Thursday 18 October 2012

Chief Executive enters the Sainsbury's fray

The Sainsbury's/misuse of council resources row continues and the Chief Executive has responded to the complaints from the MP and AM, Jonathan Edwards and Rhodri Glyn Thomas. Their complaint has also gone to the Ombudsman. Mr Edwards has also accused the Chief Executive of blocking the debate and attended last week's full council meeting where attempts to introduce some democratic debate on the subject were further prevented.

As I have said, both the AM and MP have complained that the offending council press article was inaccurate, misleading, possibly defamatory and an inappropriate use of council resources.

The Chief Executive however, has now entered the fray and responded with a denial that there was anything wrong with the article at all, and that it's publication on the council website, as a joint statement by the Leader of the Council in conjunction with the applicants, Sainsbury's, was a perfectly reasonable use of council resources....

As reported in yesterday's Journal, Mr Edwards begged to differ.

Council boss speaks out in stores row

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

THE chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council has entered the row over a Welsh Government decision to call in two planning applications for Sainsbury's stores in Llandeilo and Cross Hands.

Plaid Cymru AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas and MP Jonathan Edwards complained to the council after Labour leader Kevin Madge issued a statement via its press office blaming them for playing a part in the delay.

They said it was not appropriate for Mr Madge to have used the council's press department to issue the statement and disputed they had made representations about the Cross Hands store — which they said was not in their constituency.

This week chief executive Mark James replied saying he disagreed the release was misleading, inaccurate or contained false accusations.

He also defended the role of the press office in releasing it. "It is my view that the leader of the council, acting in that capacity, is quite entitled to use the council's press office to give such views," he said.

But speaking to the Journal this week Mr Edwards said: "You can't make very controversial statements using public funds and then not back it up. My advice to anyone who finds themselves in a hole is to stop digging"

The South Wales Guardian, unlike the Carmarthen Journal, is still bravely resisting the hostile take over bid by County Hall. The council's recent threats were featured, back in August, in the Rotten Borough section of Private Eye. Plucky journalist Steve Adams (who must have been in the Chamber last week, maybe in disguise) has given an accurate account of the attempt by Plaid to introduce the Sainsbury's debate, which as we know was thwarted at every turn by the Chief Executive and the Head of Law;

"...........Plaid Cymru had attempted to question the role of the Labour led council's press office in the debacle at last week's full council meeting only to be told their motion failed to make the agenda due to an error in the accompanying documentation [no date].
Undeterred and with MP Jonathan Edwards watching from the public gallery, Plaid's Darren Price tried to raise the issue during talks on the County Council's annual report and improvement plan.
In what was expected to be a rubber stamping of the report, Cllr Price looked to use the section entitled 'Making Better Use of Council Resources' to lambast the authority's media mouthpiece for "facilitating inaccurate and party politically motivated attacks"
"This was a misuse of council resources" claimed Cllr Price.
However. council Chief Executive Mark James and monitoring officer Linda Rees Jones acted swiftly to halt Cllr Price in his tracks.
"This does not relate to the performance plan" said Mr James....."

And so it went on and finished with a quote from Mr Edwards who claimed the meeting was "a clear indication that the chief executive was going out of his way to stifle debate on the issue"

(The full article is now online and can be read here)

Another point of confusion arose at that meeting over the councillors right to reply. In normal circumstances a councillor has a right to reply if another councillor names them. But the rules are not clear whether a councillor has that right when named by an officer. This was the dilemma faced by the Chair when Cllr Caiach requested the right after Mr James went on the attack because she raised concerns about the state of the economy in the county. The Chair refused, but of course, and again under normal circumstances, and as I understand it,  the chief executive isn't supposed to join in the political slanging matches in the Chamber, he's just supposed to offer factual advice, if asked.
Carmarthenshire breaks the mold yet again....


nospin said...

Let us hope RGT and JE stay all over them like a rash, the FREE press( as in incontrolled by the council)will report their involvement, soi we get both sides of the "story".

It is only with the involvement of such representative that there is any chance of this dictatorial council executive being defeated and hopefully dismissed.

Cneifiwr said...

Not only was the press release misleading, inaccurate and guilty of making false accusations, but the Chief Executive has now helpfully proved Jonathan Edwards' second point about the politicisation of the council's senior officers.

Anonymous said...

Do we have to have a Ch.Exec.????