Wednesday 8 December 2021

Old friends - Mark James' new venture...

Update 16th September 2022
In an interesting development, Century Wharf Estates Management Ltd (Director Mark James) has employed the services of one of James' other companies Ffynnon Consultancy Ltd to the tune of £45k. As I've said, Century Wharf residents should keep a very close eye on Mr James and where their money is going...


Back in July 2020 I wrote a post about an interesting connection between former Council CEO Mark James, his 'management' of Century Wharf, Cardiff and his old friend from Llangennech, Nigel Lovering. More specifically the fact that invoices from Lovering's telecoms company, ETS Ltd happened to appear in Century Wharf's accounts.

The post is worth a read for the extensive background between the two men. Alarm bells first rang over ten years ago when James quietly arranged for the council to buy land at the old MOD site in Llangennech and immediately sold it to Lovering and business partner David Pickering, avoiding the impending auction where the land had been valued at a much higher price. 

Councillors were told that the council were at no risk over the deal as the (then unnamed) individuals were "known to officers". You bet they were.

If that wasn't dodgy enough, a £281k council grant was arranged by James to further develop the site.

Moving forward a few years and the path became paved with City Deal gold. James, and Wendy Walters had several cosy meetings in the Llangennech HQ immediately prior to welcoming another of Lovering's companies, Hydro Industries, to Marc Clement and the 'opportunities' of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

By then or course we now know that James and Clement were knee deep in their fraudulent deals with Dickmann and co and the Wellness Village scandal.

Both Lovering, and James, are directors of several companies, they've chopped and changed over the years, rather like Marc Clement. My post 'Tangled webs' from November 2020 attempts to explain the movements of the disgraced key players from the City Deal scandal.
It can be a very small world....

James, in something of a complete take-over of Century Wharf is not only Chair of the Right To Manage company (RTM) but also a director of CW Estates Ltd set up to manage the site. Mr James has never been concerned about conflicts of interest, nor declaring them when employed by the council.

One of Lovering's companies, Lancehawk Ltd (which sounds like it makes missiles or something but is listed on companies house as yet another telecom firm) has sprouted another company, Lancehawk EOT Trustee Ltd and the two directors are none other than Mark James and his old friend Mr Lovering.

Now Caebrwyn's understanding of such business arrangements are sketchy to say the least but google tells me that an EOT is an Employee Ownership Trust and is non-trading. This is an arrangement whereby shares from a company, in this case Lancehawk Ltd, can be sold to the EOT, and then held by them, and payments for Capital Gains Tax can be, legally, avoided.
Obviously great care needs to be taken when forming such companies.

The key word being 'trust'.

As the EOT then wields considerable control over the parent company it is essential that the trustees are, well, trustworthy. I have no opinion on the trustworthiness of Mr Lovering and no reason to doubt his integrity. 

I do, however, have reason to doubt Mr James' trustworthiness and honesty in anything, let alone as an actual trustee.

The first thing that springs to mind was the second of the two Wales Audit Office public interest reports from 2014 (the first being the illegal pocketing of legal fees by Mr James) which found that cash payments trousered by James in lieu of employer pension contributions were unlawful and deliberately designed to avoid paying tax.

So James has form in tax avoidance.

As this blog has detailed over the years, James also has form for dishonesty, lying to his employers, theft of public cash, tampering with official documents, failing to declare conflicting interests, helping out his friends with public cash and destroying anyone who opposed his various cosy deals.
His crowning glory was being made the Rotten Boroughs Shit of the Year 2016 by Private Eye.
It all began to fall apart when he tried the same nonsense with the bigger fish in the City Deal.

As I have said in previous posts, before his hurried 'retirement' in 2019 he had rigged the council tender for the Wellness Village, accepting the promise of bribes worth several million quid. His home was raided and he was later arrested. Despite the police filing sufficient evidence, the CPS discontinued the case as one of the key figures was deemed too unwell to testify.

So, business associates, and Century Wharf folk be warned, Mark James is a crook, and cannot be trusted with a piggy bank.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

New flood maps - the undersea world of Pentre Awel (the Wellness Village)

As from 1st December all Planning Authorities must adhere to new flood maps and the revised advice in TAN 15. The revised maps and guidance have now, finally, incorporated the effect of climate change on future flooding events and coastal erosion across Wales, and not simply the current risk.

New developments of homes, the emergency services, schools and hospitals, must not be located in areas of high flood risk without strong flood defences.

One big chunk of Llanelli now comes under these new rules. See the crosshatch in the picture below. And one would assume that The Mark James Luxury Spa, the Wellness Village (now called Pentre Awel, for shame's sake) will, as objectors predicted, be under water in the next ten to fifteen years.

Pentre Awel will surround Delta Lake (the elongated lake in the picture) and further plans for housing and the 'Wellness Hotel' encroach further into the prohibited area.
All that's between the sea and Delta Lake at the moment is a faulty sluice gate. Flood defences are insufficient. Putting a few feet of topsoil to raise the area isn't going to help, this is the Carmarthenshire Canute Approach to building on flood plains.
Click to enlarge

Of course the plans for the Wellness Village were driven through by Mark James, and concerns about flooding, which were repeatedly raised, were rubbished. Other concerns, that the development was currently under criminal investigation and riddled with corruption, were also ignored.

And we also know that Mr James had a rather different agenda to everyone else.

As an objector I was present at the Planning Committee meeting in January 2019 when the decision was made, and Sian Caiach, a County Councillor at the time voiced her objection. I wrote an account of the event here, plus some background... Our presence in County Hall coincided with the announcement of Mr James' hurried retirement, which also enabled Sian to publicly wish the "arrogant control freak" her warmest wishes. 
By July Mr James was having his door kicked in by the organised crime squad.

The Wellness Village, or Pentre Awel, was approved under the old maps, but with the current lack of any serious private investment, a history of corruption, a planning department not fit for purpose, the council already in debt by nearly half a billion, and the prospect of major flooding, perhaps it's time to take another look at the sauna-on-the-swamp...

Monday 13 September 2021

Croydon Council and libel funding, Carmarthenshire style...

There is growing anger amongst the council taxpayers of Croydon that their hard-earned cash has been spent unlawfully. After obstruction and delay and the involvement of the ICO, Inside Croydon, a news site based in the borough, obtained information that around £25,000 had been spent on top lawyers to issue libel threats against them.

The threats came after two articles on Inside Croydon got up the nose of the then chief executive and council leader. The Monitoring Officer appears to have given the rubber stamp to the illegal expenditure, but it all came to nothing as Inside Croydon, quite rightly, stood their ground, and demanded to know who was funding the threats. Finally, they have their answer.

"Which appears to mean that Negrini [the then CEO] was acting in contravention of that Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order from 2004 which states, “No indemnity may be provided under this Order in relation to the making by the member or officer indemnified of any claim in relation to an alleged defamation of that member or officer…”.


Some might regard such actions by someone in public office as being an abuse of their position."

Furthermore, the Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd [1993] ruling, held that local authorities may not sue given that they are government bodies and should therefore be open to “uninhibited public criticism”, the House of Lords determined that allowing a council to sue, or to use an officer as proxy, would be incompatible with the Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

All of which should sound very familiar to those who have followed this blog.

Individual council officers, or Members can of course sue as individuals, like anyone else, with their own money. 

You will recall that the former chief executive, Mark James illegally used public money, or the 'slush fund' to fund a tactical counterclaim for libel against myself. The Wales Audit Office subsequently confirmed, in their Public Interest Report that this was unlawful.

He was never brought to book over the illegal legal expenditure, and neither was the crooked Monitoring Officer Linda Rees Jones who aided and abetted him. I hope Inside Croydon have more success.

Mark James was determined to shut this blog down, and despite the outcome of the libel case, he failed. More to the point, the words he sued over, 'slush fund' and 'Pinocchio' were spot-on accurate; it was a slush fund and he was, and is, a liar. Worse still was his seventeen year reign of bullying, pocketing public cash, greed and, let's face it, downright corruption, culminating in the acceptance of £mms in bribes shortly before his hurried departure.
I remain resolute that he will not get away with any of it.

I also remain resolute that I will get rid of his suspended order for sale from the £46,000 charge on my home, and that the monthly payments I struggle to make to this nasty piece of work will stop - I will use any damn means possible....
It simply cannot go on.

The article from @InsideCroydon, can be read here, an interesting read. 

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Full council next week - and that damning report into Planning Services - Updated

Update 15th September 2021
Following a heated debate this morning the Labour motion outlined below was defeated by the Plaid/Independent administration.

What stood out amongst the criticism was the total lack of transparency from the Plaid administration over all this, and of course from the corporate management.

It is quite remarkable that Plaid Cymru have refused to acknowledge that the catastrophic failure of the planning department has happened under their watch, and their refusal to accept the reasonable steps within the Motion is simply playing political games, to the detriment of the residents of the county.
Shame on them.

Update 10th September 2021
I've had a response to the FOI request detailed in the post below.

The council have been offloading planning applications to private company called Prospero Planning Ltd, and paid them the handsome sum of £114,609 from September 2020 to date. Blimey.

The company which carried out the council commissioned review was Solace in Business - the business arm of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. They were paid £17,587

* * * * * *

Just a brief heads up about next week's (15th September) full council meeting. The damning Audit Wales report into Carmarthenshire's Planning Services hasn't gone away, or found the long grass just yet.
The Labour opposition group have tabled the following motion;

We propose that Carmarthenshire Council agrees:

In order to prevent the serious backlog of both planning applications and planning enforcements accruing in the future and to make the Planning Service fit for purpose and to prevent the acknowledged risk to our Regeneration plans that we:

1.    Strengthen our Scrutiny and Risk Management Processes, Procedures and Reporting by fully implementing the recommendations from the reports from the Welsh Audit Office “Review of Risk Management Arrangements – Carmarthenshire County Council – July 2019” and “Review of Planning Services – Carmarthenshire County Council – July 2021”.

2.    That the Internal report into the Planning Department, ‘Strategic Review of the Planning Service’ be made available for scrutiny by all Councillors and prior to the Audit Committee meeting of the 24th of September.

3.    That a Plan to resolve the current backlog of the many hundreds of applications and even more hundreds of enforcements as well as making the Planning Department Service fit for purpose to allow us to meet our Regeneration targets in a timely manner, is presented to this Chamber at our next County Council meeting by the Interim Head of Planning.

4.    That the practice of using private companies to clear the backlog of planning applications ceases and is brought in house.

5.    That an adequate budget is set to provide for any change required to provide for an effective and sustainable service provision of the Planning Department.

6.    Calls on the Chair of the Planning Committee to publish a monthly report indicating the current state of awaiting applications and enforcements.

All seems very reasonable but no doubt the Plaid majority ruling group will present some sort of nit-picking amendment, we'll wait and see. Let's hope the Labour group doesn't allow Plaid to get away with the usual whitewash response.

Just to hedge their bets, Plaid have planted their own question later in the agenda with Plaid stalwart Cllr Dai Thomas asking his mate Emlyn Dole to outline how wonderful everything now is in the Planning division.

You note that the Labour Motion also calls for the earlier council commissioned report to be shared with all councillors before it appears on the Audit Committee agenda later this month. This report made no less than fifty recommendations, and has been kept in a locked drawer ever since.

Historically, Carmarthenshire's planning department, and the planning committee has had notoriety for much more than systematic failure.... 

As for point 4, a response to my Freedom of Information request (below) is now overdue;

"Audit Wales published it's Review of the council's Planning Services yesterday. The report refers to a private sector company which has been handling planning applications, apparently to reduce the backlog.
Could you please tell me the name of the private sector company, and the cost of this so far.
Could you also provide the name of the external company/consultants which carried out the council commissioned review of Planning Services completed in December 2019, and the cost."

I'll let you know if I get a response (see update above).

This long-term failure in the planning service is the fault of the corporate management, primarily under the rule of Mark James. However, politically, it was all under the watch of Emlyn Dole and his Plaid and Independent buddies, and they will go out of their way to avoid all accountability.
Sadly this is common practice, in many areas, in both corporate and political circles. As I know full well. 

Incidentally my FOI request to the council for correspondence and documents held by the council relating to the Llanelli Wellness Village bribery investigation is now two weeks late. 
More on all that, and the former CEO, the bribe-taking liar, thief, and all-round crook Mark James CBE, and friends, in due course.

The council-owned waste company Cwm Environmental Ltd (mentioned above) also pops up on next week's agenda and it seems they are nowhere near settling the insurance claim for the massive fire six months ago. You may recall that the large shed and it's contents of blue recycling bags was razed to the ground. 
In fact, searching questions are currently being asked by the insurers, so Cwm are not even in a position to make the claim yet.

The council are now providing Cwm, their own company, with the convenience of a million pound, 12 month short-term loan to tide them over until the insurance cash comes in, unless of course they are found to have been negligent...
The council must be awash with cash.

Finally, I have noticed that the 'Executive Board' is no more...well actually it's still there, it's just been renamed as the 'Cabinet', sounds more stately perhaps, pity they're such a dim-witted, twisted bunch.

Update 14th September 2021
The council have come up with a novel way of dealing with the backlog of over 700 planning enforcement cases, seems they're going to simply erase most of them from history.
A new protocol will be approved by a single executive board member on Friday detailing the type of cases which will be binned.

Sunday 22 August 2021

News round up - planning tales, and more - updated

Following the damning Audit Wales report on Carmarthenshire's Planning Services, the Ombudsman has also found the council lacking. 
A brief report, from June 2021, shows that the council's approach to planning, enforcement and complaints is still dire. 
The Ombudsman upheld a complaint, by 'Mr A', concerning planning enforcement on a neighbouring property. The council investigation had been 'inappropriate' and biased, and the council's initial investigation contained 'omissions and discrepancies'.
The council now have to pay Mr A £250, and appoint an independent consultant to investigate all aspects of Mr A's complaint and review the council's handling of the matters complained about.
Oh dear.

Which reminds me of an enforcement complaint I made early last year on behalf of several residents. They were concerned that Plaid council leader Emlyn Dole and family had ignored several planning conditions on the notorious 'two barns' development leading to issues with highway safety. 
I've still heard nothing. It's either been ignored, like the planning conditions, or is the 761st in the backlog list, and will likely stay there.

In other news, the council's 'wholly owned' housing company, Cartrefi Croeso, set up in 2018  is now being mothballed and made 'dormant'. Apparently there is now no need for it as council borrowing rules have changed. I doubt that that is the full story and I suspect smoke and mirrors are in full use. 

You'll recall that Delta Wellbeing Ltd the council owned call centre was nearly struck off  Companies House earlier this year. The council waste company, Cwm Environmental is currently in dispute with the unions as, seemingly, it prefers to retain poorer pay and conditions for its staff than those employed by the council, despite the fact that the council owns it. 

Anyway, I noticed that one of Cartrefi Croeso projects, which has planning consent for 16 mixed tenure homes 'does not make the best use of the site' and 'a value engineering and design review' is required. A review of the planning consent is now required...which the Council granted for themselves in the first place...
It's clearly a shambles.

Incidentally another reason given for mothballing the company right now is that the Managing Director of the company, Robin Staines, who was also the Council's Head of Housing, has recently resigned from the council.
Fortunately he has just set up his own consultancy company, should they happen to need any advice.....for a small fee.

Mark James' consultancy company Ffynnon Consultancy is still turning a modest profit, one wonders who is consulting him, and why. Maybe it's for expert advice on tax avoidance, or scamming the taxpayer, or setting up offshore trusts to squirrel away a few bribes...who knows.

Incidentally, Caebrwyn has been making FOI requests for documents and files relating to the criminal investigation into the Wellness bribery scandal involving the aforementioned Mr James, and others. Requests have gone to the CPS, four police forces and the council. So far only the CPS have responded, and that was a refusal. We'll wait and see what the others come up with.
As I've said before, I'll make sure Mr James is held to account, one way or another. That's a promise.

Finally Burry Port's asbestos-strewn beach is back in the news. Earlier this year photos appeared of children's sandcastles decorated with bits of asbestos. The toxic substance comes from the old Carmarthen power station. Unfortunately, when it was demolished twenty years ago the debris was just buried where it lay and coastal erosion has unearthed the crumbling, flaking asbestos.
What is remarkable is the council's response. A warning sign was eventually put up but the beach was not closed. The council have continued to play down the problem as 'low-risk', as if asbestos isn't really that bad. They have reluctantly agreed to remove any visible bits, perhaps it's those bits decorating the sandcastles.
A local campaign group resorted to paying for its own tests, which all came back positive, and alarming. They are pushing for a proper clean up before the asbestos spreads even further afield.

The reason why the council are playing down the problem is their desire to flog parts of nearby land to developers, including 360 homes on the nearby Grillo site, another highly toxic legacy of the industrial past.

Interestingly, one wonders why the council is so determined to build so many new homes as figures published today reveal  that Carmarthenshire is top of the list for empty homes, with nearly 3000 in the county. So much for the council's Empty Homes Policy, which, we are told, has been a roaring success!

Burry Port update 15th September: 

There has been a partial clean up of the beach but unfortunately, as this recent picture shows, asbestos is still present;

Despite the partial clean up the signs now only warn of coastal erosion, and the footpath barriers can be easily moved, and have been.


Tuesday 10 August 2021

Audit Wales report - Carmarthenshire's Planning Service in meltdown

As anticipated on my previous post, the Audit Wales report into the council's planning services has now been published.

It is a damning report and it is clear that the planning department is in total meltdown; "Significant and long-standing performance issues in the planning service need to be urgently addressed" 
As usual, these reports are 'politely' written, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines, not with this one.

The external consultants report, as also mentioned in the previous post, was commissioned by the council themselves and completed in December 2019. 

It has never been mentioned in any committee, let alone ever made publicly available, despite making no less than FIFTY recommendations for improvement - this current Audit Wales report notes that the council, apart from dithering about with a customary 'Action Plan', has failed to improve on any of them.
What a waste of money that was.

What is also clear is that the blame lies with the corporate management and executive councillors. 

We understand that following the Audit Wales report, the head of planning, Llinos Quelch left the council...'for personal reasons'. However the chief executives (present and former) and the Director of Environment, Ruth Mullen (£130k+ per year) are also, and ultimately, responsible. 

Plaid Council leader Emlyn Dole, and his Executive Board, have failed miserably to keep an eye on the planning service and ignored the systematic failings. They've continually let senior management off the hook, causing catastrophic damage to the department and public confidence.  What a shambles.

Of course it must be remembered that not so long ago Emlyn was embroiled in his very own planning scandal, emerging unscathed with the able assistance of Mark James, a favour for which he was duty bound to return...

For years the council has been seeking empty headlines with their various and vacuous 'ambitious regeneration programmes' whilst not even having a properly functioning planning department to actually deliver it.

This systematic failure was all under Mark James' watch. Sadly and as we all know, he was more concerned with his own wallet, his ego, and, it turns out, accepting bribes, than a functioning, decent council.

It's also clear from the report that the massive backlog (847 planning applications and 761 enforcement cases as of March 2021) is impacting on the regeneration visions, and vice versa, the time spent on 'strategic visions' is making the backlog pile up to an unmanageable scale.

The report notes that the council has no plan to deal with the backlog, some of which go back over five years. 
The council is also misrepresenting it's data for the time taken to determine applications, Audit Wales points out that "performance may potentially be worse than currently recorded and reported".

It also notes that every year there's a massive overspend, in 2019/20 it was £512,000.

The planning department is also unable to manage the growing backlog and increasing number of enforcement cases. This is leading to more retrospective planning applications, a failure to follow planning policy and a loss of confidence from the public in the service altogether. Nothing new there mind you.

Remarkably, "Delivering effective planning enforcement" was quietly removed from the Council's Risk Register in September 2020. 
I suppose if you delete the problem it no longer exists...

The report notes a total lack of transparency on any attempts by the council to act on recommendations or improve the service, possibly because it hasn't. It certainly hasn't been transparent over the external consultants report, nor this one. 
It is also noted that the planning division has not been transparent, nor shared information, about complaints. Significantly it has also failed to respond to complaints; the public have had to resort to contacting their local councillors. 
And who knew they were passing on swathes of planning applications to a private sector company to deal with? No one.

All this indicates a failure of a critical system, a system which is fundamental to economic recovery, addressing climate change, and of course to the public. It also leaves a system open to abuse. Failure to 'perform' is a failure to function.

Let's hope that this report doesn't find itself in the County Hall long grass, out to pasture for a couple of years in a dreaded 'Task and finish group'. It must be debated at full council without delay.

As the title of this blog suggests,(it expanded its interests a long time ago but the title stuck) there have been historic problems with Carmarthenshire's Planning Department for many years, and not necessarily related to 'performance' per se....there have been countless questionable decisions, some very curious behaviour from the planning committee and senseless council planning decisions pushed through regardless of  public opinion or the environment, let alone actual policy.

As with the rest of the Mark James hangers-on still in the top brass, Rees-Jones, Wendy Walters, Chris Moore etc, it's about time there was a clean sweep of the upper echelons in this department too. 
Sack 'em all.
It might just get somewhere then.

The report can be found on the Audit Wales website.  It should come as no surprise that there's no link on the council's website.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Planning Department under fire from Audit Wales, and other news - Updated

Update 19th July;

Labour leader Cllr Rob James has tabled this question to Emlyn Dole for Monday's (26th July) Executive Board meeting;


“Two reports have been conducted into the Authority’s Planning Department - one by Wales Audit and the second by external consultants. It is believed that the reports are highly critical of the performance of the Department. Can the Leader of Council outline when the findings of these reports will be published?”
So it seems that there have been two critical reports, including one by external consultants. Dole is coming under pressure to publish the findings but will no doubt adopt a 'nothing to see here' approach.

Update 26th July - At the meeting Emlyn Dole said that the Audit Wales report will be presented to the Audit Committee in the autumn but will be published on Audit Wales website in early August. 
The external consultants' report, which was apparently commissioned by the council in 2019 will presumably also surface at the Audit Committee later in the year.

Time for the press to ask a few questions?


News is beginning to filter out of County Hall that a less than complimentary Audit Wales report about the Council's Planning department is imminent. Details are sketchy as the report is still, it seems, in draft form.
This 'review', across 2019/20, was to determine, in the usual wordy fashion, if the planning service "is meeting its own objectives, and supporting the Council in the delivery of its overall objectives"
It appears that it's not.

The report found that the Planning service is in serious difficulties, it is 'lacking in leadership', which has led to a 'number of failings within the Division that is supported by data indicating continuing poor performance' and it also appears, coincidentally, that the Head of Planning, Llinos Quelch appointed in 2015, has recently left the Authority, 'for personal reasons'.

More details will emerge from this currently elusive report, no doubt, in due course.

On the agenda for Friday's Audit Committee is a worrying internal audit report relating to the council's tree services. Not something you may consider of great importance at the moment but provides a troubling snapshot of serious failings which will undoubtedly be reflected across other services.

The report, which audited the 2018 -2020 Arboriculture Framework found that invoices were being paid before the orders for the work had even been raised; some orders were verbal so there was no paper trail; there was little or no monitoring or checks that the works had been carried out, either effectively or at all, and invoices were not checked, just signed off as a 'matter of course'. 

A sample of fifteen invoices tested found that fourteen of them exceeded the given estimate for the price quoted and included added items such as plant and machinery which, via the framework contract, should have already been included in the cost.

Another example was an overpayment to a contractor of £11,850 which was only recovered when the Internal Audit asked whether it had ever turned up.

As for the Framework itself, contract monitoring was 'undefined and not formalised'. ie a shambles. Initial advice from Health and Safety not to put contractors who 100% sub-contracted the (often dangerous) work out, onto the framework, were ignored. The Council's Evaluation Panel awarded the supplier who would be 100% sub-contracting with a place on the framework as the highest ranked supplier.  

All in all, a sh*tshow from beginning to end.

The latest set of the council's 2020 - 2021 draft Statement of Accounts also makes an appearance at the Audit Committee on Friday. 
The accounts show that the number of employees whose remuneration was £60,000 or more has leaped from 120 in 2019/20 to 177 this year. This figure has always included several headteachers etc but despite that, the jump appears remarkable. 
The £95,000 - £99,999 bracket has gone from three to twelve in one year. 

Not included in the figures above are the Directors' pay. A big fuss and PR puffery was made when the chief executive's salary was reduced after the departure of the overpaid Mark James in 2019, from around £200k to £145k. Still, Wendy Walters hasn't done so badly, with Returning Officer fees and pension contributions added on, we're talking £180k this year. Director of Communities comes in at second place (with pension contributions) at around £170k this year.

No blog post is complete these days without the obligatory reminder about certain unfinished business. 

Former chief executive Mark James left the council two years ago, pocketing his illegal payments and leaving his seventeen year path of corruption without a backwards glance. The most recent addition to his rap sheet was accepting millions of pounds in bribes from a developer whilst in post. With head of legal Linda Rees Jones and Plaid leader Emlyn Dole turning their usual blind eye.

Unsurprisingly Mark James has maintained a low profile since then, preferring to transfer his experience in bullying, criminality and sharp practice to 'consultancy', and the management of Century Wharf in Cardiff. One does keep an eye on things and my post from last November, 'Tangled Webs' continues to be updated as the former bribery suspects, including Marc Clement continue to treat Companies House like chess board.

I recently asked Plaid councillor Cefin Campbell, in his position as a newly elected Senedd Regional member to push for a review of my whole case. He confirmed in correspondence that he, "along with other Plaid Councillors have made the case time and again that we felt that the counter-claim action against you by the former Chief Executive simply should not have been funded by the Council."
Damn right it shouldn't have been, but despite Plaid having been in 'power' since 2015, they've done sod all about it.
As for everything else, he couldn't possibly do anything, not in his remit to question decisions, nor in the remit of the Welsh Government. Nothing seems to be in anyone's remit.

The position remains that this dishonest and crooked individual, Mark James, has a £46k charge on my home and I'm only stopping him from actioning his order for sale by scratching together his monthly payments. I guess this is now in my remit to sort out, one way or another...and that's not a threat, it's a promise.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

The leaked £190,000 costs report, part two - Unredacted. And a reply from the Police Commissioner

After several months, and some pressure from the ICO the council finally changed its mind, and sent me a (mainly) unredacted copy of the March 2016 report to the Executive Board. The report had in fact been leaked by the council, to the press at the time. 

This was the report which recommended that I be pursued for £190,390. These being their defence costs following the trial which I became liable for when my insurance was withdrawn following Tugendhat's judgement. My own solicitors were so disgusted and astonished by the judgement that they waived their own costs, and took my case right through the Court of Appeal pro bono.

Have no doubt that this whole situation arose from my attempts, in 2011, to film a public meeting and try to bring greater transparency to the council. Nothing more than that. 

Back to the report. One paragraph remained redacted under Data Protection because "its content is different to those other paragraphs referring to Mr James in that it does not also refer to yourself and is information not contained elsewhere in the report"
The mind boggles, maybe it was referring to the colour of his pyjamas.

Actually the next paragraph gave a hint as clearly he was asking them to pursue me for the unlawful counterclaim costs. In the event they deferred that one, Ms Rees Jones, clearly worried, stated that it "may resurrect the issue of lawfulness with the Wales Audit Office...the Wales Audit Office may see the enforcement of the Costs Order as an integral part of the counterclaim process".


As the council paid for his 'private' counterclaim, the council, it seems, were lumbered with trying to get it back, This would have also provided further confirmation that the council were in breach of the Derbyshire Rule.

Linda Rees Jones, head of legal

Readers will recall that when James was bankrolled in 2012 he confirmed an undertaking to pay any damages back to the council. It transpired later that he had been lying about that bit.
We were also on the brink of an early settlement, until James decided to dip into his slush fund, your money, and bring his counterclaim.

Mark James  

Anyway, back to the council's enforcement of the £190,000. 

Mark James was already well underway enforcing his damages, and the motive, for both his action, and that of the council, with him firmly in the driving seat, was to punish. I'd had the temerity to continue to criticise the council, when necessary, despite his best attempts to shut me up. This pursuit of money definitely wasn't out of any concern for the taxpayer.

Had that been the case they wouldn't have unlawfully bankrolled James' counterclaim in the first place. And neither did they pursue him to get it back. Didn't even ask him. Or for his tax-dodge cash.
Neither would they have allowed him to bung his friends at Scarlets Regional Ltd £200,000 to settle a third party debt. 
I could go on.
Nor would they have erected a road sign costing £136,000 for that matter.

Adam Price wrote to Emlyn Dole last year asking him, on our behalf, to reconsider the council's £190k charge on our home. Dole, a devoted disciple of Mark James, flatly refused. "I do not intend to consult the Authority’s Corporate Services Director or the Section 151 Officer regarding your request, or ask the Executive Board to consider withdrawing the Charging Order on Mrs Thompson’s home" .

Emlyn Dole

His letter states that this debt was no different to any other which the council enforces each year.
Mr Dole is wrong.

The 2016 Executive Board meeting (which was, incidentally Chaired by Rev Emlyn Dole, and featured former suspect Meryl Gravell) heard that;

 "Because of the high profile nature of this case, and the publicity that will inevitably follow if the Order/s is/are to be enforced, she [Linda Rees Jones] considers that it is a matter for the Executive Board to decide." 

That makes it a political decision. Its a decision which must be revisited. This was far from a normal decision. Aside from anything else this was far from an objective report, it was persuasively loaded.

This pursuit of this money was politically charged and unreasonable, a vindictive step given our financial circumstances, which were fully known at the time. Mark James controlled every aspect of the Executive Board either directly or through his personal legal aide Linda Rees Jones, Cllr Gravell and Emlyn Dole. How ironic was it that it was James and Gravell whose homes were raided by the organised crime squad, and not mine.

Mark and Meryl

To add to the punishment it was decided to pursue me for the whole lot, not just the excess. Not that that made a blind bit of difference to me.

The mental strain of the presence of this charge, and the likelihood, confirmed by Emlyn Dole that the council could enforce it at any time is, to be honest, unbearable. We are already struggling to pay James every month to stop him actioning his suspended Order for Sale.

This cannot go on indefinitely. The judge in Carmarthen who imposed this huge Charging Order did so, and I quote, "reluctantly". His hands, he said, were tied by a higher court and his demeanour exposed his disgust over the council's actions. He warned them to go no further. This was the same judge who expressed similar disgust over Mark James' enforcement tactics.

Something has got to change. I will continue to contact anyone I can think of to bring pressure to bear over this total miscarriage of justice and hope, before much longer, someone has the bottle to take it on.
If not, somehow I'll take matters into my own hands...


Email from Police Commissioner

In what was possibly the least surprising email of the week, I had a reply from Dafydd Llywelyn, the Plaid Cymru Police Commissioner for Dyfed Powys to this message I sent at the beginning of April;

Dear Mr Llywelyn

I am sure you are aware of the recent decision by the CPS not to charge several suspects following the Wellness village bribery investigation by Tarian, the regional organised crime unit.

You may also be aware that the police revised their own statement shortly afterwards which said that there had been evidence of potential criminal acts.

I am sure that it is in your remit, as the current PCC, to ask the CPS to review their decision and indeed charge the suspects, one of which is the former chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council, Mark James.

Whatever the reasoning behind the CPS decision it cannot be right that the individuals involved had accepted, and stood to personally gain bribes of millions of pounds in public cash and equity from the developers of the project. This was fraud, and had been years in the planning.

The tender for the project, the central issue in the investigation, was, to put it bluntly, rigged by Mark James. Not only did he stand to gain a substantial amount himself, he jeopardised the integrity of the council and the entire City Deal.

The fact that this is a Plaid run council and you are a Plaid Cymru PCC should, I trust, not be an issue.
I look forward to you early reply to this email, and details of how this matter can be taken forward with urgency by either yourself or your successor.

Your sincerely

Jacqui Thompson

This was the reply;


Dear Ms Thompson,

Further to your query below and having made enquiries with the Force, I would advise that this was not a Dyfed Powys matter and that it was managed by the Regional Organised Crime Unit which was then reviewed and decided by the CPS.

As previously advised, the CPS have their own appeal route which can be found on the following link Reconsidering a Prosecution Decision | The Crown Prosecution Service (

I apologise that the Commissioner can’t assist you further on this matter however it is important that all correspondence is dealt with in accordance with the relevant procedures, policies and legislation. The reason that we comply with the correct procedures, policies and legislation is to ensure that all individuals are treated in a fair and consistent manner and subsequently have any relevant right of appeal available to them.

Yours Sincerely,

Business Support Officer
Office of the Police and crime Commissioner

So that was that. I wasn't exactly surprised. It's clearly beyond his remit, with the added complication that it was Regional Organised Crime Unit that made the case to the CPS. 
I was already aware of the CPS appeal route but given the fact that the 'victim' in this case was the local authority, the taxpayers of Carmarthenshire and the City Deal region, a comment from the Commissioner would have been appropriate and welcome. It appears that Police Commissioners also lack personal initiative.

PCC Dafydd Llewelyn

I have no issue with the police themselves over all this, given their revised statement in March, and as far as I am aware, they were clearly as frustrated with the CPS as I am. Nearly two years of a complex bribery and corruption investigation, which included search warrants, the seizure of evidence, interviews, and even the arrest of Mark James, pretty much came to nothing. Not because of insufficient evidence, but because one of the key witnesses, Franz Dickmann, was too frail to stand trial.

Appealing against a decision such as this would have to be made by a more senior and influential figure than a blogger from Llanwrda, also someone with an extensive legal background in criminal matters.
Any takers? 

There is no news yet on whether the sacked Swansea University academics, including Marc Clement, will continue with their Employment Tribunals. As Swansea Uni warned in March "Whilst the CPS may have decided it is not in the public interest to prosecute this case, the evidence compiled by the university will obviously come out during the employment tribunal, which will take place in the public domain, should the individuals still wish to proceed."

It seems, so far, that the former suspects would rather avoid that scenario, and carry on forming their tangled webs. The evidence which would come out would also involve and implicate Mark James, currently lording it over Century Wharf.

As for the council, there has been no comment. Surprising really given that their former chief executive is a shyster and a conman. Still, as one door closes, another will eventually open...I'll make sure it does.


And finally...

On a completely different note the Ombudsman's Code of Conduct casebook has recently been published. One anonymised summary concerns a Carmarthenshire Councillor and relates to the appointment process for the new chief executive, Wendy Walters in 2019. The report was actually issued in March 2020.

It seems that the councillor inadvertently told the unsuccessful candidate that they had been unsuccessful, and he or she also made the appointment public without waiting for the required 30 minutes.
The Ombudsman dismissed the first incident as a genuine error, frowned on the second incident, but decided, quite rightly, that no further action was necessary.
Well, there we are. 
I could have told them exactly who was going to be the new chief executive about 5 seconds after Mark James announced his hurried 'retirement'. I'd have also told any other budding candidates not to bother applying. It was, all of course, a done deal.

Thursday 3 June 2021

Carmarthenshire Council company almost struck-off

A brief post just to mention that Lleisant Delta Wellbeing Ltd, one of the arms-length companies wholly owned by Carmarthenshire Council has narrowly avoided being struck-off from the Companies House register.

Delta Wellbeing Ltd was set up in 2018 as the council's social care call centre and employs around 60 people.

Their latest accounts are over two months late, hence the compulsory strike-off action published on Tuesday 1st June.
The action has now been discontinued, presumably the council woke up and responded with some sort of excuse.

This is a shambles by any standard. Questions need to be asked about what has been going on here...where are the accounts? Why did the council came so close to losing the company, and, more to the point, the jobs of sixty staff.

Unsurprisingly there's precious little oversight of any of the council's companies apart from the occasional decision to chuck a few million their way and hope for the best. Not very sensible given this council's track record, and particularly as they were set up during Mark James' reign where his priority was to help out his mates and fill his own wallet.

The other companies are Cwm Environmental Ltd which run the waste services (see previous posts) and Cartrefi Croeso in charge of housing and construction. Egni Sir Gar, the energy company is a 'mutual' so not even the accounts are freely available. According to the mutuals register, the last set of accounts were submitted in 2017. 

There was no explanation why one council official, Gareth Miller, was made a director of their housing company Cartrefi Croeso in July 2018 but wasn't registered on Companies House until January 2021, two and a half years later.

The main problem, as ever, is a lack of transparency and scrutiny. A quick google search of council owned companies show how things can sometimes go horribly wrong, but by then, it's all a bit too late. The same can be said about the Wellness Village scandal, no one knew, or cared what was going on until the whole thing collapsed in a pit of corruption, with Mark James' hands caught firmly in the till.

Saturday 22 May 2021

Emlyn's folly - the Carmarthen 'Gateway' sign

Whilst most of us are struggling to pay council tax, put food on the table, and local businesses are trying to keep heads above water, Carmarthenshire Council are spending nearly £350,000 on a sign. The structure, currently being constructed on the outskirts of Carmarthen has caused considerable controversy, and anger. 
It's not just the cost, which also, apparently, includes a few benches and sculptures on the nearby Morfa Wetlands, it's a dangerous distraction to drivers along the busy and accident prone A40. 

Also, by any stretch of the imagination, it looks bloody awful. The result of some brainstorming session that went horribly wrong. That's just my personal opinion, and I'm not averse to public art, but as 'gateway signage' goes (the terminology is used to justify the enormous expense), I've seen better.
And if nothing else, the timing is not great.

Sensing something of a backlash over the cost, Emlyn Dole and the press office have been hurriedly spinning the yarn that it's part of a wider scheme and part-funded from EU community grants, Rural Development funds and section 106 money, as if it all just fell out of the sky, hoping no one realises that it's all public cash.  The rest of it is coming from council funds. This does nothing to enhance or help the local community, by any EU standards, and using Section 106 money? From where?
Playgrounds, school facilities please, not a vanity project and a photo opportunity for Emlyn Dole.
They're currently being shy with the actual cost breakdown.

It has, naturally, been several years in the making, involving consultants, designers, artists, manufacturers etc, none of which, I notice, come from anywhere near Carmarthenshire. The designers are from north Wales and the company making the letters resides in Yorkshire. It is, apparently, a sculpture, not just a sign.

Under construction

Artist's impressions of finished sign
Pics from Carmarthen Journal

The finished sign! Oh dear....and it runs parallel to the A40 
(Pic source; Media Wales)

All views welcome.

Update 1st June
As per my comment below, the council have finally said that this sign cost £136,000. Or that's how much they'll admit to anyway. Absolutely shocking. Whoever signed this off, and decided it was a great use of public money needs to be relieved of their duties immediately. 

Friday 21 May 2021

No slush fund at Bristol City Council...

Events over the bridge, at Bristol City Council, have caught Caebrwyn’s attention. It seems that two of the city’s councillors are being sued for libel by two senior council officers. I am not familiar, nor particularly interested in the parties involved, nor the allegations made. The details were published here by the Bristol Post, which has also seen the full video of the heated meeting, which has now disappeared from the council website.

City Hall, Bristol

Caebrwyn’s first thought, given what has happened in Carmarthenshire, was whether Bristol City Council, ie the taxpayers, were funding the claims. I emailed the press office who soon confirmed, categorically, that no, they weren’t.
"We can confirm that the Council is not funding these claims."
 This means, obviously, that the officers were funding it themselves, or maybe using a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee).

Very interesting.

One wonders whether the officers had considered the possibility of council funding. Or that the council had taken a look at that possibility and decided that no, they couldn't, it would have simply been unlawful.

The words they’re complaining about were allegedly made during, and relate to, the course of their employment. Had they been senior officials of Carmarthenshire Council, Leader Emlyn Dole, head of legal Linda Rees Jones and the cabal would have been tripping over each other to offer blank cheques, regardless of the truth, or the consequences to the taxpayer.

Bristol City Council seemed to have taken a different view to our own villains in County Hall. They have taken the correct legal view.

County Hall, Carmarthen

It is, as I have said, prohibited under legislation for public authorities to indemnify officers’ libel claims. A view reinforced by the Wales Audit Office in 2014 who deemed the indemnity given to former council CEO Mark James CBE to fund a counterclaim for libel as unlawful. 

Both Mr James and Ms Rees Jones should have been sacked for gross misconduct there and then. (readers new to this blog might be interested to know that Mr James has recently been under criminal investigation for accepting offers of £mms in bribes from a company in Kent, whilst he was CEO.  And there's nothing 'allegedly' about it)

Mark James

Ms Rees Jones, and of course Mr James have tried, for many years, to find loopholes to justify their unlawful actions concerning libel indemnities. There is plenty about all this on the blog. The latest round of desperate barrel-scraping by the reckless Ms Rees Jones is to claim that the Executive Board have the power to dish out libel threats on behalf of officers under a vague ‘duty of care’ personnel function.
This is despite the threat of judicial challenge by the Auditor General for Wales.

Linda Rees Jones, Head of Law

This argument was rejected years ago, not only is there the necessity for full and robust democratic debate and scrutiny, but local authorities have other, less chilling means, such as well-stuffed press offices, to deflect allegations, unwarranted or otherwise. Using public money to sue the public is not an option.
It would be unheard of for a council to be found liable for failing to provide a duty of care by not issuing libel claims on employees’ behalf.

I would doubt if these cases will get very far, given the circumstances, but what do I know. Whether the claims would meet the higher demands of the 2013 Defamation Act remains to be seen. It is notable perhaps that the libel claims, and code of conduct complaints against the two 'troublesome' councillors appeared within a couple of hours of each other, a co-ordinated attack perhaps.

Whilst bringing a claim for libel with public money is banned, defending one with taxpayers' cash isn’t. I understand that the Bristol councillors have already instructed expert counsel. Observers might want to make enquiries, out of interest, as to who might be paying for that. So far, letters of claim have been issued, but it won’t take long for bills to reach eye-watering levels.

As it stands, the fact that these council officers are acting in a personal capacity, without the bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money must be a lesson to Carmarthenshire Council, who remain unique in their capacity, determination and enthusiasm to unlawfully sue their critics, with your money.

Thursday 6 May 2021

The slush fund - the 2020 CRWG meetings

Last week I finally received copies of the minutes from two of the meetings held in private last year to discuss the fate of the unlawful libel indemnity clause. 

Readers of this blog will recall that back in July 2018 at a meeting of the held-behind-closed-doors cross-party Constitutional Review Working Group (CRWG) it was decided, by Plaid Cymru to try and reinstate the then suspended and unlawful Libel Indemnity Clause (the Mark James slush fund) back into the Constitution. An unbelievable decision.

The slush fund clause, unique to Carmarthenshire Council, was to fund officers' libel claims, or counterclaims, with taxpayers' money, all of which is clearly prohibited under 2006 legislation. Mark James was still in post in July 2018 so in full control, although he was probably getting sidetracked with his fraudulent arrangement with Clement, Dickmann and co by then....

The unlawful clause had been suspended since 2014 when the Wales Audit Office found that the funding of Mr James legal fees by the taxpayer was unlawful.

As James knew full well at the time he was bankrolled, in 2012, that it was unlawful, he hedged his bets by getting the then Executive Board to rubber stamp his slush fund. He remained in the meeting to ensure the deed was done, which was also unlawful. He also sweetened the Executive Board by promising, in writing, that he'd pay it back if he won any damages. He never did.

Despite this, Mark James and his personal legal minder, head of legal Linda Rees Jones, who also doubles-up as Monitoring Officer (personally appointed by James) continued to claim it was lawful. They should, in fact, have both been sacked for gross misconduct.

Emlyn 'two barns' Dole, once deeply opposed to the clause and the specific funding of  Mr James, when in opposition, fulfilled his end of the power deal with Mr James by doing a U-turn, and was now fully supporting his paymaster.

Moving to the July 2018 meeting, Labour leader Rob James had suggested the clause be removed completely. However, as I said, the Plaid majority (ie Mark James and Linda Rees Jones...) had other ideas and wanted it reinstated  - to remove it exposed that thorny problem of finally admitting they'd acted illegally. 

Plaid Cymru leader Emlyn Dole even wanted it extended so senior councillors, like himself, could dip into this slush fund if they so desired.

At the July 2018 meeting it was eventually decided to write to the Auditor General for Wales for his blessing, with fingers crossed that he'd now changed his mind.

Two and a half years then passed during which time Linda, on behalf of Mark's reputation and her career, wrote two lengthy, detailed pleading letters to the Auditor General. Both of which received sound rejections. He also warned them of potential legal challenges should they try it again.

Eventually, in August 2020 CRWG met again. Ms Rees Jones had no choice other than to relay the grim news from the Auditor General to the assembled CRWG. 

She was clearly starting to panic over the prospect of her dishonest, misleading advice to the High Court, and councillors, being very publicly exposed. 

If they decided to remove the clause she insisted that it be made VERY CLEAR "that it was being done as part of the process of tidying up the constitution and not because it was unlawful in any way".  

No, not unlawful in any way AT ALL. What a joke.

Emlyn was worried that if it was removed, they wouldn't be able to sue anyone with taxpayers' money. Linda had come up with a plan though and assured him that it made no difference, if the unlawful delegated power WAS removed....they could just switch it to a power of the Executive Board! No worries Emlyn! We'll continue to ignore the fact it's illegal!

Anyway, as if this hadn't gone on long enough, they then went away to their political groups to discuss the options. Remove it, reinstate it, or the Rees-Jones Option to move it quietly to a power of the Executive Board.

The next meeting was held in September 2020.

Linda was by now in meltdown, with the spirit of Mark James, if not the person himself, breathing over her shoulder. 

If it was to be removed completely, A JOINT STATEMENT must be issued making sure her, and his back was covered.

"If a decision is made to remove the clause then that should be done with two provisos (1) it should be made perfectly clear that members will wholeheartedly support officers in any case of defamation and (2) it should be made absolutely clear that it in no way undermines members’ support of the Head of Administration and Law and that members’ support for her remains steadfast"

Remarkably, they were all sent away to discuss it yet again with their political groups. 

By now though there was the Rees-Jones Option, to slip the clause into the Exec Board's power instead and save face and reputations. Unfortunately this was still illegal. Not that this bothered Ms Rees Jones.

Prior to the full council meeting held on October 10th, CRWG had a 10 minute meeting on the 1st October and decided to move the offending item to the Executive Board powers. The Plaid and Independent contingent of CRWG had a majority anyway. No objections were going to get a look in. Job done.

The whole idea of a statement fizzled out. For two reasons; a) they hadn't removed the clause, just moved it and, b) Why attract any more publicity to this notorious business than was absolutely necessary.

"All four political Groups confirmed in turn that they supported relieving officers of the delegated authority of determining applications for such indemnities, with a view to the function being exercised by the Executive Board, as indeed had happened on the one occasion to date when such an indemnity had been granted.

Members expressed their support for officers and the unacceptability of some of the treatment that they have to endure and asked that it be explained how officers and members could be supported should any issue arise in the future, as it has in the past."

What should have been glaringly obvious was that the 'one occasion' the Executive Board rubber stamped an indemnity, it had been found to be unlawful.

The whole idea that they were circumventing the Derbyshire Rule, let alone risking millions of pounds of taxpayers money was quietly ignored by Plaid and the Independents, under the dishonest advice of Linda Rees Jones, and the influence of the now departed Mark James.
Still, why worry about trifles of legality or squandering taxpayers money.

You will note the second paragraph from the minutes. There appears to be confusion between unwarranted abuse, and valid and robust criticism. It's so much easier just to attack critics, or turn a blind eye, or sit there twiddling your thumbs when, to give just one example, your chief officer is accepting £mms in bribes from a developer.

Not only were Mark and Linda's professional reputations on the line over this clause but Mark James was awarded £25k+ damages, via his illegally funded counterclaim because I labelled it a slush fund. Which is exactly what it is. 
Hence the reason why they will never admit that they'd acted illegally, or god forbid, agree with the Wales Audit Office.
The amount has since doubled due to interest and enforcement. 

To say that Plaid Cymru have been a disappointment is an understatement. As I said in my previous post, the expectation that they would right the wrongs of the old Labour/Independent lot fizzled out as soon as it became clear that Dole was simply a weak puppet of Mark James and his poisonous, criminal legacy.

One hoped that senior figures in politics, who knew the score, knew what was right, and had their own run ins with the former CEO, may have intervened. 
Any previous attempts, however mild, were blocked by Mark James' legal threats, from defamation to contempt of court or by abusing his power and interfering with the democratic process. He can't do that now though, so there is no excuse not to act. 
Interestingly, he never had a go at Private Eye, despite his numerous appearances, including the crowning accolade of Shit of the Year 2016. He preferred to pick on local politicians and Llanwrda housewives... 

This post, from December 2019 still rings true; Plaid Cymru - and the rotten legacy of Mark James

Thursday 29 April 2021

The Grillo site, Cwm Environmental, and a short rant

The old Grillo zinc oxide site in Burry Port came up again at Monday's Executive Board meeting. It was not, as you may think, to clear away the heavy metals and toxic chemicals which pervade the ground but to sell the plot to a developer to build around 320 homes. Being the current owners of the site, and the body which passed planning permission for itself, one may think they had a duty to clear it up.
The main purpose of the sale is not to create a vision of the French Riviera in Burry Port but to recoup the £1.5m they've blown on the toxic site.
Plaid Cllr Dai Jenkins, trotting out the officer's report in the usual parrot fashion, made no mention of the dangers lurking beneath the land, nor the cost of remediation, estimated between £5m and £10m, nor, for that matter, the predicted rising sea levels, and the surrounding protected waters.

One can only hope that all this pertinent information is somewhere in the small print.

The Grillo site has an interesting and rather controversial history since it's industrial days, and, in recent years featured a shell company, a lot of taxpayers' money, backroom deals a dodgy lord and, naturally, former CEO Mark James....see previous blog post from August 2020, Grillo site - the toxic saga 


Also in the news this week is the extensive fire at the council's recycling plant at Nantycaws, Carmarthen. Fortunately no one was hurt and an investigation as to the cause is underway. I say council, but as readers will recall it is managed by Cwm Environmental Ltd, an arms-length company wholly owned by the council. 

Cwm run all three main recycling plants in the county. One, in Llangadog, was privately owned and was closed a couple of years ago. Much to the distress of locals but, as it wasn't run by Cwm, it was of no interest to the council whatsoever.

Cwm Environmental has something of a chequered past itself. A search of this blog will show a reluctance to answer FOI requests, despite being 100% council owned, some massive loans to buy extra little bits of land (the most recent being £800k in February 2020), mismanagement and a propensity to employ people on less than favourable terms, exploiting labourers from eastern Europe.

The council changed the structure in 2018 to a Teckal company which means, basically that they are supposed to have more control over the management and indeed, several senior officers are on the board. 

For those with longer memories former deputy chief executive Dave 'for f***'s sake don't go to the police' Gilbert OBE is also a director, and a director of Cartrefi Croeso, the council's 'wholly owned' housing company. How cosy. 
Incidentally, Delta Wellbeing, the council's call centre company are running eight weeks late submitting their accounts to  Companies House.

However, another strange phenomenon has been Cwm Environmental's reluctance, ie the council's reluctance, to agree a Trade Union Recognition Agreement, for Unison, Unite and GMB at the plant. 
The Carmarthen branch of Unison has concluded that it is the council blocking the agreement, preferring to keep the status quo of poorer pay and conditions, significantly poorer pay and conditions than for those directly employed by the local authority.


Meanwhile, the great and good of Plaid Cymru and Labour are busying themselves, ahead of next week's election of course, attacking Westminster sleaze, dishonesty, corruption etc, and quite right too. Sadly they're choosing to ignore the dishonesty and corruption on their own doorstep. 

Putting the Wellness scandal aside for one moment, it's particularly galling, given that Plaid Cymru had the chance to put things right when they acquired a semblance of power in County Hall in 2015, then chose to jump into bed with Meryl and Mark instead. They even preserved Mark James' slush fund. 

Plaid MP Liz Savile-Roberts was questioning Boris Johnson's integrity in the Commons yesterday, quoting the Nolan Principles and asking what happens when a Prime Minister goes rogue, good questions but ones that should have been asked by her Plaid colleagues about the former chief executive of Carmarthenshire. The only one who did try was the former Chair of the Swansea Bay Health Board over James' dishonest and catastrophic 'leadership' of the City Deal.

What 'happened' in Carmarthenshire was that the taxpayers were robbed, democracy was trashed and peoples lives destroyed. Who is going to put that right? I'm still waiting. One can understand why, sometimes, people take the law into their own hands.

As for the Wellness scandal, if an inquiry can be called to investigate the Prime Minister and his refurbishments, let alone the 'dodgy contracts', then surely a council chief executive who accepted £mms in bribes from a developer, lying to his employers and the taxpayer in the process, (and not for the first time), warrants a very public inquiry. 
It would also be very interesting to know when exactly Emlyn Dole, Linda Rees Jones and Wendy Walters realise there was something seriously wrong? They're either idiots, liars or crooks. Or all three.

The truth will out.

Friday 9 April 2021

CPS decision - open email to Police Commissioner


After having had some time to digest the CPS response to the investigation I am finding it more an more incredulous that no charges were brought. And, for that matter, why our politicians aren't raising a stink.

The revised police statement was crucial. There was evidence that these people were due to pocket millions of pounds in bribes from a development funded by public money. What is there not to understand. If a benefit claimant pockets an extra £60 in housing benefit that they know they shouldn't have, they're hauled before the magistrates or at least named and shamed on a council website, who are, apparently, 'protecting the public purse'.

There's been precious little of that at County Hall.

For a serious crime such as large scale fraud, which this was, it should make no difference if one of them is unfit to stand trial, as long as the evidence is there to implicate the rest of them. Which it was. 

Including the former CEO of the council, Mark James.

However, I'm clearly in no position to influence the CPS, but senior politicians are, or are able, at the very least, to call for a public inquiry.

Mark James, whilst CEO, spent roughly three years arranging a personal deal to receive millions of pounds in bribes from a company he was appointing, directly, through an obviously rigged tender.

As I said, this crooked, criminal arrangement went on from 2016 and influenced every aspect of the development, and the City Deal until it broke down, and until James hurriedly left the council in June 2019. It was signed, sealed and just about to be delivered, and maybe some of it already had.

The 'arrangement' was for the loot to be funnelled into offshore blind trusts.

So, do we sweep all this under the carpet? Do we wait until Clement and co decide to go to employment tribunals and for the evidence to trickle out? Given that they're all doing very well thank you elsewhere, I don't think they'll bother, it would be damaging. We'll see. 

Of course, Mark James, who is currently conning the residents of Century Wharf, appears to have got off scot free. Again.

If we choose to believe that no one else in the council was aware of what was going on, and James certainly had a knack of silencing anyone who got a little curious, then now is the time to act. It's time he's finally exposed as the crook he is.

He has form. From Boston, to the curious case of the £5000 in the envelope, to his bung to a private company, to tax avoidance, pilfering the public purse, to silencing whistleblowers, to lying to the council and the courts, using council staff and resources for his own private use, failing to declare his interests etc etc. And that is just what we know about.

All this went on for seventeen years, but pales into insignificance to the con he had planned for the Wellness village and the City Deal. We also know what many of the other key City Deal figures thought about him.

Going back seventeen years is clearly impractical, but for the three or for years before he left the authority it would be a relatively simple matter. 

As has been set out on this blog, and from this criminal investigation the truth has again been revealed, James is a liar and a crook. But, without support from politicians and Welsh Government, those he has wronged, or conned, including the taxpayer, will be left with a very grim legacy.

I have emailed the councillors of Carmarthenshire to make sure they know exactly what went on.

I have also emailed the current police commissioner, Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Llywelyn, as reproduced in full below;

To; Police and Crime Commissioner, Dyfed Powys Police

Dear Mr Llywelyn

I am sure you are aware of the recent decision by the CPS not to charge several suspects following the Wellness village bribery investigation by Tarian, the regional organised crime unit.

You may also be aware that the police revised their own statement shortly afterwards which said that there had been evidence of potential criminal acts.

I am sure that it is in your remit, as the current PCC, to ask the CPS to review their decision and indeed charge the suspects, one of which is the former chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council, Mark James.

Whatever the reasoning behind the CPS decision it cannot be right that the individuals involved had accepted, and stood to personally gain bribes of millions of pounds in public cash and equity from the developers of the project. This was fraud, and had been years in the planning.

The tender for the project, the central issue in the investigation, was, to put it bluntly, rigged by Mark James. Not only did he stand to gain a substantial amount himself, he jeopardised the integrity of the council and the entire City Deal.

The fact that this is a Plaid run council and you are a Plaid Cymru PCC should, I trust, not be an issue.
I look forward to you early reply to this email, and details of how this matter can be taken forward with urgency by either yourself or your successor.

Your sincerely

Jacqui Thompson

It's perhaps worth remembering what the previous Police Commissioner, Christopher Salmon said about the County Hall regime in 2016. He didn't name names, but everyone knew who he was talking about.  
"Carmarthenshire County Council. Wales’ answer to a Sicilian cartel. It’s everywhere you look (thankfully only in Carmarthenshire – so far as I can tell). It extracts vast amounts of money from residents which it showers on favourites, hoards property, bullies opponents, co-opts friends and answers to no one, least of all local councillors."

2018 - The fraudulent deal is done. Mark James and Marc Clement laughing all the way to the bank.