He was referring to the way in which the council responds to complaints and whistle blowers as well as commenting on how the ombudsman saw the County Council’s performance on such matters. All in all Mr Christopher Downward painted a very pretty picture, which rather than receiving rapturous applause, drew a stunned silence.
The Herald reported recently on how the council had dealt with attempts by whistle blowers in relation to the Coastal Care Programme and how the unions were adamant that members of staff had raised their concerns about financial irregularities and mismanagement but as Mark Evans of UNISON put it, had been subject of disciplinary action themselves.
The Herald spoke to one such public sector employee who offered to enlighten our readers as to what happens to observant and diligent members of staff who ‘blow the whistle’. People First AM candidate for Llanelli Sian Caiach began by saying:
“Bad news is rarely welcome. When public sector workers point out internal problems that need to be addressed they are unlikely to be praised for their diligence. More likely they will find themselves bullied, reviled and persecuted to the point that they are forced to leave their work. Careers and reputations are often destroyed and the problems identified may never actually be addressed.”
Sian was a successful orthopaedic consultant surgeon who chose to become a whistle blower. Here Sian sets out what happened when she spoke out. She says: “I lost my own career in medicine as an orthopaedic consultant surgeon in Llanelli after blowing the whistle on two issues. One was a private practice scam where surgeons operated for free on private patients in NHS theatres using NHS resources, displacing NHS waiting list patients who had waited in pain for months and charging private patients who had no idea that their surgery , tests and implants were paid for by the state. The other was a senior colleague of mine whose failing eyesight appeared to be affecting the quality of his patients’ care.”
Talking about how she was dealt with when she asked questions she told us: “My concerns were ignored and I was warned that if I continued making these allegations I would lose my job and never work again. That was indeed true. I was offered a £30,000 settlement provided I left Llanelli and agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement. I did not.
I was forced to leave after three years of suspension and becoming deskilled. I never worked again in the NHS and have had very little work as a doctor in the last decade. “Unfortunately a reputation as a “snitch” is a worse handicap than being a dangerously incompetent doctor who may have crippled or even killed several people.”
The repercussions for speaking out continued to affect Sian’s career. She told The Herald, “After leaving my job in 2005 I was banned, unlawfully as far as I can deduce, from entering any building in the Hywel Dda Trust except as a patient or accompanying a close relative “Former chief executive Mr Trevor Purt (who has departed a subsequent post in North Wales under a cloud) admitted to me that this was not legal, but his replacement Mr Steve Moore has reimposed the ban, barring me from medical meetings and using the medical libraries.
The ban was supposed to “protect the mental health of my former medical colleagues. Clearly some senior consultants still feel emotionally fragile at the prospect of setting eyes on me.” Sian Caiach turned her skills and energy towards another institution hoping to serve the people and community of Carmarthenshire in another way. She said: “I realise now that I won’t get back to being a practicing doctor and I’ve been an elected County Councillor in Carmarthenshire since 2008.
I didn’t expect to find the same culture of “shoot the messenger” in County Hall. After all, my old consultant colleagues who were in on the scamming were making a tidy personal profit on the deal and had a lot of motive to keep it going. Why would management in a local authority not wish service problems to be reported to them? Surely they had nothing personal at stake in such issues, and surely improving service to the public outweighs any embarrassment over an oversight or genuine mistake?”
Now C llr Caiach, Sian soon found herself meeting with other whistle blowers but this time within the County Council and she was shocked and dismayed that in fact they appeared to be getting the same or similar treatment to that, which she had encountered within the Health Service. Sian told The Herald: “Sadly this is not the case. Since I’ve been a councillor I’ve met several current and former members of Council staff who had become whistleblowers, then found themselves under attack after making their disclosures. Just like my experience in the NHS, they may be transferred to other posts, heavily criticised and reported for any minor incidents, have their views and wishes ignored and accused of being disloyal, bad coworkers, etc.
It’s bullying with menaces, reminiscent of incidents I have experienced myself, so I do have a lot of sympathy. “It’s always hard to prove that you have been victimised as an individual, but when a number of people are treated in a similar way it looks like a systemic response.”
Speaking about articles in this newspaper which have highlighted the fate of whistleblowers and the intimidation meted out to them, Sian Caiach said : “The Herald has recently exposed the Coastal project problem where workers were asked to alter time sheets , something which would allow European money to be used to support other clients who normally would be paid for out of the usual council budget. There is no doubt in my mind from the evidence I’ve seen that this happened and that the messengers were shot. The mystery, of course, is why it all happened; who decided to do it and why? The person who deserves reprimand is surely the one who had the bright idea to cook the books.
What we have ended up with is a situation where there has been a problem with a council project and the people who were uncomfortable with altering the records under orders are the ones who have paid the price.” Painting a bleak picture of the consequences of dealing with whistle blowers by aiding a cover up rather than addressing their concerns Sian Caiach said : “This matters, and not only because of the injustice and suffering caused to the whistleblowers. It is also a grave concern to taxpayers that managers of public services appear more concerned with covering up problems than solving them. How can we trust our public services to be open and transparent to the public if this is how they behave?
“Cllr Caiach concluded: “It may be human nature to disguise failure but when deception becomes almost institutional it is extremely worrying. If these actions are generated at middle management simply to hide their problems from the executive staff, the leaders of our public institutions are in the dark about what is really going on. If the senior management decides to aid the cover up it is the public and our Government who are being deceived. In either case, public sector workers are thoroughly discouraged from speaking out when things go wrong, and when that happens and we are all losers in the end.”
Council announces overnight roadworks
MOTORISTS face further inconvenience owing to a series of planned night-time closures in Llanelli whilst essential road improvement works are carried out later this month.
Hard-pressed motorists, including Llanelli’s AM Lee Waters (see his column in this newspaper), already experience long delays using routes into and out of the town.
To reduce the level of inconvenience, Carmarthenshire County Council has programmed road surfacing works to take place during the night over the next month at Parc Trostre, Sandy Road, Pembrey Road and Queen Victoria Road, Llanelli, to avoid the busiest periods. Diversions will be in place.
A section of B4304 Parc Trostre Roundabout near ATS will be closed from Wednesday, October 30 between 7 pm and 6 am for up to four nights.
A section of Sandy Road, between its junction with Denham Avenue to the entrance to Coleg Sir Gâr, will be closed between 7 pm and 6 am on November 11-22 for up to nine nights.
A section of Pembrey Road, from its junction of Chapman Street to New Road, will be closed between 7 pm and 6 am on November 3 and 12 for up to nine nights.
Part of Queen Victoria Road and the Murray St crossroads will also be subject to night-time closure between 7 pm and 6 am on November 10 and 15 for up to five nights.
Since April the council has resurfaced 22 sections of road as part of a £2.5million investment in Carmarthenshire roads.
The sections of road being resurfaced have been identified as a priority based on road condition, usage and strategic importance.
Comprehensive traffic management will be in place whilst the works are being carried out and all schemes will be published in advance with full details available on roadworks.org.
The council said the works are unavoidable and have thanked members of the public in advance for their cooperation.
The council’s executive board member for transport, Cllr Hazel Evans said: “This is a significant amount of money that we have secured to improve our roads in the county. All roadworks will be publicised in advance so motorists can plan journeys to avoid the area and take an alternative route. We will minimise as far as possible the impact on road users by careful planning, however, some disruption cannot be avoided, so please bear with us. We thank everyone in advance for their cooperation and patience.”
These dates may vary due to unforeseen conditions or adverse weather. People are being advised to check https://one.network for further updates.
UK’s top skaters and riders drop in on Llanelli youngsters to celebrate a special birthday
THE WORLD’S and the UK’s finest skateboarders, BMX and Wheelchair Motocross stars will drop in on young people at a Carmarthenshire Ramps skatepark on Saturday 19 October 2019 from 11 am till 2 pm.
The event was arranged to celebrate the £3 billion National Lottery players have raised for projects which have specifically helped children and young people develop and thrive in the UK over the last 25 years.
£2 million of National Lottery funding has specifically been awarded to support and develop over 47 BMX projects in local communities for young people in Wales to enjoy.
Wales and Pembrokeshire’s own wheelchair sports superstar, Lily Rice; the Olympic BMX freestyler from Swansea, James Jones; Britain’s leading street skateboarder and 2020 Olympic hopeful, Alex Decunha; and YouTube influencer, Jake O’Neill (aka Jake100), visite hundreds of youngsters at Ramps indoor and outdoor skatepark in Llanelli as part of the National Lottery’s celebrations.
More than £340,000 was awarded by the National Lottery in 2013 to develop and build Ramps Skatepark which now provides activities for over 15,000 young people a year.
At 15 years old, Lily Rice from Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, is a World Champion wheelchair motocross (WCMX) star. She was propelled to fame two years ago when she became the first female in Europe to achieve a wheelchair backflip, and only the second girl in the world to pull off the stunt. Since then, Lily has emerged as one of the global leaders of WCMX – wheelchair motocross.
She says: “By contributing towards building amazing facilities such as this indoor and outdoor skate park, National Lottery funding is helping thousands of young people of all abilities to reach their goals and discover new opportunities.
I have trained and practised at numerous National Lottery funded skate parks and there is no doubt that the funding has helped wheeled sports, enthusiasts, to become healthier and more active.”
The National Lottery has inspired millions of people to get active in their local community, as well as supporting individuals and teams from grassroots to elite.
James Jones is a 25-year-old professional BMX rider from Swansea. James, who also celebrated his 25th Birthday this year, is one of six world-class athletes who make up the Freestyle BMX Team GB for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. James honed his skills and practised his tricks at the Ramps skate park in Llanelli when he was growing up and highlights the importance of young people having access to facilities like this on their doorstep.
James Jones said: “I practised a lot here growing up and this facility has played a big part in my development as a professional rider and a person. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now without the support I got here. It’s not just about learning to ride or skate, there’s a real family vibe here, a great social aspect and it’s well supported by the community.
The National Lottery must fund parks such as this one so that young people can have a safe space to pursue their hobbies and meet friends.”
First year anniversary for Transport for Wales
TODAY, Transport for Wales reaches its first- year anniversary since taking responsibility for rail services across Wales and the Borders, which marked the beginning of their £5 billion investment programme.
Over the past twelve months, TfW have put the customer at the heart of their decisions and as a thank you to them, they’re offering 20% off advance tickets bought between 14 and 20 October for travel up until 26 November.
Some of the key highlights over the year include the creation of the advanced fare initiative, making it cheaper for journeys over 50 miles; delay repay 15 was launched so that customers can claim for delays of 15 minutes or more and the implementation of new performance measures designed to provide a more reliable and punctual service.
TfW also began their £194 million plan to improve every railway station across their network and committed to spend more than £600,000 a year on Community Rail Partnerships, creating community ambassador roles, that will be responsible for promoting regional tourism and local economic growth.
Embedded video on YouTube
James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said;
“It has been an exciting and challenging first year and we are proud to have started transforming the rail service for the people of Wales through delivering on our promises.
“We are implementing some ambitious programmes that will help us to improve the customer experience. Work has started on our railway stations; modernising them, making them safer and more accessible for local businesses and communities. We successfully reintroduced regular passenger services along the Halton Curve, providing 215 new services per week and connecting Wrexham with Liverpool by rail for the first time in 40 years.
“We have introduced additional trains to our network and our December timetable change will bring further increases in capacity across our busiest routes.
“Behind the scenes, there has been detailed planning and preparation work going on for the delivery of Metro services across Wales, the introduction of brand-new trains and the vision to create a fully integrated transport network.
“As well as our customers, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff for their dedication over the year and also thank the partners and businesses that we’ve worked with.”
Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport, said:
“One year into our ambitious journey of rail improvement I believe it is important to recognise the progress that has been made. There have been the start of new services and new advanced fares and we will soon see extra capacity being added to some of our busiest lines. We’ve also outlined an ambitious £194m package of investment to improve every station in Wales.
“It’s clear that there are significant challenges and this journey will take time, but we have ambitious plans to transform transport across Wales to deliver a fully integrated network, with customers at the heart of everything. We have outlined a vision for a transformed railway across Wales – including the development of Metro systems – and Transport for Wales will continue to have an essential role to play in helping to deliver this.”
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