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word WINTER 2013


The magazine for TCBC employees




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Merry Christmas! Welcome to the winter issue of The Word.

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ON AIR Council meetings go live


KNOW THE LIMITS Discrimination in the workplace


BRILLIANT STAFF Fundraisers get going


SUPER SAVER Counting your pennies


MOT STATION Getting ready for action

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SNOW PATROLS Clearing the way ahead



Design and compiled by the Communications Team Editorial 2152 Design & Photography 6494 © 2013 Communications Design




As Christmas approaches, it’s heartwarming to hear about all the events and fundraising that you’ve been doing to help others. We know there’s so much that goes on throughout the year and bringing it altogether as we’ve done on this issue is a great reminder of what a caring and dedicated workforce we have in Torfaen. This year’s staff survey saw some really positive results, but highlighted other really important issues for the organisation to address. You can read more about how the issues you raised around bullying, harassment and discrimination are being acted on in this issue. Last but not least, I have to pay tribute to this edition’s cover star, Peter Durkin. and wish him all the best on his well earned retirement. Best wishes Neil Jones Editor 01495 742151

Celebrating customer care excellence More than 40 staff were commended for achieving their Institute of Customer Service (ICS) qualifications. The qualifications are recognised as a key way of developing the skills of staff and improving the way an organisation focuses on the needs of its citizens. At a special ceremony as part of this year’s National Customer Service Week, staff from across the organisation were congratulated on earning their qualifications by the council’s executive member for corporate governance and community safety, Cllr David Yeowell and chief executive Alison Ward. Alison said: “In Torfaen, people’s impression of our Customer Service is of a team of professionals who are polite, courteous, understanding and highly skilled and that experience is one that reflects enormously well on the culture of our organisation.”

Thank you Peter! With austerity, budget cuts, increasing service demands and the Williams review just around the corner, it sometimes feels like local government in Wales or even the UK, has been in the midst of a perfect storm that is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon!

Since I have been Chief Executive he has been a totally reliable and trusted advisor in everything that I have done.

But I think it’s fitting that I start off by paying tribute to someone who is without question, the type of friend you always want by your side in these situations and that’s Peter Durkin!

His presence is enough to reassure and calm in the most difficult circumstances; I always feel that if Peter is handling the situation then there is nothing to worry about.

Peter, has worked for Torfaen for so long, and contributed so much, that it feels as if he’s part of the DNA of the organisation, and it’s hard to think what life will be without him. He is truly irreplaceable as a Deputy Chief Executive and as a much loved and respected colleague. I know that many tributes will be paid to him between now and when he leaves us on Christmas Eve, but I wanted to pay my own tribute to him here. Peter interviewed me when I first came to Torfaen in 2002; and whilst he was acting up as Chief Executive after Clive Grace left he mentored me and helped me to grow into the role that I have now.

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The most valuable sort of person that you can have around you as a Chief Executive is someone who will always tell you the truth - when you’ve got it right and when you’ve got it wrong – and Peter has always been that touchstone for me.


His values are irreproachable, and one phrase of his that will always stay with me is “if in doubt, do the right thing”. I will miss his wisdom and insight more than I can say.


With the budget pressures that we are all facing I will not be recruiting a replacement to Peter’s post when he leaves. The Leadership Team will be sharing his duties between us going into the future. We don’t mind pulling together to make that happen, what will be much more difficult will be walking into the office on January 2nd and realising that he’s not there.

Finally, I’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the festive break and I look forward to seeing you in 2014.

Alison Ward Chief Executive

*As many of you may know, Peter’s role is not being replaced. To see how we’re planning to cover his duties, see page 12



Council meetings go live online! All of the council’s main meetings are now broadcast live on the Internet giving you the opportunity to tune in at a time and place that suits you to get a better insight of what’s happening in the council chamber. The council began webcasting its meetings in October, with more than 1,500 people tuning into the first cabinet webcast. With more and more difficult decisions due to be taken over the coming months, webcasting

makes the council more open and transparent to Torfaen residents. The council has signed a threeyear contract with webcasting provider Public-i, using funding from Welsh Government, to promote citizen engagement in local democracy.

hear what a councillors had to say on a particular issue. Look for the webcasting banner on the frontpage of

You can watch live meetings and download relevant documents such as reports, plans or presentations, tune in to specific items of interest or

Dealing with unacceptable behaviour The council has a new policy to advise the public and staff on the process that will be followed when a resident’s behaviour is considered to be unacceptable. Unacceptable actions could be aggressive or threatening behaviour, constantly making unreasonable demands, constant phone calls, emails and letter or refusing to accept a decision. The full policy, which is available on the Torfaen website and Swoop has four key objectives which are: • to make it clear what the Council can or cannot do in relation to people’s requests or complaints, and ensure staff are being open not raising hopes or expectations that cannot be met.



• set out our how staff should deal fairly, honestly, consistently and appropriately with all service users, including those whose actions are considered unacceptable. The Council believes that all service users have the right to be heard, understood and respected. It is also considered that Council staff have the same rights. • provide services that are accessible to all service users. However, where it is considered that a service user’s actions are unacceptable, we do have the right to restrict or change access to the Council is retained. • ensure that other service users and Council staff do not suffer any disadvantage from service users who act in an unacceptable manner It defines unacceptable behaviour and the steps available to officers in how they should manage situations. If you have any questions or queries, get in touch with Caron Davies or email corporatecomplaints@ or telephone 01495 742164

Know the Limits A new online training scheme is being rolled out to staff to help tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace is being introduced for staff. The training supports the council’s Dignity at Work policy, which states that all employees should be treated with, and share a responsibility for treating others, with dignity, courtesy and respect in the workplace. This year’s staff survey showed six per cent of respondents felt they had been discriminated against, while the number saying they had felt bullied and harassed was eight per cent – a four per cent drop from the 2011 survey. The council’s equalities manager Vincent James said: “Everyone who works for this authority should be able to go to work and be treated with dignity and respect.




“Following the disappointing results from the 2011 staff survey, we undertook a complete overhaul of our existing policies came out with new fresh up to date advice for managers and employees on how to address bullying in the workplace.”



“Dignity in the workplace is a fundamental right for all employees and goes a long way to supporting our values of being supportive, fair and effective as an employer.


Peter Durkin, deputy chief executive, said:



“It is really important we take positive steps to help people deal with these issues when the occur.”



“Even though the council’s results in the survey indicates that Torfaen performs better than national average for people feeling discriminated, the fact that anybody should feel discriminated against in Torfaen is a disappointment.



To support the new policy, the online training course has been introduced which will give people a much greater understanding of how bullying and harassment and discrimination should be tackled. Vincent said:


“I’m pleased to say that all of leadership team have completed the training and given very positive feedback, there is now an expectation that all their managers will now go on and complete the training themselves.”

“This particular training has already been used by people like Tesco, NHS Direct and other national organisations. I believe people who use it will be pleased by time well spent, learning something in a new and interesting way.” For more information on the Dignity at Work training please contact the Equalities and Social Justice Team on 01495 765065 or email

Supportive, Fair, Effective 5

Watch the video at:


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Spreading Christmas cheer

Jon Show Now in it’s fifth year, the Jon Show Walk has raised thousands of pounds for Velindre. In September around a dozen staff walked from Goytre Wharf to Llantarnam, raising around £1000.

Staff in social care are once again running the Torfaen Santa Appeal which will put a smile on the face of children who will be spending Christmas in care. Over the past few years hundreds of children who would not have had any presents at Christmas, have benefitted from the appeal. If you would like to participate call 01633 647545 or 647539.

Library staff get on their bikes Four members of staff from libraries rode 50 miles from Brecon to Cardiff to raise money for St David’s Hospice Care in September. Well done to Stephanie Morgan, Bettina Robinson, Ania , Adrian and Rosie Bradley.

Housing Staff take on Tough Mudder! Not many of us would choose to spend our weekend running 12 miles through gallons of mud while being electrocuted, scaling 15 ft walls, diving into ice tubs and wading through waterlogged tunnels! But that’s exactly what some of our housing colleagues went through as they took on Tough Mudder billed as ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’. The successful team were Bethan Covill, Elke Winton, Neil Howell, Shane Baker, Sophie Bailie and Ian Priday and they were running in aid of Help for Heroes.



Marathon effort Rhiannon Hastings, Literacy Coordinator at the Pupil Referral Unit took part in the Berlin Marathon in September to raise money for Macmillan.

Coffee and cake for a great cause It might not have required the stamina and training as some of the other events on the page, but the lure of coffee and cake was enough to have staff digging deep at the Macmillan Coffee Mornings. Hundreds of pounds were raised for those affected by cancer thanks to the efforts of staff Ty Blaen and the Civic Centre.

Festive knitwear fundraiser PJs for Pudsey Hundreds of pounds were raised for this year’s Children In Need appeal with activities taking place across the council. Staff at Torfaen and Monmouthshire housing teams and Torfaen Training held pyjama parties, while tea and cake was served in the Mayor’s Parlour, raising more than £50.

Friday 6 December was Christmas Jumper Day for staff in education who raised over £400 by donning their best festive knitwear to fundraise in support of their friend and colleague Emma Parker whose husband Rhys who sadly lost his fight against lupus on in September. He had recently become an ambassador at the Hibbs Lupus Trust in order to help others fighting lupus and all money raised went to this charity. Lupus is a condition where the immune system attacks healthy cells, tissues and organs. Since his death Emma, her family and friends have been raising awareness and money for two Lupus charities, Lupus UK and the Hibbs Lupus Trust. So far they have raised more than £10,000.

Foodbanks Social Santas! Social Care and Housing Adult Services Fundraising events raised an amazing £1004 this year from their Big Raffle, Bake Sale and Santa’s Bucket Collection. The money has been used to buy Gift Bags and Food Hampers for vulnerable adults living in the community this Christmas.

Some of Torfaen’s poorest families will be benefitting from the generosity after our foodbank donation appeal. Collection points were created at all the main council buildings for collections during September and December and within a few days were packed with goods that will help support people in financial difficulties.



Jay’s a super saver thanks to the Credit Union More than 150 staff are now saving with the Gateway Credit Union which offers a range of great deals for Torfaen staff. Jay Ryan, Torfaen’s Arts Development Officer joined the Credit Union as soon as she started working for Torfaen Council in 2002. She said: “I started on a very low wage and found it hard to manage as single mum. I had a small loan to get through my driving test, and then every year I’ve had one to sort something out, car repairs, new fridge, or Christmas sometimes. It’s so easy to have the money taken straight out of your wages, and the Credit Union has been a massive support. As my salary has risen I’ve been able to save, and this year my credit union savings and loans have been to help my daughter back to University, cope with having tax and MOT on the car the same month, and to visit my mother in Australia. It’s just been part of my pay.” “I’ve always found the Credit Union a really helpful support with my finances, everyone is really friendly, and I’ve never felt judged, even when they have had to refuse me a loan. I’d recommend it to anyone. I’ve seen Gateway grow and change over the years, they now offer larger loans, and you have to save alongside your loan, which is good. The new discounted loans for TCBC staff are great value and they make a quick decision and call you. It’s a personal relationship, based on trust, I know the staff and they know me.” “From the work point of view, the Credit Union is a community



empowering business in Torfaen and I’m proud to be part of it. Part of my job is to organise the Pontypool Carnival, and Gateway are always one of the sponsors”. Gateway Credit Union now offers a wider range of financial services for TCBC staff than ever before, with a cash ISA at 2.15%, accounts for Christmas and holidays, free life insurance, and accounts for children paying 2.5%. The Credit Union is owned by over 2500 local members and run by a small team of staff and an enormous team of volunteers. You can pop in to their office at 21 Commercial St, Pontypool, visit them at Cwmbran Customer Care Centre, call 01495 742500 or join online at

Gateway Credit Union

Payday loans Access to pay day loan websites on councilcomputers has been blocked following a decision by councillors aimed at protecting people from high interest rate lenders. The move will mean that the sites will be blocked on employee’s computers and public places such as libraries. They will not be allowed to advertise in council publications or noticeboards. The council recommends lenders such as Gateway Credit Union and Moneyline Cymru as ethical, affordable and local alternatives. If you are having money problems free, independent local advice can be provided by Torfaen Citizens Advice Bureau, Telephone: 08444 772020 Alternatively, call in to 45 Gwent Square, Cwmbran, NP44 1PL or George Street, Pontypool, NP4 6BU There are other local advice services including Age Connects Torfaen, Bron Afon Housing and Melin Homes.

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MOT Station getting ready for action Make YOUR CARS

Vehicle Registration Mark TCBC 123


Contact Number Rico Cottrell ext: 6798

Going Live JANUARY 2014 (FOURTEEN)

Contact Number 2 Mark Tew ext 6795

Advisory Information Advisory Items Look out for latest updates including details on how to book online via Swoop very soon.

Important Information Work has now started on the MOT station at Ty Blaen in preparation for the service going live in January 2014. During December, a new testing bay and equipment is being installed and the first MOTs are planned for early in the New Year. The MOT station is one of a number of exciting projects aiming to use council assets to bring in income that can be used to offset the pressures of budget cuts. The council already services 450 council vehicles as well as 190 from other organisations so it has a team of experienced staff ready to carry out the MOT tests.

Your bright ideas take off on Swoop We’ve all had those moments in work or at home when we’ve thought.. wouldn’t it be better if we did it this way. Now thanks to Swoop, you can share your Bright Ideas with your colleagues and could see them become a reality.

With news and announcements being updated almost every day, the new Ask Alison proving as popular as ever and more great features in the pipeline, Swoop is really taking off!

We’ve already had dozens of ideas coming in, covering every topic from car parking to Christmas pay. They’re now all on Swoop in our regular Ideas Blog, check it out in the blogging section or our Get Involved page. It’s just another way that your intranet is making things easier for you in the workplace...and that’s not all! The launch of Swoop Classifieds, just in time for Christmas, means you can pick up a bargain online, without worrying about getting outbid at the last minute, waiting for a parcel that doesn’t arrive or paying hefty prices to post your stuff to the Outer Hebrides! It’s simple to use, and has already proved really popular with more than 1500 views in its first week alone! The old T-Bay was one of the most popular features on the old Torfnet site and it was high on people’s list of features when Swoop was being built.



The Snow Patrols! As we’re only too aware, keeping our schools open during times of heavy snow can be quite a challenge and one of the main reasons for school closures is the safety of the school site and its accessibility in case of an emergency. Following a staff suggestion, the council is proposing drawing up a list of volunteers made by council employees who would, with Chief Officer permission, be redeployed to snow clearance at Torfaen schools. The scheme would be entirely voluntary (for staff and schools involved) and the council would hold a list of staff willing to take part. The list would also state in advance which schools staff would potentially be redeployed to. In a ‘snow emergency’, volunteers and school site managers would receive a text message and would then make their way to their designated school. Staff would then provide the equipment and guidance on which routes/paths they need cleared within the school grounds. Any work would adhere to the council’s policy ‘Guidance on Managing Snow/Ice at Council Premises’ and you won’t be required to clear snow beyond the school’s perimeter. Of course, it’ a physically demanding role, so anyone volunteering needs consider themselves physically fit for snow clearance, be suitably clothed and you may need to bring refreshments. If you would like to join the list, please contact Bob Crimp email bob.crimp@ on 01495 742608. You’ll need to provide your name, job title, service area, place of work, mobile telephone number and your home post code. Also if you could suggest the school that you would like to clear snow at which would ideally be within walking distance.



Staff Noticeboard t

what’s been going on over the pas couple of months

Survey resu lts publishe d The full

Latest staff benefits

service are a breakdow Survey is n n of the 20 ow availab 13 Employe le on Swoop e . The first h eadline resu lts were pub four weeks lished in Jul of the surv y, within ey closing. The more d etailed ana lysis has now and all chie been publis f officers/ hed h eads of se results for rvice have their areas had to address any specifi Overall there c issues. were many positive resu feedback. There is pos lts in the itive feedba respecting a ck about m nd anagers consulting on caring about the we llbe change an d valuing st ing of staff, are all key aff opinion drivers of s. These an engage importantly d workforc , are indica e, but most tors of sup effective m portive, fair anagemen and t. You can rea d about som e taken in re sponse to th of the actions that a re being e survey, p issues of b articularly ullyin around this issue of g and harassment a nd discrimin The Word. ation Look out for the new su rvey in mid -2014.

benefits that come Did you know there are lots of from being a Torfaen employee. the Me and My There’s a full list on Swoop in a few of the latest Workplace section, but here are offers: ool Indoor Market is Harris Fruit and Veg in Pontyp cent discount on all per offering Torfaen staff a 10 show your badge t Jus . orders, including the florists s. when purchasing your item ering corporate The Torfaen Leisure Trust is off ees at £28 per month membership for TCBC employ anytime use of which includes all classes plus l the fitness suite, swimming poo ive Act ool typ and spa at Pon Living Centre and Cwmbran Stadium. Call 01495 742222 or 01633 627100 for more information or visit TorfaenLeisureTrust

Don’t let the drink sneak up on you this Christmas… As we enter the Christm as party season, the message for staff is have fun, but ‘Don’t Let the Drink Sneak up on you’. The Change4Life Wale s Alcohol campaign, is raising aw areness of the risks of regular dri nking at levels many people ma y regard as harmless but which ca n actually cause up to 60 different health conditions. These include mouth, throat and lar yn x cancer, strokes, high blood pre ssure, liver damage, heart dis ease and reduced fertility.

How much is too much? • Aim to have at least 2 alcohol free days a week. • Women should not reg ularly drink more than 2 to 3 units a day - that’s no more tha na standard 175ml glass of wine (ABV 13%) • Men should not regula rly drink more than 3 to 4 units a day - that’s no more than a pint of strong lager, beer or cid er (ABV 5.2%)

Drinks Checker An easy to use, online calculator has been dev eloped to help people ide whether they are drinkin ntify g above these guideline s and to check their uni http://change4lifewale ts: l/drinks-checker Look for the link on Sw oop.



Life post-Peter With Peter Durkin retiring, the council has decided to delete the post of deputy chief executive and his duties have been reallocated to the following officers. The move will save £125,000 and there will be no pay increases for staff taking on extra duties. REALLOCATED

Alison Ward, chief executive:


• Supporting th e Leader for cabinet, counci l and other meetings • Line managem ent for Strategic and D emocratic Services REALLOCATED DUTIES

Christina Harrhy, chief officer, Neighbourhood Services: • Line Management of Corporate Risk and Emergency Management: • Director of SRS Business Solutions Ltd • Chair of Emergency Response Team ES TED DUTI REALLOCA


• Chair of Gove rnance Review Group

Nigel Aurelius, assistant chief executive (resources): • Cover for Alison in her absence • Chair of Capital Programme Review Board and Risk Management Working Group, • Board member of Shared Resource Service (SRS) (Public board) REALLOCATED

Matt Lewis, SRS Chief Oper


ating Officer:

• Chair of Inform ation Management Gr oup


Duncan Smith, chief officer, planning and public protection:

greve, Dave Con ecutive t chief ex assistan nities) (commu munity von Com ard • Blaena roject Bo Campus P

Lynda Willis, Chief Legal Offic e and Monitoring Offic er


• Chair of Gypsy Traveller Liaison Group



Richard Edmun ds, head of strategi c and democratic serv ices:


• Line Managem ent of Customer Servic es and Registration • Chair of ICT Pr ogramme Board



The Word Winter 2013  
The Word Winter 2013  

The magazine for Torfaen County Borough Council employees. In this issue: Farewell to Peter, Dignity in Work, MOT station, super savers, sno...