March 8, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

Blaenau Gwent councillors seek reassurance that lessons have been learned after series of health and safety and data protection failings.

COUNCILLORS in Blaenau Gwent have called for further reassurance that lessons have been learned after a damning report highlighted a series of health and safety and data protection failings.

Last year it was revealed that Blaenau Gwent council breached health and safety regulations, exposed confidential material relating to students and put its insurance cover at risk when it decommissioned the Business Resource Centre in Tredegar.

An independent investigation was launched and the council says lessons have been learned, with a more “systematic approach” now adopted into how the authority disposes of buildings.

But at an audit committee meeting on Tuesday, councillors voiced disappointment over a report which outlined some of the actions taken by the council to address concerns.

Cllr Lisa Winnett said:

“Sadly this report that’s been presented to us has little or nothing to do with what we have raised in the previous audit committees.

“None of those concerns has been addressed in this report and I am quite disappointed with what has come before us.”

A school-age trainee was involved in an accident at the centre using a rotivator which an investigation found had not been maintained, was not suitable for trainees to use, had not been risk assessed and had missing fenders.

The accident was not related to the disposal of the business centre, but the piece of equipment remained there and was included in the inventory as part of the sale.

Flammable materials were also not disposed of correctly when the building was decommissioned. A fuel tank was not drained, and a full bottle of petrol was left in an unlocked storage container.

Cllr John Morgan said there had been “serious breaches” involved in the incidents.

“There needs to be a further investigation into some of these issues,” he said.

“I feel there are still further questions to be answered.”

The report presented to the audit committee – which was incorrectly listed as exempt on the agenda – said the decommissioning process has been reviewed and that “lessons learned highlighted the need for a systematic approach” in relation to decommissioning non-operational buildings.

This includes that when a building is vacated, an officer group is now comprised to ensure materials are removed prior to the handover of the building.

This new process has been used in the recent disposal of the Queen Street and Bryngwyn Schools, the report said.

“The use of the developed process for disposals demonstrates that the council has learned from previous experience (and weaknesses identified in the Business Resource Centre decommissioning report) and is now using an effective process,” the report adds.

But Cllr Steve Thomas said further reassurances were needed.

“The issues were felt to be so significant, potentially dangerous, that members needed further reassurance and I think that’s what is missing in this report,” he said.

The committee recommended the council’s managing director holds further discussions with staff about the issue before providing feedback to the council’s political group leaders for further reassurance.

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