices by Royal Mail on Wednesday, February 2. The envelope containing it had no other enclosure, and the envelope was not written by a person with whose handwriting he is familiar.

The Council asked Eversheds to advise it after Cllr Adams alleged a breach of the agreement took place. Jamie Adams claimed the breach occurred during discussions at a Senior Staff Committee meeting on October 2 last year.

In his formal request, Cllr Adams asked that Eversheds ‘specifically give opinion(s) individually on Cllr Michael Williams and Cllr Paul Miller’s comments relating to the Chief Executive’ at the Committee meeting.

Mike Williams suggested that the conclusion of a corporate restructure was overdue and raised a query about the cost of employing external consultants to advise the Council.

The advice reveals that at least two solicitors from Eversheds separately viewed the Committee meeting’s recording before discussing their conclusions about its content.

In Cllr Williams’s case, the advice states that the advice’s authors do not consider his words are derogatory and do not violate the settlement agreement.

The advice goes further and states that: ‘Given the nature of the relationship between the Council and its officers, with the latter being required to implement decisions taken by the Council, some criticism of officers is to be expected from time to time, just as is the case in any other working environment, however unfair that criticism might be perceived by those officers’.

The advice then addresses Cllr Miller’s comments.

Councillor Miller made what the advice describes as ‘obvious criticism of the outgoing Chief Executive’. The advice states ‘the criticism may have been unfair but would not amount to a derogatory statement’.

The advice adds that: ‘Councillor Miller clearly has concerns regarding performance management at the Council, generally, and is expressing (disappointment) that a corporate restructure has (in his view) nor been undertaken’.

The solicitors then turn their attention to whether the Council Leader, Cllr David Simpson, should have corrected the comments made by both Cllr Williams and Cllr Miller at the time they made them.

The advice points out the difficulty of interjecting in an online meeting and continues that there was ‘no reason for the Leader to intervene’. It continues to provide a broader context for Cllr Miller’s remarks, including technical problems during the webcast and Head of HR Ceri Davies’ contribution, to whom Cllr Miller addressed his remarks.

As far as Cllr Simpson’s involvement goes, the advice states it does not believe there was much Cllr Simpson could have done at that point without ‘blowing the matter out of proportion’.
The advice adds that Cllr Simpson responded to a direct question on the issue put by Cllr Jacob Williams, six days after the meeting. David Simpson confirmed a corporate restructure took place on Mr Westley’s watch.

The advice was circulated to all councillors this week. It will have been seen before its release by several senior Council officers.

That last point raises a further one.

The copy of the advice we have is clearly dated a week BEFORE the Council’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee which discussed Cllr Adams’ notice of motion. However, it is apparent from that meeting’s content that the advice was not disclosed to members before that meeting. Had it been disclosed, the meeting’s consideration of Cllr Adams’ notice of motion would certainly have been better informed.

Committee Chair, Cllr Brian Hall, will not be amused by not having the fullest possible and most up-to-date information to hand when considering the notice of motion. It’s hard to credit that any other Committee members, once they realise the advice was with Council officers before their considerations, will be delighted at the failure to give them the full picture.
Two questions arise, therefore:

Firstly, which officer or officers had the advice in their possession before the Overview and Scrutiny meeting took place; and,

Secondly, and crucially, why they sat on it for a protracted period until it was sent to all councillors this week.

Whoever sat on the report will almost certainly be asked to account for their inaction.

We asked Jamie Adams whether the advice given by Eversheds addressed his concerns about any alleged breach of the settlement agreement with Mr Westley.


Delight as foundation phase learners return to class



PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update



PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”


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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father



THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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