Friday 20 July 2018

Saron: Karen Davies romps home

Warmest congratulations to Karen Davies who held Saron ward for Plaid Cymru with just over 65% (up 15.7%) of the vote in yesterday's by-election. Labour came second with 20.9% (down 15%). Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the campaign, the Tories trailed in third place with 12.7% (down 1.9%), while the LibDems took just 1.2%.

The election was held following the death of Karen's late husband, Alun Davies.

In numbers, the results were as follows:

Karen Davies, Plaid 747
Tom Fallows, Labour 239
Aled Crow, Tory 146
Caryl Tandy, LibDem 14

The haemorrhaging of support for Labour in Saron follows a disastrous performance in nearby Iscennen ward and another dire result in Burry Port, all masterminded by Rob James who ousted Jeff Edmunds as leader of the Labour group in a coup in May.

Readers will recall that Rob James launched a vitriolic and highly personal attack on Jonathan Edwards MP, the council leader Emlyn Dole and other senior Plaid figures immediately before the Iscennen by-election, with the publication of claims that a £145,000 regeneration grant in Ammanford "may" have been improperly awarded.

The Wales Audit Office has now rejected Rob James's complaints and announced that it will be taking no further action.

Instead of apologising for what looked very much like an attempt to throw an election with a smear campaign, Rob's response to finding himself in a hole is to keep digging. He is now questioning the WAO's findings and has announced that he will be contacting the Cabinet Secretary to call for a full investigation.


Monday 16 July 2018

A fox, a crow and a dead duck

Just a few days to go before the people of Saron, Penybanc and Hendre get to choose their next county councillor on 19 July, and the campaign is in full swing.

The LibDems have produced one of their usual generic "newspapers" which involves opening up a file, deleting Truro/Auchtermuchty and/orHalifax, typing in "Saron" and pressing the print button.

The Tories have pulled out all the stops and wheeled in Suzie Davies AM in support of local Tory boy Aled Crow, as they try to convince voters that they should not mistake the Conservative Party for the Conservative Party (no relation). The Maybot, Michael Gove, Andrea Loathesome, Boris, Liam Fox, Gavin "Tarantula" Williams et al are really much, much nicer people than Thatcher, John Redwood, Norman Tebbit, etc.

Labour's campaign is a rather less happy affair. After his recent bruising encounter with Jonathan Edwards' mother, Rob James is understood to be muttering darkly about his candidate's ability to walk and chew gum at the same time, even, it is said, going so far as to quote Boris Johnson's description of being asked to sell Theresa May's Chequers plan.

The Labour candidate, Tom Fallows, recently went down to a spectacular defeat when he stood for election to Ammanford Town Council where he came a very distant second, and yet despite viewers being treated to the Tories' Carry On on the Titanic every time they turn on the news, there is a distinct possibility that the Conservative could push Labour into third place this time round.

In the Amman Valley.

Things don't seem to be going much better down in the neighbouring Llanelli constituency from where Rob is directing his campaign to paint Carmarthenshire red, or to use one of the slogans Labour deployed in the recent Iscennen by-election, "to take back control", another phrase which Boris might recognise.

In a by-election to Burry Port Town Council last week, Labour was super-confident that its candidate, Lee Fox, would romp home, but instead he came a distant second to an independent candidate with the Tories and LibDems barely getting off the starting blocks:

                   Richard Stephen 
Richard Lee
Tomos Arthur
Christopher David William

Lee Fox, married to Labour county councillor Amanda Fox, made an interesting appearance on this blog once before when he was at the centre of a near-riot at a meeting of Burry Port Town Council towards the end of last year.

(Scroll down past Garry Poumista Jones, about whom more in a moment).

Mr Fox had unwisely resigned from his post as Technical Services Officer, but later changed his mind and asked for his job back when it was too late. A large rent-a-mob subsequently turned up at a council meeting demanding justice for their boy, something which the Labour leader on the council, John James (also a county councillor) claimed showed "how strongly local people felt attached" to their former TSO, even though he had been in the job for less than a year.

The election result would seem to suggest that the attachment was not all that Cllr James cracked it up to be.

Meanwhile over in Llangennech, Cllr Gary 'Poumista' Jones, has been as busy as ever on Twitter. There is yet another selfie of the councillor naked from the waist up wearing a tin hat, a bizarre interest in introducing beavers to Plymouth (strangely Plymouth features as much if not more than Llangennech does on his feed), and this when asked who he was supporting in the World Cup:

That will have gone down really well with Poumie's voters.

But at least St Gareth of Southgate's team scored a few victories against the titans of Panama and Colombia. Back in the less glamorous world of Carmarthenshire politics, Rob James's boys just seem to lurch from one helluva beating to the next.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Tory Time in Saron

Update 28 June

Last night saw another meeting of Llandybie Community Council, normally an event which resembles the Carlsberg Complaints Department in those ads of old. Having had the dubious pleasure of Rob James's company for the recent AGM, it was Aled Crow's turn this time. Like most community council meetings, watching paint dry is normally more exciting, and councillors have been left scratching their heads at their sudden popularity. Perhaps the LibDems will turn up for the next bash.

Unlike Rob, Aled can at least claim a family connection with Llandybie council because his uncle, Meirion Bowen, was a member representing the BNP a few years back.

While all this was going on Rob James was out canvassing, with one lady voter of mature years telling him to stuff his leaflet where the sun doesn't shine.

That'll be a "don't know" then.


Back in 2002 Theresa May famously told the Conservative Party Conference that some people thought that the Tories were the "nasty party", to the stunned disbelief of her audience whose understanding of the world is limited to whatever the Daily Mail or Daily Torygraph have to say.

At the time many observers made the mistake of thinking that this was Theresa criticising her party and that what she really wanted was a softer, cuddlier and altogether kinder political movement, but her long stint as Home Secretary and more recently as a strong and stable prime minister make the Tory party of old look almost pleasant.

Fortunately so far Carmarthenshire has remained steadfastly resistant to the Tory message, although almost 11,000 fans of the not so strong and stable Theresa voted for Havard Hughes in last year's general election in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, their excuse presumably being that they were just following the orders of the Daily Mail and were blissfully unaware of just how inept and dire Central Office's choice of candidate was. Voters who had the misfortune of seeing Havard in action in the hustings and in what was surely one of the most cringeworthy broadcasts ever aired on S4C (and that's saying something), still bear the psychological scars.

With hindsight, the reason why Havard Hughes won so many votes probably had a lot to do with his strategy of staying as far away from the punters as possible, and the same went for his party leader.

Fast forward to the sizzling summer of 2018, and it's all change. The Tories have managed to find a local candidate to stand in the forthcoming Saron by-election for Carmarthenshire County Council, and they have been out in force trying to drum up support.

Like everywhere else, the Amman Valley has moved on, but Tories remain a rare breed in the area. Finding enough people to nominate a Conservative candidate could be tricky, so it was fortunate that  the Tories were able to track down five people willing to sign the nomination papers for that nice young man in a blue suit in the local Young Conservatives Club, otherwise known as the Ael y Bryn care home.

Step forward young Aled Crow who clearly has ambitions which stretch way, way beyond Saron. If his Facebook page is to be believed, Aled used to like nothing better than an evening out on the Felinfoel down at the Welfare Hall.

But as we all know, horizons and waistbands tend to expand over time, and Aled is now rubbing shoulders with some very interesting people - the sort of people most of us would run a mile to avoid.

Here's our boy with the fragrant Alun Cairns who has just killed off the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project which would have given a massive boost to the local economy, while putting the finishing touches to a gala event to rename the second Severn crossing in honour of HRH, in accordance with the wishes of a very silent majority.

Thanks to Cairns, rather more people will now think of the bridge as "Pont y G*nt".

Scroll down Aled's Facebook page, and you will be treated to many more pictures of Aled posing with popular figures, including Michael Gove, Carmarthenshire's very own Mark James and the reptilian Gavin Williamson, Theresa May's new Defence Secretary who appears to be as deeply loathed within the Conservative Party as he is outside it.

Somewhat incongruously rubbing digital shoulders with Gavin Williamson is a smiling Mr Igor Shchegolev, an Aide (note the capital 'A') to President Putin, and Vlad's former Minister of Communications and Mass Media.

How times have moved on from the days when would-be councillors would sell their grandmothers to get a mugshot in the South Wales Guardian. 

Saturday 23 June 2018

A four horse race in Saron - updated

Following the death of the late Alun Davies (Plaid), a by-election has been called for Saron ward on 19 July.

Standing for Plaid is Karen Davies, Alun's widow. Karen is a well-known figure locally and works as a pharmacist. She has been a community councillor in Llandybie since 2012.

As noted in the previous post, Alun was a popular local figure who rose above tribal politics and got along with his political opponents. It was therefore shocking that both Labour and the LibDems contacted County Hall within hours of his death to demand a by-election, showing utter disregard for the feelings of Alun's family and friends.

Also throwing their hats into the ring are a LibDem, Caryl Tandy, and a Tory hopeful called Aled Crow.

The last LibDem to be elected to the County Council was Ken Rees in Llanelli who subsequently defected to UKIP.

There may be some very elderly readers who remember seeing a Tory being returned to Jail Hill, probably in about 1870, but the Amman Valley, with its memories of what Thatcher did to the local economy, is unlikely to change the party's fortunes, especially as the Conservatives, with the help of Jeremy Corbyn (a "jobs first Brexit"), are now paving the way for the destruction of what is left of Welsh industry up in the north-east.

That leaves Labour. Readers will recall that the new Labour leader, Rob James, paid a surprise visit to Llandybie Community Council a couple of days after Alun's death, presumably to familiarise himself with the territory.

Conventional wisdom had it that Labour would field Anthony Jones, the former councillor for Llandybie, but it seems that Anthony was unable to convince the Momentum cadres who now run the party from Llanelli of his ideological purity.

The red rosette has instead been pinned on Tom Fallows who recently went down to a massive defeat in the Iscennen by-election for Ammanford town council, triggered in response to "popular demand" by the Independents. Unfortunately for Tom and the Independents, popular demand did not translate into votes, in Tom's case despite or possibly because of an extraordinary last minute attempt by Rob and the editor of the SWEP, Carmarthen Journal and Llanelli Star titles to smear senior Plaid figures in the county.

Meanwhile back at Llanelli HQ, Rob is rumoured to be plotting to oust Lee Waters AM when selection time comes round.

The prospect of being asked to choose between Red Rob and Murky Waters is almost enough to make you feel sorry for rank and file Labour members in Llanelli.

Well, almost.

Friday 1 June 2018

Saron and Llandybie

Many people in Llandybie and much further afield will have been saddened to hear of the death of Alun Davies on Monday at the age of just 60. Alun served his community in various roles for many years. Most recently he was a popular county councillor for Saron ward, a member of Llandybie Community Council, a former chair of the Plaid Cymru Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency party and a tireless campaigner and fund raiser for Wales Air Ambulance.

The tributes to him describe Alun as a genuinely nice guy who was liked and respected by his political opponents, a big and gentle man who was a familiar sight at countless public meetings.

Alun's death will mean a by-election, and normally political foes could be expected to show respect by waiting a couple of weeks, at least until the funeral, before triggering an electoral contest, but Rob James, the newly installed leader of the Labour group on Carmarthenshire County Council ("elected" by tossing a coin), clearly has little time for such niceties. Constrained only by the fact that Monday was a bank holiday, he hit the ground running on Tuesday, insisting that the council kick-start the electoral process.

Polling day will be 19 July, and the nominations process will begin before the funeral.

Saron ward returns two members, and in last year's council elections Alun topped the poll with 810 votes. Carl Harris (Plaid) came second with 679 votes, while Labour trailed in third and fourth places with 588 and 439 votes respectively. The two Tory candidates came in a distant fifth and sixth.

It is worth recalling that 2017 was a good year for Labour in general, but the party went backwards in most of Carmarthenshire outside Llanelli, despite being in opposition.

We will not have to wait long to find out who Labour will field, but one possible contender will be Anthony Jones who lost his Llandybie seat to Plaid last year. Prior to that setback, Jones was one of the bigger and noisier beasts in Labour's Carmarthenshire menagerie, with ambitions to become leader of both the Labour group and the County Council itself, unsuccessfully playing Brutus to Kevin Madge's re-interpretation of Kenneth Williams' performance as Caesar.

"Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!"

If Anthony Jones does throw his hat into the ring, he will be hoping that voters in the Amman Valley have forgotten his time on the council's planning committee where he managed to incur the wrath of both Ammanford Cricket Club and the residents of Penybanc.

It remains to be seen what Labour will do in the case of the now vacant seat on Llandybie Community Council. The party could choose to stand back and allow Plaid to co-opt a new member, or it could force another by-election as it did recently in Iscennen ward in Ammanford.

Readers will recall that Labour went down to a heavy defeat in Iscennen after forcing an unnecessary election, with the unsuccessful Labour candidate arguing on this blog that his party had triggered an election in response to popular demand. Cough.

The otherwise clean Iscennen campaign was marred a day before voters went to the polls when Rob James and the editor of the Carmarthen Journal, SWEP etc. launched a ham-fisted and spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to smear his political opponents.

Despite that drubbing, the indications are that Rob James will insist on forcing a second contest in Llandybie because the Labour leader unexpectedly travelled up from Llanelli to attend the AGM of Llandybie Community Council on Wednesday.

In common with most community councils, Llandybie rarely gets to welcome members of the public or the local press to its meetings, and such was the surprise of councillors at the sight of the increasingly Gothic looking Labour leader, that he was asked in what capacity he had decided to grace them with his presence. "As an observer", came the reply.

Clearly Rob still has some way to go to becoming a household name even in his own household because when he temporarily left the room, the chair of the council AGM for the evening, Cllr Anthony "Whitey" Davies, asked his fellow councillors who the surprise visitor was, despite sitting opposite the Labour leader in the chamber of County Hall.

Monday 21 May 2018

Iscennen - not taking back control

Iscennen Ward (Ammanford) - By-election

Rhys Fisher (Plaid Cymru) 237
Thomas Fallows (Labour) 79
Emyr John (Independent) 45


Bearing in mind that there are more than 730 community and town councils in Wales and around 8,000 town or community councillors, it would be reasonable to expect that death, insanity, bankruptcy, long-term illness and imprisonment would mean a healthy crop of community by-elections every week, but in reality by-elections at the paddling pool end of local democracy are comparatively rare events and generally do not merit more than a passing mention in what is left of the local media.

The convention is that when a serving councillor steps down or falls off his or her perch, a replacement is co-opted until the next round of elections, if elections ever take place, because on many community councils the incumbents will be returned unopposed. On councils where members are politically affiliated, the convention is that the party which held the seat at the previous election gets to nominate the successor.

Because town and community councillors, at least the good ones, are in reality little more than unpaid volunteer dogsbodies presiding over tiny budgets with very little in the way of power, this democratic fudge works, and voters tend not to look kindly on those who force unnecessary and expensive by-elections to decide who in Cwmsgwt will patrol dog poo alley.

Last week's contest in Iscennen ward for a seat on Ammanford Town Council was different for a number of reasons and merits a closer look.

The previous incumbent in Iscennen was Chris Corgi Jones, proprietor of the posh hosiery factory, who was elected on a Plaid ticket. Chris decided to step down to spend more time with his socks, and the expectation was that the party would duly nominate a successor to be co-opted, but 14 miles down the road the vipers' nest known as the Llanelli Labour Party had other ideas, and a candidate was found to front Rob James's attempt to reconquer Ammanford.

And so it came to pass that young Thomas Fallows agreed to boldly go where nobody with any sense would have ventured to tread, having seen the light in a meeting with Owen Jones, the Guardian's answer to Dave Spart. Perhaps he'd spent too much time in a darkened room on his X-box, but once he'd signed on the dotted line, it was too late, and to the disgust of the good people of Ammanford, an unnecessary and expensive by-election was triggered.

Those who met Tom during the campaign say he is pleasant enough and polite, but would probably have struggled with the complexities of town council business.

Plaid fielded Rhys Fisher, a bright young man from Ammanford who is captain of the town's football team and a sports coach who works with apprentices at Coleg Sir Gâr.

Labour and Plaid were then joined by an independent candidate as the three legged 100 to 1 outsider.

The campaign was a clean fight almost to the end, and was heavy on the shoe leather. Kevin Madge dutifully trotted round with young Tom, and the Llanelli Labour Party threw all of its big guns in.

The slogan chosen for the Labour campaign, presumably in a committee room in Llanelli, was "#TakeBackControl", a peculiarly inappropriate and tribalist line to take for a homely town council by-election, and something which strikes an uncannily familiar dog whistle note.

Now where have we heard that one before? Surely not a brexity echo of the campaign run by the assorted charlatans and conmen fronted by Boris Johnson?

Perhaps sensing that the wind was not blowing in the right direction, Rob James went nuclear in the final few days with a clumsily worded smear campaign directed at Plaid. Right on cue, the ever reliable editor of the South Wales Evening Post, Llanelli Star and Carmarthen Journal, Jonathan Roberts, ran Rob's "story" about a grant to redevelop the former Lloyds Bank branch as a front page splash in both the SWEP and the Journal - the day before voters went to the polls.

This ham-fisted last minute intervention probably lost readers, and clearly did not win any votes. Young Tom went down to a heavy defeat, with Plaid out-polling him by three to one.

A humble town council by-election it may have been, but this was a remarkable result in an area which not so very long ago was one of the strongest of Labour's strongholds, where Gwynfor Evans used to be subjected to abuse on the streets.

From 1966 until 2001 the constituency would swing back to Labour every time the Tories were in power. Jonathan Edwards was the first to break the mould in 2015.

With Theresa May heading up the worst government in living memory, Labour is facing an open goal and should be sweeping all before it, but Corbyn is now trailing May in the opinion polls. Rob James, who recently completed his takeover of the Labour group on the county council with the toss of a coin, apparently masterminded the campaign. He seems to have peaked before he even started.

There are many areas where Labour can still pin a red rosette on the proverbial dead donkey and win, Llanelli being one of them. What the Amman Valley shows is that hard work and good candidates can break Labour's sclerotic grip in places which it has taken for granted for decades.

Thursday 10 May 2018

Labour pains

With more twists and turns than the A484, more plots than Persimmon and more backstabbing and barely believable characters than Pobol y Cwm, it's been a while since this blog reported on the goings-on in the Labour Party in Carmarthenshire, and so here is a cut-out-'n-keep souvenir issue to mark the, erm, election of Rob James to serve as leader of the Labour group on the county council.

Back in May 2015 at what was described as a "very emotional" annual general meeting of the Labour group on Carmarthenshire County Council, Kevin Madge's political career finally hit the buffers when he was ousted as leader by Jeff Edmunds, the Llanelli undertaker.

Within days the coup d'etat led to the break-up of the dire Labour-Independent coalition and put the Plaid group in power.

The council elections in May 2017 saw Labour consolidate its grip on Llanelli while being driven to near extinction everywhere else in the county, including its former strongholds in the Amman Valley.

One of the new Labour intake in Llanelli was Cllr Rob James who ousted the veteran maverick Bill Thomas in Lliedi ward. Prior to that, James was a county councillor in Neath Port Talbot for five long years in which he made a name for himself by being absent for much of his time in office. His legacy to the local party was to gift his old ward to Plaid Cymru.

What young Rob may lack in the delivery department, he makes up for with ambition, and from the moment he first set foot in Llanelli it has been rumoured that he has been eyeing up the jobs of both nuclear Nia and Lee Murky Waters, recently memorably described as Welsh politics' answer to Alan Partridge.

It would not be his first attempt at breaking into the political big-time. A few short years ago, Rob set his sights on securing the nomination for the Cynon Valley Assembly seat, promising that he would make his home there.

Unfortunately for Neath, Llanelli and Carmarthenshire, the Cynon Valley Labour Party had other ideas, probably after they had been forced to watch this video, in which our unshaven hero keeps gazing up at something to his right while pretending not to be reading from a script.

Roll forward to May 2018 and what was no doubt another very emotional (i.e. bloody) Labour group AGM where new boy Rob with only a year under his belt challenged veteran Jeff Edmunds for the crown.

According to very reliable sources the vote was a tie, with the tiny Amman Valley contingent having to hold its noses and vote for lugubrious Jeff after spending most of the last three years sticking pins into a wax effigy of him.

In most bodies of this kind the decision would then hang on the casting vote of the chair, but the impasse was resolved instead by tossing a coin. Rob won.

Earning a crust

As a result, Rob will see his council salary rise from £13,400 to a more attractive £22,100 as leader of the opposition.

The £22,100 will presumably come on top of Rob's salary as full-time office manager for MP Geraint Davies (Lab. Swansea West), where the salary range is from £30,000 up to £41,748.

Thanks to the taxpayer, Rob will therefore be bringing home somewhere between £50k and £60k a year thanks to that lucky toss of a coin, but money must be tight in the James household because Rob is also the only one of Carmarthenshire's 74 councillors known to be claiming for the cost of childcare, worth up to £403 a month, presumably because the missus is also out boosting the family budget.

This may leave some readers wondering what happens to the James brood when Rob is performing his full-time office manager job and not in County Hall.

For reasons which are not clear, Rob recently used his membership of the council's Democratic Services Committee to persuade his fellow councillors that there was no need to flaunt this additional source of income and upset the voters, and so it was agreed that Rob's childcare claims should be hidden in a general total figure.


What Rob has done for you

In his year as county councillor for Lliedi it is fair to say that Rob's attendance figures have been a marked improvement on his five years in Neath, but it is also fair to say that he has not exactly made much of a mark.

Highlights of his career so far in Carmarthenshire include his opposition to the planned new Ysgol Dewi Sant, backed by a coalition made up of dogwalkers and the barmy twosome behind CUSC, Labour's paramilitary cyber and hairdressing group set up ostensibly to campaign for sports clubs, and the Rainbow Flag fiasco.

In addition to being a member of the Democratic Services Committee, Rob is also a member of the council's so-called Constitutional Reform Working Group (CRWG), which in a neat Mark Jamesian twist is not actually recognised by the council's constitution and so does not have to tell the public about its deliberations.

One of the weighty matters considered by CRWG earlier this year was the vexed question of the council's flag flying policy. Had he turned up for the meeting Rob would have voted in favour of flying the Rainbow Flag, he told the press. Unfortunately his car let him down. Jeff Edmunds, Labour's other representative, did manage to get to County Hall and voted instead to maintain the ban on anything other than flying flags to mark various high days and holidays in celebration of the Windsor clan. No doubt urgent consideration is now being given to adding Meghan Markle to the list.

Rob's campaign promise to rid Carmarthenshire of its beloved chief executive, Mark James CBE (no relation), seems to have been quietly buried.

In short, Rob's contribution to local government in Carmarthenshire so far has been as effective as what is known as a "rhech mewn pot jam". Look it up.


It remains to be seen whether Rob's lucky toss will now temporarily put his political ambitions on hold, and there are those in the party who fear not.

Just over the Llanelli constituency border in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr the constituency Labour Party is so concerned by the prospect of being saddled with Rob James as its Westminster candidate that it has decided to volunteer to accept a women-only shortlist.

Will Rob elect to undergo the knife and become Roberta to further his career? Watch this space.

In another bizarre twist, a Mancunian recently settled in the rural idyll of Pentrecagal called Chris Hardy is claiming to have already bagged the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr nomination and to be Labour's official candidate for the Westminster constituency which is held by Jonathan Edwards MP (Plaid).

On his website here, Chris introduces himself as "the local Labour Party candidate for the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency", something which has apparently taken the local party by surprise, and he is seeking donations to fund his campaign.

Click to enlarge

Chris describes his time in Carmarthenshire as "turmoilous", and he admits to having upset a few people, but his message is one of love and Universal Politics, a creed based on luuurv, and lots of it.

To bring us all together, Chris has set up a second website called which he hopes will act as a forum for ideas and discussion across the county. Neither the website nor contains any Welsh, but Care4Carms has attracted a number of messages from the county's Russian speaking minority.

It's worth checking that your anti-virus software is up to date before visiting either site.

Прощай товарищи.

Sunday 29 April 2018

My Diary: Lee Waters AM

In yet another shameless Private Eye rip-off, we are proud to begin another occasional series. This week it's the diaries of Lee Waters, aged 42 and a quarter, as told to Y Cneifiwr.


Back from an exhilarating and historic spring conference in Llandudno. Lovely though the Venice of the North may be, it is not a patch on Llanelli where I may or may not have lived ever since I left the ranks of  the Young Conservatives Young Labour.

I shall never forget the tear stained faces of all those rank and file third sector lobbyists and consultants as Carwyn told us that this was to be his last conference as First Minister.

It was a privilege to see history being made, and while it is too soon to form a firm view about Carwyn's legacy to the nation, something tells me that he will not be joining Ramsay Macdonald, Gordon Brown and my old friend Aneurin Bevan in the Pantheon of the Greats.

Sadly his final term in office was marred by tragedy when he failed to appoint me to his cabinet, but he nevertheless leaves a towering legacy in the form of the Allotments Aspiration Order (Wales), the Landfill Tax (Administration) (Wales) Supplementary Order, and more recently the Wales Brexit Continuity (Abject Surrender of Powers) Bill.

Our thoughts must now turn to who will fill those very large shoes, and it is vital that we have more than two candidates and a proper debate. Mark Drakeford has left an impressive legacy in our NHS, and Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan would also have my support should they decide to stand. I am proud to pin my colours to their masts.

But perhaps it is time for a younger candidate from the progressive wing of the party, someone with a vision and ideas which will enable us to capitalise on the challenges of the white hot heat of the digital revolution. Do I hear the wingbeat of destiny calling on me to step forward?

Before all that, we need to address how we elect our leader. The current system and One Member One Vote both have their attractions. It is essential that the voices of our friends in the unions and AMs and MPs are given due weight. OMOV certainly has much to recommend it, but I cannot help asking why we would want to copy the Nationalists and give everyone equal voting rights.

On balance, I suspect that a combination of the current electoral college system and OMOV would be the best way forward.

There, I've said it. And now the brickbats will rain down on me for having the courage to make a stand. 


As a member of the Assembly's Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, I take my duties seriously and spend part of my evening reviewing the output of S4C. Part of their recent peak time offering was a drama series featuring a woman vicar who talks to dead people, and a reality show in which various so-called celebs try to herd some pigs.

I ask you.

As an ordinary working class Llanelli lad I like nothing better than to sit down with a few cans on a Saturday night to watch Ant and Dec or Cilla. But what do we get on S4C? Siân Cothi driving a JCB.

This may do it for the Nationalist elite, but I find it hard to justify supporting calls to stop more cuts to the channel's budget.

Cue a deluge of online abuse from Cymdeithas trolls.


The Reform Think Tank names me "Reformer of the Week" following my speech to the Assembly in which I said that the advance of digital technology and automation is a force to be understood and harnessed rather than rejected.

Me looking into the future

This shows that you don't need a flashy Harvard degree to carry out blue sky thinking, and while the Nationalists hanker for a return to the Celtic mists of the middle ages, my vision is for a revolution in education so that we ensure that we’re preparing young people for roles that do not yet exist in a future we can barely conceive of five or ten short years from now.

While I am a strong supporter of Welsh medium education, so long as it does not interfere with the rights of dog walkers, I couldn't help noticing recent damning criticism from Estyn that two thirds of Welsh primaries are not up to scratch when it comes to being at the leading edge of the digital revolution. This must change, and we must embrace what we cannot yet know.

Robots and virtual reality are the way forward, and will free up valuable resources. Who needs new roads around Llandeilo when we will soon be able to travel anywhere we like at the speed of light  and in virtual real-time from the comfort of our own homes?

In farming Welsh agriculture must embrace Big Data to transform how we produce food. When Mrs Trellis buys a dozen eggs in Porthmadog, a stimulating electronic buzz will prompt hen number 756342 at MegaFarm plc to begin a new supply chain cycle.

Instead of condemning people to boring and repetitive jobs, robots will free up nurses and GPs in our health service. Nurses performing bed baths and rectal thermometer checks, and GPs carrying out prostate examinations will seem as old fashioned as Florence Nightingale and her lamp when RoboNurse takes over. And I'm sure that they could be programmed to be bilingual as well.

This is how we will transform the NHS.

But what will I get for setting out my bold and brave new vision? A torrent of abuse, that's what.


Tory cuts and mismanagement of the Welsh NHS lead to an announcement by Hywel Dda that Prince Philip Hospital could be downgraded. I take to the streets with Nia who has just got back from a trip on one of our Trident subs.

Close Withybush and Glangwili if you like, I tell Mrs and Mrs Evans of Dafen, but hands off Prince Philip.

I make a note to tell Vaughan all about my ideas for RoboNurse, and stand by for the usual tidal wave of Nationalist attacks on my Twitter feed. 


And so ends another week in politics. These are challenging times, and never has the country been more divided, which is why I seek always to be a bridge builder. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I note once again that the nationalists are cynically trying to bring politics into the future of our hospitals in the Hywel Dda region.

Meanwhile their banner waving and hysterical cyber trolls allege that Carwyn has sold Wales out to the London Tories for "a handful of magic beans", whereas I know, because he told me, that he has secured exciting and as yet unspecified new powers in return for his statesmanlike consensus building.

And on that note I am sure that I have once again made myself a target for all those  bitter and twisted nationalists with chips on their shoulders who have nothing better to do waste their time on Twitter.

#goodnightall @Amanwy #robonurse #labourfutures #saveprincephilip #me4llanelli

Sunday 25 February 2018

Council of Despair: A crock of something at the end of the rainbow

After another lengthy sojourn at the Beti George Clinic, this time claiming it was 'flu, Sali Malu Cachu is back.


Sir Ephraim Jams gazed down at the ancient market town nestling in its historic landscape. There across the river was the Tallahassee Fried Chlorinated Chicken Shack, temporarily closed while the company said it was "re-evaluating its distribution operations". Close by was Poundstretcher, while a short distance away he could make out a building housing Kash-for-Gold and a new branch of the Rees-Mogg Brexit Bookies betting chain emblazoned with its catchy slogan "Everyone's a winner!"

It had been such a pleasure to welcome the Right Honourable Andrea Loathsome to the star-studded opening ceremony the other week. The local economy was indeed booming, and it was all thanks to his vision, Sir Ephraim mused modestly.

At that moment the Chief's attention was drawn to movement below the window of the Executive Suite as old Mudge, the caretaker, prepared to hoist the Union Flag to mark the birthday of Her Royal Highness Princess Trixie Tinkerbelle, the spouse of HRH the Duke of Luton who was now 37th in line to the throne.

With a surge of pride, Sir Ephraim recalled his last conversation with Camilla when she had come down for an overnight stay at the royal couple's beautifully restored 26-bedroom cottage.

"I've got to hand it to you, Eph," she had said between gulps of gin, "you know how to keep these local savages in order. Keep your nose clean, and I will have a quiet word with you-know-who. I can see you sitting on the red benches".

A peerage! Lord Jams of Century Wharf....Just imagine! He might soon be dispensing his wisdom before the gilded throne at the beating heart of British Government. All he had to do was hold the ship steady for a little longer.

Sir Ephraim's reverie was interrupted by a discreet cough. It was Mrs Hughes Jones, the housekeeper.

"The staff are waiting for you in the Chippings Room", she announced.

Sir Ephraim strode into the panelled room dominated by a massive portrait of Dame Muriel swathed in ermine and wearing some very impressive chains of office.

Wasting no time on pleasantries, Sir Ephraim was straight down to business.

"We have only one item on the agenda today, namely the symbolic but nevertheless vitally important question of municipal protocol and flag flying".

"You will recall that questions were recently asked by some of our newer members less experienced in policy matters about raising a multi-coloured banner from the roofs of our offices. I am pleased to inform you that I personally approved a policy to deal with such matters a couple of years ago after we received an avalanche of requests from various pressure groups. It is with regret that I must inform you that acceding to such requests is out of the question. Unless of course you decide otherwise."

"The policy itself is based on a very clear protocol issued by the Home Office at the time when the Prime Minister herself occupied that great Office of State".

"The decision before you is therefore whether to disregard the firm instructions of the Home Office itself and open open the floodgates to a torrent of demands to fly the flags of extremist organisations, or to hold firm and respect the wishes of their Royal Highnesses who made their views clear to me on their last visit to Mudpie".

"It's Myddfai, Sir", ventured one of the assembled worthies.

"Exactly. Mudpie, just as I said", snapped Sir Ephraim testily.

"May I be so bold as to ask permission to see the requests you have received", asked Mr Mole.

Sir Ephraim brandished a thick file of papers. "Unfortunately that will not be possible because of commercial sensitivity, which as you will be aware is a delegated area of policy, but rest assured I do not think you would want to be seen to be allowing the Trelech Taliban Association, the Abergorlech Sex Workers Collective or the Laugharne Leather Club to promote their, cough, interests from our property. And you can bet that if we did, we'd be getting demands from Ffred Ffransis and his troublemakers next".

A lugubrious voice boomed from the far end of the table. It was Boris Karloff, or possible Edmund Jeffries. Sir Ephraim was never quite sure which.

"I recently had the colours of the rainbow explained to me", he began. "Red means, um, passion I think, while indigo has something to do with hope. Or it maybe it's the other way round".

Sir Ephraim cut him short. "Very interesting I'm sure, but we must now move to a vote. On the one hand you may decide to ignore the wishes of their Royal Highnesses and the advice given by the Home Secretary. You are indeed free to open the floodgates to all manner of fanatics and pressure groups, accepting the very negative publicity that would go with the flying of Islamist symbols and Tafod y Ddraig. You may on the other hand decide to heed the words of Dame Muriel herself who warned that members who listened to the clamour of public opinion were weak and spineless. It is entirely up to you."

The assembled worthies shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

"All those in favour of standing firm, raise your hands now."

Sir Ephraim looked pleased. "Unanimous! Good day to you all. Mrs Hughes Jones, kindly show them out."

Before Sir Ephraim could move, the door burst open and an unshaven man sweating profusely in an ill-fitting grey suit stumbled in. The suit jacket was festooned with badges and ribbons. "Nia for Nukes!", "M4 Relief Road Now!", "Say NO! to M4 Relief Road" screamed some of the badges.

It was "our Rob", as he was known to the dog walkers of Llanerch Fields.

"Sorry I'm late. I over-, um I mean the um, err, ah, I had a flat tyre. Yes that was it. A flat tyre. Did I miss anything?"

"Mr Karloff will fill you in", snarled the chief before sweeping from the room.


A couple of days had passed and Sir Ephraim was to be found in his office, poring over a detailed map of the new Dame Muriel Wellness Village and Spa. There was the site of the planned Robbie Savage Hotel, next to the Golding Sachs Health Investment Center. Over there was the site of the enormous new Buba Clinic, while here was the Harley Street Specialist Arena.

It was all very exciting, but Sir Ephraim's pencil hovered over the words "Dame Muriel".

Name recognition and branding were key, he mused, and to be brutally frank "Dame Muriel" lacked that international je-ne-sais-quoi. Sir Ephraim crossed out the name of his old friend and wrote the words "HRH Princess Camilla".

That was much better, he thought. He could tell Dame Muriel that if the wellness village thing took off, the international airport she had longed for would finally be built where Trimsaran now stood, and it would of course be known as "Dame Muriel International" in her honour. That way everyone would be happy, he smiled.

Sir Ephraim's train of thought was interrupted by a knock on the door. It was Mrs Hughes Jones, the loyal housekeeper.

"Mr Mole wishes to see you, and he says it's very urgent", she announced.

"Very well, show him in", said a visibly annoyed Sir Ephraim.

Mr Mole entered, clearly distressed.

"What is it man? Speak up!"

"They're all up in arms over the flag business, Sir. They're spitting feathers in Cardiff Bay, there's a petition and demonstrations are planned. The BBC is sniffing around, and Shippo has been asking a lot of awkward questions. Not to mention the reptiles at the Herald. Leanne is furious."

"I see. So having made this mess, what do you intend to do about it?" Sir Ephraim was clearly not pleased at the turn of events.

Mr Mole did an impersonation of a goldfish before pulling himself together. "I have read the policy, Sir, and it says that I am allowed to make an executive decision. We have no choice but to fly the Rainbow Flag!"

"Act in haste, repent at leisure, Mr Mole. Any hopes you may have entertained of an MBE have now been dashed, and for some of us this may represent an even graver setback. You may leave now".

Mr Mole retreated rapidly, and as he did so he heard the sound of a gilt pencil being snapped.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Festive thoughts

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire, peace on earth and goodwill to man (and woman), even Auntie Beryl and Mrs Bucket next door, or contemplating the living hell that is Tesco in Cardigan when you make a last minute dash for that "essential" jar of stem ginger. Yes, it's that time of year again when most of us will be thinking Christmas-related thoughts.

Not so if you are the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, it would seem. In what is turning into something of an annual tradition, Mr James appears to be contemplating another blitzkrieg of festive litigation and threats of legal action.

This time last year he was putting the final touches to what he clearly hoped would be his final offensive against Jacqui Thompson, with a court case to have her and her family turfed out of their home, with a simultaneous battery of complaints to Dyfed Powys Police. Not content with that, he threw his toys out of the pram when two councillors dared to suggest a compromise, and launched a formal complaint of breach of the code of conduct against a third.

It was a hectic December.

The Ombudsman's wheels grind exceedingly slow, however, and it is understood that the "investigation" of alleged lèse-majesté by former councillor Sian Caiach is still going on.

To what must have been the great man's intense frustration, the legal Armageddon that he had so carefully planned was about as successful as Theresa May's strong and stable election campaign.

As Jail Hill watchers know, the chief executive does not give in that easily, and so it came as no surprise to hear the other day that Mrs Angry, the Finchley housewife, blogging superstar and nemesis of Tory councillors in Barnet, had spotted an unusual amount of interest in some of her old back numbers dealing with the Jacqui Thompson case emanating from an IP address belonging to Carmarthenshire County Council.

It is perfectly normal to see council IP addresses, no doubt belonging to the press and PR departments, monitoring recent stuff on the blogs, although in this age of austerity and with frontline services being cut, employing people to monitor naughty bloggers and wayward journalists is one service most of us could survive without.

However, trawling through blog archives for stories relating to court cases is more likely to be a task allocated to someone in County Hall's notorious "cavalier at best, incompetent at worst" legal department, to quote eminent lawyer Sir David Lewis.

Whether or not Mr James is planning a new spring legal offensive is something we will no doubt find out in due course, but in the meantime we can all sleep soundly in the knowledge that, in the view of the Wales Audit Office, there is nothing wrong with council resources being used in pursuit of a legal action which the council is adamant is an entirely private matter between Mr James and Mrs Thompson.

Meanwhile Mr James has been busy issuing threats of court action against Mrs Trisha Breckman who is seeking justice for the appalling treatment she has suffered at the hands of the council over the last 15 years.

As readers will recall, the essence of that case is that the council failed in its duty to enforce the law and planning regulations against her troublesome neighbour, Mr Andrew Thomas.

One of the many issues involved in the latest flare-up is what action was taken to ensure that an area of hardstanding illegally constructed by Mr Thomas on part of a Special Area of Conservation and SSSI was actually removed as required by the enforcement notice.

After Mr Thomas failed to comply with the notice, a court case ensued but was dropped no sooner than it had started, with council officers telling the court that the notice had since been complied with.

Given Mr Thomas's immensely long track record of contempt for the planning system, you would think the council would have sent someone round to check that the hardstanding really had been removed, but it seems not. Instead, the council's Head of Law and Monitoring Officer wrote that an "aerial photograph" from 2013 showed that it had been removed.

Readers can decide for themselves whether the photograph was taken by council officers in a municipal Cessna or was it, as we non-lawyers would call it, "Google Earth" showing the illegal hardstanding with a lot of soil and rock dumped on top?

The matter of the hardstanding is only one in a very long line of bizarre statements made by senior council officers in relation to Mr Thomas's activities at Maesybont, including a former head of planning's failure to notice that the "farm" was in fact a lorry depot, and his claim that a scrapped fire engine dumped in a field was in fact a pressure washer.

And so, dear reader, we leave 2017 pretty much as we started it.

Nadolig llawen. Merry Christmas.

Sunday 17 December 2017

Carmarthen West - An Update

The gigantic housing development known as Carmarthen West has featured on this blog several times - here, for example.

The scheme was hatched and pushed through by the previous Labour/Independent administration, but whatever qualities the Meryl-Madge dream team had, vision was not one of them. It was his visionary capabilities that landed Mark James his job as chief executive way back in 2001, and this bright shiny new city on a hill (in reality part hill, part bog) is yet another of his visionary legacy projects.

Like so many other Jamesian schemes, it has not had a smooth run and involves a complex web of commercial agreements which involve a lot of give and take - with council residents doing all the giving and fat cat "investors" doing all the taking.

Readers of the Carmarthen Journal learned last week that the £5 million plus link road scheme is still bogged down in disputes with landowners. As most of the road and a new bridge have now been completed, it is pertinent to ask why work was begun and millions of pounds spent without checking that everyone was on board first. 

But we are where we are, and it seems that the council will now have to resort to compulsory purchase orders.

The council is funding most of the cost of the new road, but is hoping to recoup our money through a roof tax on the new houses, although word has it that the new houses are not selling like hot cakes.

We can but hope.

Hardly had the ink dried on the Journal's story than we learned that Jeff Fairburn, the chief executive of Persimmon, the principal developer in Carmarthen West, has just landed himself a bonus of £128 million (believed to be a mere £110 million + after the deduction of fees), with a bonanza of around £400 million going to other senior executives in the company.

Persimmon has had a very good year, thanks largely it seems to the UK government subsidies. 

A company which can afford to splash £500 million on its top executives could, you would think, afford to stump up £5 million to pay for the link road needed for the housing development. 

Not a bit of it. Persimmon and its interlocutors in County Hall have ensured that all the risk falls on local taxpayers for a scheme which has nothing to do with meeting local housing needs and which will lead to the Anglicization of the oldest town in Wales.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

A whiff of scandal

Cneifiwr has been inundated with requests from younger readers wanting to know how to distinguish between the late Christine Keeler and the late Mandy Rice Davies (he would say that, wouldn't he?).

It's simple.

Not Mandy Rice Davies

Not Christine Keeler

Sunday 3 December 2017


2014 was an extraordinarily turbulent year for Carmarthenshire County Council. It began with the publication by Anthony Barrett, the Wales Audit Office's appointed auditor, of two public interest accounts dealing with the pension and libel indemnity scandals. The chief executive went on gardening leave while what appears to have been a very cursory police investigation took place.

The council, no doubt under the firm guiding hand of Mr James, steadied itself after several very wobbly weeks, and rejected Mr Barrett's findings.

The pension scandal played a large part in the downfall of Mr James's over-mighty neighbour in Pembrokeshire, Bryn Parry-Jones, but what we got in Carmarthenshire was in effect a permament truce. The WAO decided that it did not have the appetite for what would have been long and very costly litigation to prove its points.

Towards the end of the year, to a great fanfare, the council invited in a WLGA panel to review its governance arrangements - not because there was anything wrong with the way things were done in Carmarthenshire, you understand, but because the council wanted to show the world that it was going to be even more transparent and even more squeakily clean than ever before.

That at least was the official narrative.

In reality the great and the good sent down by the WLGA might just as well have stayed at home.

The then leader of the council, Kevin Madge (Labour), gave the 39 modest recommendations a cautious welcome. They would have to be adapted to "fit in with the way we do things in Carmarthenshire" he told councillors.

Even before the ink had dried on the recommendations, the chief executive made his first move by putting a legal cordon around reports from scrutiny committees to prevent councillors from asking questions arising from them at monthly meetings of full council. The reports still appear on the official agenda, but no questions are allowed.

This exercise in making Carmarthenshire "the most transparent council in Wales" was never put to a vote, and even if it had been the then ruling Labour/Independent coalition would have ensured that it went through, denying opposition councillors of an important opportunity to air concerns and hold the council to account.

Labour councillors, now in opposition, may now repent at leisure.

Officially, the group set up to implement the 39 recommendations still exists, although minutes of its meetings are not published and have to be obtained through FOI.

So much for the most transparent council in Wales.

Not long after the dust settled on the pension and libel indemnity scandals, the chief executive quietly made his temporary appointment of Mrs Linda Rees Jones as Head of Legal and Monitoring Officer permanent on the basis that she had held the position in an acting capacity for so long that the role had become permanent by default.

Normally, and in any other council, the appointment of a Monitoring Officer would be entrusted to councillors, but not in Carmarthenshire.

As Local Government Lawyer explains, council monitoring officers have three main functions:

  • to report on matters he or she believes are, or are likely to be, illegal or amount to maladministration;
  • to be responsible for matters relating to the conduct of councillors and officers; and
  • to be responsible for the operation of the council’s constitution.

You don't need to be an expert in corporate governance to realise that a Monitoring Officer must not only be independent, but be seen to be independent. Mrs Rees Jones, who played a key role in shoring up the beleaguered chief executive's position during the pension and libel indemnity scandals, is neither.

Not only does she report to the chief executive, but she owes her promotion and salary to him.

And there in a nutshell are the two most important outcomes of the WLGA governance review: shutting down what had been an important scrutiny mechanism and Mr James's quiet consolidation of his grip on the council. He is now judge, jury and defence counsel.

Almost invariably when there is a scandal in public sector bodies (or large corporations come to that), we will be told afterwards that there were serious failings in corporate governance and that all the signs were there long before the brown stuff hit the fan; in Carmarthenshire the warning signs have been there for a very long time.


What the pension and libel indemnity scandals had in common was that Mark James was the sole beneficiary of both unlawful schemes. In theory the schemes were open to other officers, and in the case of the libel indemnity, to councillors as well. In practice, only Mr James was allowed to take advantage of them, and despite Executive Board minutes which stated that he would pay any damages from his libel action to the council, we learned earlier this year that Mr James had changed his mind, with his lawyers telling a court that he could stuff the money down a drain if he so wished.

It's those words "corporate governance" again.

Corporate governance Carmarthenshire style also allowed Mr James to claim £20,000 in Returning Officer fees immediately before the end of a tax year and before nominations had closed for council elections back in 2012 under a "special arrangement", something which presumably still exists.

Much more recently questions have surfaced about Mr James's private business dealings.

If you haven't read it yet, take a look at this post by Caebrwyn and the comments section underneath on the outcome of her attempts to discover whether Mark James, the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, declared an interest in respect of his private business activities.

As a reminder, James's property business in Century Wharf and the complex web of directorships, companies and business partners involved were dealt with by Jac o' the North here and here. Martin Shipton of the Western Mail, another of Mr James's bêtes noires, has also taken more than a passing interest in this surprisingly colourful corporate tale, including this piece, and the paper followed that up with this account in October.

For a relatively new upmarket, gated residential development in the centre of Cardiff, Century Wharf has been responsible for some remarkably lurid news stories. Dissident leaseholders have accused Mr James and his partners of breaking planning regulations and leasehold agreements by letting flats to rowdy visitors out to enjoy the city's nightlife. Used condoms in the gardens, people defecating in the lifts and others sleeping in corridors are some of the problems they have had to put up with.

There has been a gruesome murder on the premises, and in 2010 police raided the complex in connection with an investigations into an international sex trafficking ring. In 2013 a young woman fell from a seventh floor balcony sustaining serious but not life-threatening injuries. It is understood that she is a Polish national who previously worked for University of Wales Trinity Saint Davids, of which Mr James is a director, and that she was subsequently recruited by Mr James and his partners as their office manager.

Responding to Jacqui Thompson's questions, the council said after a lot of foot dragging that Mr James had not declared any interests because his business interests lay outside the "jurisdiction" of Carmarthenshire. And anyway the council's Code of Conduct for Officers states:

10.2 Employees must declare in writing to their Chief Officer any financial and non-financial interests that they consider could bring about conflict with the authority's interests.

Presumably if an individual does not "consider" that what they are doing could bring about a conflict of interest, there is no need to declare anything.

The Code of Conduct itself was last revised in June 2012, and there can be little doubt that Mr James himself would have played a part in the design of this particular chocolate teapot. Apart from anything else, who is Mr James's own Chief Officer?

As for whether the council had ever sanctioned these extramural activities, Mr James himself told the Western Mail earlier this year that it had given its consent, and that he was not in breach of his contract of employment with the council because he was merely a non-executive director of the (four) companies, and therefore not an employee.

It is not clear who gave that consent, but it would seem likely that it was the Assistant Chief Executive (People Management and Performance), who like Mrs Rees Jones reports directly to Mr James.

If the Assistant Chief Executive had any qualms about giving consent, we do not know, but if he had could either have referred the matter to the Appeals Committee, which to put it mildly meets infrequently, the last 9 scheduled meetings having been cancelled, or he could have asked his colleague, the Monitoring Officer.

Corporate governance Carmarthenshire style again.

By declaring himself to be a non-executive director of the companies in Cardiff (but registered to an address in Essex), Mr James can claim not to have breached his contract of employment, but the non-existent declaration of an interest is another matter.

Unsurprisingly, neither Mr James nor Mrs Rees Jones regard this as a matter in which he should declare an interest.

It could be argued that there is a potential conflict of interest because of the council's own housing activities, but of more immediate concern are the questions of how much time and energy Mr James is devoting to his private business interests, and the real risk that they could damage the council's own reputation.

On the first point there is a growing body of evidence to show that Mr James is taking a very hands-on approach to running the companies. There seems to be litigation (now there's a surprise) and negotiations and disputes with third parties, all of which will require Mr James's attention. Then there are lengthy open letters and newsletters to leaseholders, some signed by Mr James in person, including some typically Jamesian flourishes such as a claim in one long article in which he claims to be doing it all to help the benighted residents of Century Wharf.

We can be sure that Mr James is not keeping timesheets, but even a cursory glance at this story shows that he must be devoting considerable time and energy to his private affairs.


As some of the leaseholders have already discovered, Mr James's compassion and forgiving nature have their limits, as "Mr M", a Carmarthenshire resident could have told them. Mr M was a disabled council tenant who complained that the council had housed him in a property without a wheelchair ramp. The council was admonished by the Ombudsman in 2012, with Mr James telling councillors that if he had his way, Mr M would still be homeless.

In Century Wharf, the scene of many a wild party, a gruesome murder, the mysterious balcony accident and a resident sex trafficking ring, Mr James has taken an equally robust approach, telling the press that the incidents complained of all happened a long time ago, and that if there was any rowdy behaviour it was not down to short-term Airbnb guests, but longer term residents.

"There is a cancer in parts [of Century Wharf] he told the Western Mail, with some "very anti-social owner/occupiers". Criticism levelled at him was "personal, unpleasant and both unnecessary and confrontational".

But we have no concern to feel alarmed, fellow residents, because all this is taking place outside Carmarthenshire's jurisdiction, and has nothing to do with our council.

Mr James's property management business may very well be in his own interest, just as the pension, libel indemnity scandals were, but whether it is in Carmarthenshire's interest is another matter entirely.