The decision by Carmarthenshire County Council's Labour-Independent leadership to fight the Wales Audit Office and employ the services of Mr Timothy Kerr QC to defend the council's unlawful payments to chief executive Mark James was always going to be expensive, and now the bills are coming in.
Information obtained by Plaid Cymru this week via the Freedom of Information Act confirmed that on top of the £55,000 of payments deemed ‘unlawful’ by the independent Auditor, the Council has racked up a bill of £15,000 for the legal services of QC Tim Kerr. Not known yet are the costs of Mr Kerr’s attendance and services in the council’s extraordinary meeting on 27th February as this has not yet been billed.
If that was not bad enough, a meeting of the Carmarthenshire Council’s Audit Committee today (Friday 28th March) was informed that the authority would be facing an additional bill from the Wales Audit Office for its damning public interest reports and their associated costs. This bill, the Wales Audit Office said, could be in the in the region of £70,000.
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said Carmarthenshire residents are paying through the nose for the ‘unlawful’ actions of the Labour party running the county council. His Assembly Member colleague Rhodri Glyn Thomas said the severity of the bill is a direct result of the council leadership’s attempts to challenge the auditor’s findings.
It is worth relaying Rhodri Glyn Thomas's comments in full:
“It would be fair to say that had the council leadership accepted the Auditor’s findings many months ago instead of engaging expensive legal teams at public expense, then the Wales Audit Office may not have needed to produce the two damning reports it did.
“I would therefore suggest that this extra £70,000 bill is a direct result of the council leadership’s attempts to challenge the auditor. The consequences of the unlawful payments will cost more than the unlawful payments themselves.
“It seems the Labour party has not thought for one second about the cost to county taxpayers. The council leadership has been more interested in covering its own back and trying to defend the indefensible.
“Plaid Cymru is on the side of Carmarthenshire residents who are fed up to the back teeth with the council leadership wasting public money.”