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Pembrokeshire

Auditor General finds departure payment to Pembrokeshire Council chief represented a ‘serious breakdown in governance’

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A report by Audit Wales has found that the process that led to a departure payment to the Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council represented a “serious breakdown in governance”.

Audit Wales say that the Council has taken action to improve its governance and decision making though much work is still needed.

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Issues found in the Auditor General for Wales’ report in the public interest included failure to address and resolve relationship difficulties between members and officers, disregard of external legal advice, failure to comply with legal requirements and poor and untransparent decision making.

On 2 September 2020, Pembrokeshire County Council announced that its Chief Executive would be leaving his employment by mutual consent. Under the terms of a Settlement Agreement, the Chief Executive received a termination payment of £95,000 and his employment ended on 30 November 2020. The Auditor General carried out an audit examining the circumstances that led to the Chief Executive’s departure and the decision-making process that led to the Council making the termination payment.

The report found that the Council failed to properly record the reason for the Chief Executive’s departure and why the Chief Executive was to receive a termination payment. The decision-making process the Council followed, as well as failing to comply with legislation or their constitution, led to a payment likely to be contrary to law.

Significant and numerous governance deficiencies were found in the way the Council dealt with the termination payment to the former Chief Executive. These include:

  • A failure to address and resolve relationship difficulties between members and officers
  • Lack of clarity on respective roles and responsibilities
  • Officers failing to properly discharge their professional duties
  • Disregard of external legal advice
  • A failure to follow internal policies and procedures
  • Poor and untransparent decision-making
  • A failure to document and report the reasons for decisions
  • Members of the Council not being given the opportunity to review and scrutinise the proposal
  • Failure to comply with legislative requirements

Audit Wales say that whilst the report findings are based solely on matters relating to the Chief Executive’s departure, action is needed by the Council to provide the public with confidence that its governance arrangements are sufficiently robust to prevent similar failings occurring in the future. The report makes several recommendations relating to areas of governance that the Council needs to address, including recommendations around roles and responsibilities, member/officer relationships, decision-making, termination payments, the Council’s pay policy statement, procurement, the use of external advisors, the Council Constitution and the need to ensure adherence to the Nolan Principles of Public Life.

Auditors say that while further improvement is still needed, the report recognises that the senior officers at Pembrokeshire County Council have acknowledged the seriousness of the report findings and have put in place an ongoing improvement plan, as well as taking action to improve its governance and decision-making.

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Auditor General, Adrian Crompton said: “Failure to put in place effective governance arrangements and/or to comply with the arrangements that have been established can have serious consequences and undermine public trust in an organisation. Pembrokeshire Council has work to do to ensure that its governance arrangements are sufficiently robust and to regain public trust. However, the steps the Council has since taken to improve its governance and decision-making processes, and the leadership already provided by its new Chief Executive, gives me confidence that the Council will act on the recommendations in my report.

“I hope that other public organisations will take note of the report and consider whether it holds lessons from which they can learn.”

Welcoming the report, a statement from Pembrokeshire Council recognised the seriousness of its findings.

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire Council added: “Significant progress has already been made in many of the areas identified in the Audit Wales review of events which took place over a year ago.

“The Council recognises that there is still more to be done. 

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“A comprehensive improvement programme was established last year to address observations originating from external and internal reviews commissioned by the Council.

“The Auditor General’s report, other associated reports and an action plan to address recommendations will be considered by a meeting of the Council on 1st February 2022.”

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Pembrokeshire

RNLI on the lookout for new lifesavers across Wales

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Recruitment for this season’s team of RNLI beach lifesavers has opened nationally, ready for the summer season. As well as rescuing those in difficulty, the RNLI’s beach lifeguards promote safe behaviour so visitors can return home safely.

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The RNLI provide a lifeguard service on 39 of Wales’ busiest beaches. In 2020, the charity’s lifeguards on beaches in South Wales, West Wales and Denbighshire in north Wales responded to 1,046 incidents and helped 2,673 people. Successful applicants will receive world-class lifesaving training, enjoy good rates of pay and develop valuable skills for a future career.

Chris Rigby, RNLI South Pembrokeshire Lead Lifeguard Supervisor said: “Lifeguarding is a really unique and rewarding role and if you’re thinking about applying, I would really recommend you go for it! You can gain some invaluable skills and training whilst working on the beach and being part of an incredible team.

“If you enjoy working in a challenging environment, have the ability to work under pressure and you like helping others, it really is a job you will love”

Vinny Vincent, Swansea Lead Lifeguard Supervisor explains the career development opportunities as a result of lifeguarding: “The skills our lifeguards gain can be an ideal first step towards many career paths or offer invaluable experience for those studying or training in a similar field.

“Beach lifeguarding can be a great opportunity and a very rewarding role. You could change lives – including your own – all whilst enjoying the beach as your office. As long as you can meet the fitness requirements, pass the interview and you are over school leaving age, there can be a role for you as a lifesaver.

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“We have lifeguards who have been working for the RNLI for years, both on the beach and as part of our support teams. It really is a great opportunity.”

Margot Lawrence (Image: RNLI/Zak Morgan)

Margot Lawrence, a RNLI Lifeguard in North Pembrokeshire said: “If you’re thinking about becoming a lifeguard – 100% do it! It is the best job ever.

“I get to work on the beach all summer, I’m outside all summer. I’m with a great team of people that I’ve gotten to know really well these past four years. I’ve been given these invaluable skills, that are just going to help me so much in life.

“My confidence in the water is extremely good. It’s given me the skills and the resources to manage situations under pressure… I would just say I’ve gained so much from lifeguarding.”

To find out more, visit rnli.org/BeALifeguard.

(Lead image: RNLI/Nigel Millard)

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1 GW ‘Gwynt Glas’ floating offshore wind project announced in the Celtic Sea

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EDF Renewables has announced a joint venture partnership with Pembrokeshire-based international renewable project developer DP Energy, to generate up to 1GW of low carbon green energy in the Celtic Sea.

The project is likely to span English and Welsh waters.

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The floating offshore wind project called ‘Gwynt Glas’ will provide power for approximately 927,400 homes. EDF say this will contribute a significant part of the Crown Estate’s ambitions for 4GW of capacity in the Celtic Sea as announced in October 2021.

Work including identification of a refined area of search and detailed constraint studies for the proposed location of the project are already underway. An area of interest encompassing some 1,500km2 has been identified, approximately 70km from the shore, with initial remote aerial surveys for marine mammal and birds taking place since Spring 2021. The project team will be consulting with key stakeholders and interested parties in the coming weeks to refine the proposed site location.

EDF Renewables UK Head of Offshore Wind Scott Sutherland said: “This is a great start to 2022 for us and we are very pleased to announce this partnership with DP Energy. We firmly believe Gwynt Glas will be a catalyst for further supply chain growth across the UK which is something we as a company are very supportive of.

“We will use our experience in offshore wind to help bring opportunities for local, regional and national companies on this project and on others, such our Blyth floating project and the two we are bidding for in the ScotWind process.

“Floating offshore wind is an exciting new technology and will bring much needed inward investment which can regenerate coastal economies and communities.”

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Simon De Pietro, CEO of DP Energy said: “DP Energy’s 30-year approach to renewable project development puts the environment and local community front and centre. In our partners, we look for organisations that are as committed as we are to combating climate change.

“With EDF Renewables UK we have found a strong ally to develop Gwynt Glas, who place strong emphasis on capturing the regional supply chain and local community opportunity, alongside protecting our environment.

“Each member of the DP Energy UK team based in Pembroke Dock was born and raised in Wales and are passionate about supporting the growth of a new energy sector that can sustain skilled, well-paid jobs for future generations in coastal regions, in Wales and in the South West of England.”

(Lead image: EDF Renewables)

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Pembrokeshire

Council hits out at toilet vandalism over festive period

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Public toilets in Pembrokeshire experienced a high level of vandalism throughout the Christmas period the council have said.

Several facilities in the County suffered vandalism including Haverfordwest Multi-story, Fishguard West Street, Fishguard Ffordd Yr Efail, Saundersfoot and The Green in Tenby. This resulted in facilities being out-of-use to the public while they were being repaired.

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In Haverfordwest the incidents were occurring on a daily basis.

Damage included toilet roll holders being ripped off walls, large toilet rolls stolen from facilities, toilet seats and taps superglued, door closures ripped off, water pipes ripped off walls and of most concern, fires being started repeatedly in the facility in Saundersfoot.

In addition, two new contactless payment machines have also been damaged. The council say that these machines were recently installed in order to make paying to use the facility easier. There will be a significant cost to replace these – and until this work is complete –  the facilities affected will only be available to cash payers.

Incidents have been reported to the police.

Cllr Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for Environment, Public Protection and Welsh Language, said: “This situation is so disappointing and frustrating.

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“Often after a toilet has been vandalised we have to close the facility temporarily to repair the damage, therefore making it unusable for people who genuinely need to use them.

“These selfish acts present a danger to the public and a disruption to the availability of these much needed facilities, especially while maintenance is undertaken. We are grateful to our contractors Danfo for their rapid response in dealing with each issue.  

 “We are asking the public to please respect these facilities. Anyone with information about the damage should please contact the police via 101.”

(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)

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