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Bryn knew of Smith allegations in 2005

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Mik Smith: Bryn Parry Jones knew about allegations

Mik Smith: Bryn Parry Jones knew about allegations

THERE were fresh calls this week for Bryn Parry Jones, Wales’ highest paid council chief, to resign. This time there is mounting pressure on him over the way Pembrokeshire County Council dealt with allegations about a former senior council youth worker who went on to be jailed for six years for sexually abusing a child. And as a result of a BBC Wales Week In Week Out investigation into the case, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales says he wants to re-open the case files at the Council to discover whether children were left at risk. Children’s Commissioner Keith Towler told the press: “I’ll take look at it because I think what you’re raising there are very serious allegations. That probably needs an independent look. In terms of my responsibility as Children’s Commissioner, if I take the view that things happened to children in the past could help to improve the lives of children today then I certainly have got the powers of remit to take look at it.” The Herald can reveal that claims made by IPPG leader Jamie Adams at Thursday’s full Council meeting that the Council’s CEO knew nothing about the serious allegations made by colleagues against Mik Smith are untrue. The Pembrokeshire Herald has a series of explosive internal documents that reveal that when allegations were made about Mik Smith’s inappropriate conduct towards children, Council officers tried to sweep them under the carpet. Those documents reveal that Bryn Parry Jones was told: * At least EIGHT professional youth workers had concerns about Mik Smith’s conduct toward children and that those concerns spanned ‘many years’. * Youth workers felt intimidated and threatened when they reported concerns about Mik Smith to their managers. * Officers treated Mik Smith as though he was the victim of a campaign against him by other staff members and allowed him to chair a meeting which disciplined a member of staff for making allegations about Smith’s inappropriate conduct towards children. * Concerns were expressed about the way in which two officers, County Youth Officer Eirian Evans and Personnel Officer Catherine Davies held a meeting for staff to discuss their concerns about Mik Smith with the now convicted paedophile, who was their line manager, present. One member of staff left that meeting allegedly in ‘floods of tears’. In 2004, a whistle-blower warned bosses that Smith was behaving inappropriately with children and could pose as a risk – but Smith, from Haverfordwest, was given a verbal warning. Paedophile Smith was jailed for six years for sexually abusing an eight-year-old boy a few weeks ago. The offences happened after he had been sacked. Whistle-blower Sue Thomas – who originally warned bosses about Smith’s inappropriate behaviour – thinks that the Council made a serious mistake when they gave Mik Smith a verbal warning in 2005: “I still can’t get my head round it because there were so many good hard-working professional people that came forward with complaints – I cannot understand why we were not listened to. “I can’t comprehend what type of person in management wouldn’t listen to it and wouldn’t be concerned and wouldn’t want to deal with it – I’m lost for words.” Further complaints were made about Smith in 2009 and 2011, and he was eventually sacked in 2012 after a re-investigation was ordered by the Welsh Government when the Authority’s education service was placed into special measures. Had that re-investigation not been ordered, Smith might have remained in the Council’s employment dealing with vulnerable children. The Herald understands that one member of staff, who was supposed to supervise Smith, was subsequently moved from a frontline role dealing with children to a desk job at County Hall. Mik Smith’s recent court case has prompted questions about whether the Council should have sacked Smith sooner and whether it did enough to protect children who he came into contact with. A Council spokesperson told the Herald: “It is a matter of fact that there were significant failings in the disciplinary standards within the Council’s Education directorate in 2005 when Mr Smith was the subject of various allegations about inappropriate behaviour. “Since that time the Council has completely changed its procedures and management of the Education department and is confident that the failings of nine years ago would not be repeated now. “No manager from the former Education directorate involved in the decision-making in 2005 is currently employed by the Authority.” Joyce Watson AM says this is the latest in a series of failures by the Council to properly protect vulnerable children. She wants Bryn Parry Jones – who earns more than the £228,000 a year – to step down. She told The Herald: “I think it’s time for him to go and I’m not shy of saying that – he has been the permanency in all of the negative reports that have been there and there have been a number of them. You cannot be the highest paid Chief Executive in Wales because you are worth that money, and reside over failure. Repeated failure.” The BBC told The Herald that they have spoken to an independent social worker who investigated the allegations against Mik Smith on behalf of the Council in 2005. The social worker told the broadcaster that she was ‘surprised’ that Smith had been dealt with by way of a verbal warning at the time. Bryn Parry Jones said that the council’s investigation at the time revealed no evidence of criminal activity and that since that time the Council has completely changed its procedures and management of the Education department and is confident that past failings would not be repeated now. The Council also said: “No manager from the former Education directorate involved in the decisionmaking in 2005 is currently employed by the Authority.” The Herald has an email from one youth worker sent to Council CEO Bryn Parry Jones and Gerson Davies (then Director of Education), which states: “I do recall that at my induction into PCC several years ago Mr Parry-Jones, you did say that if we had any problems which weren’t getting resolved by management that we had to come and knock on your door – I’m doing that now. I am asking for a meeting between yourself, the directors concerned and those team members involved (excluding Mik Smith) to discuss how this matter can be sorted out.” Bryn Parry Jones responded by ignoring the allegations regarding Mik Smith and said: “I think I made it clear that I was talking about a facility for direct communication in the event of line managers not listening to reasonable suggestions for organisational improvement. It would be inappropriate for me to intervene personally.” That letter is dated November 16, 2005. Sue Perkins, the Labour turncoat who is the IPPG’s spokesperson on Education and Safeguarding, rejected calls for a public inquiry. She told Thursday’s Council meeting that one was not needed as previous investigations had been carried out into the Authority’s failure to adequately safeguard children and that the Council had taken steps to ensure that such a situation was very unlikely to re-occur. Cllr Perkins told the meeting: “The disciplinary process nine years ago was flawed. The monitoring done in 2005 was inadequate. Children were interviewed in 2005 but none made allegations of sexual abuse. “We had two separate intervention boards; this case was one of 26 they discussed. It was dealt with by senior management. It was carried out by very eminent people. “The leader has apologised publicly for the outcome.” IPPG Leader Jamie Adams added: “I express my regret at the decision that was made by the disciplinary committee. “There were faults with safeguarding and education at that time – Mik Smith should have been given a final warning.” Cllr Adams went on to claim: “The allegations were taken seriously but the outcome was not as robust as it should have been.” The leader asked if any members present in the chamber were aware of the issue at the time, as if they were they were bound to have raised it. Cllr Reg Owens responded to the leader’s apparently rhetorical question by revealing that he and other members of staff did raise concerns at the time and that they were ignored. A question from Cllr Mike Stoddart asked whether or not one of the whistle-blowers, Sue Thomas, should receive an apology for how she was dealt with. Cllr Adams responded saying: “This was to do with relationships between staff, it was addressed to six officers. “The evidence at the time was the subject of a joint investigation, had they found examples of child abuse the Police would have prosecuted. “The authority has reviewed its process, I apologise to everyone that has been involved with this”. Towards the end of the meeting there was a motion from Cllr Paul Miller asking for an investigation examining the circumstances surrounding the 2005 disciplinary investigation. He asked that the Minister for Local Government be asked to do this but it was revealed that the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, was already conducting his own investigation. Cllr Miller said: “As the Children’s Commissioner is already involved in this I shall withdraw my motion.”

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Permit applications open for Tenby pedestrianisation scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now accepting applications for vehicle access during this year’s Pedestrianisation of Tenby.

The scheme, which is due to start on Monday, July 5 and conclude on Friday, September 10, will again see the walled town divided into three ‘zones’, each having varying degrees of vehicle access.

Whilst all necessary plans are being put in place for it to start and finish on the above dates, the scheme will remain under constant review in light of Government guidance relating to Covid-19, and the Council will provide any updates as necessary.

Possession of an ‘access permit’ does not provide any exemption from Government restrictions, and any regulations relating to travel and the occupation of holiday accommodation or second homes must be observed at all times.

Following the success of last year, the permit application process will continue online, with paper application forms and guidance notes no longer being delivered to residents and businesses.

The application form and guidance notes are available from pembrokeshire.gov.uk/tenby-pedestrianisation

Residents and business within Tenby are encouraged to complete the application process as soon as possible, to ensure that there is sufficient time for the application to be processed.

Permits will be issued approximately 7-10 days prior to the start of the scheme.

For enquiries, e-mail tenby.pedestrian@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

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Join the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel as an independent member

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THE Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is looking for two members to join them in their work to support and challenge the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel is made of up of members nominated by Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys county councils along with at least two independent members.

Opportunities have now arisen for two independent members to join the Panel and carry out key statutory roles that will support the Commissioner exercise his role effectively.

Members will be expected to attend and take part in regular meetings and take part in decision making, creating reports and making recommendations to the Commissioner.

They will review the Commissioner’s annual draft Police and Crime Plan and annual draft budget, review and scrutinise his decisions and actions, and if necessary review the proposed appointment or removal of the Chief Constable and other senior police force appointments.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can take a balanced and objective approach in supporting the Panel and the Commissioner, make strategic and well-informed decisions, and interpret and question financial, statistical and performance related information.

They will also need to be able to act as a ‘critical friend’, challenging views or proposals for change constructively.

Applications close on May 31, and appointments to the Panel will be made until October 31, 2024. 

For further information, visit www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

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Successful Fire Service and Health Board partnership to enhance COVID-19 vaccine roll out comes to end

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TUESDAY 11 May 2021 marked the end of a hugely successful partnership between Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Hywel Dda University Health Board, initiated to enhance the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Since February, Community Safety Staff from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have transported 125 passengers over 9450 miles to ensure they were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Recognising the configuration of our Service, the areas we cover and indeed the people we employee, this seemed an ideal opportunity for us to widen our response to the pandemic and support our partners in safeguarding our communities.

“Whilst we already collaborate with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, this opportunity enabled us to expand our assistance further within the health arena. This partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board was the first of its kind for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and paved the way for a number of similar partnerships for us and the other Fire and Rescue Services in Wales.

“I am extremely proud of our staff who have participated in this collaboration and have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Their contribution has without doubt had a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic”.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, coordinated the Service’s response to this call for assistance.

“Our communities are at the heart of our core business. Knowing we were in a position to make an impact, we put in place a robust solution in record time, to not only ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, but to also safeguard those who were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, but may have had barriers preventing them from attending their appointments.

“Using this partnership as template within which we could expand, we have since been able to offer our assistance to other Health Boards across the Service area. Indeed, a group of 10 vaccine heroes from our Service have joined Powys Teaching Health Board’s vaccination team, playing their part in distributing vaccines at mass vaccination sites in Newtown and Builth Wells. This is another fantastic example of how working together has been vital in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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