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Badger enjoys the sweet smell of ‘success’

badger_2087377bIt worries Badger that an administration so committed to cutting public services is headed by a man who finds remembering to file his expenses on time difficult and is a self-confessed bad book-keeper. All those alleged efficiency savings and service improvements (a.k.a. ‘cuts’) swimming around in the head of a man who forgot to claim £4649 in expenses; it cannot be easy for him, poor dab!

All the talk of those supposed service improvements, alleged efficiency savings and being kind to our environment cannot obscure the fact that Pembrokeshire County Council has embarked on a course of slashing low paid workers’ pay while preserving the obscene salaries paid to upper management as a reward for their collective past and continuing failure; on a policy (cutting bin collections) that will ensure that Pembrokeshire households will be regular stopping off points for Badger’s woodland chums Ratty and Foxy; and a policy that means that if you are caught short in a public place, you will be doing your bit for the environment by wearing reusable nappies.

How lucky we are then that the Council was this week able to announce that ‘Latest figures show that Pembrokeshire County Council’s performance improved again last year and was well above average when compared to other local authorities in Wales … Pembrokeshire’s performance was particularly positive in adult and children’s social care.’

Now that is good news, to an extent. If success is going to be measured as not failing as badly as everyone else, Jamie Adams’s breast must be swelling with pride.

We can all be proud of the Council’s achievement in closing a library before finding out how much it would cost to replace it and then having to back track on its plans for it; that its own estimate of capital works required to the education estate was wildly incorrect; that the Council’s view of success is maintaining ‘the lowest Council Tax in Wales’ by slashing public services and showering European grant money on a few private landlords and property speculators.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the figures that escaped Cllr Adams’s attention:

Cllr Jacob Williams’s motion about traveller pitches in Pembrokeshire and the need for the Council to ensure its procedures were appropriate rightly received widespread attention. The Council now has the chance to right a wrong and put its money where its mouth is. When the Council has an estimate for a requirement for expenditure of £1m in this financial year and has since the start of it spent £6,000, the need for rapid review instead of mere lip service is underlined.

Pembrokeshire County Council takes 78.6 days to discharge its primary duty to households determined to be homeless. That is 78.6 working days. Add in the weekends, because people don’t stop being homeless on Saturday and Sunday, and Pembrokeshire is proud to keep the homeless without a permanent roof over their heads for over four months. That is against a Welsh average of 128 working days and a target of 66 days. Hurrah. We are not the worst!

The Council’s desired ‘Key Outcome 1’ is that ‘Children, young people and families in Pembrokeshire have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.’ Not if you are a child with special needs, however: for those children, Pembrokeshire’s performance is woeful. Out of 23 statements of Special Educational Needs, only 3 – 13% – were issued within 26 weeks. For the sake of clarity, the same period last year produced an 88% performance against the same target. Success, indeed, then! No explanation is given for this pathetic failure in the papers recording the Council’s performance for special educational needs assessments other than that reports are ‘awaited’ from Health and Social Care.

Still?

Rocking on for six months after the end of the year to which those figures relate, the Council is STILL awaiting an explanation? Perhaps there is only one manual typewriter in County Hall and the typist is on long term leave.

Perhaps best value for money in education could be achieved by making an effort to recruit the best available permanent staff for Pembrokeshire’s schools instead of the below, a response to a Freedom of Information Act request:

SCHOOLS PAYMENTS FOR TEMPORARY / SUPPLY STAFF IN THE 2012/13 FINANCIAL YEAR:

Staff on fixed term contracts 7,014,631.23
Supply staff 1,546,187.07
Agency staff 119,098.76
Total 8,679,917.06

Mind you, Social Care and Education are responsible for every Compromise Agreement the Council confirms entering into since 2009. Think of those agreements as ‘we pay you to go away, not make a fuss and keep your lip zipped’ ways of ending employment. Note the startling figures for the current and immediately past financial years.

01/04/13 2 @ £48,720 + Payment in Lieu of Notice
01/04/12 – 31/03/13 2 @ £35,200 + PILON
01/04/11 – 31/04/12 0
01/04/10 – 31/03/11 1 @ £7,000 + PILON
01/04/09 – 31/03/10 1 @ £3,672 + PILON

Three of those agreements were in senior management positions.

We can all take comfort in the thought that scarce resources are being spent wisely and well and not ploughed into rewarding failure and mediocrity.

Something smells sweet around Jamie Adams and the IPPG. Perhaps it is success, after all.