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Fire Chief’s pay being formally investigated

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THE TERMS and salary of the re-employment of a Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) are being formally investigated, The Herald can reveal.

We have previously reported on the re-employment of Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies following his retirement.

Cllr Gordon Walker, a former firefighter and Fire Authority member, officially raised a complaint with The Welsh Fire Minister and Auditor General for Wales regarding the terms of re-employment for the Chief Fire Officer and has been calling for an investigation since last year.

Mr Walker had written to the Fire Authority and MAWWFRS on numerous occasions asking for a review on the situation, however after failed attempts, Mr Walker sent his concerns to the Auditor General for Wales.

The issues that have been highlighted relate to the Chief Fire Officer’s pay and the policy regarding re-employment following retirement.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies, who retired from the service a number of years ago, has since been re-employed by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service in a more senior role.

Due to legislation in accordance with the Authority’s Policy on Re-employment of Retired firefighters, following voluntary retirement employees may be re-engaged and have their pensions abated.

However, this will not normally exceed a one year fixed term contract to retain specialist skills or knowledge, this will not normally exceed a one year fixed term contract.

Stating section 4.4 of the policy it clearly states ‘An individual will be re-employed on the same level of basic pay pertaining to the role they hold on retirement’.

A source within the fire service told us how Chief Fire Officer, Chris Davies, despite taking voluntary retirement and receiving a lump sum payment, has been re-employed by MAWWFRS on a salary that is almost £20,000 higher than his former basic pay.

Despite government legislation that says they should be re-employed for no longer than a one year contract, Chris Davies has been re-employed in his current role for five years.

As of now there is still no succession plan in place to replace Chris Davies with MAWWFRS.

The Auditor General for Wales have confirmed that they will be running a full investigation into the salary and the terms surrounding the re-employment of Chris Davies as Chief Fire Officer.

Speaking to The Herald, Gordon Walker said: “I have put my complaint in and I can confirm that we are awaiting the results of the investigation.”

Gordon has been campaigning relentlessly to have more transparency on the re-employment of retired fire service employees, especially those re-engaged on a rank senior to that on which they left.

A spokesperson for MAWWFRS said: “Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is aware of the allegations made by a Member of our Fire and Rescue Authority and we can confirm that we are currently working with Audit Wales as part of their investigation.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

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Education

School decisions on hold as Cabinet asks for extended review of council’s Modernising Education Programme

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The council will also prioritise plans for a new school to replace Llanelli’s Ysgol Dewi Sant and for new primary schools in Ammanford and Llandeilo.

PROPOSALS to discontinue primary schools in Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau have been put on hold pending the outcome of an extended review of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, has asked his education team to enhance a review of the MEP which is currently underway to ensure it continues to meet the needs of children and communities.

It means proposals due to be agreed today (Monday December 6, 2021), will not proceed at this time.

The extended review will seek to ensure that the MEP can adapt to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and climate change, which has changed the way people are living and making choices, how the education system has been affected and the rising costs of construction.

Cllr Davies said the review should look at how parents’ choices for their children’s education might change following the last 20 months.

The council has already noticed a shift in parental choice following the most recent annual admission of pupils during the pandemic.

With the construction industry having been hugely affected by the pandemic, with increased demand and rising costs for labour and materials, Cllr Davies said it is important to look at the knock-on effect this could have on the delivery and budgeting for school regeneration projects.

Cllr Glynog Davies

“We want to be able to factor these considerations in as we review the MEP, to have the time to properly consider how society is changing and how this will affect education services,” he said.

“Across the authority, several other departmental reviews are also underway. It would be prudent to ensure the MEP continues to align with the council’s priorities and objectives, and therefore it makes sense to take the outcome of these reviews into consideration also.

“I am asking officers to do this piece of work for me urgently.”

Speaking to fellow Cabinet members he said: “I hope that you will agree that no decision can be made today without this work taking place. I am asking that the Cabinet does not push ahead with proposals for Ysgol Mynyddygarreg and Ysgol Blaenau at this point in time, and I will not be announcing the statutory notice for these schools – we have to give full consideration to these proposals.”

Whilst Cabinet agreed to postpone these decisions, Cllr Davies confirmed the council’s commitment to continuing the delivery of a number of projects already in development.

These include a new state of the art specialist school to replace Ysgol Heol Goffa, a new primary school to replace Ysgol Pen-bre, and planned improvements at Ysgol Bryngwyn in Llanelli and Ysgol Bro Myrddin in Carmarthen.

He said the council will also prioritise plans for a new school to replace Llanelli’s Ysgol Dewi Sant and for new primary schools in Ammanford and Llandeilo.

Carmarthenshire’s Modernising Education Programme, in collaboration with the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, is about transforming the network of nursery, primary and secondary schools serving the county into strategically and operationally effective resources that meets current and future need for a school based and community focused education.

This is achieved through developing and improving buildings, infrastructure and spaces that are appropriately located, designed, constructed or adapted to foster the sustainable development of the people and communities of Carmarthenshire.

By the end of 2020/21 financial year, £295million has been invested in accommodation and facilities at schools across the county and it includes building 12 new primary schools and two new secondary schools, plus remodelling and refurbishment in a number of other schools. 

Further information about this programme and individual school programmes can be found at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education.

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Specialist contractors brought in for A484 storm damage clearance

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Specialist equipment is being used to clear and make the area safe.

WORK is ongoing to clear a trail of destruction left in the wake of Storm Arwen along the A484 at Cynwyl Elfed.

Carmarthenshire County Council has had to bring in specialist contractors to help with the removal of over 60 large trees damaged during the storm on November 27.

A section of road between Bronwydd and Cynwyl Elfed will remain closed until next week whilst the clearance work continues.

Specialist equipment is being used to clear and make the area safe.

It is the largest tree clearance operation the council has faced in the wake of a high-wind storm event.

It is thought the northerly direction of the strong 60mph gusts of wind is to blame for the extensive damage which left trees on the hillside unusually exposed.

Over 60 large trees were damaged during the storm

The road closure has meant a lengthy diversion for drivers passing through from Carmarthen to Newcastle Emlyn.

The council is working closely with contractors to minimise the disruption and to maintain safe access for residents living within the stretch of road closed off.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “Storm Arwen resulted in a number of trees being brought down onto our roads throughout the county, but the A484 was particularly affected and a section south of Cynwyl Elfed had to be closed for safety reasons.

“We have two specialist contractors working on site to clear the road and make it safe to reopen as soon as possible, but this will take some time.

“This is a challenging situation and we are working hard to ensure the road is safe to open as soon as possible but please bear with us if there are any delays. We will provide an update as soon as we can.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s highways team recorded 150 fallen trees – and 30 other weather related incidents in just 24 hours during the storm.

The council’s out of hours staff dealt with hundreds of calls and staff were mobilised throughout the night and day to deal with the damage caused by the high winds.

Further information about highway problems, and how to report an emergency, can be found at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales

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Community

Vet completes epic 980 mile cycle challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of charities

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A CARMARTHENSHIRE vet has raised over £8,000 by taking on the mammoth challenge of cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance and The DPJ

Foundation.

Cath Tudor a farm vet at ProStock Vets, Carmarthen set herself the task of cycling nearly 1,000 miles as a challenge to do before she was 50 and to mark the ten year anniversary of ProStock Vets.

Cath, 50, from Llangynog, has always enjoyed cycling and raised £5,076 for the Wales Air Ambulance and £3,000 for the mental health farming charity – The DPJ Foundation.

Reflecting on why she decided to raise funds for the charities, she said: “I picked Wales Air Ambulance as it is an essential service for us living and working in rural communities, and as a family the Wales Air Ambulance came out when my brother, Richard Tudor, died in a tractor accident on the family farm in Mid Wales in April 2020. My brother was killed when the tractor rolled on a steep slope when spreading fertiliser. 

“I chose DPJ Foundation as well due to it being a local charity which helps farmers struggling with mental health.”

The vet is no stranger to getting on her bike for charity, in 2016 Cath cycled the length of Wales for The Stroke Association and in 2018 she also completed a charity ride around Montgomeryshire for the Royal Welsh Show and a bowel cancer charity.

Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’.

The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.

Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

Cath at Land’s End

A delighted Cath is extremely grateful to everyone who donated to the fundraiser, she said: “A massive thanks to everyone who has sponsored me and encouraged me to do the challenge. The support and reactions from everyone has been overwhelming.”

Despite having days when the fundraiser was challenging, Cath experience many highlights including seeing every area of the country and making friends for life.

She added: “There was a fabulous group of us, with everyone helping one another and I made friends for life.”

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Cath has raised an incredible £8,000 for two essential charities. It is heart-warming to hear the reason behind Cath’s fundraiser, sadly she knows first-hand the importance of the Wales Air Ambulance, especially in rural Wales.

“Cath set herself the challenge of cycling nearly 1,000miles and her determination to raise funds for both charities is evident. Thank you to everyone who has supported Cath and donated to the Wales Air Ambulance, you’re all helping us be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com. 

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

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