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No-go on senior officer’s payoff as councillors wait for Audit Wales report

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ON MONDAY (November 8), Pembrokeshire County Council voted to defer any movement towards a settlement agreement with its Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Claire Incledon, until after councillors received an Audit Wales report.
Ms Incledon’s identity as the officer seeking a settlement was inadvertently disclosed by simple jigsaw identification during the public part of the meeting. A fact Cllr Brian Hall tartly noted without naming the Head of Legal.The report, into the payment of £95,000 to former CEO Ian Westley, is taking time to arrive at County Hall, even though portions of it dealing with individual officers were circulated to those named in it during the summer.
The payment made to Mr Westley was unlawful. The Audit Wales report will examine the advice given by officers relating to it.

WANTED: £100K+

Ms Incledon wants a payment in excess of £110,000 from the Council to resolve issues around her wish to leave the Council’s employment.
Settlement agreements are usually used to resolve disputes between employers and employees to avoid the risks of litigation.
Their terms are always confidential and governed by employment law.
They are not unusual or peculiar documents and tend, with a few wrinkles here and there, to be used routinely in medium-to-large organisations in both the public and private sector.
Ms Incledon has not begun a formal grievance procedure relating to her Council role, and no disciplinary proceedings against her are underway or even planned.
It is, therefore, unclear why a settlement agreement would be thought necessary at this stage.
One clue as to what might be in the Audit Wales report is now apparent, though. It must contain criticism of Ms Incledon that she rejects either in whole or part.
In a formal statement, a Council spokesperson said: “At an Extraordinary Meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, Council considered the issue of a Settlement Agreement concerning an employee.
“Members decided more information was required before concluding the matter.”
That bare statement is not the whole story.

OFFICER MEMBER RELATIONSHIPS

On the one hand, Cllr Jamie Adams has seized on a single sentence in an external peer-review.

  • “A set of relationship issues are evident at the Cabinet and Corporate Management Team level that are impacting negatively.”

Cllr Adams is keen on that sentence, freely suggesting that senior officers were somehow victims.
He has not, however, bothered much with the observation following it: 

  • “Tensions between political and professional leaders are common across all organisations from time-to-time and are inevitable given the challenges and pressures faced by public services in the current environment.”

Or this nugget: 

  • “Whenever behaviours and standards are demonstrated as being an issue, responsibility is incumbent upon the Chief Executive, Monitoring Officer, Leader of the Council and political group Leaders to take the necessary action and to support each other fully in doing so.”

Cllr Adams publicly voiced no concerns regarding behaviours and standards before the Corporate Peer Review’s publication.
It’s fair to infer– as the leader of a political group – he had none.
Even in circumstances where he would realistically be expected to be aware of any concerns– whether expressed formally or otherwise – as a former Council Leader, Cllr Adams said nothing to raise awareness of any issues.
And in March this year, any preconceptions about officers’ closeness to the papal levels of infallibility were torpedoed by an external consultant, who worked on the report upon which Jamie Adams has hung his hat.
An LGA expert on Council’s performance told members of the Council’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee he had never met more senior officer resistance to an external review of a local authority.
Chris Bowron said officers’ resistance was overcome only through strong personal leadership by individuals committed to the idea such a review must happen.
Pembrokeshire County Council, the Committee heard, was ‘not a normal council.’
The era of top-down management had long passed elsewhere, and it was time for the Council to catch up and then get ahead of the field.
As a corporate body, Pembrokeshire County Council’s old working methods were unsustainable.
Those old working methods would have been familiar to at least one member of the Committee: Cllr Jamie Adams.
The same meeting decided to defer any investigation of the Corporate Peer Review until after the Audit Wales report landed.
That is another matter that appears to have slipped the memory of some councillors in their eagerness to grab an electioneering pound of flesh.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

While rumours of wars rattle around the County Hall echo chamber, the issues the Council had to decide on Monday were straightforward: whether to discuss a current member of staff’s employment in public or in private.
And after members reached that decision, what to do about the proposed settlement agreement.
It turned out that having had a leading local government QC advise them against discussing matters covered by the bonds of confidentiality that bind employer and employee at their last meeting made no impact on a few councillors.
This time, likewise, the expert advice of a partner in the employment team of leading solicitors Eversheds had little impact.
This was public money, and the public had the right to know, claimed Cllr Reg Owens.
Huw Rowland Jones of Eversheds patiently – and repeatedly – told members that employment law dealt with settlement agreements based on utmost confidentiality.
He added he had never – in an extensive career – come across a local authority breaking the provisions of employment law to discuss one’s proposed terms in public.
Nevertheless, Pembrokeshire County Council has always been exceptional, and the law wasn’t going to put off a handful of councillors from chasing their dragon to the bitter end.
While very few of that handful are doubtlessly motivated by a genuine concern about open governance, Cllr Jonathan Preston – who again introduced a note of reality into proceedings – said some were posing for the electorate.
Cllr Preston expressed exasperation that the Council was even discussing proceeding in public. The legal advice, he said, was clear, and the law was clear. The meeting had to go into a closed session.
Jonathan Preston got support from Cllr David Lloyd. The latter also expressed disbelief that any councillors thought it was responsible to proceed in public.
Presiding Officer Cllr Simon Hancock moved the matter to a vote.
Councillors voted 42-10 with no abstentions to discuss the proposed settlement agreement in private.
The outcome of that debate was as The Herald said it would be on Friday, November 5.
No decision before the Audit Wales report.

News

Covid-19 cases highest in Tenby; lots of new cases in Neyland and Pembroke Dock

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THE NUMBER of Covid-19 infections still taking place in Pembrokeshire is still significant, with the latest figues broken down per town now released.

Tenby has the highest prevalence in the general population at the present time.

The figures show that Pembroke Dock and Neyland have reported the most new cases with 59 and 60 new cases each.

This is the coronavirus rate and number of new cases for every area across Pembrokeshire are as follows:

  • St Davids & Letterston: 30 new cases; a rate of 394.6 per 100,000 people.
  • Johnston, Broad Haven & St Ishmaels: 39 new cases; a rate of 466.6 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Milford Haven West: 49 new cases; a rate of 641.4 per 100,000 people.
  • Milford Haven East: 37 new cases; a rate of 495.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Pembroke West & Castlemartin: 34 new cases; 459.8 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Pembroke East & Manorbier: 25 new cases; a rate of 324.8 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Pembroke Dock: 59 new cases; a rate of 610.5 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Neyland: 60 new cases; a rate of 690.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Haverfordwest South: 52 new cases; a rate of 727.2 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Haverfordwest North: 47 new cases; a rate of 661.0 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Crundale, Clynderwen & Maenclochog: 64 new cases; a rate of 888.3 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Fishguard: 39 new cases; a rate of 393.6 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Cilgerran & Crymych: 30 new cases; a rate of 353.2 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Narberth: 29 new cases; a rate of 422.0 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Saundersfoot: 29 new cases; a rate of 341.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Tenby & Caldey: 40 new cases; a rate of 658.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Cllr Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council said on Friday: “I must repeat that Covid-19 has not gone away and the wave of positive cases sweeping across Europe is a concern.
“People continue to catch this awful virus every day. Unfortunately, people are still dying from Covid-19.
“It is human nature to want to forget about Covid as the festive season approaches, I totally understand that.
“Like everyone, I was so disappointed when the tighter restrictions had to be brought in just before Christmas last year.
“And like everyone I’m thinking about buying gifts, planning festive events and looking forward to the celebrations.
“But I would please ask that you also keep in mind the simple things we can all do to give ourselves the best protection against Covid-19 and slow down the spread.”

Council Covid-19 team in Tenby earlier this year (Pic PCC)

Cllr Simpson said that People in Pembrokeshire should continue to work from home where you can, take up vaccination including the booster when offered, keep your distance where possible, use face coverings where required, maintain hand hygiene, meet outdoors when the weather allows and let fresh air in if you are meeting indoors.

He said that Christmas parties is one particular area where I would ask people to take extra care.

Cllr Simpson said: “Please consider smaller group numbers than you might ordinarily and try to avoid mixing with too many other people.”

“Remember that Covid-19 loves busy indoor spaces.

“Please do what you can to protect yourself and others.

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News

Appeal following public order incident in Monkton last month

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POLICE in south Pembrokeshire are appealing for witnesses or anybody with information after a ‘public order incident’ occurred in in Monkton last month.

The incident occurred on Long Mains between 9.30pm and 10pm on the evening of Thursday, October 21.

Dyfed-Powys Police said: “Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

“Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.”

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Health

Hospital visiting restrictions relaxed in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokehire

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FAMILY and friends can now attend hospitals in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire to visit patients on a limited basis with prior agreement with hospital staff in line with Welsh Government guidance.

While the prevalence of COVID-19 has reduced within our hospitals and in the community, the virus has not gone away. Like some other areas across Wales and the UK we are continuing to deal with cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections in our hospitals. As a result, visiting arrangements to all hospitals in Hywel Dda UHB are being reviewed regularly and remain subject to change at short notice.

With effect from Monday 29 November, all visits must be pre-arranged with the ward sister or charge nurse to enable us to maintain social distancing in our wards and across our sites. This means that a pre-booked visit for one person daily can be supported, provided your visit has a clear purpose and is in the best interest of the patient, in line with the following guidance:

‘Visiting with a purpose’:

  • End of life – last days of life
  • Carer – you are the carer or the nominated representative
  • Parent/Guardian – children and young people can be supported in an inpatient environment by the identified parent/guardian
  • Learning disabilities (LD) – a patient with learning disabilities may need you as their carer/next of kin to share information about their individual needs and virtual visiting may not be appropriate
  • Dementia – to support a person with Dementia as part of the ongoing support/plan of care
  • Other – for example where it is felt a visit from you may help the patient with rehabilitation, understanding of care/condition, help with dietary concerns. The ward sister may agree visiting outside of this guidance in certain circumstances.

The current visiting arrangements within our maternity services remain unchanged at this time.

Please note that visitors who do not meet the criteria will be asked to use a virtual visiting option instead which is available within the hospital, such as using a tablet or mobile phone. Family Liaison Officers will be available on wards to support access to virtual visiting.

All visitors must carry out a lateral flow device (LFD) test at home and have a negative result from that test prior to travelling to the hospital. Lateral flow self-test kits can be obtained by:

It is recommended that test results – negative or positive – are recorded on the UK Government portal (www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result)

When visiting our hospitals please remember to wear a face covering, this will be replaced by a surgical face mask at reception or ward entrance. Please remember to maintain social distancing and to clean your hands on entering the building and as often as possible using soap and water or hand sanitiser.

Mandy Rayani, Executive Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience, said: “On behalf of the health board I want to express our deepest gratitude to our patients, their families and our communities for their continued understanding and adherence to the very strict hospital visiting rules that we have had to impose throughout this pandemic. 

“We appreciate that it is a difficult time for everyone. We will continue to support the wellbeing of our patients/service users, their families and loved ones in the best way we can, while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

“Our patient support team and family liaison officers can help to deliver essential items to patients from their family and facilitate communication through digital options/telephone; if you need their assistance please call them on and 0300 0200 159 and they will do their best to help you.”

Please do not visit any of our hospital sites if you:

  1. are unwell, have flu like symptoms, currently have or had diarrhoea and vomiting in past 48 hours, have been in contact with anyone with the above symptoms in the last 48 hours have an existing medical condition or are on medication that puts you at risk of infection. Infection control advice – Hywel Dda University Health Board (nhs.wales)
  2. have been asked to isolate by the contact tracing team or if you have any of the three main symptoms of COVID-19 – a new continuous cough, temperature or loss or change of taste or smell. If you experience any of these symptoms please book a COVID-19 PCR test via the UK portal or by ringing 119. You should also book a test if you have mild cold or flu-like symptoms, including runny or blocked nose, sore throat, muscle ache or pain, excessive tiredness; persistent headache, persistent sneezing and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing. When booking your PCR test, you will also be asked about your symptoms: if you have mild cold or flu-like symptoms, rather than the classic three symptoms, choose ‘None of these symptoms’ and then choose one of the following options to enable you to complete the booking:
  • My local council or health protection team has asked me to get a test, even though I do not have symptoms or
  • A GP or other healthcare professional has asked me to get a test.
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