Monday 7 October 2013

Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Caerphilly - updates

The Llanelli Star has a brief update this evening concerning the continuing 'stand off' between Carmarthenshire Council and the Wales Audit Office over the pension scandal and the libel indemnity. Here's an extract;

The Wales Audit Office could go to the courts over the legality of a Carmarthenshire Council payment involving pension contributions and a pledge to pay court costs of a libel case against a blogger.

As a stand-off continues between the audit office and council, a spokeswoman for the Wales Audit Office said further information relating to the issues could be made public by the appointed auditor.

She said: “He is considering issuing public interest reports to provide the public with detail on the matters of concern.

“This would also give the council an opportunity to respond formally and publicly to his concerns.

 “If the council continues to oppose his view he will also have to consider whether to apply to the courts for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful.”

Neither steps are definite at this stage according to the audit office.

Wales Audit Office says an indemnity granted to council chief executive Mark James for libel action against blogger Jacqui Thompson was unlawful.

As the WAO says, nothing is definite at this stage but it reads to me like the appointed auditor is sticking to his guns.
As news slowly emerges all eyes will be on Wednesday's full council meeting to see if the unlawful payments are allowed given any sort of airing. Failing any 'technical issues', the meeting is scheduled to start at 10am (link here)

As Cneifiwr points out today there should be plenty to occupy the WAO mini-digger and we can be certain there are more bodies buried on Jail Hill.
I'm sure regular readers of both blogs will heartily agree.

8th October;
On Twitter;
Jonathan Edwards MP; ‏@JonathanPlaid @Plaid_Cymru Cllrs on Carms right to demand statement from CCC Leader in tomorrow's full council in relation to 'unlawful' payments

The South Wales Guardian has updated it's website with Plaid's demand for a statement from Kevin Madge at tomorrow's meeting. Leader of the Plaid group Peter Hughes Griffiths said "Given the potentially grave nature of these allegations it is obviously vital that our members are told just what exactly is going on"

Given that Cllr Griffiths recognises the 'potentially grave nature of these allegations' I would have thought that the Plaid group would have followed Pembrokeshire's lead and called for the suspension of those involved whilst the matters are independently investigated.
If Kevin Madge does give a statement it will be nothing more than a rehash of last week's council's press release though it could possibly, just possibly, open up something of a debate....


The latest news from Pembrokeshire where the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry Jones is also under fire over the (in this case, single) issue of the same tax dodge pension scandal as Carmarthenshire's CEO, is that the Chair of the Council has refused to call an extraordinary meeting. 

The Labour group leader, Cllr Paul Miller requested the meeting last week for a vote for the suspension of the Chief Executive but predicted at the time that the Independent Group (similar bunch to Pam Palmer's Indie group at County Hall) would try and stall it. The Chair, Cllr Arwyn Wiiliams is a member of the Independent Group.

The Pembrokeshire Herald has further details and, with a full council meeting listed for the 17th October states that;

'a  vote over the immediate suspension of the Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council is still certain to take place'.

Update 8th October;
Pembrokeshire Councillor Jacob Williams provides further information;
We know that the pension arrangements in 2011 were exclusive to only Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire and, conveniently it seems, the defensive legal advice sought after the WAO raised the alarm in August 2013 was also a joint arrangement.
Cllr Williams has requested copies of the legal opinion for Members to study prior to a vote to suspend the Chief Executive.
Unsurprisingly this has been refused, partly on the grounds that the 'opinion' is also owned by Carmarthenshire who haven't given their permission and also on the grounds that it may prejudice any future court action between the two authorities and the WAO.


Meanwhile, the Western Mail reports on developments at Caerphilly Council today as the extent and details of the unlawful payments is revealed. The Chief Executive and deputy were arrested in July under suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office as part of an ongoing investigation. The Council's accounts have just been published;

"and a Note to the Accounts states that "Certain officers, including the chief executive, who would have been – and were – beneficiaries of the decision were present throughout the meeting to approve the salary increases. No declarations of interest were made and these officers did not leave the room while the decision was made. In doing so, they participated in the decision-making process." 

The BBC has also covered the story. 

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