Monday 1 December 2014

Severance - Repaying unlawful payments?

Update 4th December; The agenda for December's full council meeting has just been published and the issue of Mr James severance deal and departure is not on it. Perhaps he is going to linger around for a while longer, I had heard talk that he was going to stay until after the General Election in May - those lucrative Returning Officer fees and all that. Maybe the rumours were true...


With chief executive Mark James having declared his application for severance, we might assume that calculations regarding the final sum are being made as we speak. Back in October, Council Leader Kevin Madge declared that the decision over the pay-off could be before full council the following month. As it turned out, it wasn't on the agenda for the November meeting.

Whether or not it will be on December's agenda, we'll have to wait until it is published later in the week to find out. If it's not then perhaps Mr James has changed his mind and is going to linger around little longer...anyone's guess.

In Pembrokeshire, the council resolved to formally invite Parry-Jones to repay the unlawful pension payments. You may remember that basically he, or more specifically his representatives, told them to, erm, sod off.

It took the last minute intervention of the Wales Audit Office to ensure that his final pay-off was recalculated to remove the pension payment elements of the deal. Roughly speaking, by cutting the pay-off by £52k, the unlawful payments were repaid to the council. Sort of. He still walked off with £280,000.

Way back in May, after the WAO reports were published, Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards raised the issue that Mr James should be 'instructed' repay the unlawful pension payments as well, but this demand was not followed up by the Plaid opposition on the council. Cllr Caiach has attempted to mention it, and the libel indemnity, several times but has always been silenced by the chief executive Chair.

As we know there are two sets of unlawful payments involved here in Carmarthenshire which amount to £56,946. Is this amount going to be visibly deducted from Mr James final pay-off? £30,128 of it is the unlawful tax avoiding pension payments. The remaining £26,818 is for the costs of the libel indemnity for the counterclaim, also deemed unlawful by the WAO.

Incidentally, I have written to the Wales Audit Office to try and find out why the high court cost order for the counterclaim is actually £40,875; around £15,000 more than the stated indemnity.

No matter which way you look at it, the costs for the counterclaim were unlawful and, in my view, so were the damages arising from it. However, even taking the question of costs on it's own, Mr James has undoubtedly benefited financially from an unlawful decision and as it stands, should, along with the pension payments, pay it back.

In truth, the scandal over both payments has cost a lot more; over £28,000 for Mr Kerr QC, £55,000 for extra audit fees and an unknown sum in officer time, reports and not forgetting the misuse of the council website - all to try and defend the indefensible.

The petition, which can still be signed, can be found here. It would seem from the comments that many believe that Mr James has had quite enough cash and should leave with nothing.

2nd December; County Councillor Sian Caiach writes about the unlawful payments and the ongoing secrecy and nonsense from senior councillors here;

Spot on, Cllr Caiach.


Redhead said...

They should then pay him £30,000 less and refund to Jacquie the charge on her house put on by Mr James.

Teifion said...

surely it was the Senedd that insisted the severance payment made to Bryn Parry Jones of Pembs. CC be reduced because it DID take into account his illegal payments ?