Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Council crisis: An inspector calls - Updated

Update

Plaid Cymru has issued a statement on today's events. Jonathan Edwards reflects what many people must be thinking tonight when he says,

“Now that we have a police investigation underway, the Chief Executive should be immediately suspended from his post. It beggars belief that the Chief Executive is in office whilst the police are investigating whether any criminal activity has taken place. Carmarthenshire Council, with the Labour and Independent parties at the helm, is bereft of leadership."

The full statement can be found at the end of this post.

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Just after 4pm this afternoon, and shortly after meeting council leader Kevin Madge (Lab) at their request, Dyfed Powys Police issued the following statement:

Dyfed-Powys Police have now fully considered the three Public Interest Reports published on 30th January 2014 by Wales Audit Office, into matters relating to Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire County Councils.  

As a result, the Force has decided that it is a matter which should be investigated in the public interest by the Police, to ascertain whether or not any criminal offences have taken place. 

Due to the close working relationships and partnership arrangements that exist between Dyfed-Powys Police and both local authorities, it is not appropriate for the Force to carry out the enquiry.  As such the matter has been referred to Gloucestershire Constabulary who will undertake the investigation.

Dyfed-Powys Police would like to make it absolutely clear that this decision has been taken by the Police alone, and has in no way been influenced by political commentary or media reporting on this issue.

Kevin Madge's response to this has been to issue a statement promising a separate "review" by the Welsh Local Government Association, of which he is a member along with a lot of other Labour council bosses. Two fingers up to the police and the Wales Audit Office once again, it seems.

Interestingly Kev's statement was issued not by the council but by the Labour Party's press office in Cardiff.
 
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Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards and County Councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths have responded to the announcement made by Dyfed Powys Police Force this afternoon which confirmed the Gloucestershire police will be investigating whether any criminal activity has taken place in relation to the Wales Audit Office reports which concluded two matters decided by Carmarthenshire Council were ‘unlawful’.

Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said:

“The public, media, county residents and all observers immediately recognised the seriousness of the audit reports when they were published two weeks ago. I welcome the action of the police today as this situation clearly merits investigation.

“The Labour leader of Carmarthenshire Council, Kevin Madge, has been dragged kicking and screaming into showing just an ounce of leadership but he has failed. He has failed again today with his response to the police investigation. For the past thirteen days Kevin Madge has been more interested in issuing personal attacks on anyone who dared to question his extremely poor judgement.

“Now that we have a police investigation underway, the Chief Executive should be immediately suspended from his post. It beggars belief that the Chief Executive is in office whilst the police are investigating whether any criminal activity has taken place. Carmarthenshire Council, with the Labour and Independent parties at the helm, is bereft of leadership.

“The inaction of the council leader and his astonishing attempts to undermine the integrity of the independent auditor has seen the First Minister of Wales and the Labour party head office dragged in to try and sort out the mess Kevin Madge has created.

“Labour-run Caerphilly Council suspended its Chief Executive within two days of their audit office reports. Pembrokeshire Labour party has called for the immediate suspension of its Chief Executive. But what we’re seeing in Carmarthenshire, however, is that the Labour party is in meltdown and has absolutely no authority in the council it is supposed to lead.

“At every level of government civil servants advise and elected politicians decide - the same applies to Carmarthenshire Council. The Executive Board is responsible for the unlawful decisions they have taken.

“The elected leaders of the council should therefore apologise to the taxpayers’ of Carmarthenshire for their unlawful actions and resign. It is the bare minimum they should do as a result of the damaging audit reports, and for their subsequent actions in treating Carmarthenshire residents with contempt.

“Kevin Madge’s defiance, dithering and delay has seen the good name of Carmarthenshire dragged through the mud. His disgraceful behaviour in approving a tax avoidance scheme should alone make him hang his head in shame.”

Leader of the Plaid Cymru opposition group on Carmarthenshire Council, Councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths added:

“The announcement of the police investigation confirms the seriousness of the situation the council finds itself in, and fully justifies the concerns we’ve raised for the last two weeks.

“The response of the Labour council leader is totally unbelievable. How can he justify not immediately suspending the council's Chief Executive? His suggestion of an external inquiry by the WLGA is quite pathetic.

“Cllr Madge seems to have lost his grasp on the situation entirely. As Leader, he failed to take decisive action when the reports were published and he has failed to take decisive action today. How can he remain in his post? The public will think it disgraceful that the council leader has ducked the political decisions required in his role.

“With a police investigation confirmed, the public will now rightly expect every Labour and Independent councillor to accept these reports and the serious conclusions they have reached.
“We want to restore democracy to the council and restore the good name of Carmarthenshire. We are ready and open to talk to all councillors who are prepared to lift the county out of the mess created by the Labour and Independent executive board.”

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

O my god, who does Kevin madge think he is, does he think Carmarthenshire residents are stupid! He is on another planet. Review, work together, welcome the investigation, total cxxp.

Anonymous said...

Madge is a fool. Gloucestershire police could clear him and his executive. He does not feel comfortable with this. What does this tell us about him and his close colleagues?

Anonymous said...

The longer the delay the more work the shredder can do.

Anonymous said...

I Know it sounds drastic, but drastic times need drastic measures. Is there a way for residents to force an election of Councilors? A total vote of no confidence in Carmarthenshire?

Anonymous said...

I wish Kev would stop blubbering and saying irrelevant things and just get on with what he should have done when the report was first published and suspend the CE.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Kev can't make any decisions without the Chief Exec telling him what to do, and obviously he won't tell Kev to suspend him, even if that is the honourable and sensible thing to do.

The failure of Carwyn and the Wales Labour Party to do the necessary is a further abdication of responsibility. They'd rather shore up Labour's shaky grip in Carmarthenshire than give a clear message that unlawful decisions and dodgy governance will not be tolerated.

Perhaps Gloucestershire police will take a robust approach which might inspire Kev?

Anonymous said...

This is getting silly now and making Carmarthenshire look ridiculous. If a more junior employee was involved in this suspension would have happened before the reports were published.

Anonymous said...

I hope the voters will remember all this when it comes to voting in the next election!

Anonymous said...

Rupert Murdoch didn't suspend Rebeka Wade and look where she is now. Mr James is innocent until proven guilty but should he really be hanging around county hall, I'd have thought it's in his own interest to be away.

Anonymous said...

This is very similar to the farce in Toronto isn't it, with the Leader dragging himself into the mud just like Rob Ford did. And look at the damage that did to Toronto's reputation. He is making Carmarthen a laughing stock.

But who is really pulling the strings here - and why? IF they have done nothing wrong they should be ASKING to be suspended so that this is cleared up quickly and everyone can get back to work with reputations vindicated.

But that isn't going to happen is it.

Anonymous said...

The next step Kev, is through the door and for some its over the cliff!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Gloucestershire police should kill two birds with one stone and investigate WEFO funded projects whilst they are there!

Any Cllrs willing to take a leaf out of Jacob Williams book? See below

Jacob Williams says, "The grant scheme documents are stored in a room known as the ‘data room.’ I booked an appointment yesterday afternoon, where Mike Stoddart joined me.

Mike revealed an alarming discovery he had made, which we took to the director of finance and leisure, who decided it was time to refer the matter to the police.

All I know so far is that the police have been ‘called,’..."

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that any police investigation would be a quiet and dignified affair. Perhaps Kev really wants the staff (and perhaps the public) in County Hall to witness the Chief being cautioned, arrested and bundled into a police car.

Anonymous said...

Off with their heads!......let's hope some justice can be done by a independent force.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Madge is completely out of his depth. He seems a genuine individual that you could have a pint with down the local, but he can't cope in office and is dependent on the chief executive for everything.

If the chief executive goes, Kevin Madge is toast - that's why Mr James is still in post.

Kevin Madge ripped up his get out of jail card today. Instead he has taken a chance and may find the chief exec that he so strongly supports going directly to jail. Mr James has already passed Go, and benefited a great deal more than £200 for doing so!

Mrs Angry said...

There is surely a clear and very serious conflict of interest in the Chief Executive and chief legal officer still being allowed to have access to material that may be required by a police investigation into allegations which relate to their own time in office. It is quite evidently not in the public interest for such a situation to be sanctioned. Who is going to act to put a stop to this?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps "poor" Kev hasn't been able to bring himself to do it and really IS waiting for the police to do it for him. Thinking he could save face and say to the CE "I didn't want to do it, honest".

It will make a great basis for a "based on real life" comedy drama on TV in Wales very soon.

Madge can surely have no friends because if he did he would be getting sensible advice. So-called friends who are urging him on at present must have their own ulterior motives well to the fore.

What an ignominious end to a leadership. For, whatever happens, it is the end for him.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and if anyone now tries to say this is "sub-judice" and cannot be discussed, IT IS NOT TRUE - it becomes sub-judice only WHEN charges are preferred and not before.

Anonymous said...

There are quite a few people who would like that.

Anonymous said...

Hitler - Stalin - Gaddafi - etc etc. Is someone from Wales going to join that list?

Anonymous said...

UNTENABLE - it's a big word Kev, which some Members might find complex.

But do everyone a favour, dig out your dictionary and see if you can come up with a sentence using it.

Anonymous said...

Come on people of carmarthenshire, what other business would be allowed to stay in thier posts while the police were investigating their activities. Roll on the elections I say :)

Ken Haylock said...

Gloucestershire police could take the initiative and use a search warrant to turn up mob handed and remove all the documentation and computers in use over the relevant period from Jail Hill in a fleet of lorries, since with the Chief Executive & Head of Legal - suspects in the investigation - not being suspended, they could easily get such a warrant from the courts on the grounds of an urgent need to preserve and secure the evidence...

I assume that won't happen. But it should.

If nobody in Carmarthenshire can do anything to dislodge the ruling junta, despite an ongoing police investigation into their activities, then it falls to Cardiff to step in urgently, place the council into special measures, and sort the situation out. But if Cardiff can't or won't sort it out, then [and I'm sure this is a very unpopular thing to say, but I don't care] perhaps London needs to step in and impose a solution from afar. And not in 6 months time, or even 6 weeks time, but right now. Or at least as soon as it is clear that the powers that be in Cardiff are also impotent in the face of the Carmarthenshire Chief Executive...

If the only avenue open to the people of Carmarthenshire to re-gain any tiny semblence of control over their supposedly representative and democratically accountable local government is to re-enact the storming of Ceausescu's palace, complete with Mark James being plucked from the roof of the Council Offices by the Dyfed Powys police helicopter just before the pitchfork & flaming torch wielding mob reaches him, it will serve only to highlight the massive, abject constitutional and governance failures that have allowed the current unbelievable state of affairs to persist for so long and to come to their current incredible head...

madaxeman said...

Anon @ 0727,

Don't go there... I had to explain to the High Court a joke I made to Jacqui about Gadaffi and the need for similar dictators to meet their downfall (though I would have settled for a different mechanism...)

Anonymous said...

Who is next on their list of conspirators - we've had Jo public, bloggers, newspaper editors, M.Ps, A.Ms, Ombudsman, Auditors - is it now the turn of the Police to experience the fury of Carmarthens LEADER. It has now descended into serious questions over the stability of minds.

Catherine said...

Is there going to be any sort of demonstration by angry/disaffected members of the public outside County Hall on the morning of the extraordinary meeting? I think as many of us as possible should be there to show (peacefully) our disgust at the goings-on in this travesty of local government if there has been no move before then to suspend Mark James.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you Catherine