The issue of openness and accountability within Pembrokeshire County Council has bubbled to the surface once again following the two reports which have sent shockwaves through the authority.

Opposition members have long argued that unelected council officers have too much influence, leaving most democratically elected members sidelined.

The Estyn report detailed instances where officers have “managed” information provided to councillors by removing details. It adds that officers do not routinely share information fully with elected members.

The joint Estyn and CSSIW report said senior officers do not provide elected members with the information necessary to discharge their responsibilities for safeguarding.

It paid particular attention to the role of the Chief Officers Management Board (COMB) – made up of the chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones and other senior staff, including departmental directors. Meetings of COMB have no standing agenda items and no formal records of meetings.

A key issue highlighted was a leadership culture that did not provide or record necessary information and an over-reliance on informal discussion.

This “masks important issues”, the report states, adding that there was evidence of a “closed, not transparent culture”.

Inspectors found that although the leader regularly meets the director of education and senior officers, the issue of safeguarding children was not routinely raised. They add that “generally cases are only discussed when they may have a high media profile and cause reputational damage”.

When challenged on their record of responding to some safeguarding children cases “chief officers have sought to deflect some of the responsibility”, the report states.

“For example they have cited a lack of specific guidance from the Welsh Government and the existence of positive reports as the reasons why they have been either unaware of the failings of the authority or why they have been slow to deal with these issues.”

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