Sunday, 16 July 2017

News round-up; back to business - Updated


Update 19th July - Senior salaries

Full council met today and an amendment was put forward by the Labour group to cap the two new salaries, referred to in the main post below, at £112k each, rather than £123k. As per this post, Labour leader Jeff Edmunds used the firefighters salary for comparison. He also mentioned the Cardiff Plaid '£1m Motion' to cut senior pay (which failed because, er, Labour voted against it)

Political point scoring/motives aside, both Labour and Plaid Cymru in Wales have railed against these ridiculous levels of senior pay - and this was the chance to do something about it (despite it being a very modest reduction), or at least send the right message.

The chief executive appeared to break into a cold sweat, decided that this was not going to happen and proceeded to go all out to influence the vote. The only time to review senior pay scales was, he said, when he goes, (he being on £171k + RO fees, perks and unlawful legal expenses) and insisted that the lowest paid workers in the council had by far the best deal...

This complete nonsense, coupled with the usual display of arrogance pushed the council into voting against the amendment which was lost by 32 votes to 18 with 14 abstentions. Plaid and the Indies voted, by and large, against. I would expect this from the Independent group, but Plaid? I hope it was some of them who at least abstained.

Whether or not, as an employee, the chief executive should have even been entering a discussion around senior pay, let alone trying to influence the vote, is quite another matter. He should have been stopped in his tracks.

Anyway, you will be able to see it all for yourselves when the webcast is archived, and the details of how each councillor voted will eventually appear in the minutes.

* * *

So, after all that, to which we will return in the very near future, it's back to business. 

One of the questions on the agenda for next Wednesday's full council meeting is to ask why the expressions of interest for the commercial development of Parc Howard has not been put out to open tender, such as on the Sell2Wales website, and it seems that the arrangements are being made in house. This is surprising and you might think that the old meaningless phrase 'lessons learned' might have come into play after the fiasco a couple of years ago when the 'arrangements' for commercialisation appeared to revolve around secret meetings in hotels and undisclosed emails from Meryl Gravell.

Someone might also want to flag up another proposed development which seems to have passed under the radar located on an acre of car park in Pembrey Country Park. The council are seeking expressions of interest to develop an 80-bed temporary, demountable motel (whatever that is), with a lease of around 15 years.

The Pembrey Masterplan (County Hall are partial to Masterplans) was approved last year, with various facilities marked out on a glossy cartoon map. There is no mention of an 80-bed motel, temporary or otherwise. Nor has there been any hint of planning permission. All a bit odd. This, I would think, another good candidate for an open tender process and particularly after (yet another) fiasco over the catering tender, other financial irregularities and allegations of a top-level cover-up, concerning the Park last year.


A sympathetic development it might be ok, who knows, but as the Park is still publicly owned you might have thought it would at least be polite to ask the public what they thought of the idea.
And the trouble with keeping these decisions comfortably in-house is that some suspicious souls may wonder what sweeteners will be on offer, and whether the 'preferred developer' has, in fact, already been lined up...

* * *

Also on the agenda is a decision by the chief executive to create another directorship. The current post of Assistant Chief Executive (Regeneration and Policy), which attracts a salary of around £100k per year, will be made redundant (we have another Assistant CEO so don't panic) and the new post, Director of Regeneration and Policy will attract a salary of £120k per year. So technically it will be a net cost to the taxpayer of around £20k, roughly an above average annual wage for most Carmarthenshire residents.

The new directorship will have the responsibility of herding the White Elephants and in particular the once-in-a-generation Wellness Shed proposed for the mangrove swamp at Delta Lakes, Llanelli. The development will involve unknown ££££ of generous contributions from our council, universities and local NHS services. They're still keeping quiet about the mysterious private investors. Should it go ahead it will be one to watch with interest and, like the whole City Deal, will undoubtedly provide a few well paid jobs, and contracts, for the boys.

Anyway, back to the new Directorship and as the salary is over £100k is has to be advertised nationally so the council must approve the job description as well as the job advert.
The post which will be made redundant is currently occupied by Ms Wendy Walters and, as the report states, the council are duty bound to redeploy the redundant postholder into a similar position or else face possible action for unfair dismissal. It would seem, possibly, that the scene is set. Unless Ms Walters is going to pastures new, the cynics amongst us might think that, 'national advertising' aside, Ms Walters may well end up with the directorship and the associated pay rise of £20k.

On the upside, if the chief executive creates many more top jobs to oversee our little rural county he may find his own job is the one which is made redundant...

* * *

At the other end of the scale, or 'the real world' as it's known, the council had to return £25k back to the UK government after it failed to spend all of it's Discretionary Housing Payment grant, a grant to help families who are struggling with their rent and facing possible eviction. This is the highest clawback in Wales. Various excuses have been given to the press in that attempts to promote uptake of the DHPs had failed, effectively blaming the residents.

I would suggest that they should make as much effort in reaching those in need as they do with cosseting and promoting the top brass. As I mentioned last week, the Director of Communties had an extra £14k last year for being deputy chief executive and the permanent appointment of the Head of Legal and monitoring officer Linda Rees Jones a couple of years ago illustrated the Mark James interpretation of the constitution at its most convoluted.

* * *

Finally, today's Sunday Express reports on an appalling story covered by this blog back in 2012 concerning a deprivation of liberty case involving a young lady, then a 19 year old teenager, Carina Burn.

Carina, who is profoundly autistic, cannot speak and has very limited communication skills, was taken from her parents following false allegations of sexual abuse made by two carers employed by a firm commissioned by Carmarthenshire Council. Carina's parents, Robin and Julia, have now spoken out for the first time.

They have asked Dyfed Powys Police to re-open the case and reconsider whether any action can be taken against the carers who, for all anyone knows, are still working in the care system. Since the initial investigations found insufficient evidence to charge the two carers, both the council and Dyfed Powys Police have admitted their own failings in formal reports and confirmed that the allegations against Robin and Julia were completely fabricated, this, in itself is new evidence.

In an Ombudsman's report the council admitted it's failings led to the wrongful deprivation of Carina's liberty but as with so many cases involving the council no one was disciplined, key figures in the case secured promotion, enquiring councillors were told to keep out of it, and it was all swept under the carpet.
Worst of all has been the trauma wrongly inflicted on Carina's parents and most of all on Carina herself who continues to be deeply affected by the experience.

The solicitor who represented Carina in her civil claim for the contravention of her human rights said;

“This was a horrific case and Carina and her family were let down by every authority that should have been helping them, with devastating consequences… the family did their best to raise their concerns through appropriate channels but it was only through legal proceedings that the police, local authority and a psychiatrist engaged by the local authority all finally admitted their catastrophic failures.”

3 comments:

Robin Burn said...

Many thanks Jacqui for your kind comments,in view of your current dilemnas. Much appreciated Robin and Julia Burn

ray said...

keep up the good work, jacqui.

caebrwyn said...

Robin - No problem, I hope justice is eventually, and completely served, and that you, Julia and Carina can finally have some closure over this dreadful episode.

Ray - thanks - and keep going in Gwynedd too!