THE DECISION not to introduce a ‘two-tier’ Executive Board, with two salary levels to ‘take account of the differences in responsibilities attached to specific posts’ was welcomed by the Executive Board of Carmarthenshire County Council.
In a meeting on Monday, (Apr 25) the Independent Remuneration Panel of Wales’ (IRPW) report from February was discussed. This report, which stated that there will be ‘no increase in remuneration given the continuing constraints on local government spending,’ had already been before the Democratic Services Scrutiny Committee.
The recommendations of the committee were that the basic salary for county councillors should remain at £13,300 per annum for 2016-17.
The committee also decided to use the discretion available to recommend that the two-tier executive pay scheme was not invoked, and that the status quo remained regarding Executives, Committee Chairs, and the Chair and vice chair of the council.
However, the minutes revealed that the need for two deputy leaders was queried ‘particularly in view of the fact that the Authority is trying to save money.’ However, it was explained that the extra allowance for the deputy leader was divided between both parties, though the Head of Administration and Law did agree to ‘relay the committee’s comments to the leader.’
Deputy Leader Cllr Pam Palmer introduced the report and recommendations. Cllr Palmer was ‘pleased to recommend’ that the twotier system was ‘banged on the head.’
Suggesting that having two different pay grades would have been ‘divisive’ she added: “We all work extremely hard, and the general public out there don’t realise just how much work we do. It’s not just a question of working in here it’s our own constituency work as well.
“As you will appreciate there is a standstill budget this year for councillors standard remuneration and we have to accept that but I am very pleased to say that I would recommend the two tier system for executive board was actually banged on the head as would everyone else.”
Councillor Meryl Gravell had ‘no problem’ accepting the recommendations, but questioned the independence of the Independent Remuneration Panel. Looking to the future, and the possible merging of several local authorities, she suggested that thought be given to the need to attract ‘young and new people onto local government’, presumably through a competitive pay packet.
Cllr Gravell also suggested that t h e role of Executive Board Member was far more demanding than that of Assembly Member: “I think they’ve got to understand the difference in responsibilities,” she said.
“AMs are there to scrutinise. They’ve got no responsibilities whatsoever whereas an Executive Board Member has huge responsibilities, and I know that my colleagues who have come on recently have worked extremely hard since they took up their posts.
“I think that it is only when you do the work that you realise, first of all how important it is, and secondly how really, really hard you have to work.
“The amount of hours that have been put in by Executive Board Members is quite a lot; it is heavy going and we do need to look to the future.
“Some of us are coming to retirement age, and I do wonder sometimes how we can encourage quality people, because that is what you need at the end of the day. These are important decisions that have to be made.
Chief Executive Mark James – whose remuneration is subject to scrutiny from the IRPW – also questioned the panel’s impartiality, given that this year a remit letter from the Minister for Public Services had been sent to the Panel, ‘in which he drew the Panel’s attention to the desire of Welsh Government to reduce the cost of politics to the public purse’ as the report put it.
“I think this is difficult for members because this is payments that are made to you, but it does seem somewhat inequitable that MPs and AMs are receiving pay rises, and for the last 3-4 years councillor salaries have gone down not up or been frozen,” Mr James said.
“It is interesting to look at just how independent this remuneration panel is, because they get a remit letter every year from a minister telling them what they should and shouldn’t be looking at and doing. So I don’t think it is all that independent, really.”
“I think all elected people in the UK should be treated equitably in the same way. It doesn’t appear as if local councillors who do work incredibly hard both in their constituencies, and if they’ve got any form of executive role or chair a scrutiny committee it is quite onerous and there is a big time commitment. Of course you are right in the public eye, in a way that others perhaps are not, so it does seem unfair.”
‘ON CALL’ 24/7
Cllr Palmer suggested that the problem was that ‘AMs and MPs don’t understand how much constituency work they [councillors] do.’
“You’re on call 24 hours a day, and believe you me, I can only speak for myself but I am sure the rest of you will agree it’s not unusual to get phone calls in the middle of the night if there is an emergency on,” she added.
“If you’ve got a washing machine that goes wrong, your call-out fee to start with is about £65 minimum. And when we get called out in the middle of the night as does happen – it’s happened to me on very many occasions – then, thank you very much and you’re only as good as your next cross in the election.
“I think whilst we’re talking about attracting younger people I think that you must realise that if you’ve got a mortgage, no matter how much commitment you may have to your community, to actually give up a job on a four-year term isn’t a very attractive proposition, especially on the salaries that are being given.”
The current salary for a member of the Executive Board is £29,000, rising to £31,250 for deputy leaders, and £48,000 for the leader.
Cllr Palmer suggested that AMs and MPs “only get involved when we have failed, and we have usually failed for very good reasons.
“Then of course they get involved and let’s say that sometimes the results are not what they could be,” she added.
“I’m quite happy for anyone to scrutinise the amount of work I do in the course of a year, and I think they would be very surprised.”
Council Leader Emlyn Dole agreed that there could be questions raised about the independence of the Panel: “Let’s call it what it is, and drop the word ‘independent’ – if that letter is an annual event then it needs to be looked at,” he added.
However, Cllr Dole praised the work that had been done by the council in getting younger people interested in the work it carries out, drawing attention to a successful budget consultation exercise held in Parc y Scarlets.
In terms of pay, he suggested that “it seems the principle is that the nearer you are to the people the less it is, and that’s a strange equation to me.”
Councillor David Jenkins sounded a note of caution regarding the need for increased remuneration: “I think we’ve got to be careful to strike a balance here, because I don’t think we want this chamber full of professional politicians,” he said.
“We are here to represent the people of our communities, and we are here because we have had a democratic mandate to do so.
Cllr Jenkins suggested that a balance needed to be struck, and acknowledged that there were ‘good youngsters who can’t even contemplate becoming councillors because they have families and bills to pay.’
“And succession planning in this game must be a horrendous situation – how can we plan something based on a four-year term?” he asked.
The Executive Board voted unanimously to accept the committee’s recommendations.
Boris Johnson expected to resign as Prime Minister today
THE PRIME MINISTER, Boris Johnson is expected to tender his resignation today, according to sources close to Number 10.
Less than a month on from surviving a leadership challenge, the PM’s premiership will come to an end after senior ministers were among those to quit the government in protest at Downing Street’s handling of a series of recent scandals.
The latest of these being Mr Johnson promoting Chris Pincher to the role of deputy chief whip in February despite being told of a sexual misconduct complaint against the Tamworth MP in 2019.
On Tuesday, the PM apologised for allowing this job move to take place – but this did not stop the resignations of both his health secretary Sajid Javid and chancellor Rishi Sunak minutes later.
By Thursday morning, more than 50 Conservative MPs had resigned from their government roles.
Commenting on the news that the Prime Minister will be resigning today as Conservative Party Leader, Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, said: “I’ve always said it was essential for the Prime Minister to hold the confidence of our country, party and parliament. Clearly, that is no longer the case.
“Boris Johnson’s legacy will always be that he ended the deadlock and got Brexit done, delivering on the will of the British people.
“As well as securing a historic victory in 2019, Boris ensured our return to freedom out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Regrettably, it has now become very difficult for him to deliver on the mandate he secured.
“As a friend and supporter of the Prime Minister, I recognise his achievements over the last three years. It now falls to the Conservative Party to select a new leader to deliver on our manifesto commitments for the remainder of this parliament.
“I wish him, Carrie and the rest of his family all the best for the future and thank him for his service to our country.”
Reacting to the resignation of the Prime Minister Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:
“Finally this whole sorry and undignified saga has come to an end. It was always abundantly clear that Boris Johnson was unfit to be Prime Minister and those that backed him to the hilt have a responsibility for the mess and destruction he and his brand of populism has had on our country.
“The Welsh public won’t forgive so many Welsh Conservative MPs for propping up Boris Johnson for so long against various scandals while at the same time ordinary families were struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
“Johnson or no Johnson, for many former Conservative voters the party they once knew is beyond redemption and will not be coming back.”
Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award
STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care.
The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.
Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.
The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good.
In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.
The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community.
In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.
In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.
The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.
As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.
At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.
Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said: “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”
Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.
The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.
The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.
Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.
“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”
Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.
With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.
As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.
“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.
“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”
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