Coun­cil hits back at ‘dan­ger’ claims

Bangor Mail - - YOUR VIEWS -

ATOWN coun­cil is re­fut­ing al­le­ga­tions that the pub­lic was put in “grave dan­ger” fol­low­ing “a string of health and safety fail­ings.”

Only six mem­bers cur­rently re­main on Beau­maris Town Coun­cil due to mass res­ig­na­tions dur­ing and af­ter a heated row in the cham­ber in midDe­cem­ber.

At a sub­se­quent pub­lic meet­ing on Jan­uary 8, ar­ranged by the eight for­mer mem­bers, about 300 peo­ple turned out to hear calls for fresh elec­tions due to griev­ances over the au­thor­ity’s run­ning, in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions that the body had failed to en­sure the pub­lic’s safety.

Ac­cord­ing to for­mer coun­cil­lor Al­wyn Row­lands, the clerk, Prof Trevor Ashen­den, had been in­formed on four sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions that he was be­ing sus­pended from his du­ties be­cause of “a cat­a­logue of health and safety is­sues.”

These, ac­cord­ing to Mr Row­lands, in­cluded of­fice equip­ment not be­ing ap­pli­ance-tested and staff not re­ceiv­ing ad­e­quate train­ing to work at height or to han­dle goods.

But Prof Ashen­den has con­sis­tently stressed that he has not been made aware of the na­ture of the al­le­ga­tions against him.

A state­ment re­leased last Wed­nes­day by Beau­maris Town Coun­cil stated that an on­go­ing in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion has so far failed to un­cover such in­stances.

Com­mit­ting it­self to fol­low “the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dards,” the coun­cil wrote: “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been thor­ough and is be­ing con­ducted with the aid of ex­ter­nal hu­man re­sources and health & safety con­sul­tants.

“It has in­cluded a de­tailed au­dit of cur­rent H&S ar­range­ments, and thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­le­ga­tions of sup­posed ‘ grave dan­gers’ posed to both coun­cil staff and the pub­lic.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not yet com­plete; how­ever, pri­or­ity has been given to the most se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions and these have been proved to be un­founded.

“To date, no as­pect of the coun­cil’s work­ing prac­tices have been found unsafe or dan­ger­ous.

“As soon as the coun­cil re­ceives the de­tailed re­port from the H&S con­sul­tants any rec­om­men­da­tions will be acted on im­me­di­ately.”

De­spite the al­le­ga­tions be­ing lodged against the town coun­cil in early Jan­uary, the au­thor­ity has also ex­plained the de­lay in an­swer­ing the claims, blam­ing pro­ce­dures.

It said: “It is hoped that the press and pub­lic ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that, as well as mak­ing the day to day de­ci­sions for the town, the town coun­cil also acts in the ca­pac­ity of em­ployer.

“Em­ploy­ment mat­ters must be dealt with in ac­cor­dance with the var­i­ous laws which gov­ern the em­ployee/em­ployer re­la­tion­ship, in­clud­ing the data pro­tec­tion act.

“The duty to keep cer­tain em­ploy­ment mat­ters con­fi­den­tial is in­cum­bent both on act­ing coun­cil­lors and of­fi­cials and those that have left their posts.

“The coun­cil re­grets that this mat­ter could not have been dealt with more ex­pe­di­tiously.

“It is un­for­tu­nate that the poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, which must be fol­lowed by those in pub­lic ser­vice, had not been fol­lowed from the out­set.

“The coun­cil would like to re­as­sure the towns­peo­ple that the mat­ter is now be­ing dealt with in ac­cor­dance with the proper le­gal pro­cesses.”

By-elec­tions for the eight re­main­ing seats are to be held on March 8, with the for­mer mem­bers all hav­ing an­nounced their in­ten­tions of run­ning for their for­mer seats.

A de­ci­sion to fully fi­nance the poll, set to cost up to £6,000, was rub­ber-stamped by mem­bers dur­ing last week’s meet­ing.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, for­mer mayor Frank Carr, said he had “no re­grets” about stand­ing down and seek­ing re­elec­tion. salar­ies paid for the low­est lev­els of staff in the Assem­bly Com­mis­sion.

The pay bands for AM staff con­tinue ris­ing up to a top salary of £38,762 for a se­nior ad­vi­sor with sev­eral years ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mr Tup­pen ar­gues that while the low­est level of po­lit­i­cal staff do re­search, there are staff do­ing re­search for the Assem­bly Com­mis­sion who earn man­age­ment salar­ies of up to £38,690.

A spokesman for the in­de­pen­dent Renu­mer­a­tion Board said it was con­duct­ing a re­view.

An Assem­bly source con­ceded there were sig­nif­i­cant pay dis­crep­an­cies, but said: “The dif­fer­ence is that some of our re­searchers have PhDs.”

“We had no choice but to stand down, given the cir­cum­stances,” said Mr Carr.

“The pub­lic had a right to know what was go­ing on, and we felt the only thing we could do was to stand down from the body. As a group of eight, we will be fight­ing these elec­tions to gain a fresh man­date to do what we think is right.

“It’ll be up to the peo­ple of Beau­maris to de­cide if they agree with us.”

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