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Procedural row delays vital meeting

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A LONG procedural wrangle ate up an hour-and-a-half of time at an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council this morning.

Councillors met to discuss confidential legal advice arising from the equally secret settlement agreement between the local authority and its former CEO, Mr Ian Westley.

Before the meeting, the Council received a letter from the Association of Local Government Chief Executives – effectively Mr Westley’s trade union – that the settlement agreement’s contents were legally privileged and that Mr Westley had not surrendered his right to have its terms kept secret.

As we reported on Friday (October 8), the Council’s Deputy Monitoring Officer ruled a payoff of £95,000 to Ian Westley was made under the wrong procedure.

The settlement should have been reviewed and voted upon by the Full Council.
Although the Deputy Monitoring Officer’s opinion is a public document, councillors were due to discuss the issues it raises behind closed doors.

Some of the material to inform members’ debate, including advice from a leading barrister, is legally privileged and refers to confidential staffing matters.

An employee’s right to depend on confidentiality is the same as discussions between clients and their solicitors. They cannot be disclosed to someone else.

It’s a classic case where the public interest is not the same as what the public might be interested in.
Apart from the settlement agreement’s terms, internal staffing -particularly potential disciplinary proceedings against named individuals – are never discussed in public.

That is entirely standard practice in any employer/employee relationship, whether the employer is in the public sector or not.

However, several councillors – most notably former Council Leader Jamie Adams – insisted that confidential material could be discussed in public.

Cllr Mike Stoddart tartly welcomed Cllr Adams’s conversion to the principle of transparency in governance.
In doing so, Cllr Adams found himself at odds with the Council’s barrister, Mr Nigel Giffin QC, and the newly appointed Interim Monitoring Officer and Acting Head of Legal, Rhian Young.

Their professional opinions were clear.

Discussing confidential material in public, especially when one party had not waived their right to confidentiality, would leave the Council open to a potentially costly legal challenge.

Cllr David Lloyd – a practising barrister – endorsed their view.

It took Cllr Jonathan Preston to bring some real-world thinking into the proceedings.

He wondered how any councillors considered contradicting very clear legal advice to put the Council Taxpayer at risk of funding more legal costs than those the authority incurred already. Staffing matters were routinely confidential, and the Council was in no different a position than anyone else.

Cllr Mike Williams said that it was surely time to decide how to proceed after going around in circles after an hour and a half.

He proposed the meeting be moved into a private session to discuss the report, noting that doing so would leave councillors free to express opinions on the issues raised by the Council’s QC without putting the Council at any risk of litigation at public expense.

Mike Willams’s proposal was carried by 35 votes to 17 with one abstention.

Shortly afterwards, as Cllr Jacob Williams raised the issue of recording the proceedings, the webcast cut out.

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Fire service attend incident on Mount Estate

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Credit - The Herald

THE FIRE service attended an incident at Larch Road on the Mount Estate yesterday (August 11) after a council container began smoking.

A  fire engine arrived on the scene at approximately 10:50 to deal with a possible fire in one of the containers.

Credit – The Herald

A witness on the scene said it appeared as though the mobile canteen was on fire.

The fire service resolved the issue and left the scene at 11:20. 

More details to follow

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Council to showcase services at County Show

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THE SHOW IS BACK – and following a two-year absence, this year’s event will be the first open to the public since 2019.
As a celebration of rural life in the county, the show is the perfect platform to engage with both local communities and visitors.
This year, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will be held over two days, on 17 and 18 August – and the Pembrokeshire County Council is attending the event to highlight the work they undertake, support available and the employment opportunities they have to offer.
To ensure the Local Authority provides information on a wide range of our services, this year our Social Services team are in a stand-alone marquee, enabling people to visit a one-stop-shop of support.
We will also give visitors the opportunity to join us in the corporate marquee to engage with Cabinet Members, the Chief Executive and a whole host of interesting and innovative projects happening across the county.
Pembrokeshire County Council Chief Executive Will Bramble said: “Our teams are excited about engaging with the public and having the opportunity to demonstrate what they do – and highlight the wealth of support available along with the wide range of career opportunities we have to offer.
“This will be my first Pembrokeshire Show as Chief Executive and I am looking forward to engaging with the rural and wider communities of this fantastic county.
“The Pembrokeshire Show is the perfect platform to celebrate the amazing produce we have to offer – and to meet new and old friends. Please come and visit our marquees and discover more about the support available and the transformational projects we are doing, which will improve the lives of our communities and visitors. I look forward to meeting you at the show.”
Among those joining the team will be the Broadband project, the Haverfordwest Regeneration work and the fascinating ongoing archaeological dig exhibition with Dyfed Archaeological Trust. Visitors will also get the chance to engage with Cabinet Members who will attend across the two-day event.
In the Social Services marquee will be Foster Care, Carers Support and the recruitment team who will be able to discuss how you can start your career in social care, and join the team making a real difference to the lives of people in our communities.
Cllr Paul Miller: Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change, added: “The County Show is a well-loved and important celebration of rural life in Pembrokeshire, and we are delighted to be part of the event once again this year. Our staff and members will be chatting to lots of people from communities’ right across Pembrokeshire: please do drop into our stands and say hello – we’re looking forward to meeting you.”

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RNLI help firefighters control island blaze

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ST DAVIDS lifeboat volunteers provided support to local fire crews tackling a wildfire on Carreg Fran off Porthlysgi beach on Monday, (Aug 8).

The fire on Carreg Fran Porthlysgi beach is suspected to have started from the remnants of wild camping on the island.

St Davids fire service requested the assistance of the all-weather lifeboat Norah Wortley to transfer staff and equipment following reports of people swimming to the island in an attempt to extinguish the blaze.
Seven fire crews used a featherweight pump and hoses to douse the island with sea water in an operation lasting over seven hours.

This is the second time St Davids lifeboat volunteers have been called to wildfire concerns at Carreg Fran within the last month.

Despite earlier attempts to control the fire, the islands’ peat surface has continued to smoulder.

Will Chant, RNLI Coxswain for St Davids RNLI lifeboat, said: “St Davids fire station requested our logistical help to safely transport their crew and equipment to Carreg Fran.

“We stood by in support whilst the fire crew tackled the wildfire.

“Despite their best efforts, the fire reignited the next day, so we urge members of the public not to attempt to access the island as they are putting their own lives at risk.”

Since the start of summer, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue have attended 280 grass fires that have either been started deliberately or were accidental.

Richie Vaughan-Williams, Arson Reduction Manager, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Its everyone’s responsibility to protect our countryside from wildfires.

“Many of the fires are set deliberately but some occur through negligence or boredom.

“This is frustrating when our fire crews can then get detained for hours in difficult conditions trying to stop the damage, meaning that they are then sometimes delayed in attending other emergencies.”I would encourage everyone to consider their actions when enjoying the countryside and avoid lighting fires at all.

“We need to work together to support our communities, to ensure the safety of our family and friends, neighbours, members of the public and our Emergency Services.”

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