Wednesday 6 November 2013

'Unlawful' payments - Next week's agenda..

The Agenda for next week's full council meeting has just been published. It is the very meeting during which the 'unlawful' payments will be 'fully debated', according to council leader Kevin Madge in last week's South Wales Guardian;

'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.”
(My post here)

Looking at the agenda you might be led to believe that they'd forgotten all about it. The only clue to the fact there may be debate is if you track down to Item 10; 'Receive the reports of meetings of the following committees', where second on the list at 10.2 is 'Audit Committee held on 27th September', where the 'unlawful' payments first came to public light.
Neither are there any 'necessary papers', as promised by Kev, available online.

Of course it's quite a long agenda and one hopes that three hours haven't passed before Item 10.2 comes up, or there is the danger that the audit meeting report will be hastily swept through in time for lunch. I suspect that some will be hoping that those watching the webcast will have drifted off long before the item comes up. You may remember the 'webcast' preamble at the last meeting delivered by the Chief Executive which included a new warning that the broadcast could be stopped at any time. Perhaps it should also be noted that it is the Chief Executive who has the final say as to what is placed, or not placed, on the agenda, and the draft minutes of previous meetings are passed by his office for approval.

The other danger of course is that senior officers are not happy with the format of council meetings, and continue to stress that these committee reports are NOT FOR DISCUSSION, only to be 'received'. As Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM said last month, the chief executive hopes to remove the opportunity for executive decisions to be scrutinised at full council anyway.

Having said all that, I am confident that there are councillors, even if it's just a few, who will not let this matter pass without question. We will have to wait and see. We will also have to wait and see whether the Wales Audit Office issues a Public Interest Report in time for next Wednesday so that the councillors who were promised a 'full debate' are armed with both sides of the story.

There's a week to go until the meeting, if there are any further developments, I'll post them here.

(for previous posts please use the searchbox on the right - 'unlawful payments' are probably the best search terms)


Anonymous said...

Let us hope that the local government minister Lesley Griffiths uses some of her precious time to tune in to watch and listen.

After all she appears to believe the Welsh Government's 'Model Complaints Policy' put in place for all local authorities in order the public get can have a complaint addressed fairly with probity and transparency - works!!!

If councillors cannot get questions debated and answered, how on earth does she sincerely believe - we - members of the public are going to!

Time for a wake up call Ms. Griffiths.

Anonymous said...

Time and time again we are reading about people becoming disillusioned by inaction of the welsh government.
I have known people being sent back to local councils to the very people who created the problem in the first place.