The arguments put up in defence of the council's leadership were a mixture of denial, the daft, and the deluded. Carmarthenshire has escaped unscathed from the effects of the recession thanks to the policies pursued by the Executive Board and senior officers, according to one councillor, while according to another our council is admired by other local authorities across Wales.
One of the unsolved mysteries for the public is why Labour in Pembrokeshire are calling for the suspension of the council's chief executive and the dismissal of the council leader for the unlawful pension arrangements, while Labour in Carmarthenshire sees nothing wrong with an identical scheme which one opposition councillor today described as a scam, although it confessed to a few procedural irregularities.
Kevin Madge (Lab) emerged looking relieved, while Meryl Gravell (Ind) and Pam Palmer (Ind) looked very pleased with themselves throughout, firmly convinced that their honour and integrity remain fully intact.
Demonstrating what great value we get for our money, the manager of the council's notorious press office was ensconced alongside councillors on the Independent benches for the entire meeting (around the 5 hour mark), scribbling the occasional note and glaring up at the public gallery where sat the press, bloggers, police (the Gloucestershire Constabulary in plain clothes doing a recce) and an unusually large contingent of the long-suffering public.
Without a doubt the unhappiest person present was Labour's student councillor, Calum Higgins, who is smart enough to realise that he had just watched whatever hopes he had of representing Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in Westminster swirl down the pan.
One of the more memorable moments took place outside the chamber when a pensioner challenged the poor old reporter sent along by the Carmarthen Journal.
"I don't know why you bothered coming when the paper will end up printing the council's press release", she taunted him.
Cneifiwr will be working over the weekend, but this blog will examine some of today's more interesting contributions in a post next week, including some new pearls from Kev and Meryl.
Meanwhile, here is a statement just put out by the Plaid Cymru group on the council:
Plaid Cymru has slammed Labour and Independent councillors in Carmarthenshire for backing council leaders who’d just admitted they’d acted unlawfully in aiding their Chief Executive to avoid paying tax.
The council’s Executive Board crumbled under constant Plaid pressure by accepting a Wales Audit Office report that they’d acted unlawfully in arranging for Chief Executive Mark James to receive a £16,000 salary supplement in lieu of pension contributions, in order to pay less income tax. Mr James is currently away from work pending the outcome of a police inquiry into the Auditor’s report.
But despite the Executive Board’s admission a Plaid Cymru motion of no confidence in the council’s Leader, Labour’s Kevin Madge, former Leader Cllr Meryl Gravell and present Independent group leader Cllr Pam Palmer, was defeated at an Extraordinary meeting of the council today.
“The Labour group and the so-called Independents voted en-bloc to support their discredited leaders,” said Plaid group leader Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths at the end of a heated five-hour debate in County Hall. “A serious error was made by the Executive Board in 2012 on the pensions issue, but no-one will be called to account. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, which is sure to further damage the council’s reputation. Indeed, the public have every right to be outraged by the council’s behaviour.”