Update: The clause has been removed from the delegated power section of the Constitution but remarkably, its been explicitly added to the powers of the Executive Board. I'm speechless. It was the Executive Board who bankrolled Mark James in 2012 - deemed unlawful by the Wales Audit Office.
The slush fund hasn't been deleted, it's just been moved.
* * * *
Well, the libel indemnity clause, the slush fund, has gone, sort of. The item finally came up at Thursday's full council meeting and passed without murmur or comment from anyone. The Constitution will be updated in due course, one hopes...
Emlyn Dole, a big fan of such slush funds, managed to whizz through the brief report, completely avoiding the word 'defamation'. Obviously this was deliberate, the intention being to create as little fuss as possible. It reminded me of when Mark James slipped his slush fund into the Constitution several years ago, hidden amongst a raft of other measures, and without 74 councillors noticing what had happened.
They certainly noticed a couple of years later.
Anyway, on the deliberately misleading advice of Ms Rees Jones, head of legal, this was what they approved on Thursday;
"To recall...the 'libel indemnity'...and to reserve the right to exercise that power to the Executive Board under its existing personnel function"
"that power" being the right to use taxpayers' money to sue on behalf of senior officers.
Are we back to square one?
This is the 'fudge' which I referred to in detail in my previous post and which is unlawful and ridiculous, and merely serves to protect the idiots who acted illegally in 2012. However, I very much doubt that the Executive Board would have the nerve to use your money again to bankroll a senior officer, but given that Emlyn Dole is as much a princess as Mark James, who knows.
Linda Rees Jones would certainly support such an illegal move, she confirmed this at meeting of CRWG in August. Soothing Emlyn's worries that they'd be unable to use public money to sue, she said that "if it was deleted, a report could be taken to the Executive Board to consider granting an indemnity in the future, as the Board had the necessary authority to do so". They don't.
She also insisted that if the clause was deleted, it had to be presented, in public, as "tidying up" rather than because it was, in fact, illegal.
She is as barking mad as Mark James and should have been sacked, along with him, in 2014.
So, unless Emlyn and Co do decide to bankroll someone else, and face immediate legal challenge, I guess this is as good as it gets, so far.
Who knew that Plaid Cymru, so opposed to the slush fund when in opposition, would now become so keen to sue members of the public...a new policy for their 2021 election manifesto no doubt...
On a personal note, this is a victory, but as for my case, I will continue to ensure that justice is served, by whatever means possible. That's a promise.
A few words about the rest of the meeting.
Apart from the difficulties many councillors seem to have in clicking the right button, or wandering off mid-vote, there's a disturbing reaction to any scrutiny. Any attempt to question senior councillors or management, or even make helpful suggestions, however mildly put, is met with a barrage of accusations that criticism is being directed at frontline workers or staff carrying out their duties.
This is absolutely not the case, everyone is hugely grateful
This has always been the modus operandi at Carmarthenshire Council under Mark James, deflecting criticism of himself towards a junior member of staff and accusing the critic of attacking said member of staff. Emlyn Dole has, of course, seamlessly taken over the role.
He excelled himself on Thursday and, later, in the meeting appeared to have lost the plot, bombarding everyone, repeatedly, with figures and statistics to prove some sort of point, which no one was making anyway.
At one point the Leader's batteries were so overloaded that even Wendy Walters tried to shut him up, finally succeeding on the third attempt.
It's obviously all too much for him, or maybe he's upset about lost bookings for his hot tub. He really needs to go.
The cut-off switch had to be deployed again when veteran Plaid councillor Ken Howells, during a discussion about the controversial One Planet Development policy, started criticising the applicants for one such development which the planning committee, on which he sits, had approved two days previously. He was left mouthing into the ether as the Chair moved swiftly on.
As usual, the whole meeting is available online.
As I said no one is criticising anyone at the moment, over the pandemic anyway, but it must have escaped Emlyn's attention that both the Welsh and UK governments are in fact, open to question and at least some level of scrutiny from the opposition, the press and everyone else, its par for the course. It's called democracy, and applies at local as well as national level.
There have been no Scrutiny Committee meetings since the March lockdown, other meetings have resumed but most are little more than bland PR exercises for the Plaid administration.
The pandemic is not the only thing the council are making decisions on, and challenge and scrutiny must be allowed, or all sorts of nonsense will slip under the Covid radar. The final item on Thursday was the business case for the City Deal Wellness Thing, or Pentre Awel (cost of name change - £25k) as it's now known.
Given the secrecy (webcast switched off) one must assume that no 'partners' have yet been found, from academia or the private sector, and the criminal investigation into bribery and corruption continues.
We don't know how much will be borrowed by the council for this fiasco and with the current level of debt at £432m, and a £8m black hole in this year's accounts, they should not be pouring any more into the Wellness swamp. The consultants, lawyers, PR companies and assorted hangers-on have already had millions.
Swamp being the operative word. New flood maps were published by NRW last week which show that much of Llanelli and its surrounds are now at very high risk of flooding. Delta Lake itself, the site for Pentre Awel is at very high risk from river, tidal and surface water flooding, and that's without taking climate change predictions into account.
All that's separating it from the big blue sea is a broken sluice gate.