Saturday 16 December 2017

2017 - A year on the blog


For the first couple of months of 2017 Caebrwyn's mind was pretty much preoccupied with hanging on to the family home. The council had acquired a charge of £190,000 in December and Mr James, one step ahead of them, and, after threatening everyone with contempt of court for having the temerity to try and bring about a resolution, was all set to take my home.

Meanwhile, the very very exiting Wellness Thing was underway with 3D visualisations of what, to the uninitiated, looked like a herd of white elephants around a watering hole. Luxury spas, private health care, massive debt....all awaited the good taxpayers of Carmarthenshire as, apparently, the NHS had had its day. With Meryl Gravell waffling vaguely about sea air and wellness, the scene was set and the City Deal on its way..

The first whiff of an arms length housing company appeared on an executive agenda. The opposition finally picked up on the wheeze eleven months later asking a few polite questions last week. Scrutiny never has been a strong point.

Towards the end of the month and thanks to Private Eye, our most respected chief executive had yet another honour to add to his CBE:

The Herald celebrated the honour by publishing a collage of Eye appearances over recent years.


With the May local elections now firmly on the horizon the council budget was the usual pre-election campaign, this time being the turn of the 'ruling' Plaid/Indie coalition. The budget was finally approved on the 23rd February

The Carmarthen West Link Road was back in the news as the council were wrangling with landowners, developers and compulsory purchase orders, and they're still wrangling today. One piece of land, around 20 acres, was bought by the council in 2016 for £570,000 which will be repaid from 'future S106 money', or, in plain English, 'when our ship comes in'.

The lumpy carpets of county hall were put to the test as the Pembrey Park scandal had a bit of an airing at a whistleblower's employment tribunal in Cardiff. The story has been covered on this blog over the past couple of years. There certainly appeared to be a County Hall cover-up by senior officials with one of them memorably recorded pleading 'for f***s sake don't go to the police'...

I also made my annual enquiries to Linda Rees Jones about removing the suspended libel clause from the constitution. (NOT a slush fund of course..).


Following a brief lull in police stuff, apart from the lingering harassment warning, a Sunday morning phone call from Dyfed Powys' thin blue line informed me that Mr James had made another complaint and if I didn't arrange to go 'Voluntarily' for an interview I'd be arrested at 'any given moment'. The interview was on the 17th, a week before Mr James was going to try and force sale of my home in the county court.

The hearing itself revealed the fact that Mr James had broken his promise to hand over any damages to the council and was, his barrister said, free to stuff it in the gutter if he wanted. This charming turn of phrase was immortalised in another edition of Private Eye. The upshot was that as long as I gave Mr James £250 a month for 15 years he'd let me keep the keys.

Also in March, Sian Caiach was informed that the Ombudsman was 'investigating' an assortment of complaints made against her by Mr James. To date, the process is still ongoing...
If there's any justice in the world then the outcome will be the same as followed Mr James' previous outburst back in 2012

The judgement for the Pembrey Employment Tribunal was issued this month, with whistleblower Eirian Morris stating that the council had 'put him through hell'. We can well imagine it Mr M.

The Swansea Bay City Deal was signed in March providing a photo opportunity for  the great and good of south west Wales, and Carwyn Jones, with Theresa May...


Local election fever was hitting a crescendo and the fallout from the court hearing revelations was in the Western Mail and the Herald and, as I've said, Private Eye. Local politicians also expressed their views and wondered whether Mr James would do the 'honourable thing'...

In other news, the council found £350,000 down the back of the corporate sofa to bail out Llanelly House. This was a few weeks before they went into a voluntary insolvency arrangement (Llanelly House that is, not the council, not just yet). A BBC report on the incident appeared six months later...

The last full council meeting before the election was held and a strong stomach was required to cope with Meryl's farewell speech...


A month of contrasts - it kicked off with Caebrwyn's attempt to live blog the Carmarthenshire local election results. It ended with a visit from the police to inform me, after some delay, that I was going to be charged with harassment.

Plaid won 36 seats but still needed the support of the somewhat depleted Indies. Meryl and Pam, now retired, had passed the baton to the steely grip of Mair Stephens, and they survived. Emlyn Dole announced that the deal had been done with the Indies whilst Labour were still undoing the safety pins on their rosettes. All this culminated at the AGM on May 20th.

I added my own thoughts here.

News also reached Caebrwyn that the chief executive's business interests weren't confined to wheeling and dealing with public money in Carmarthenshire but extended to property management in Cardiff Bay.


Blogger Jac o'the North took up the previously mentioned property interests and affairs, business affairs of course, of Mr James CBE. Some wondered how did he have the time? Had he made a declaration of interest about all this? Questions needed to be asked...

The general election came and went, rows over Parc Howard rumbled on and the Wellness Village/City Deal became even more very very exciting, if that was possible; behind the scenes however there were rumblings of discontent amongst the partners, and also rumours that a certain 'lead chief officer' was keeping them in the dark...

BBC Wales Online decided to highlight the fact that Mr James had failed to repay the unlawful monies taken from the council to fund his libel counterclaim, they even produced a short but amusing video. I eventually managed to upload the video to a later post, here.


The first couple of weeks was, for Caebrwyn, taken up with an forthcoming hearing at Llanelli Magistrates Court to answer to a charge of harassment, I intended to plead not guilty of course. A few days before the date I was told that the CPS had dropped the case. The 'insufficient evidence' later turned out to be a little more specific; the comments were not oppressive and in any event did not amount to a course of conduct. I did try telling the police that in the first place..

There was an excellent post on the decision, and Mr James' witness statement by Cneifiwr and an opinion piece by Cadno of the Herald.

It also transpired that Mr James had used, or had instructed others to use council computers to provide 'evidence' for the police for his private complaint to the police. I sent my evidence of hours of council hits on the blog to the Wales Audit Office to see what they thought about it. More on that later.

The council's accounts revealed a few figures on exit packages and generous senior pay. Soon after there was an attempt by opposition councillors to reduce the salary levels of two new Directors from £123k to £112k. The chief executive intervened in the debate to sway the vote and the motion was defeated by Plaid and the Independents.

One of the 'new' directors turned out to be assistant chief executive Wendy Walters who breezed rapidly into the 'Regeneration' post, with the resulting £20,000 pay rise, thanks to on the recommendation of the chief executive...More on this post written in August.

Internal audit reports revealed continuing problems with the council unable to follow its own contract procurement rules. Reassurance was given that all was now progressing well with the Supporting People Grant although I noticed, just the other day, that the council failed to spend a whopping £257,539 of the grant last year and it was clawed back by the Welsh Government. Same thing happened with £26k meant to help people facing eviction.


A Freedom of Information request revealed that the council had spent £32,000 on the 'Wellness Village' to date. This didn't seem quite right to me given the prepwork which was underway, let alone the hefty consultancy and legal bills and the whole business of planning permission (which has yet to be applied for).
I asked for an internal review and the 'revised' response came back at, erm, a slightly higher figure of £564,000.

The Western Mail picked up on the curious developments within Mr James' property management empire in Cardiff. Residents were complaining of rowdy stag parties and hen dos and overnight lets. Mr James' response was typically charming and diplomatic, calling the complaining residents a 'cancer'. Interestingly he also said he'd had consent from the council to embark on these extra curricular activities....a Freedom of Information request for details on senior officers' declarations and consents was submitted at the end of the month...


On the 1st September I had a meeting with the Police Commissioner where I raised various concerns over the police decision to charge me with harassment; I wanted the harassment warning removed and raised again the issue of their conflict of interest with the council. I also enquired if the police would consider investigating Mr James for wasting eighteen months of police time, and for misconduct in public office...these were passed on to the chief constable for his deliberation...

In council news there was controversy over a planned car park at Parc Howard, Llanelli and there was some City Deal rebellion in Pembrokeshire where doubts were expressed whether the whole thing was viable, or even a good idea. The burden on the council, and the taxpayer was becoming a real issue.

There was more on the budget, licensing news, Llanelly House, and a trip back in time covering County Hall's attempts to control the local press.

Another subject this blog has covered has been the council's refusal to fly the Rainbow Flag. something that other public bodies appear to do without a great deal of fuss. It's a rather convoluted story, which seem to involve the chief executive rather than the council leader, but I eventually asked for a copy of the council's 'flag policy', which can be seen here. The most recent development is that the policy will be 'reviewed' by the Constitutional Review Working Group (CRWG).
Nothing's simple in Carmarthenshire.


The chief executive of Neath Port Talbot council put the cat amongst the pigeons by issuing a damning report to his councillors on the progress, or lack thereof, of the City Deal to date. It was publicly available and revealed that, amongst other snags, the Carmarthenshire Council commissioned 'Joint Working Agreement' was useless and another one had to be drawn up. There seemed to be some disquiet amongst the partners over Mr James' plan to funnel extra funds into the Wellness vanity project.
Carmarthenshire Council have just (December) put out a tender for a PR company to plug the City Deal, it isn't clear who is funding that little exercise, nor how much it's worth...whatever the case, a little more transparency and scrutiny would be welcome rather than more PR drivel.

The Wales Audit Office got back to me to say that there was nothing wrong with Mr James using council computers for his private use, it was, apparently perfectly OK for senior officials to use your money and your resources to further their private interests....the story wasn't quite over yet though...

There was news of a planning application to store extremely toxic chemicals at a site in Llangennech...the site itself had a curious history...

There was more on CRWG and libel indemnities and a response from the Police Commissioner. The harassment warning had expired all by itself, however, the details about its issue remained on police records....I am currently challenging this with the Professional Standards Department of Dyfed Powys Police. (Dec 19th; I have now reported the police refusal to remove the data to the Information Commissioner)
Individuals have a right to not be treated as permanent suspects on the basis of unproven allegations.


The plight of the Burn family, Robin, Julia and their autistic daughter Carina have featured on this blog several times. Robin is still trying to get justice from the authorities who let the family down so catastrophically.

Another long standing scandal has been the treatment by the council of Patricia Breckman. She received a full apology from the former police commissioner for the actions of the police but no such apology, nor justice, has been forthcoming from Mr James and County Hall. Quite the opposite in fact and Mr James is taking his usual preferred action of issuing legal threats to the pensioner. I understand the threats are continuing.

A freedom of information request revealed that eight members of staff had been disciplined over the past few years for using council computers for personal use. The request was made after the Wales Audit Office soothed Mr James' brow and dismissed my complaint over his personal use of council computers. You couldn't make it up really could you?

Another surprising Freedom of Information response revealed that Mr James had not made any declarations of interest relating to his business and property interests in Cardiff. It's worth a read, as are the comments.

A news round up at the end of the month included a refusal from council leader Emlyn Dole to consider removing the suspended libel clause from the constitution. Confirmation, if we ever needed it, that he sings from the same hymn sheet as Mr James.


Apart from the possibility that Llanelli residents have been identified as an ideal source for clinical drug trials, or lab rats, at the Wellness Village, blogging has been light this month. So far anyway.

Interestingly it looks like at least three new build primary schools, Ammanford, Gwenllian and Hendy and possibly Llandeilo will be under a public/private arrangement, or a 'Mutual Investment Model' devised by the Welsh Government. Far from being 'innovative', it seems no different, other than in name, to PFI schemes...Ysgol Coca-cola and the like.

Investigations carry on though. I've emailed Democratic Services to enquire when Councillors' hospitality and gifts will be published as this information hasn't been published online since May. (18th Dec; Something of a result here - I've received an email to say that they were 'unaware of the issue' and as a result of my enquiry these have now been published as of today), I also asked when senior officers' interests will make their first appearance online.
They have told me my enquiry has been sent to the appropriate person to deal with. I daresay this is the legal/chief executive's office.

I've also enquired what 'FOI whistleblowing investigation - complete - no report issued' is all about in an internal audit report. I'm intrigued but again they've gone quiet and I expect it's been sent in the same direction (18th Dec - this information has been refused under data protection, I've requested an internal review)

I've also emailed Linda Rees Jones asking her, as a supposedly independent Monitoring Officer when she will be instigating a disciplinary investigation into Mr James, outlining much of the above. And more. I've saved her the bother of using the internal email service and sent a copy to Mr James.

If anything else happens before 2018 I will update this post, or even write another. If not then best wishes for Christmas and the new year to all, and thank you to those who have supported me throughout the year, and for all who continue to read this blog.


December 20th; Some Festive Thoughts from Y Mr James contemplating another blitzkrieg of festive litigation....? Well worth a read.


The Burn Family said...

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones"
Julius Caesar, Act 3 scene ii
William Shakespeare

A merry xmas and happy new year to You Jacqui and all your followers
The Burn Family

Anonymous said...

I thought we have some nasty pieces of work up North, but this cnut takes the biscuit! Shit of the year...shit of the millenium, past and present!!

May 2018 be the year he has his comeuppance!!

Keanjo said...

Congratulations on getting through what must have been an exremely worrying year for you and your family . Good luck for 2018 - may justice be done and may your enemies be defeated. Have a nice Christmas and a happy new year.

Anonymous said...

Yes Jacqui thank you for your stance in exposing all that is rotten in Carmarthen council.Let 2018 be the year when true democracy is restored and power returned to the hands of councillors.

Anonymous said...

I am in full agreement with Anon 12:59 but unfortunately democracy will never be restored jn Carmarthenshire County Council until the Councillors stop acting as puppets. They are there to see fair play is done for County residents and not to nod at every proposal the CE suggests or to play the party politics game of thrones.
They should be THOROUGHLY ashamed of themselves.

towy71 said...

More power to your elbow Jacqui how the next year brings better things

Anonymous said...

Anon 16.05. Unfortunately it isn't only councillors who do not challenge this little man, politicians are as much to blame. He only gets away with being shit if the year because nobody in power including our political representatives do nothing. This should be seriously questioned.

Anonymous said...

Great year of stories - well done

Please keep it going for 2018 when you never know may be the year Carmarthenshire turns the corner and banishes James for good

We can all dream

Looking forward to 2018

Tessa said...

Bloody hell - another mental year of the loony running the asylum! It'd be funny if it wasn't so awful. I still have to laugh, mind - it's all just SO nuts and like you say, you couldn't make it up!

Anonymous said...

Things will NEVER get any better as long as that cowardly, spineless bunch remain as councillors - they are probably afraid of their own shadows and the "Great Dictator" is perfectly safe to continue "ruling the roost" to his own benefit and no one else's