Monday 10 November 2014

Unison statement on Mark James' pay off

Statement issued Monday 10th November from Unison Carmarthenshire:

"It has been publicly declared that Mark James CEO of Carmarthenshire County Council has applied for severance. When the CEO of the fourth most populous county in Wales applies for severance particularly given recent events this is of interest to the public and our members. 

Unison is by far the biggest union in Carmarthenshire County Council and we have been asked by many members to comment in the media about these developments.

We start by saying that our branch has consistently advocated that Carmarthenshire County Council needed to operate in a more transparent and open manner. We warned about making decisions behind closed doors and having pre-executive meetings where in effect the decisions were made with the Executive meeting ratifying and making official the decision that already made. 

Away from the public’s gaze this way of running the council is in our opinion undemocratic and clearly could leaand has led to decisions being made by a few individuals without proper scrutiny. We believe these decisions were a result of this culture and the effect of giving so much power to the CEO by the Independent led and Labour led councils 

From some councillors and ex-council leaders we have witnessed what can only be described as hero worship. Mark James was paid (in our opinion) extremely generously- his pay is virtually the same as the Cardiff Council CEO. Cardiff has a population of 351,000 and Carmarthen has a population of 184,000! 

To put it another way the CEO of Carmarthenshire County Council is virtually paid around a pound a year for each resident of Carmarthenshire. Unison has highlighted the pay the CEO receives compared to the low pay many of our members receive (70% of Local Government workers earn less than £21,000 a year.) 

Many of them earn a lot less -often members have two or three jobs in a school to earn a lot less than the CEO would receive in payment for being the presiding Officer in an election year! For many of our part- time members they would have to work for three years to earn the amount the Chief Executive was given as a lump sum because his pension pot was full. 

This option is not available to those of our members who find themselves in the same positionSome ex-council leaders have claimed Mr James has earned every penny -we can all recall being told by Meryl Gravell that Mark James was the best CEO in Wales

From their perspective the CEO by acting as their spin doctor has earned his money however that would not be the view of the majority of our members or we suspect the public. 

The CEO has never been shy of promoting himself and his picture had adorned many a page of the local newspapers and internal correspondence in the council material sent to employees. Unfortunately the CEO has been receiving publicity for all the wrong reasons recently- the spin doctor has become the story and we all know what results when that happens. 

Whether the CEO was ill advised or did not listen to advice we believe some fundamental errors of judgement have been made recently- the decision to counter sue Jackie Thompson for libel for one and the decision to be given around £29,000 tax free because his pension pot was full another. While many of our members would have to work a number of years to earn that kind of money the Executive Board could not see how granting this would be seen as unfair by our members

Mr James was no fan of the trade unions and in particular Unison who have been to the fore in fighting the cuts. Unison successfully stopped this attempt to stifle our ability to defend our members’ interests. 

But this attack sums up the predicament that the Labour led council got themselves into -Mark James was it seemed directing councillors decisions but it was Kevin Madge as council leader that was having quite rightly to take the responsibility for these decisions. 

Unison have highlighted our concerns about the governance (how the CCC was being run) of CCC for years. Recently the Welsh Local Government Association was asked by CCC to conduct a peer review of CCC and published a report into its Governance

While CCC asked for this we think this was the result of the adverse publicity CCC had received. This public document states that ‘despite the council’s ambition, the council must address a number of significant constitutional and cultural barriers’. (WLGA Review). 

Given that this is a peer review it is in our opinion a very critical of some of the governance of CCC. How else would you interpret 39 recommendations! Carmarthenshire Labour Led Council states that it has the ambition of becoming ‘the most open and transparent Council in Wales’. A laudable aim but if Carmarthenshire County Council is to have its own ‘glasnost’ we would agree with the review that there would need to be a significant cultural and behavioural change to achieve this

We and the public will judge by results and we wait to see if the council’s leadership attitude to openness extends to the trade unions

Our Branch at our last AGM had a vote of no confidence in the CEO and the Executive and we feel our stance has been vindicated by events. The Executive summary of the above report commented that the perception ‘has been that the Chief Executive and senior officers have dominated some of the decisions of the Executive board to the extent that the balance of governance has become disjointed and the council is widely perceived to be officer-led’. 

We could quote copiously from the above report but perhaps the elected council leadership should take a good hard look at this report and draw the necessary conclusions. We do not assert that the CEO did not achieve good things but surely that should be expected, unfortunately he will not be remembered for the good things he did.

If Mr James was successful in this application for severance it would mean many others would not get it. The question needs to be asked who gets priority. We have been told the Full council will make the decision. 

We believe that Mr James would not be applying for severance if he did not think he would get it. If he was unsuccessful he would still have to go as you cannot have a CEO in place who has indicated they want to leave. The council needs to open and transparent about the process of severance and the public and employees need to know how the decision is arrived at.

We think the CEO has a chance to leave a lasting legacy and that is not to take severance but to resign and leave the significant sum he would have received to keep services such as youth services from suffering cuts."

Carmarthenshire County UNISON Branch Committee


If you wish to, and have not already done so, please sign and share the petition to not pay disgraced chief executive Mark James a golden handshake. 


On the subject of cuts, one of the 'councillor questions' listed for Wednesday's meeting slates the Welsh Government for clawing back education grants 'in-year', this means a budget loss to CCC of £215,000 equivalent to £8 per child. 

Whatever the corporate response to the question might be, it is perhaps worth noting that as far as CCC are concerned you can never have enough senior managers...and an advert has just been published for a 'Head of Learner Programmes'; not only is this a decidedly poor job title, but it is a brand new post with a salary of between £82,542 and £88,042 per year. 

Personally I think the kids would be better off with a few more text books, a couple of iPads and a teacher or two.


Anonymous said...

Carmarthenshire Labour really do need to read this statement and feel quite ashamed.

I don't think they would recognise socialism if it hit them in the nose !!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent statement from Unison!

Blodwen said...

I wholeheartedly agree that if Mr James wants to leave, then he should hand in his notice like any other employee - and go. The position of Head of Paid Service is not redundant, therefore he should not be considered for a redundancy payoff. He has had more than enough public money and certainly shouldn't be paid any extra severance pay.

Anonymous said...

Spot on.

Anonymous said...

Fair play to Unison Carms ... they take no prisoners!