Saturday, 19 May 2012

Blank Cheques

The Welsh Government issued a promisingly titled White Paper the other day called 'Promoting Local Democracy', on inspection it does no such thing, not in Caebrwyn's eyes anyway. Largely concerned with setting up a new electoral boundary review commission there is little else to get excited about. Even the suggestion that Returning Officers, if also employed by the local authority (usually Chief Executives) should not be 'double-funded' during elections fall a bit flat when my requests for these expenses from Carmarthenshire Council have been consistently refused anyway. If you wish to be deeply underwhelmed, the Paper can be seen here (pdf)

More interesting however is the question of indemnities for legal costs for Members defending allegations of breaching the Code of Conduct. A cap of £20,000 is suggested after recent warnings by the ombudsman (post here) that such disputes are becoming increasingly costly.

Unlimited indemnities are effectively blank cheques provided by the taxpayer and, as the Paper says,
 "It is hard to see how that is a worthwhile use of public funds" Quite so.

However this statement is then qualified with this very vague and possibly expensive sentence;

"The cap would not apply to indemnities provided for other proceedings unrelated to breaches of the code of conduct".

Exactly what those 'other proceedings' might be is open to question and it appears that the Welsh Minister for Local Government, Carl Sargeant is a little confused over the whole issue of blank cheques and what exactly constitutes 'worthwhile use of public funds', particularly given his comments, originally reported by the Western Mail, earlier this year.

Carl Sargeant

"The Welsh Government has told a county council it should not use public money to pay for it’s chief executive to sue a blogger for libel...." (link here)

Which, of course, came after this.....'Carmarthenshire Council funds Mark James libel fight with blogger' (BBC Online)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scandalous - Public money spent on church sects, funding libel actions (not just defending them) and now a deliberate (and succesful attempt) to keep the largest party out of the counties administration. Mr Sargeant looks a bit of a bruiser - he really should throw some weight around here.

One thing though - the returning officer for the Police Commisioners election is the CE of Pembs. I wonder if they tossed a coin ?