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No breach of Westley agreement found

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• 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.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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