Tuesday, 19 June 2018

£20,000 Returning Officer fees - time to revisit the issue?

Earlier this year I mentioned the council's pay policy and the eye-watering levels of senior pay contained within. During the budget debate a month earlier, a Labour councillor had raised the subject of the chief executive's pay in the Chamber and its remarkable generosity compared to that of the prime minister. This unholy transgression resulted in a sour and outraged email from the chief executive, clearly irritated that the subject had been brought up, and picked up by the press; it was, he said, "entirely unwholesome and distasteful"...

The council's draft accounts have just been published and show an increase in the chief executive's salary from £170,424 to a whopping £191,699. The difference, around £20,000, is for Returning Officer fees for the Local Elections held in May 2017.
The figures do not include similar fees for the General Election which are paid direct by the government, not the council. Nor do they include other perks such as free use of publicly funded resources, facilities and staff time for his own private and personal use. (Nor does it include, of course, £165 a month from me..).

Extract from Statement of Accounts 2017/18
To put this into some real-world perspective, £20,000 equates to what would be considered a decent annual wage in Carmarthenshire, and in fact the median annual pay for all council employees works out at around £21,000.

Labour have been quiet on the subject but a few years back Plaid Cymru, largely initiated by former AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas, called for the end of these additional election fees, unsuccessfully it turned out, but in January 2015 stated a clear Plaid policy on the subject;

"Plaid Cymru believes there should be no additional fees paid to Council senior officers for undertaking Returning Officer duties at election time. Swansea Council does not pay their chief executive a penny to undertake election duties, and we do not see why others should pocket up to tens of thousands of pounds in addition to their very well paid jobs."

I'm not sure what's happened to this policy in 'Plaid-run' Carmarthenshire, presumably Emlyn Dole hasn't found the courage to broach the subject with Mr James...though given the latter's preoccupation with his own wallet it's fairly clear how he would react to such an impertinent suggestion...

From the accounts we also learn that the Director of Communities and deputy chief executive Jake Morgan comes in at a not-very-close second on £156,000. This figure includes pension contributions of £20,000. Mr James has not been part of the pension scheme since the tax avoiding arrangement was exposed back in 2014. Neither the pension cash, nor the illegal libel indemnity have ever been repaid.

Other figures in the accounts show £2.8m paid out in exit packages which includes £687,738 for just six members of senior staff. Altogether, in the past two years, nearly a million pounds has been paid out in exit packages for eight members of the top brass. There are 21 senior officers in the £90,000 to £191,699 pay scale.
The total pay for the 74 councillors comes to £1.23m, plus expenses, which this year have jumped from £42,702 to £50,554.

A Labour motion to marginally reduce £123,000 per year salaries for two new director posts was defeated late last year by Plaid and the Independents, helped along, incidentally, by an entirely unwholesome and distasteful intervention by the chief executive... However, at Cardiff Council, in 2015, a Plaid Cymru motion to slash chief executive pay from £170k to £100k was defeated by Labour.
Meanwhile, Cllr Dole tells us that frontline services are now 'cut to the bone'.

With the current stalemate over excessive senior pay, what about tackling those Returning Officer fees? At £20,000 a throw, it's time to revisit the issue.


Keanjo said...

Dyfed CC had 60 members ,the Chief Executive salary was under £70,000 a year and Chief officers under £50,000 and the Council covered the three West Wales counties .How can Carmarthenshire justify these huge payments? It is high time the Plaid and Labour parties in Wales declared a policy on LG salaries in their manifestos and ensured their Councillor party members paid regard to the policies when elected

caebrwyn said...

I agree @Keanjo, it's out of control, and to a lesser degree across all 22 local authorities. The added issue in Carmarthenshire is that this CEO has a rap sheet, including unlawfully pocketing tens of thousands in public money and breaching an undertaking to his employers. He's a liar, a cheat and a bully and should have been sacked long ago.

Unknown said...

I can confirm this CEO is a liar and a cheat. There were three examples of his deceit exposed in the former Ombudsman's report. He is a dictatorial bully who has killed democracy, who instructs officers and members alike NOT to respond to damning evidence of corruption! He abuses his power and uses undue influence to pervert the truth. He believes he is untouchabele - he is definitely not!

Anonymous said...

"should have been sacked long ago"

corrected to read:

should have been arrested long ago

Unknown said...

Coverup is behaviour exhibited to conceal the truth. This CEO is absolutely guilty of that. He has now instructed the Executive Board to ignore the same evidence given to him of criminality. I'm not sure if they are aware that to do nothing having been apprised of such detailed evidence is to become complicit in that criminality. Members are elected by the public and have a duty to the public. We have a totally dysfunctional council at Executive level courtesy of Mr Vincent James CEO. He has gone too far and his conduct must now be investigated.

Anonymous said...

@Patricia Breckman

Please would you clarify your comment? What criminally are you referring to? How then do you suggest it can and should be investigated and prosecuted?

This guy seems to be Teflon Tony and evidence suggests corruption will not be investigated. He seems almost untouchable.

Unknown said...

To be clear, no-one, but no-one is above the law. I cannot go into detail at the moment, suffice to say there is further cover up of criminal offences of which I have evidence, and have informed the CEO and executive board of. If,as is taking place, there is a deliberate avoidance to take any action, with a blanket ban on members and officers to communicate further, that is gross misconduct which initself is a criminal offence. There is also a small matter of possibly being complicit

Anonymous said...

shouldn't the Assembly introduce a law/rule that no public offical will be paid more than the First Minister - or would that mean in Wales that the AM's will not pass up an opportunity to inflate their own cosy salaries?

A salary of £191k is obscene. What is so special about CCC requiring a high salary if not highest CEO salary in Wales? When do we get our first £1M pa CEO in public service. At leats the millionaire salaries in the private sectior relate to people who are in charge of their own companies [eg Phillip Gren] or run massive companies 100x the size of CCC and get sacked if caught misbehaving eg telling shareholders that they will pass over any monies from court cases to the shareholders/company.?

NO doubt PC and Labour jump up and down about obscene salaries in Companies but are starngley quiet about the public sector?

Anonymous said...

"To be clear, no-one, but no-one is above the law. I cannot go into detail at the moment, suffice to say there is further cover up of criminal offences of which I have evidence, and have informed the CEO and executive board of. If,as is taking place, there is a deliberate avoidance to take any action, with a blanket ban on members and officers to communicate further, that is gross misconduct which initself is a criminal offence. There is also a small matter of possibly being complicit"

I sincerely hope that you have full details and a cast iron case against the dark lord. As we are all very familiar, he manages to evade every attempt to bring justice upon him. I trust you have a plan and, more importantly, good legal counsel too.

Good luck in your endeavour, I look forward to reading more as it unfolds and I truly hope you manage to bring this nasty piece of work to account.

Unknown said...

I do not fear him. He has robbed me of everything. There is nothing more to take - only my liberty, and that in essence he also took years ago. My case against him and the council is no longer in question. Officers including Mr James lied and cheated for years robbing me of any chance of taking legal action. The only issue in dispute is compensation for huge financial damage. That's another story!

Keanjo said...

If a fraction of these insinuations are true ,why are the police not investigating?

caebrwyn said...

Good question @Keanjo although I can't speak for the matters Patricia raises I suspect there are several reasons, one of which is the debacle in Caerphilly, see my earlier post here, and the law regarding Misconduct in Public Office. The case in Caerphilly also demonstrates the lengthy, complex and hugely expensive process of instigating internal disciplinary procedures against chief officers.

The Law Commission have recently undertaken a consultation on the law surrounding Misconduct in Public Office which currently has "no exhaustive definition" and is "unclear and needs reform". Essentially the aim is to clarify the uncertainty with regards to the liability of individuals who discharge public functions and to strengthen and codify areas such as the abuse of position for personal advantage and breach of duty. Recommendations are due to be made later this year.
Without reform there is a discrepancy over the law as it applies to those in senior public office and those that are not.
Anon (June 25th 17:12) makes the point that with regards to disciplinary action there is also a discrepancy between the public and private sector accountability.
A further point is that the police rely on the local authority for part of their funding, and are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds.

Unknown said...

Christopher Salmon (former Police Commissioner) tried to change the culture in Carmarthenshire. Great pity he wasn't allowed to carry on with what he wanted to achieve. He was a breath of fresh air but was also seen as a threat to those who benefit from the status quo. He called CCC a Sicilian cartel and that is exactly what it is. It even has it's own Godfather!

Anonymous said...

All these comments and allusion to wrong doing and still nothing gets done.

What is it going to take to bring this behaviour to a halt?

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 22:34

I believe there are quite a few who would like to bring this behaviour to a halt, but it's cheaper and easier to let him walk rather than give him the push. As for justice, that will prevail - I'll do my best to make quite sure of that.