Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mark James - 'Not to have contact with any member of staff'

As Gloucestershire police continue with their investigations, further information relating to the elusive details of the terms and conditions of Mark James' 'stand down' emerge.

The front page of tomorrow's South Wales Guardian, which has just been tweeted, reports on the latest developments. As we know, Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards has been calling for 'ministerial intervention' regarding Mr James' role as local Returning Officer in the forthcoming European elections. (see call for ministerial intervention here, and for the Parliamentary Questions tabled to the Cabinet Office, here)
Mr James' fee for the role of Returning Officer is around £20,000 (see update below).

Mr Edwards states;
“The public may well have questions about the suitability of the Chief Executive to undertake the role of Local Returning Officer while the police investigate whether any criminal activity has taken place. 

“Whilst not dismissing those concerns, for me the matter boils down to whether the Chief Executive can undertake the role logistically and maintain the integrity of a police investigation whilst not at his desk.

“Councillors have been told the Chief Executive is not to have contact with any member of staff – it is therefore impossible to see how he can conduct the election properly if that is indeed the case.

“The complete lack of leadership and the failure to formally suspend the Chief Executive in the first place – for the benefit of both the Council and Mr James himself – has left so many important questions unanswered.  It has highlighted further uncertainties about his departure, has potentially compromised the position of staff who must follow his instructions as election officer, and has the potential to undermine the integrity of a police investigation.

“It is because of these serious matters that I have requested intervention from the UK Cabinet Office which coordinates the European election.”
(Jonathan Edwards website)


With regards to the legal costs incurred by the council to defend the pension scandal a Freedom of Information response states that the '2013 Advice on the pay supplement policy was £11,935'.

This figure, nearly £12,000, appears to be just for the written document from Mr Kerr QC. It doesn't include cost of the original advice from Total Rewards Project Ltd in 2011, nor the cost of Mr Kerr's attendance at the Extraordinary meeting on the 27th, nor the officer time taken up with defending the scandal.
The claim that the 'pension arrangement' will not cost the authority a penny seems a little wide of the mark.

Nor does the cost include, of course, Mr Kerr's advice concerning the libel indemnity. Or Mr Goudie's from 2008.

The cost of the January 2012 legal advice relating to the counterclaim from Mr Adam Speker, lawyer for Mr James and the council in the libel case, which the council claim was 'independent', is also unknown.


The Local Returning Officer fee for the European election is, I understand, around £5000.

A FOI request was made at the end of February for the cost of the Total Rewards Project Ltd advice in 2011; Mr Kerr's November 2013 advice on the libel indemnity and the total cost to the authority, including expenses, of his attendance at the meeting on the 27th February.
A response is due by the 28th March.


Anonymous said...

£5000 for doing something that should be expected of any and every council's Chief Clerk (because that is what a Chief Executive Officer of a council really is).

Anonymous said...

It is widely known within county hall that Mark James is in regular contact with his officers.

Wavell said...

If Returning Officer is not part of his CE duties then why are the Council giving him time off to do it, and pay him extra.
They should deduct the Returning Officer payment from his salary to compensate for lost man hours.
In reply to Anon 09:11 then maybe the Councillors should apply for permission to monitor his eMails and any incoming calls from him.
What is good for the goose is good for the gander.