Wednesday 5 March 2014

Carmarthenshire Council scandals - Today's papers

Today's Carmarthen Journal covers last Thursday's Extraordinary council meeting which discussed the two Wales Audit office reports. The financial irregularities are currently being investigated by Gloucestershire Police.

It leads with the possibility that the Chief Executive, Mark James may have to repay nearly £29,000 unlawfully acquired via the pension tax dodge. Of course, despite 'stepping aside' from the post, to the Journal, he is still the 'Council Chief'.

(Pic; Carmarthen Journal)

The paper reports that a cross-party group of councillors is being established to look at the pension scandal and that the possibility of repayment will be discussed, a move backed by Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards. 

The libel indemnity, as we know, is a different matter. The Labour/Ind councillors refused to 'accept' the report and voted merely to 'note' it. (see 'Thursday's Extraordinary meeting'). According to Cllr Madge the council will seek (more) legal advice relating to the lawfulness of libel indemnity payments and set up yet another group to examine it...

However, despite not 'accepting' the report, the indemnity has now been stopped and the clause in the Constitution suspended. (see 'Libel cost Amendment').

I was also present throughout the meeting and it is a shame that the reporter from the Journal didn't ask me for a comment on the day, particularly as I was named several times during the meeting. Never mind, I've still got my blog, just about.

The Journal also contemplates the future and that;
Blogger Jacqui Thompson remains liable for the costs and Carmarthenshire Council maintains the authority will not be expected to bear any costs as the High Court judgement went against her.
Blogger Jacqui Thompson currently has an Order against her totalling around £255,000.
No comment.

For information; as the position stands at the moment, my outstanding appeal relating to Mr James' counterclaim will be heard on either the 30th April or the 1st of May at the Court of Appeal. 

Anyway, I'll leave you for now with the independent opinion of today's South Wales Guardian;

          'It's a funny old world...
On Thursday, members of the public, representatives of the press and a couple of thousand observers watching via Carmarthenshire County Council's webcam, were treated to the grisly spectacle of Independent and Labour (yes, Labour) seeking to justify a tax avoidance scheme for their £180,000-a-year chief executive against the backdrop of thousands of potential job losses, swingeing cuts to public services and steep rises in sports pitch charges. 
Anyone doubting the strength of public feeling on this issue should look no further than this week's letters column – people are not just concerned about the depressingly predictable events in County Hall, they are very angry indeed. 
Given the fact that councillors voted strictly on party lines what exactly was the point of Thursday's six-hour meeting anyway? Members obviously knew how they were going to vote when they filed into the council chamber so why persist in such a stage-managed charade? 
We had hoped our elected representatives would vote according to their individual consciences.This, we had argued, was their big chance to stand up for their electorate Instead they well and truly blew it. 
The immediate crisis enveloping Carmarthenshire County Council may have receded, but such collective cowardice will come at a high price. 
The public have long memories and – come the local elections in May 2017 – councillors will find the decisions they reached last week coming back to haunt them. 
If Thursday was a sad day for democracy, it was an even sadder day for Carmarthenshire." (South Wales Guardian)
Update 20.34
Jonathan Edwards MP, who spoke after the meeting, is quoted in the Journal;
"When the Wales Audit Office reports were published almost a month ago, the Labour and Independent executive were intent on challenging the report findings and disputing the lawfulness of granting an indemnity to the chief Executive. 
"Today, having been dragged kicking and screaming, the council has voted to remove the indemnity from its constitution. 
This is something both I and Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM have pushed in Westminster and the Assembly for the best part of four years [As I have, since 2008. Ed], and we're very pleased with that achievement. 
"The council did not, however, vote to withdraw the indemnity already granted to the Chief Executive.
I believe the council could still be liable for any costs which may not be recovered. 
"The people of Carmarthenshire will find it deeply regrettable that the Labour and Independent councillors have shown no remorse today on their decision to spend the best part of £30,000 of taxpayers' money for the benefit of the chief executive's legal costs."

As for this week's readers letters, there is one mildly critical of Kevin Madge in the Journal, but the SW Guardian published no less than four with titles such as 'Sitting like Zombies', 'Backing Tax Avoidance' and 'A Complete Farce'. You get the drift.


Anonymous said...

I may be an old cynic but come May 2017 most people in Carmarthenshire - even those with long memories - won't get off their backsides to vote. Those that do will still vote Labour because that's what they've always done.
There is something deeply disturbing in a socialist led council supporting a tax avoidance scheme for one of the highest paid employees in Wales but most people just don't understand what is being done with their money by the people we vote for and pay for.

Wavell said...

If the indemnity is found to be illegal then certainly Mr.James should pay his own costs.
And since I doubt if Mr.James would have considered risking the counterclaim out of his own pocket I feel that CCC should do the right thing and pay the whole lot.
Of course Kevin and his gang will not like this but I am pretty sure the angry public would rather that than see the money going into Council coffers to maybe fund more dodgy things. Just remember Kevin, you are there to support your electorate, that is what you get your ridiculous £50,000 for.
It is certainly time that we got rid of this Labour/Indie dictatorship (No, I am not Plaid dedicated) and get some real and honest democracy back into Carmarthenshire.

caebrwyn said...

Interesting how the newspapers report Mr James' unlawful pension payments;

The Journal; '..the sum chief Executive Mark James received in lieu of pension contributions.'

And, saying it how it is, the SW Guardian; '...a tax avoidance scheme for their £180,000-a-year chief executive'

Anonymous said...

Where did the name "Guardian" newspaper originate from? Because right now it signifies the Guardian of the people ... the peoples guardian.

I would love to shake the person by the hand who wrote the opinion.


Anonymous said...

Does Kevin Madge really get £50,000?!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You can see why Mr Madge is not disposed to resign ...