Wednesday 30 October 2013

'Unlawful' payments - A full debate?

This week's South Wales Guardian reports that Council leader Kevin Madge has again promised a 'full debate' over the 'unlawful' payments at the next council meeting on the 13th November;

Kevin Madge pledges debate over allegations against Carmarthenshire county council

'Carmarthenshire County Council leader Kevin Madge has repeated his pledge that there will be “a full debate” on two transactions involving chief executive Mark James at next month’s meeting of full council.

The Wales Audit Office has alleged the granting of a £23,217 indemnity to pay Mr James’ costs in his libel case and counter claim against blogger Jacqui Thompson, plus £16,353 paid in lieu of pension contributions, are unlawful.

The county council maintains it sought legal advice prior to the payments being made and that both transactions were lawful.

Cllr Madge has now stressed the importance of a debate on how and why the transactions were made. “The public have a right to know and we will make all the necessary papers available,” he told the Guardian. “We clearly need a debate on this – and I look forward to that debate.”

We have yet to see how this will be presented on the agenda or whether Cllr Madge and co are merely trying to avoid any unpleasant Motions which may hit the fan in the Chamber next month.
Let's hope by 'full debate' Cllr Madge actually means 'we'll hear both sides of the argument' because given his statement above it's not looking likely. I suspect that in the full glare of the webcams this is going to be a very carefully choreographed exercise.

The public have the right to know all sides of this story not merely the council's own justification. The issue is not 'how' and 'why' the transactions were made, the issue is that they were 'unlawful'. Will 'all necessary papers' include the legal advice given to the council at the time of both decisions and commissioned since the appointed auditor's findings? Will representatives from the appointed auditor's office be invited to attend and give their views? Hopefully the auditors will have published a Public Interest Report into the matter by then which will shed further light on the issues. It will also be interesting to see whether any declarations of interest are made.

I wonder what Eric Pickles MP is making of these recent developments? Back in March he said he was "deeply unhappy" about the "tendency" for local authorities to use the "resources of the public" to take legal action....


Anonymous said...

To be fair if the council are going to give their side, it's up to the audit office to tell us what's going on. Where is the public interest report?

Anonymous said...

Things to think about...