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 These being their defence costs following the trial which I became liable for when my insurance was withdrawn following Tugendhat's judgement.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 (cps.gov.uk)

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.