Wednesday 26 February 2014

Nowhere to Run - tomorrow's meeting

Further to my update on yesterday's post and in case you missed last night's excellent Y Byd ar Bedwar programme investigating the council libel indemnity and pension scandals, it is available to view here, with subtitles, for a few weeks. It is well worth watching.

This week's South Wales Guardian again takes the local lead with extensive coverage of the 'unseemly mess', including another opinion piece;

"The eyes not just of Carmarthenshire but also the whole of Wales will be fixed on County Hall tomorrow (Thursday) when councillors meet to discuss the findings of the independent reports by the Wales Audit Office into "unlawful" payments made for the benefit of Chief Executive Mark James. 
Whatever transpires we fervently hope that the chaotic scenes witnessed at a recent meeting of Pembrokeshire council – when a London-based QC told several members they were unable to vote on a no confidence motion over unlawful payments having previously revealed their intentions to the press – will not be repeated. 
Leader Kevin Madge and two other senior figures are the subjects of a Plaid no confidence motion. Rather than blindly obeying party lines it is vitally important that each and every member coolly weighs up all the evidence put before them before deciding where to cast their vote. 
This is a matter for individual consciences – and all 74 members should remember that, ultimately, they will be judged by a watching public on their actions tomorrow. 
To put it starkly, there is nowhere to run – nowhere to hide. 
But far from wilting in the face of this heavy burden of responsibility, members should view tomorrow's meeting as a heaven-sent opportunity. 
For this forum will truly give them the opportunity to draw a line under this whole unseemly mess and claw back public confidence in County Hall which – in the light of recent events – is currently at an all-time low". (SW Guardian)

Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards has also spoken out again;

“This has been a dark cloud over Carmarthenshire Council for far too long, with a ruling cabal of senior officers and executive board who are clearly completely out of control.  The tactics they have deployed against political opponents and journalists who challenge their decisions border on the totalitarian and have no place in a democracy.

“It has taken the intervention of the Wales Audit Office to get to where we are.  But even now, in the aftermath of two damning independent reports, the tactic of Labour and Independent Councillors has been to undermine the integrity of the Audit Office and launch personal attacks on opposition politicians.

“Following the reports’ publication we should have seen immediate resignations by the implicated senior officers and three Councillors who now face a no confidence motion.  In refusing to act honourably I felt that it was my elected duty as a Member of Parliament to ask the Police to investigate the matter.

“With Carmarthenshire Council’s ruling cabal in complete denial about the seriousness of matter, I call on backbench Councillors of all groups to vote with their conscience on Thursday.  It is their elected duty to stand up for the people of the County and restore public confidence in County Hall.

“I am sure the people of Carmarthenshire will, like me, be watching events closely. There will be no hiding place for those Councillors that vote to ignore public sentiment and keep the old regime in place" (From Jonathan Edwards' website and also reported in the SW Guardian; 'Future of Council leader hangs in the balance')
 I shall be attending tomorrow's council meeting and observing from the public gallery. As I said in an earlier post, I do not believe that the council have any other option than to accept the recommendations within the auditor's reports. With regards to the libel indemnity, the recommendation is that, "The council should rescind the decision and withdraw the indemnity granted to the Chief Executive". The agenda is here.

I understand that the Motions of No Confidence have triggered several intensive 'strategy' meetings to try and save the careers of Cllrs Madge, Gravell and Palmer. It will be interesting to hear the list of apologies read out at the start of the meeting. Whether or not there will be a sudden flu epidemic amongst the Labour group, we'll have to see.

The Plaid group have asked for the no confidence votes to be recorded and I expect the votes on the WAO reports will be as well.

Amongst the questions which will be asked, it would be interesting to know the exact date when the libel 'indemnity' stopped....and perhaps we will all be enlightened as to the terms and conditions of Mr James' 'stand down'. Whether there will be any calls for his official suspension and that of Linda Rees Jones at tomorrow's meeting, again, we'll have to see. Presumably the police are continuing with their enquiries.

The acting Head of Law, Linda Rees Jones will not be there, whether this relates to her total involvement in all things deemed unlawful or some sort of declarable interest, we don't know. Or perhaps she's having her hair done. I understand that senior solicitor Robert Edgecombe will take over as monitoring officer for the day.

Mr Kerr QC will also be in attendance at the request of Kevin Madge, to defend the council's position, estimated cost £6000 - £8000. Quite whether his role will be as controversial as the Pembrokeshire fiasco we'll have to see. I imagine lessons will have been learned all round after that meeting.

As long as there are no 'technical hitches', the meeting will be webcast here

As a brief anecdote, you will recall that at the January 23rd 2012 Executive Board meeting when the indemnity was granted, the Members, including leader of the Independent group Pam Palmer, apparently decided that they knew *all about* demon blogger Jacqui Thompson.

Around 12 weeks later, on May 4th to be exact, with the libel case continuing,  the said blogger was at the count for the Carmarthenshire Council local elections as I had stood for election.

It was impossible, even with Pam Palmer's trained eye, to predict who was going to win the Cilycwm seat by looking at the little piles of ballot papers. To my utter astonishment, just before they were counted, Cllr Palmer sidled up to the demon blogger and quietly suggested that if I won, I might like to consider joining her 'Independent Group'...not that I needed to mention this little conversation on 'blogs or anything'. Scarred for life after the brief encounter, I duly returned home and mentioned it on my blog. Of course. Quite an exceptional circumstance.

Deputy leader Cllr Pam Palmer

Council Leader Cllr Kevin Madge

Former leader Cllr Meryl Gravell
The No Confidence Motion;“That Carmarthenshire County Council declares it has no confidence in Council Leader Cllr Kevin Madge, Deputy Leader Cllr Pam Palmer and former Leader Cllr Meryl Gravell as they were members of the Executive Board which made the decisions deemed to be ‘unlawful’ by the Wales Audit Office in its Report, and remain members of the present Executive Board.”


Anonymous said...

Shame on you Cllrs Madge, Palmer and Gravell!

Anonymous said...

I should imagine that if you stand again, Jacquie, you will be able to form your own group of REAL independents. Though MP is where you should be aiming! Stop the rot at the top AND bottom!

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Anon 12:48. Jacqui- we need someone like you to restore the good name of Carmarthenshire. Why not stand for CC and MP?

I am ashamed of the poor conduct and wastefulness at County Hall

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear anon 13:48.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for being slightly off topic: But a couple of weeks ago it was mentioned that ACTING head of Law Linda Rees Jones accused Cllr Sian Caiach of breaching the Code of Conduct????

Could anyone advise which webcast and the time this occurred, I've watched several but can’t seem to pin-point it.

I would be very grateful to anyone that could help, as accusing someone of breaching their CoC, (as well as not reporting it) is in itself a breach of the CoC and the Ombudsman said they would be keen to have more detail on this.

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 15:57
Ms Rees Jones suggests to Cllr Caiach that she considers her position with regards to the code of conduct as she was a witness in the libel trial. As was Ms Rees Jones.
Webcast; February 12th @ 01:52:39

Martin Lewis said...

I watched part of the broadcast today. I'm from Pembrokeshire and I was embarrassed for Cllr Madge.

We've got some idiots down here in Pembs but this guy you've got leading your mob is almost incoherent.

I only know schoolbook Welsh but I could understand some of the Welsh speakers more than I could understand Madge's English.

The opposition in Pembs seems more robust also and as the majority of the ruling group is so much narrower we're hoping a few of the ruling IPG mob can be turned for our vote on 6th March.

Anonymous said...

Are you OK Jacquie: not like you to not report

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 11.42
Yes I'm ok thanks, will blog soon.