Friday, 29 March 2019

Health Board Chair slams Mark James over City Deal - Updated


Later post 12th May; City Deal; The 'potentially defamatory' letter...the row continues


Update April 10th;
BBC Cymru are reporting that the council have issued the following statement in response to the letter from ABM Chair, Andrew Davies;

 "We are considering the contents of the letter and will be issuing a robust response in due course. We will also take legal advice as we consider that the statements made are potentially defamatory"

This statement raises some very worrying questions.
As a governing body ('we' in the statement), the council cannot sue for defamation, the legal advice and the potential for legal action must have been commissioned and instigated on behalf of Mark James, the subject of the letter.

Whether it's a bluff, or a serious threat from Mr James, it would be interesting to know if any councillors were involved in sanctioning such 'advice' and why on earth, after everything that's happened, the taxpayers should still be footing his bill, unlawfully.
If I was Mr Davies, I know exactly what I'd tell Mr James....

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A source close to Swansea City Council has revealed that an explosive letter has been sent from the Chair of the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) health board to the City Deal Joint Committee, through it's Chair, Swansea council leader Rob Stewart. The Chair of AMB is former AM and Welsh Government minister, Andrew Davies.

The letter condemns the statements given by Mark James to the City Deal Board, and in fact, all Carmarthenshire councillors, as being detached from reality, in plain speaking, a pack of lies.



City Deal partner.
From the claim that Carmarthenshire Council 'invited' the Wales Audit Office to 'provide reassurance' over their Wellness decisions, which the WAO deny, and indeed the first sentence of their report confirms this, to the claim that Swansea University were still on board with the project. Which they are not. Also, a senior Welsh Government source has confirmed that the Wellness business case had been put on hold after serious ethical concerns emerged over the project.
Mark James had claimed, in writing, that there were no issues at all.

The letter, which should be published eventually, goes further and cites all seven Nolan Principles of public life; selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and promoting these principles through leadership.

In particular, the letter focuses on integrity, and all breaches relate directly to Mark James. Clearly, someone's had enough.

To anyone who has observed Mr James' course of conduct with his own council, in fact his whole career in local government, this comes as no surprise, he works on his own principles; arrogance, selfishness, bullying, secrecy, dishonesty and greed. He wouldn't know a Nolan principle if it smacked him on the head.  Now that he's spread his malign influence to a wider region, it seems that not everyone is going to keep quiet. The Pembrokeshire led internal governance report is a case in point. Mark James has jeopardised the whole Deal. Don't say I didn't warn you.


This is not just about the revelation, regionally, that Mark James is a compulsive liar. It's also about his involvement with the shady deals which have jeopardised everything and which led to all the investigations, from Sterling Health to Kuwait. Neither can I possibly be the only one who thought that appointing his own solicitors, Acuity Law, for the council's internal review broke most of those seven Nolan principles all by itself. Actually, I know I'm not the only one.

The Joint Committee accepted all the recommendations in the various reports at a meeting held yesterday. A professional team will now run the Deal led by a Managing Director. If Mark James wasn't conveniently retiring he'd have been sacked as Accountable Officer. In effect, he has been.

Whilst the City Deal PR machine churns relentlessly on with its fly through videos and good news puffery, the reality is that Carmarthenshire Council as the lead authority and Mark James as the lead CEO have royally cocked-up the whole thing. Rows are now brewing over the extra admin costs which will have to be borne by the other councils as a direct result of the gross mismanagement.

According to sources Mark James didn't attend yesterday's Joint Committee meeting to face the music, the excuse was that he was scouring the country pleading with some other poor sap to empty another public purse into his sauna-by-the-swamp, or perhaps he'd just crawled back under a rock and hid.
This explosive letter will have done little to ease his indigestion...


Monday, 25 March 2019

Email from my MP....and Acuity Law threaten to sue 'elected members'


Last month I asked my MP, Jonathan Edwards (Plaid) a few questions. Essentially they concerned the repayment, by Mr James, of the unlawful payments; the farcical CRWG meeting last July including the Monitoring Officer's conflict of interest, and last but not least, whether it was appropriate for Acuity Legal, (now rebranded as Acuity Law) who also represent Mr James personally, to produce a report on the council and the Wellness scandal.

The passage of time, and, more to the point, the passage of Plaid from opposition to power in Carmarthenshire appears to have had a diluting effect on the once rigorously expressed criticism, prevalent from Plaid politicians. Fancy that.

The response got off to a bad start as Mr Edwards' appears to have misunderstood my question concerning repayment of the unlawful payments. I'd made it quite clear I was referring to the Wales Audit Office public interest reports and reminded Mr Edwards of his call for repayment back in 2014.

However, and I suppose there may have been some confusion, he referred instead, (and I paraphrase), to the chief executive's failure to honour the undertaking to his employers to hand over the libel damages to the council. A slightly different thing. He also said there was nothing that could be done about it.
What they could have done, following the revelation in 2017 that he had lied about handing over the damages, was to call for his dismissal for gross misconduct. But never mind.
As for repaying the unlawful payments before he retires, damn right he should.

Anyway, moving on, I also asked about the minutes of the CRWG meeting, namely the Plaid led majority decision to reinstate the unlawful indemnity clause, and the (still non-existent I think) letter to the WAO.

Whilst I am still fairly certain that Mr Edwards personally believes the clause, and the whole indemnity thing to be wrong, and unlawful, Plaid council leader Emlyn Dole has now dutifully changed his view to that of his benefactor, Mr James, so Mr Edwards' response to me was a fudge.

The group were, according to Mr Edwards, seeking 'clarity' on the 'rights of indemnity', which is not quite what the minutes reveal. Neither do the minutes reveal, as he asserts, a lack of appetite amongst the Plaid group for reinstatement.
In actual fact, they even wanted to extend the unlawful provision to councillors.

I have, as it happens, already sent the minutes to the WAO and asked their opinion on the resolution made at the CRWG meeting. I await their response.
(Update 17:25; Received a response from the WAO's Anthony Barrett, the then Appointed Auditor who issued the 2014 report. He has confirmed that further to the minutes of the CRWG meeting no correspondence has been received by the WAO and 'In the absence of any other information being brought to our attention my current view is unchanged from that documented in the report.' ie, it was unlawful)

As for Ms Rees Jones dispensing her 'independent' advice to councillors on the 'lawfulness' of libel indemnities, given her central role in defending Mr James during the libel trial and beyond, he said; "It would not be appropriate for me as an elected member of another body to question whether it is right or not that an employee discharges their duty.  However, it is open to all elected members and the public to question the advice given."
So, er, that was that, although he certainly has a point about questioning the Ms Rees Jones' legal advice, this is something elected members should have been doing long ago. They should have sacked her.

And then we come to Acuity Law, the chief executive and the conflict of interest.

To be clear on this point, I had asked;

"I would be grateful for your comment regarding the appointment of Acuity Legal to produce a report on the council's actions and processes concerning the Wellness Village, as the company also act in a personal capacity for Mr James. This was far from irrelevant, and was in fact highly improper and undoubtedly brings into question the independence and objectivity of the report.
This is all the more relevant given Mr James' involvement with the developers [Sterling] and the currently suspended University staff from the inception of the project. As you are aware, matters have now been referred to the police." (Emphasis added)

Mr Edwards did not give a view, but reveals, within his response, that

"...I understand that the firm in question have challenged those elected members who have made the same accusations as yourself in your letter to justify their insinuations/accusations or face action" 

So, in plain language, Acuity Law have threatened to sue elected members for defamation and have, I understand, issued a letter, or letters, before action. Letters before action usually demand the removal of the alleged defamatory statement(s), a promise not to repeat, and the payments of costs and damages to date.

Very interesting.

I have, as you may imagine, plenty to say about this disappointing legal posturing from Acuity, but it will have to wait for now until matters progress one way or another...

'Cadno and the experiment' - from The Carmarthenshire Herald

Continuing the theme of my previous blogpost, and more, here's this week's 'Cadno' opinion piece from the Carmarthenshire and Llanelli Heralds. Well worth a read;


Cadno and the experiment
          Today we have naming of parts.
That’s the start of a famous poem by Henry Reed, in which the writer reflects on the tedium of military training. The poet’s skill lies in mixing two voices: the instructor’s and that of a day-dreaming recruit. He contrasts the mechanical nature of warfare with reflections on nature. 
It is highly likely that, if you have been compelled to learn about 'War Poetry' in school, Henry Reed's is one of the poems that will have been placed before you. If your experience of poetry education was like Cadno's, it materialised shortly before you got round to Rupert-bloody-Brooke and his corner of a foreign field that is - forever - England. 
As it was when Cadno was in school, so it shall be forever after. Repeat the same old over and over again, then one bright day a pupil will find a rhyme for the word ‘orange’ and become Poet Laureate. 
Einstein observed that repeating the same experiment over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. 
So it is, with a sense of inevitability, we come to Mark James and the City Deal. 
Jacqui Thompson, the writer of the online blog Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and More, concisely explains what was said in the reports prepared on behalf of the UK and Welsh Governments and the City Deal Board. Cadno recommends you read her. 
The issues the reports set out are familiar to those who have followed Carmarthenshire County Council for many years. There is a lack of transparency, poor internal communication, secretiveness, distrust, and a failure to declare interests. 
When it comes to individual projects, the reports identify that they are long on windy rhetoric and aspirations. They are equally devoid of the nuts and bolts to hold them together. 
The recent revelation of Sterling Health's involvement in a further project involving members of Swansea University’s staff gives a reasonable person pause for thought. That pause is longer when we note the same staff were involved in the Wellness Swamp. We can, therefore, be sure that old CeeBeebies was totally unaware of any involvement by Sterling in a proposal to create a private medical school at Swansea University’s Bay Campus. Had he been aware of such a relationship, as the Responsible Officer and CEO of the City Deal Board, he would have reported it.  
In fact, there is no possible way that Mr James – as a responsible public servant – would not have notified the City Deal Board of any involvement – however tangential – that he and others involved in the City Deal’s governance had with one another in other projects outside the Deal. 
It is an innocent coincidence that Mark James CeeBeebies is involved with some of the same members of the University staff, this time in Kuwait.
Coincidence, as this newspaper’s Deputy Editor wrote a few weeks back, is no correlation. 
In short, shit happens. 
Now Mr James approaches the end of a glorious tenure, Cadno notes there is not a single other instance in the whole of Mark James’ his public career in which any project with which he has been concerned has ever been criticised for lack of transparency, poor communication, or secretiveness.  
Similarly, under Mr James' benign hand, Carmarthenshire County Council has never been the subject of any reports or complaints alleging lack of transparency, poor communication, secretiveness, or distrust. 
In relation to the Council’s funding of his libel indemnity, it was never the case Mr James said he did not seek to benefit financially and would reimburse the Council for the costs incurred as a result of its kindness to him. It was never the case that in a subsequent Court appearance a barrister instructed by him said that CeeBeebies’ opinion was that he could do whatever he wanted with the indemnity money, including throwing it in the gutter. 
Never has the CEO intervened in a row over the Council’s annual budget by giving an interview to the media in which he criticised the then opposition’s proposals. At least, not since that opposition became part of the governing group. 
Never has Mark James attempted to avoid tax on his seven-figure pension pot by means of a wizard wheeze nodded through by a supine and ineffective Executive Board. 
Never has Mark James CeeBeebies delivered a statement to the Council or provided a version of events in a press release which have been flatly contradicted by an email he sent to others revealing the real position. 
Never has it been the case that major capital projects supported by the Council have been the subject of some extraordinarily dodgy decisions, or that any of them have over-promised and under-delivered. It could never be said that under Mark James, Carmarthenshire’s handling of landmark projects have been long on windy rhetoric and aspirations and devoid of the nuts and bolts to hold them together. 
Never could it be said that under Mr James’ control the Council has been found to be secretive. 
Never could it be said that under Mr James’ control the Council has been criticised for a lack of transparency. 
Never could it be said that there has been any perception at any stage that Carmarthenshire County Council has been economical with the truth or sparing with the actualit√©. 
If at any stage, any and/or all of the above had been the case, the reaction to the two most recent reports into the City Deal would not have been one of horrified surprise - or surprise of any sort. 
There would have been some reflection on Einstein’s comments about the definition of insanity. 
For example, readers: if you drop the same amount of sugar into the same amount of nitric acid one hundred times, there will be a slow eruption of hideous ooze over the side of the beaker on one hundred occasions, accompanied by a rather unpleasant smell.  
Nothing like the way the City Deal has turned out to date. 
Nothing at all.

Reproduced with permission

Friday, 15 March 2019

City Deal reviews - Mark James and the council - not fit for purpose - Updated


Update:

Joint Committee's Internal Review of Governance Arrangements - City Deal

I now have a copy of the above review, led by Pembrokeshire Council. I can't find it online and I understand that Carmarthenshire Council, who have gone all quiet, were, prior to today, attempting to block its release. Not surprising really, it's a shocker. So, until it appears online, if anyone wants a copy please use the blogger contact form or email me. (18th March; The council have finally put it online)

The report is scathing towards the way Carmarthenshire Council, and the chief executive, have run the show. There is a complete breakdown of trust between them and the other local authorities. As I have said, it's been a disaster from beginning to end and this report is no whitewash, unlike those from Acuity and the WAO.

The contents of this report also demonstrate that the 'reassurances' which Mark James and Emlyn Dole have been giving to Carmarthenshire councillors (and blaming the press), are absolute nonsense. They've been lying.

Here are a few key points, with my emphasis throughout;

1. The unfolding Wellness scandal, and the involvement of the police, is creating even more mistrust (than there already is) between the partners. The tipping point was probably the Kuwait revelations.

"Media attention over the staff suspensions at Swansea University and the links with Llanelli Life Science & Wellbeing Village project have identified a number of issues that the Joint Committee should have been aware of as they impact on the SBCD as a whole, including:

a. The links between Kent Neurosciences Limited and Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd;

b. The role of Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd and clarity that the company was not directly providing the private sector investment;

c. Links between the Llanelli Life Science Wellness Village project with other worldwide projects such as Kuwait;

d. UK & WG concerns that had not been resolved;

e. Declarations of interest and wider roles that current or former Officers and Members
would have with this company and planned projects."

This is bloody unbelievable.
They should have been following my blog.

2. There is an imbalance of power with Carmarthenshire Council senior officers taking all the key and advisory roles, mainly the chief executive, plus his personal legal aide Linda Rees Jones. This in itself has created division and deep mistrust.

As the Government Review has already made clear, the Regional Office, managed by Mark James is not fit for purpose and this internal review agrees. And wonders why it's costing the authorities £400,000 a year.

There's a breakdown in communication;

"Feedback from the Regional Office and Members of the Joint Committee do not accord with the feedback from UK & WG, so there is clearly a communication breakdown between parties"

As the Regional Office is staffed by employees of Carmarthenshire Council, Mark James, as Head of Paid Service for the council and City Deal lead chief executive, should not be managing the Regional Office. The roles should be separated to provide objectivity and independence.
In other words, there is currently no objectivity or independence, and they want him out.

He also Chairs the Programme Board and the review found that;

"there is no detailed review of the written business case or compliance with processes and procedures"

3.  The Joint Committee has no standard set of governance principles, such as due diligence, bribery and corruption checks, or ensuring all decisions, procurement and spending are ethically sound and within the law.

"there was no evidence of declarations of interest from all Local Authority Officers and Members. Other than holding and recording the declarations of interest, there was no evidence that there had been any verification or consideration of appropriateness by the Joint Committee."

"It was evident through meetings with stakeholders that there is insufficient trust within the
Partnership."

This is down to the imbalance of power, the lack of standard principles (as above) and lack of transparency and openness.

The Joint Committee meetings were described as, well, pitiful; inaccurate updates, correspondence between the Regional Office (Carms Council) and government not shared, unnecessarily 'exempt' reports, secretive pre-meetings and;

"Suspicion that some Members know more information than others"

The review suggests that the meetings should be webcast - what a good idea...

4. There is no 'plan B' if the City Deal cash is withdrawn. A contingency plan was recommended by Welsh government in November 2017

5. There is no confidence between the partners as to where funding is coming from. As for local authority borrowing;

"no clarity over the borrowing requirements (values) and how this will be delivered by the Lead Authorities. There is a risk that Local Authorities will not support the proposed borrowing requirements (although the principal is included within the JCA) which could result in abortive work and wasted resource in developing these projects"

6. The WG/UKG have not approved the Implementation Plan. This is due to the absence of a "credible" Programme risk register, financial plan and prioritisation of projects.

7. Incomplete business cases are being submitted, failing to include sufficient economic, commercial and financial plans;

"Business cases are presented to UK & WG prematurely resulting in UK & WG undertaking due diligence checks they would expect the Regional Office to have undertaken", and, they "appear more as marketing material than as an evaluation of the critical success factors of projects".

The internal processes to approve the business cases are not being followed and;
"cannot be relied upon".

The Regional Office are submitting business cases with insufficient detail, unnecessary information (glossy pics), "incomplete sections" and "Lack of clarity around economic, commercial and financial cases."

Three business cases were submitted to the Joint Committee for approval in November, but they shouldn't have been. Evidence was obtained by the review team that the day before the meeting the UK/WG had said they were incomplete and told representatives what was required before they could be approved. The Wellness Village business case is on 'hold'.

Last October the UK/WG asked specific questions regarding due diligence over the Wellness Village draft business case, which remained unresolved. The WG said that there were numerous informal phone calls/offline discussions, but the review found no email evidence to support this.
What a farce.

8. "The appointments process of the Economic Strategy Board (private sector representatives) is unclear. UK & WG along with the Internal Review team have been unable to gain clarity over the shortlisting of applications and who determined the recommended ESB appointments to the Joint Committee in August 2018. The lack of openness and transparency over the process in respect of these appointments has undermined the trust of UK & WG.

The ESB had also expressed concerns over Phase 2 of Yr Egin project and;
"queried where the private sector investment was coming from for the Llanelli Life Sciences & Wellbeing Village project but did not receive answers"

The appointment of the ESB seems to have been the result of a closed door arrangement, who was the driving force behind that? I'll give you three guesses.

The document repeats certain things again and again and there are several extended references to ethics, including these citations:

"A. Behaving with integrity, demonstrating strong commitment to ethical values, and respecting the rule of law;
B. Ensuring openness and comprehensive stakeholder engagement.

Establishing the ethical values and framework; Counter fraud, corruption & bribery procedures; Due diligence and anti-money laundering arrangements; Programme/project management methodology; and Overarching record of declarations of interest and offers of gifts and hospitality by all Officers and Members".

The document is a devastating indictment of the roles Mark James and Linda Rees Jones have played and outlines what has long been suspected, Carmarthenshire Council, aka Mark James has run this shit-show with secrecy, hostility (they all now appear to hate each other), arrogance, incompetence and without a shred of principle you would expect from public office.

There is also a total absence of accountability.

No surprises there. From Boston to Carmarthenshire it's always been the same. Add to that Mr James' priority for personal enrichment via the public purse, by any means, and this was always a recipe for disaster, and scandal.

Whilst Mark James is undoubtedly apoplectic over such an honest and diligent report, Emlyn Dole, as his frontman, must be squirming, and perhaps it's time to table that vote of no confidence.

The theme underlying both reports is that it is fortunate that Mark James is retiring, if he wasn't, he'd be sacked. He should, however, be suspended immediately, along with Ms Rees Jones.

Personally, given that Mr James is in it up to his neck, I hope the police hurry up and cart him off for questioning.




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The Welsh/UK Governments 'rapid review' of the Swansea City Deal has been published today. The publication of the internal Joint Committee report, led by Pembrokeshire Council is understood to be imminent.

The Government report, by Actica Consulting provides, in the usual polite and non-specific terms, a damning list of failure and incompetence and lays the blame on the lead authority, Carmarthenshire Council (responsible for the Regional Office) and the lead chief executive, Mark James. It's been a shambles. The aim of the report was to try and salvage confidence in the City Deal through recommendations for improvement.

The report, which can be read in full here, makes several recommendations, but first and foremost;

"The most important is that the Regional Office be reconfigured as a Project, Programme and Portfolio Management Team with a strong and independent leadership"

This means that Carmarthenshire Council will be stripped of it's current position as the lead authority of the City Deal.

The forthcoming retirement of the current 'leadership', Mark James is noted, and the inference is clearly made that if he wasn't retiring, he would be sacked as lead officer.

 "The projects should have been challenged by the Regional Office but they were not. This is we think a window to the source of the real problem - namely the nature of the Regional Office."

The Council led Regional Office, the report continues, lacks professionalism, independence and the authority, experience and expertise to broker a professional relationship with the government departments.
Key information was missing from the business cases, including the financial implications, delivery, long term benefits and risk assurance. These business cases were then submitted for approval to the Regional Office with key elements missing, and no one seemed to notice, or perhaps care. Due diligence was also sadly, but unsurprisingly, lacking.

The report goes on to say that the 'project' led approach has led to stagnation and difficulties as each authority deals with it's own projects, via the incompetent Regional Office, this infers nothing less than poor governance. It suggests that the City Deal should be reprofiled as a 'Portfolio', ie a regional approach with the ability to drop or add projects as circumstances dictate.

The report, reading between the lines, suggests a failure in governance, and a breakdown of trust between the local authorities, a lack of transparency and a failure to communicate. All of which leads to a complete absence of accountability.

These are all the attributes of anything 'led' by Mark James, (including the county council itself), who has now been found not to be fit for purpose, and neither has his Regional Office.

Furthermore, and not in the report, is his shady involvement with the key players and dodgy deals of the Wellness Village, let alone the recent revelations concerning his (undeclared) ventures, with the suspended University staff, in Kuwait. The report does mention, however, that the farce surrounding the Wellness Village, now referred to the police, is further undermining confidence in the whole Deal.

He is a complete liability, and it is interesting to note the difference in this report, to the report from Acuity Legal, Mr James own solicitors, brought in, (an unbelievable conflict of interest) for the council's own review. Despite the difference in remit, the former is objective and independent, the latter is far from independent and reads like a pre-empted defence to criminal allegations.

Last year I suggested that Carmarthenshire Council were unsuitable as the lead authority, and that the appointment of Mark James, as 'Accountable Officer' was nothing short of a joke. Seems I had a point.



For numerous posts on the City Deal and the Wellness Village scandal, please search the blog.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

The blog - ten years old today


As ten years is quite a long time to have been writing a blog, I couldn't let the moment pass without a brief comment.

Whether the blog has achieved anything in the way of improving transparency, encouraging democratic engagement or just exposed a dodgy deal or two is for the reader to decide. I think it has, in one way or another. I have also experienced the grim and disturbing view of the interior of a police cell and accumulated court orders of around a quarter of a million quid. C'est la vie.

The council itself, despite, several changes in administration, remains seamlessly under the control of one man, until June of course when we hope for a fresh start and not a clone cultivated in the County Hall laboratory. Whoever takes the poisoned chalice, he or she can't be any worse. There was some hope when Plaid 'took over' in 2015 given their vocal opposition to all that was bad, but, alas, Emlyn slipped easily into Meryl's shoes and, well, er, 'assumed the position'....

The blog has never been critical of the army of council workers, nor the majority of officials who manage services, and not all policies or projects are bad, far from it. And in many respects, Carmarthenshire is no different to any other local authority, trying to provide a good service with a shrinking budget.

The one big difference in Carmarthenshire is that for seventeen years it has been saddled with a psychotic chief executive, who must have thought he'd hit the jackpot when he breezed in from Boston. The thought that, likely as not, he'll breeze back out again with a gold clock rather than the  criminal record he deserves should be on the conscience of councillors, regulators and government alike. It's shameful.

If an ordinary (I loathe to use the word, but you know what I mean) council worker were to have been found to have lied to his employers, and the courts; engaged in secretive extra-curricular activities to the cost and detriment of the organisation; to have committed fraud and stolen cash meant for public services; to have used publicly owned facilities, and information, for his private vendettas; to have had his hands in the till for the benefit of his 'friends', and threatened and bullied anyone who challenged his self-importance, they would have been out on their ear long ago, possibly even locked up.
And god help the 'benefit cheats', named and shamed on the council website for claiming a few grand they shouldn't have. They're unlikely to be awarded a CBE for their actions.

One problem, as we've seen only too well with the ongoing farce in Caerphilly, is the system. The protections given to chief officers make it nigh on impossible to get shot of a bad egg, especially one as adept at scamming the system, stamping out democracy, and deflecting liability as the arrogant Mr James. It needs to change.

I will not be the only one who will be glad to see him go, and hopefully his publicly funded personal defence lawyer/Monitoring Officer, Linda Rees Jones will not be far behind. Unfortunately he has a vested interest in my home, and his monthly 'gutter money' so, for Caebrwyn, his 'retirement' has little significance. There is, as far as I'm concerned, unfinished business, and I will continue to seek justice wherever he ends up.

This blog has tried to track the less salubrious episodes of this council and continues to this day with the unfolding mess that is the Wellness Village and the City Deal. This is yet another scandal which involves the shady Mr James, along with his diabolical use of his own solicitors in the 'review'. The ongoing nonsense over the unlawful libel indemnity clause is another long running case in point, there's no expense spared to defend the indefensible actions of the chief executive.

I hope this blog, whatever your views, has occasionally provided information and shone a light into the dark corners of County Hall and I intend to continue for the foreseeable future. It's taken a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears, and a hefty number of long-winded freedom of information requests.

And as I have also said in previous 'anniversary' posts, I have no hesitation in repeating every word of this blog, from slush funds to Pinocchio and everything in between, it's been the truth, every bloody word.