Thursday, 3 July 2014

Mark James writes to the troops....

(Update 4th July 2014; See Libel indemnities on the agenda..and still unlawful; The Welsh Government has not given the council, nor Mr James the 'all clear'over the libel indemnity at all. Contrary to what Mr James says in his staff newsletter below.


For the second time in twelve months, chief executive Mark James has used the council staff newsletter, Y Gair, as a vent for his personal agenda and also to reject completely the findings of the Wales Audit Office.

If I were a member of staff receiving such a message as this from the boss, I might seriously question the state of mind of the author.

Mr James confirms, with the phrase 'on behalf of officers', that he was indeed acting as proxy for the council. Councils cannot sue for libel.

I am also astonished that, according to this, the Welsh Government agree with the council over the indemnity issue - this is potentially a very dangerous situation.

However, I understand that the Welsh Government's opinion on this matter will be on the agenda for next week's full council meeting.

Mr James also fails to mention that he was the only one who took advantage of the pension tax avoidance 'scheme' which has been stopped "for now". I wonder how the low-paid taxpaying staff at the council feel about such perks?

"A political row"? "Minor matters"? Words fail me.

As neither the council nor Mr James accept the findings of the Wales Audit Office, which still stand, they will have no problem with the fact that I refuse to accept the rulings of the judge.

I have copied it in its entirety as clearly this farce looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. I wish the WLGA 'governance review panel' the best of luck, as you can see, they've got an uphill battle;

Y Gair

It has been some months since I have penned an article for Y Gair.  During that time, the Council found itself in the headlines and in the middle of a political row.  As with all such matters people take the opportunity to grab media attention for their own ends, irrespective of the facts of the matter.

There were two matters raised by the Wales Audit Office.  The first was whether the Council could indemnify an officer in respect of proceedings for defamation.  The legal advice the Council had from two QC’s (sic) was very clear, it could indemnify its’ (sic) officers in exceptional cases.  They granted that indemnity to me, as Chief Executive, on behalf of the officers, to not only defend an action for defamation brought by a local blogger, but to counter sue.

Following a six day trial last year, the blogger’s action against the Council was thrown out in its entirety.  In turn, she was found guilty of unlawful defamation, harassment, attempting to pervert the course of justice and generally being so dishonest that her own insurance company cancelled the policy to underwrite her legal action and the judge said that he would not believe a word she said unless it was backed up by evidence, other than her own words.

The Council has refused to accept the Wales Audit Office report and has subsequently confirmed with Welsh Government that  the Council does have the powers to grant such indemnities.  The Auditor was wrong in the Council’s view.

On the second matter, the Council had agreed to make a payment to senior officers equivalent to pension contributions where such officers were forced to leave the pension scheme because of new restrictions by the Government.  This was on condition it did not cost the Council any money.  Many employers make similar arrangements and whilst of itself not intrinsically unlawful, there were some procedural deficiencies in how the decision was taken and the Council decided to withdraw this scheme for now.

Some politicians felt there had been criminal wrongdoing and asked the police to investigate.  This they did and were subsequently fully satisfied that there had been no such wrongdoing.  I said publicly at the time that I was utterly convinced that no officers had done anything wrong, but in order that no one could subsequently allege that I had attempted to influence any investigation I would be “out of office” until the matter was concluded.

Can I place on record my sincere thanks and appreciation for all of you who got in touch, by email, letter, card, phone or in person, to offer your support.  It was very much appreciated.

The  Council can hopefully put this hiatus behind it and now move on.  The Council has excellent services which are highly valued by our residents.  Our Education and Social Care services are second to none.  Our investment in housing is delighting our tenants and in schools, is delighting teachers and students alike.

Our refuse and cleansing services are the envy of many councils and our fantastic regeneration of our County is widely respected across Wales and England.

I am extremely proud of what we together have achieved in Carmarthenshire and I am certainly not prepared to allow our County to be talked down because of these minor matters.

Mark James


Anonymous said...

Minor matters? Mr James received around £50k in unlawful payments. This is three times the annual salary for most people. I have never seen such arrogance.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"I'm nuts" would have been an equal yes far less wordy article.

Mrs Angry said...

The tone of James' statement is quite extraordinary. He is an employee of a local authority, and its servant, not an elected member, and such personalised remarks really are not what one should expect from a senior officer.

It seems to me, from observing the events of the last couple of years, and from watching the way in which council meetings are conducted, that the distinction between political office and elected representatives in Carmarthenshire has become dangerously confused, and needs to be redefined.

This is not a criticism of any one individual so much as of a failure by the elected members, and whoever is the majority party, to assert control of the democratic process with a clear political vision and authority.

Failure to do so creates a vacuum, a deficit, into which non elected senior management will necessarily step in and assume more responsibility than it should - we have seen this in Barnet, and no doubt it is a fairly common tendency in local government.

Tessa said...

There is no doubt in my mind - the bloke is a classic definition of a "Psychopath" boss.
Should anyone be in doubt, enter the term into your search engine.
There must be a cult of personality there within that council that continues to allow him to rampage where the sensible and logical would fear to tread.

Anonymous said...

Any hopes that Mr James might have acquired a measure of humility, or that he might have re-assessed his role and "management style" during his voluntary absence from office, have clearly been dashed.

This self-congratulatory, unabashed and delusional polemic is a signal to the troops that it's "business as usual". So all those CCC employees who have had no pay rise for years, can rejoice in the prospect that Mr James's well-deserved pension top ups may yet see the light of day.

Three cheers for the Chief!