Jacob Williams
Tuesday 1st March, 2016

Out with the ‘old’…

Out with the ‘old’…

With its gleaming dark paintwork buffed to within an inch of its life you’d be forgiven for thinking Pembrokeshire County Council’s civic car is a fraction of its four year age.

Pictured last year, former chairman Cllr. Tom Richards boards his ‘chauffeured limo’ – the council’s 2012 Seat Alhambra

Belying its age or not, a four-year-old motor is still considered pretty new by most people’s standards.

And with its carefully-chauffeured mileage and meticulous servicing and maintenance regime as part of the authority’s fleet, it could have plenty more miles to give.

But the council’s chairman’s car – also known as the ‘chauffeured limo service’ – is seen by many as an extravagance to be done away with.

You may recall last summer Cllr. Bob Kilmister forced a vote on its future – he argued for it to be axed.

The debate brought forth a variety of views from both ends of the spectrum.

This included Cllr. Reg Owens’ accusation that penny-pinching Bob was merely looking for ‘cheap headlines’ by singling out the car – a Seat people carrier – which he thinks is a very prudent choice.

And Reg went further than that – in the name of dignity and patriotism he said he’d like to see the chairman’s limo upgraded to a Jag!

Somebody may have been listening at County Hall because the Seat Alhambra has just been consigned to the history books.

Unluckily for Reg the new car the County Hall garage has taken delivery of isn’t the best of British but a BMW!

Sightings of the new black BMW have been few and far between – alas, the elusiveness has rendered a JW pap photo totally off the cards.

Day after day last week the garage was conspicuously empty on every occasion I looked – so details of the model are sketchy, although with seven seats as alleged, it would have to be a model of the marque’s 2 Series range.

The 2 Series is BMW’s first foray into the MPV line, this is their stock photo of the Grand Tourer variant

Despite preconceptions over the BMW badge I’m told that the new Beemer’s spec is somewhat underwhelming.

The Seat Alhambra’s leather interior will be a distant memory as future civic leaders and their consorts ensconce their backsides in the Bavarian motor’s cloth-clad seats.

It’s smaller than the Seat too, with notably decreased headroom, so expect squashed headgear come the Buckingham Palace garden party.

‘Gutless’ is how its puny eco engine has been described – and the message I think we’re to be told is that this new deal works out considerably cheaper – by the thousands – than the Seat, not to mention more economical.

So everyone’s a winner – apart from its occupants!

Current chair and vice-chair Cllrs. Wynne Evans and Tony Brinsden tell me they are as surprised as everyone else to learn about the new car. They had no say in the process.

The pair aren’t very amused, either, with Wynne telling me he was shocked and embarrassed by it. Both say they don’t intend to rack up many miles on its clock.

I’ve tabled a question to the upcoming full council meeting (March 10th) about the arrangement and the decision-making process which led to it.

But it strikes me that this new car’s acquisition – going on past form – is likely to lock the council into a long-term contract.

As the pennies get even tighter and the red pen comes out in future this makes it that much more difficult for councillors to reconsider this excess, even if, as I understand they’ll argue, it is to be a ‘pool car’ for use by more than just the chairman.

Meanwhile the ‘old’ Seat, returned to the leasing company, will probably suffer the usual lease car fate and be auctioned off for a song into the used car trade.

The money may not make a big difference in the scheme of things, but as for being cheaper, this is all likely to be relative, and not ‘cheap’ in the way you or I would account.

If the big saga over Bryn’s taxpayer-funded Porsche taught any lessons at County Hall one of them should have been that trading up the civic motor isn’t a particularly tactful move (see ‘When Porsche comes to shove’ and the hidden expenses here.)

And experience says that it’s unlikely to impress the paying public, who won’t be explained away by the suggestion that the transition from a four-year-old Seat to a brand new BMW is a ‘downgrade!’


The devil’s own job

I notice that a meeting of the council’s senior staff committee has just been convened for next Tuesday.

It’s for final interviews of applicants to the director of education post.

Some may be surprised to learn that Kate Evan-Hughes currently fills the role in only an acting capacity – it’s been so long.

Ms. Evan-Hughes had not long been appointed as the authority’s head of education when her boss – Jake Morgan – went back to work for Carmarthenshire council whence he came, creating the vacancy which she has filled in the acting capacity for well over a year.

Councillors were circulated an email on December 1st 2015 saying that the post – which had been advertised since 11th November 2015 – had “unfortunately yielded a very small number of applicants.”

The senior staff committee had been due to meet on 7th December to conduct the interviews, but the email continued “in order to give the Committee the widest possible range of candidates for selection purposes, it has been decided that a second recruitment advertisement will appear in January for this position.”

The meeting was therefore postponed and we were told “another meeting will be rearranged in the New Year.”

In the meantime, last week a narrow majority of councillors voted to hammer another nail in the coffin for school-based post-16 education in Haverfordwest as part of highly controversial secondary education plans.

The vote at last week’s extraordinary council meeting cemented the long-concocted blueprint which will remove all sixth-form education in the county town and see the creation of a new sixth-form centre in collaboration with Pembrokeshire College catering for county-wide pupils.

A final binding decision is to made at a subsequent date.

The long-running saga has seen botched consultation after another – not to mention other bungles – including a complete horlicks of charitable trust law, which has seen the Tasker Milward and Picton Charity stick its oar in.

Speaking to a key Haverfordwest figure following the meeting I was told all the decision did was to pave the way for a judicial review.

Mere speculation or realistic threat, the new education director – whoever he or she will be – inherits quite a legacy!


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41 Comments...

  • Timetraveller

    His holiness the Pope used a Fiat 500 to visit the White House.

    So called civic dignity is just a keep up with the Joneses scheme between various authorities, bicycles all round would serve the same purpose. Better for the environment and healthier for the chairman as well.

  • Keanjo

    So, the county council has leased a Beemer.

    No doubt the council tax payers who are working out how they can meet an extra 5% on an already outrageous council tax will greet the news enthusiastically in the knowledge that their hard earned cash is being so wisely spent.

    It just shows the far sightedness of the council in saving money by not supplying black bags on a reduced refuse collection service, getting rid of those elitist sixth forms and closing down that run down facility for the disabled in Tenby so that they can run around in their new motor.

  • Faux Espoir

    The agenda papers for last week’s education meeting gave some enlightenment on the legal dialogue between the trustees and PCC over recent months and also dialogue between the council and the college in September 2015. The basis for any judicial review has its corner stone set. The actions of the Welsh Government in remaining neutral in the saga also remains questionable.

    If the surface of the proposal is scratched just a little, the council may find not all the pertinent legal questions have arisen around the negotiating table with trustees and the consultation process could once again be put under the spotlight.

    In the coming weeks I’m sure the Pembrokeshire Herald will be headlining the college, council and Welsh Government’s triangle of engagement. Previous letters received from the first consultation have been deemed inadmissible by PCC, where the weight of a 1500 page document should lean heavily on the minds of those councillors who may have opened the judicial review pathway.

    The Current Chief Executive has tried to be a peacemaker by drawing together some common ground although this whole issue seems to be controlled by the college.

    Of note also is the council’s wish to purchase land in the Withybush area, to build the new 3-16 Welsh medium school.

  • Welshman 23

    Can you find out how this has cost?

    Why don’t they just use one of the many Ford Fiesta pool cars that litter the County Hall car park on weekends?

  • Clive Davies

    Jacob, which councillors supported, opposed and abstained in the schools vote?

    I’m wondering just what the links are between particular councillors and the college and whether they were declared.

    The council has plenty of vehicles. Why should our ‘elected’ representatives be too proud to buzz about in a white van with green writing?

  • Gwylan

    Whatever the financial details, whoever was responsible for implementing the new lease of a BMW has shown a total disregard for the mood of the county’s electorate.

    The dust hasn’t yet settled from tracking the belief defying trail left by BPJ’s motor of choice, upgraded courtesy of a few years’ underspend (!) being allowed to be carried over! Flexible fellows, those in charge of County HALL’s expenses.

    The feelings of those who expressed their outrage with regard to the Porsche were well publicised and endorsed by many within and without the county. Beefing up the pool cars so soon afterwards by introducing a Beemer to the pound with no consultation demonstrates the ongoing insensitivity…how crass! How out of touch with reality!

    The debate in chamber over the need for a “chairman-mobile” at all (during which Cllr R. Owens felt image was everything) was enlightening!

    I seem to recall that the debate (led by Cllr. B. Kilmister) regarding the necessity for the employ of a chauffeur at £18k, was curtailed by CEO, Mr I. Westley, using similar rationale to that erroneously used to prevent elected councillors (especially Cllr. P. Miller) challenging elements of the budget!

    Nevertheless, clear evidence of the strength of feeling associated with such trappings was demonstrated. Why is it, then, that it has been deemed fitting to make a decision to ignore that sentiment? A BMW, even to one with little regard for brand appeal, suggests opulence.

    Perhaps this is the point! Our county representatives thrive on having the capacity to impress, – with extremes…

    boasting the erstwhile highest paid CEO;

    engineering the lowest Council Tax;

    offering the lowest resistance to having no overnight paediatric services at our hospital;

    using surplus tax payers’ money to spend on an impressive statue whilst losing an opportunity to promote its brand name on our black bags;

    withdrawing money from centres that support the vulnerable;

    unapologetic justification of senior posts at salaries with multiple attractive perks to “ensure the best” whilst seeking savings amongst the county’s lowest paid workers (not unique to our county);

    having an eye-watering financial capability to buy in legal advice whilst managing to maintain full funding for in house legal expertise;

    demonstrating unmatched management skills capable of conducting the most inept education consultation process;

    rewarding inappropriate behaviour of previous CEO with an unprecedented pay-off and pension;

    protecting the longevity of the most thick skinned council leader with the longest honoured backdated expenses claims;

    crafting a cabinet remarkable for its chameleon survival skills which seem to compensate for its unremarkable gene pool;

    achieving notoriety in Private Eye magazine;

    A far from exhaustive list of impressive superlatives. I’m sure contributors can add to it while I take a back seat waiting for “they” who have taken back a Seat to explain their rationale.

    Far from being a Seat of Learning, County Hall continues to make the same mistakes.

  • John Hudson

    Perhaps the funding for this lease has been met from the bridge toll profits that the council applies to “other matters of a transportation nature.”

    Section 152 of the 1972 Local Government Act concerns revenues from undertakings, and specifies that nothing in sections 147 to 150 shall be construed as requiring or authorising a local authority to apply or dispose of the surplus revenue arising from any undertaking carried on by them otherwise than in accordance with any enactment or instrument applicable to the undertaking.

    Perhaps the council officers and cabinet are unaware of this overriding statutory requirement in applying the whole of the annual Cleddau Bridge toll profits to other matters of a transport nature without the need for any justification.

    What was the bit of paper passed around at the extraordinary meeting on 25 February? Am I right in thinking that this was a revised proposed recommendation to that on the agenda?

    The full recorded vote results are available on the draft council minutes on the agenda to be approved on 7 March, but the recorded vote and the results are not minuted on the true and fair record of the same minutes for the extraordinary council meeting.

  • I thought I was on top of what goes on in County Hall, but Gwylan seems to have an even firmer grip on the authority’s historic faults and failings.

    If I could suggest one minor addition it would be the council’s policy of purchasing food for school canteens from local sources in order to support the county’s farmers.

    I wonder why the same principles don’t apply to the UK motor industry.

  • Welshman 23

    I hope the car was purchased from Green Bower and not outside the county.

  • John Hudson

    Am I right in remembering that the council’s bid for its £150m 21st Century School programme (on a shared 50% WG/50% PCC basis) was initially submitted by officers (who have all since left the council for one reason or another) and that the first the council knew was when the successful bid was announced?

    Am I also correct in understanding that the “Tribal” report for 14 to 19 was commissioned following an agreement between the former PCC CEO and the Pembrokeshire College CEO and was paid for by the Welsh Government?

    Did this report inform the “officers'” bid for funding?

    What exactly did the ruling IPG councillors know during this process before the successful programme was announced at full council?

    When did council approve its share of funding for the programme?

    Who elected the current council Leader “to be in charge” of this council?

  • John, I believe the piece of paper that was passed around at the extraordinary meeting was the minutes of a meeting of the stakeholder group held on 4 November 2014.

    Cllr Adams can be seen referring to this document 2:07:47 into the meeting’s webcast (see here.)

    This was in response to a claim by Cllr Stan Hudson earlier in the meeting that the heads of the two Haverfordwest secondary schools hadn’t been consulted on something or another.

    Clearly someone had been dispatched to find the evidence that Cllr Hudson was wrong.

    While I have no objection to members having all the facts, I do wonder, had a member of the Cabinet made an inaccurate statement, whether the same effort would have been made to provide the opposition with the information to counter the false claim.

    And that in a nutshell is what is wrong with the culture in County Hall: the officers and the ruling group acting as one, rather than the officers acting as impartial advisers to ALL members.

    I think it was former Labour group leader David Edwards who described the IPPG as “The political wing of the Chief Officers’ Management Board” and he was right.

  • John Hudson

    Thanks Mike, sorry but I was confused when at the end of the meeting prior to recording the vote the CEO was waving a supplementary bit of paper about that does not seem to be on the online agenda, but was apparently, as advised by the Head of Legal Service, what you were all voting on.

    I see from the Herald that the normal “process” of applying for dispensation to speak and/or vote apparently do not apply to the Leader and the former Chairman. In the absence of the required written submission is the Standards Committee able to accept and consider such requests?

    Perhaps the Committee and responsible Officers will rollover on this as well. Why do these councillors think that the rules do not apply to them?

  • Oliver Cromwell

    Cars – The spirit of BP-J lives on. Crass.

    Education – Once again the unfolding history is a fairy tale from the brothers Grimm (BP-J & Farmer Adams?)

    The shambolic record of recent months seems to be evidence enough that Ms. Evan-Hughes has temporarily held an acting post way beyond her capabilities. It will come as little surprise, therefore, in due course, to find she is selected as the new Director of Education. After all, we cannot have a fresh light shone into PCC’s dark recesses.

    There is no more important matter – this is the future of our children, our grandchildren, and our country. Listen and act upon the combined wisdom of the pupils, parents, teachers and the people, all of whom rightly say sixth form education is for schools. Further Education is for further education colleges – the clue is in the name!

    Will the muppets never learn?

  • Malcolm Calver

    So those ever so observant county councillors Evans and Brinsden were surprised to learn about the new car and had no say in its purchase or even the process which led to the purchase.

    Whilst we have to accept their explanation of events they could of course do the decent thing and refuse to use the vehicle at all, never mind using it as “little as possible”.

    I am sure the highways and byways of Pembrokeshire are safe enough for them to travel alone, without the need of an escort, which I believe was one of the reasons given for the purchase of the last limousine.

    Let us all see how good ex-policeman Cllr Brinsden is at saving unnecessary expenditure when it affects him directly, as I do believe the police have an excellent pension scheme.

  • Brian

    WG currently does a reasonable job of shining a light on educational performance in our schools via this website: http://mylocalschool.wales.gov.uk/

    Unfortunately Pembrokeshire schools don’t scrub up that well.

    If your children do their A Levels in the tech college (alongside all the butcher’s apprentices) you find that the A Level performance of that institution falls outside the remit of the MyLocalSchool initiative so it is very difficult to tell how good or bad they are compared to alternate institutions.

    Funny that.

  • Faux Espoir

    There is little doubt on the educational standards falling below an acceptable threshold in Pembrokeshire but moving it completely under the umbrella of Pembrokeshire College will not make the desired improvement.

    There is a reason Brian that the college’s A Level statistics aren’t easy to locate as they fall below those of the two schools they are in a position to replace.

    The council have followed a motorway in their newest (fourth) consultation and as of yet haven’t offered a public meeting, looking more at a drop in scenario.

    This attempt to divide and conquer also opens the door a little more in the judicial review front. The pupils’ voice is clear and polls held at public meetings over the sixth form college incorporating Haverfordwest schools have seen the plans receive a 99% rejection.

    Those statistics don’t lie but the current cabinet/officer regime have ignored them. The council are desperate to avoid a public meeting where the debate between Cllr Adams and prominent campaigner Peter Lewis could (and should) be one to behold.

  • William Rees

    Jacob, we really need a direct comparison of the A Level results of the college and the schools. Have you got them?

  • William, I don’t have them to hand, but I recall being told by the college at a seminar that their results were way better than the schools (they would say that, wouldn’t they?!)

    I also seem to recall that some doubt was cast over the comparisons being made, and whether they were like-for-like.

    However, there is no getting away from the fact that the schools have vastly underperformed, whether that’s in post-16 education that can be compared with the college’s offering, or 11-16 secondary education that the college doesn’t provide.

  • Welshman 23

    Jacob, can you please ask what garage supplied the car and who sanctioned it?

  • Malcolm Calver

    Whilst it would be interesting to see and compare the results from both bodies, it should be remembered the average person going into sixth form college is of a lower than average academic ability compared with those attending sixth form school.

    William, I do believe that that the primary schools have to take some of the blame for low standards, as they pass on children with a higher grade than they can actually justify.

    We must accept that people have different abilities and we cannot all be brain surgeons no matter how much taxpayers’ money you throw at it.

  • Brian

    To be fair to Pembrokeshire College you will not find much, if anything, published on the websites of Pembrokeshire secondary schools about their exam performance. That tells a story in itself! By comparison here is another Welsh comprehensive – use the infogram top RH corner

    www.chepstowschool.net/parents/exams/a-level-results-2015

    Results matter!

  • Tim

    I just can’t understand this. What planet are the people who signed the form to authorise this on? Who even thought it was a good idea.

    Do they not read the papers, understand the mood of the people or have an ounce of decency?

  • John Hudson

    Are we going to be able to see the PricewaterhouseCoopers report so that we can judge how well our council has been managed by its officers under the “leadership” of our elected representatives?

    Have copies already been to councillors, as a confidential document so that the normal route to publication can be avoided? No one is to be accountable or even put up to explain how this was allowed to develop. Does PCC deserve to continue?

  • Keanjo

    The PwC report will be written by the former Deputy CE of the Authority. Will it be a whitewash job or will he take this opportunity to have his revenge for not being given the Acting CE job when BPJ left, and report the true state of the Council?

  • Brian

    Malcolm, in addition to your point about calibre of entry to sixth form, there is another factor to consider. The best way for an institution to appear to perform well at A Level is to only enter ‘dead certs’ for the examination. With a large array of lesser qualifications on offer it is easier for a further education college to dissuade the borderline individuals by diverting them towards an alternative.

  • Gwylan

    We have an Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

    We have a Constitutional Issues Working Group with a remit to review and respond to criticism that the cabinet fails to represent the views of the public and other councillors.

    Our Cabinet, officers and elected members were informed directly by findings collated after this Autumn’s “PCC is Changing” consultation event.

    Weekly, local newspapers and daily, social media sites inform and colour the county’s view of county matters.

    One would think that PCC would be inclined to give greater consideration to the consequences of ignoring those who fund their salaries. “Out with the old and in with the new” is as applicable to personnel as it is to machines.

    The annual “Improvement Plan” is still available in hard copy format. I would be playing devil’s advocate if I suggested that we all requested one! Perhaps the recent, contentious “mobility upgrade” was detailed there – easily overlooked. Besides, who would deny improved mobility to anyone? Besser Mobility Wunderbar!

    Perhaps the little question WAS popped: “Should we change the car this year? A negative response needs to be submitted to the chair by Monday morning” …and forwarded late on a Friday to all councillors, craftily concealed amongst the latest round of information in the education consultation debacle.

    I could understand most of them not engaging, several of them have declared interests and can’t vote anyway. So it’s plausible that the deal was made based on the “you must actively opt out” way of conducting business, and thereafter, implemented mindlessly by an efficient officer keen to deliver promptly, and privy to the Chair’s choice of colour.

    Or perhaps we have a rogue officer with control of the public purse, wanting to hasten the downfall of PCC.

    The small press and PR team issues over 593 proactive press releases each year. Surely it’s time we heard from them. Any suggestions for a headline for their “good news” story to combat negativity in the press and social media?

    Maybe it could herald their success in complying with the collated views expressed by the public in that “PCC is Changing” exercise. Apparently, “we” didn’t necessarily agree that charging the lowest council tax in Wales is a good thing, a number of us indicated that we would be willing to pay more if services were protected/improved.

    Brrm Brrm…be careful what you wish for!

  • Timetraveller

    Surely this car was on lease/contract? Most lease/hire cars have a 3-4 year term. Greater economy can be had by extending the service life of such contracts, but then maintenance can become an issue.

  • Ivor Whistle

    I do believe that PCC is changing – into Dyfed very shortly, so until then, any decisions made are very much in the short term.

    The ‘schools problem’, I believe, has already been stitched up by WAG as it helps it to reduce the amount of councils. Also, the fact remains that WAG holds the majority of the purse strings, and I would suggest it has already decided what will be happening to secondary education in Pembrokeshire.

    There is then little incentive for the Councillors to ‘fight their corner’, as their eyes may well be on protecting their future pension rights. It’s a case of ‘sit there quietly until I say you can move’.

    Just remember what WAG has done for Pembrokeshire by removing services from Withybush Hospital. If they can do that to health, I dread to think what they are planning for education…

  • Concerned

    So none of this is PCC’s fault, Ivor? Dyfed nay not be much of an improvement but the sooner PCC goes the better, in my opinion.

  • Oliver Cromwell

    ‘And so it came to pass!’ The future of education in Pembrokeshire has been firmly set on the road of mediocrity and incompetent governance by the predictable appointment of Ms Evan-Hughes who I believe has demonstrated incompetency.

    Her idea of a public consultation is to choose a venue of such limited capacity that entry can only be gained by telephone reservation. This ensures that ‘places’ will be available only to those with views favourable to the outcome the Director of Children and Schools requires.

    They call it democracy.

  • Ivor Whistle

    I am not saying that PCC is NOT to blame concerned, I am merely pointing out that there is little incentive for them to change.

    I’m afraid the current ‘lack of change’ will remain until Dyfed is forced back on us. Then, of course, all of the decision making will be out of county, and we’ll be left with a load of bleating councillors who will be telling us (yet again!) that it’s not our fault.

    It is the system from the very top to the very bottom that is flawed, not just PCC. All that will change is the personnel!

    I wish I knew the answer, but it does appear that George Orwell was right! I’m just trying to work out who is Napoleon…or it may well be time to emigrate…

  • John Hudson

    Local Government is or should be quite easy. It is completely unrealistic to expect that the amateurs we elect to run a Council to have the necessary expertise to control and direct matters.

    Councils are required by law to have qualified specialist professions – legal, finance, education, social services, planning, highways, IT etc. etc. to provide our councillors with impartial advice in order for them to make decisions on the best advice available in the light of all relevant considerations.

    Councillors are required to have regard to this advice when reaching decisions, but are not required to slavishly follow it.

    In my view PCC fell over when the bunch of amateurs opted out of having any idea of what direction they wanted to follow and over relied on the unelected officers to provide direction in a vacuum of policy.

    This in turn led to a bunker mentality where councillors protected officers from questioning and officers directed and briefed puppet councillors on the course to follow.

    Aided by access to “free” legal walls to frustrate challenge by external agencies, this pot was allowed to fester.

    We still do not fully understand what brought the pot to the boil culminating in the early retirement of the CEO.

    Surely it was not just the way that his pay/pension deal was finessed and approved by a willing Senior Staff Committee culminating in 29 councillors approving the handsome pay-off, including the unlawful element as identified by the WAO, still not accepted as such by PCC.

    Like Ivor Whistle, I do not know the answer, except it takes a cadre of senior officers to take a step back from making policy and to push amateur councillors into the frame. Oh and improve a complacent and ineffective scrutiny regime.

    Fundamentally we need to know what we are voting for other than a cosy majority well paid club of councillors.

  • Gwylan

    I have great respect for Mr. Hudson’s comments; his knowledge and competence is invaluable. So, too, the good sense and tenacity of the author of that “other website”.

    Read Old Grumpy’s latest post (March 22nd) and start asking questions of those who are supposed to uphold the law, and those who it seems may be complicit in this ongoing grants’ scandal.

    To reinforce OG’s earlier quotation, I repeat: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!”

  • Pembs. Exile

    My eyes must be deceiving me, “I do believe that PCC is changing” then my eyes focussed on “-into Dyfed shortly”.

    Don’t “whistle down the wind” Ivor my guess is that the IPPG (Independent Pseudo Political Group) will still be there, after any re-organisation, to represent the electorate.

    Those that have had the responsibility for education over the last ten or fifteen years must accept the accountability/responsibility for any failures which are now evident.

    Education does not collapse overnight.

    Although I long to return to the county I count my blessings that I live near a good hospital that can meet my needs and that my grandchildren benefit from a system that does not condemn them to travel half way across the county for a sixth form education.

    The electorate of the county must hold those who have brought about this woeful state of affairs to account.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I do believe if you just scratch the surface of any of the projects involving any finance from Europe you will find irregularities.

    We hear all the estimates regarding how good a scheme is for the area or how many jobs will be created but they never seem to materialise.

  • Hadenough

    We have attended every public consultation regarding the Haverfordwest schools and despite Sharon Lusher also being present in all of them, we still have not been given ‘like for like’ A level figures from the college. I wonder why?

    Standards are not good enough in Pembrokeshire’s secondary schools but to base an argument that a school somewhere in east Carmarthenshire has the best results in West Wales and is 11-16 therefore it must be the best way to go is a bit simplistic.

    The top 50 performing secondary schools in the UK all have sixth forms.

  • Timetraveller

    Surely John’s comment about the scrutiny, or lack of it, is a key issue that can be improved.

    Effectively a pseudo independent was parachuted in to muzzle the audit committee, if that can be undone, the committee may be more fit for purpose.

    Ideally the Pembroke Dock grant scheme can be best dealt with if this committee was effective, rather than the police who would rather bury it.

    As for it all unravelling John, some councillors do ask awkward questions, the Pembrokeshire Herald opened up better media scrutiny and at the end of the day the domineering official(s) simply got too arrogant.

    In the end getting a Porsche as a council car was simply taking the mickey, perhaps it was bound to happen one day.

  • John Hudson

    For scrutiny to improve officers will have to be more forthcoming in information they include in reports.

    (Do you remember the comment about officers not always providing councillors with sufficient or full information to enable them to perform their statutory duties? No officers took any notice of that!)

    This is before most councillors wake up enough to ask questions, assuming they have read reports.

    I rather fear that officers brought up under the BJP regime do think that councillors do not have the right to ask questions, let alone demand more information in reports, as Jacob highlighted at the last council meeting.

    One scrutiny committee I attended was being observed by a National Park representative. The chairman commented that they had come to see how it was done by “the best”. At another, being observed by the external auditor, the same chairman thought the meeting had gone well. I thought it was abysmal, with the majority of councillors struck dumb. The auditor commented to me that it was on par with most councils!

    I will say that reports have been improved by the addition of special financial and legal comment sections. These could be improved further:-

    Finance could include the cost of the proposal with the identification of where in the budget financial provision was, and whether a full year continuing cost would be more than in the current year.

    Legal could include the Act under which the proposal fell, whether it was a statutory duty or a discretionary function.

    I have under FOI obtained a redacted copy of the secret members-only 2016/17 budget seminar papers.

    While these still are unrelated to any other financial information they do distinguish between statutory and non-statutory services and gives an assessment of the effect of specified proposed reductions. I have provided Jacob with a copy.

  • Faux Espoir

    The education debate is in the last throes, all the arguments given by officers and councillors have been countered. The WG have set down parameters for the consultation and the council have been unwilling or ignorant to ignore them.

    Councillor Adams was absent from last week’s meeting which was manufactured to avoid awkward questions.

    If I was a county councillor voting on this issue in the next few weeks I would certainly be asking for the previous submissions to consultation to be viewed by members.

    77% of the initial replies give a more than democratic response to the question posed where unfortunately the college have the council in a corner, the current consultation is in danger of ending up in a judicial review and Haverfordwest ending up with just a new Welsh School thus meaning there is little improvement in standards.

    Hadenough is correct. Surely Cllrs Adams and Perkins need to call an end and guide the director to make the adjustment of the proposal from 11-16 to 11-19. There would be enough pupils in the sixth form to make it sustainable and to offer our youngsters a choice, which is what the trustees, teachers, children, parents and community are asking for from this new school. The sums are simple.

  • Dave Edwards

    In retrospect was Kate Evan-Hughes really the best choice?

  • Faux Espoir

    Last week must have been a humbling experience for many Councillors who listened to the voice of Pembrokeshire. I’m not cynical enough to conclude it’s linked to the 2017 elections hoping, with reason, it was for the progression of education in Pembrokeshire.

    A worrying scenario was the statement from County Hall yesterday that we have lost the 21 century funding for Haverfordwest; could, or would the WG step in to sort this out to enable such a vision for 11-19?

    Dave Edwards has questioned Kate Evan-Hughes’ appointment but in reality she has had to follow the route laid out by her predecessor along with that of the independents who formed our cabinet transgressing back to the time when the ‘sixth form’ discussion began with the college.

    It seems Pembrokeshire College have walked away from the Pembroke School project, which was undertaken as ‘working at risk’ when it began. The question is how much has it cost the council and what are the LANs for Pembroke now?

    A motion of no confidence has been tabled seeking the removal from post of the cabinet member for Education, Sue Perkins. Her position is unquestionably untenable now.

    Looking deeper into this, she would become the second education cabinet member, under the leadership of Councillor Adams, to have their stewardship questioned. We all remember when Councillor Huw George was removed from post in the not too distant past.

    Those independent councillors who didn’t support the Leader on the Haverfordwest school proposal should also be considering his role now. The WG commissioned Tribal report and its recommendations have been overridden by Councillor Adams when they have been shown to be key and well sourced as a direction to follow.

    ‘When one burns one’s bridges, what a very fine fire it makes’ as written by Dylan Thomas, sums it up nicely.

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