Pembrokeshire County Council leader apologises over ex-youth worker sex offences scandal 'but no need for independent investigation'
6:00pm Thursday 17th July 2014 in County News
A CALL for an independent investigation into why Pembrokeshire County Council failed to take suitable action following reports of a youth worker’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’ was talked down at full council today.
Labour leader Cllr Paul Miller called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a former youth worker, who sexually abused a young boy after he was sacked from the council for ‘inappropriate behaviour’.
Michael (known as Mik) Smith was jailed for six years earlier this month after admitting child sex offences.
He had worked as a line manager with Pembrokeshire Youth Service and had been sacked in 2012.
Concerns about disciplinary procedures at County Hall following complaints made about Smith in 2005 were highlighted in a damning report into education and safeguarding by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Estyn in 2011.
Cllr Miller asked council leader Cllr Jamie Adams whether he thought there should be an independent inquiry “to ascertain exactly who, employed by this authority, failed to protect Pembrokeshire people and why?”
But cabinet member for education and safeguarding Cllr Sue Perkins said the investigations by ESTYN and CSSIW had already served that purpose.
She said the authority “accepts that there were shortfalls” and that “the leader has apologised publically”.
Cllr Perkins said the both the council and inspectorates were “now satisfied that children are safe, as safe as they can be in Pembrokeshire”, that the managers involved were no longer at the authority and all previous “shortfalls” were known and had been addressed.
She said an independent inquiry would serve no other purpose than to “lower staff morale again”.
As well as a notice of motion along similar lines, Cllr Miller also submitted a number of questions relating to the case and sought reassurances that nothing like this would or could happen again.
Both Cllr Perkins and Cllr Adams described the sanction applied in 2005 and subsequent monitoring as “inadequate” and “flawed”. They gave assurances that the authority would deal with the issue “wholly differently” now.
Cllr Adams apologised and said the fact the Smith had been given a verbal warning in 2005 was “a matter of regret”.
He added: “The sanction should have been a formal final warning and that’s clearly acknowledged by this council.”
The “subsequent monitoring should have been robust and wholly accountable and it wasn’t,” he said.
Cllr Adams said he had not been aware of the case in 2005 and asked all members to consider whether they knew anything about it because everyone had a responsibility.
Cllr Reg Owens said he and other councillors had raised concerns which were “largely ignored”.
A BBC Week in Week Out investigation aired on Tuesday alleged that the council’s chief executive, Bryn Parry Jones, had failed to act on information from the whistleblower, Sue Thomas, who had worked alongside Smith.
Cllr Adams claimed the chief executive was not aware Ms Thomas had invoked the whistleblowing policy until two or three weeks ago because her identity was not revealed during that process.
But Cllr Miller said correspondence between Ms Thomas and Mr Bryn Parry-Jones, which he had seen, suggested otherwise.
Cllr Adams claimed the correspondence, which he had also seen, related to a breakdown in Ms Thomas’ professional relationship with her line manager, Smith, but did not raise concerns about his behaviour.
He said it was “regrettable” that “nobody had joined the dots” and he apologised to everyone involved.