Friday, 27 January 2017

West Wales News Review


WordPress has now 'unlocked' West Wales News Review, and the latest article can be found here. Why the blog was suddenly taken down is not clear, but this scare goes to show at a time when more and more people are turning to social media to get their news, much of it rubbish or downright lies, how vulnerable serious investigative sources are to forces which would like to see them silenced.

The Curran Resort story is an important one by any standards, with £16.7 million having disappeared in a scam which has robbed hundreds of private investors of their savings and hit local businesses, including a family butcher in St Clears.

Needless to say, the resort had lots of ambitious plans. Back in December 2015, less than a year before the administrators were called in, Carmarthenshire County Council's planning committee wisely rejected one of the proposed schemes by a majority of 12 to 2.

The two who wanted the council to give the scheme its blessing were Labour's Kevin Midas Madge, whose back catalogue includes Garnant Golf Club and the Scarlets Red Room, and Anthony Jones (Llandybie), former chair of the planning committee. Both will shortly be back on the stump asking unsuspecting punters for their votes.


Free speech and a free media are precious and increasingly under threat, as many readers in Carmarthenshire can testify.

Call someone Pinocchio, and you can be sued and lose everything. Refer to lumpy carpets, and the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council will go to the police asking for a criminal prosecution.

Now West Wales News Review has suddenly had the plugs pulled for allegedly violating WordPress's terms of service.

For those unfamiliar with this extremely well-written and researched blog, West Wales News Review looks at local issues from a moderate left of centre, greenish point of view. The most recent story to appear on the blog dealt with the need for speed limits along the rural lanes of Porthyrhyd near Llandovery.

Earlier today, the author had just pressed "publish" on a new story dealing with the rather more delicate subject of the investors who have lost millions of pounds in the Corran Resort and Spa development at Laugharne after the sudden collapse late last year of the company running it. Seconds later, a message appeared saying that the blog had been removed, and has disappeared with all of its valuable archive.

West Wales News Review, Yr Hogyn o Rachub and Jac o' the North are three very different beasts, but all three have had the plugs pulled on them in recent years. The list of suspects behind the sudden demise of Jac o' the North in its old Blogspot incarnation would fill Parc y Scarlets (now there's an idea for their marketing manager...), while Yr Hogyn offended a particularly pompous and thin-skinned literary figure with a humorous piece on his blog.

Patricia Dodd Racher, the author of West Wales News Review is a very experienced journalist who takes great care to check her facts, and is scrupulously fair to her subjects. Who persuaded WordPress to take down her blog and why is therefore a mystery. If it was something to do with the Corran Resort, the disappearance of the blog is very strange indeed because the story was only up for a matter of seconds. So who else could it have been?

County Hall in Carmarthen would have to be high up on the list of suspects.

Saturday, 21 January 2017


Update 25 January

Most county councillors are also school governors almost by default. If a school is fortunate, it will land a hard-working, conscientious and knowledgeable councillor who will work with parents and staff to ensure that the school is a success. Others will find that they have a dud foisted on them.

It turns out that Labour's Kim Thomas, who last week made highly inflammatory remarks about Welsh medium education and showed an almost total lack of understanding of how schools work and children learn, is in fact - wait for it - a governor of the Welsh medium Ysgol Cross Hands.

As she was catapulted in as an LEA appointment, there is very little that parents or staff can do to get shot of a governor whose inability to grasp how primary schools work and whose views run completely against the school's ethos, although they may want to lodge a formal complaint with the council for starters.

For the school's sake, we can only hope that Cllr Thomas is as active as a governor as she is as a county councillor.

Update 23 January

Interesting to note that Labour's two youngest councillors, Calum Higgins and Ryan Thomas, broke ranks with Kevin Madge, Tegwen Devichand and the rest of the dinosaurs and dunces to vote in favour of the Llangennech proposal.


Mrs Helena Jones of Brecon was 99 years old when she took to the stage of the National Eisteddfod for the last time in 2016. Although her father spoke Welsh, her mother did not, and Helena grew up in an English speaking home.

When she was 90, her doctor advised her to learn a new language and a musical instrument. So she bought a harp and started going to Welsh classes. As you can see from this interview, recorded when she was just 97, her enthusiasm is infectious.

"Two windows on the world are better than one", she says.

After the best part of two years of rows, consultations and miles of red tape, Carmarthenshire County Council has finally approved plans to create a single Welsh-medium primary school in Llangennech, which means that all the children in the village will in future have two windows on the world if their parents don't yank them out of the school.

There were very strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and it is important to emphasise that there were indeed supporters and opponents of the proposal.

Llangennech is not the first community to go through this process, and it will not be the last. A pattern seems to be emerging whenever there are proposals to change the language category of a school, with very vocal groups of objectors grabbing the headlines, aided and egged on by some very extreme political elements and claiming to speak for everyone, while supporters keep a much quieter and less confrontational profile.

Some pretty stupid things were said during the campaign as it dragged on and on, but we had to wait until the dying moments, just minutes before the final vote, to hear the dummest contribution of all.

Step forward Cllr Kim Thomas (Lab., Llannon). Cllr Thomas has hardly left a mark in her years as county councillor and rarely takes an active part in council meetings. On the basis of her remarks on Wednesday, we can be grateful for that at least.

What about children starting school in Llangennech who have no Welsh, she asked. How are they going to be able to participate in the lessons when they don't understand the language?

She might just as well have asked how young children could be expected to read, write or do mathematics in school when they have not learned those skills at home before starting school.

The answer to that is that just like thousands of other children from non-Welsh speaking homes who go to Welsh medium schools, they learn, and they learn incredibly quickly.

But Cllr Thomas was only just getting into her stride. "This is segregation, and at its worst we are looking at apartheid". And she was not going to apologise for saying that.

Perhaps some of the older Labour councillors should try to explain to Kim Thomas what apartheid was.

At present, children in Llangennech are divided into streams. Most readers will know what that means, but for Kim Thomas's benefit, it means that children are separated within the same school and go to different classes with different teachers. That is divisive in itself and tends to create a "them and us" culture within schools. The proposal before her was to eliminate the division and create a school in which all children sit and learn together.

"This is my opinion, and I have the right to say it", she added, proudly wrapping herself in the flag of her own Ukip-lite ignorance and basking in the glow of a ripple of applause from the objectors seated behind her.

"I went to a Welsh school", she continued, explaining that she had the right to take some (most by the sound of it) subjects in English.

Clearly, it was not a Welsh medium school, and the irony that she delivered her entire rant in English was lost on her. As some readers may by now have realised, Kim Thomas was talking about her experiences at secondary school and superimposing them on a debate about a primary school. She appeared not to know the difference.

Let's hope for the sake of parents and children in Llannon that Kim Thomas is not a school governor. In the case of most councillors, it would be easy to find out because the information is recorded in their annual reports. Kim Thomas has never got around to writing hers.

At length, the matter was put to the vote. 38 councillors voted in favour of the change, including to his credit Calum Higgins (Lab). 20 voted against, although all of them voted a couple of years ago in favour of the policy now being pursued by the council. That includes Kevin Madge, who also voted against the policy of his own government in Cardiff. There was one abstention.

That means that 15 councillors did not vote. Some, like Meryl Gravell were absent (yet again); others seem to have been struck dumb. From the Labour benches the temptation to play politics with the language was obviously too strong for most to resist; where there should have been leadership and influence to ensure a calm and well-informed debate, we saw dog-whistle politics.

The vote was recorded, so the minutes should show exactly how everybody voted. It is not possible to tell from the webcast.

One thing which both sides could probably agree on is the need to reform the truly awful statutory process which has to be followed each and every time a change is proposed. The effect of the process is to draw out and delay change for years, delays which serve only to deepen divisions in places such as Llangennech and create lingering uncertainty for children, staff and parents alike.

There is no doubt that parents who opposed the plans were sincere, even if some of them lost the plot during the course of their protests. Part of the problem is that past fudges and policy errors mean that words such as "bilingual" can mean very different things to different people.

Just as as happened elsewhere, it is a fair bet that in a couple of years from now everyone will wonder what the fuss was all about. For the sake of the school and the children, it is important that everyone puts the dispute behind them.

One of Llangennech's former residents, the indefatigable and courageous Eileen Beasley, a pioneer for women's rights and the Welsh language, would be proud of the decision her old council took last Wednesday.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Sicilian Cartel and the Tip of the Iceberg

Many years ago Cneifiwr was working for a large, prestigious and now sadly defunct company in the Big City. The upper echelons were like an old boys' club, and they enjoyed a jet set lifestyle with a cellar full of very expensive vintage wines and ports, "business" trips on Concorde, the best hotels and pretty much unlimited expenses.

Shortly after Cneifiwr joined, shockwaves went through middle management when the first of a series of belt tightening measures was announced for the lower ranks. Henceforth, horrified staff were told, they would no longer be allowed to order a different wine with every course at lunch or dinner.

Slowly but surely the good old days were coming to an end.

Some years later news of a scandal involving the Head of Internal Audit percolated down to one of Cneifiwr's drinking holes.

The Head of Internal Audit was feared and god-like. It was drummed into us that he was the moral guardian of the company; the eyes and ears that were supposed to keep everybody on the straight and narrow. As it happened, Cneifiwr was on nodding terms with God's deputy, a fierce and expensively dressed old bat who would occasionally join Cneifiwr and his cronies for a glass or three of something and a little light flirting.

It turned out that he had died in rather compromising circumstances after a wild party at his very expensive address in Manhattan, a party which had involved lots of drugs and some very expensive ladies. Worse, it seemed that the Old Bat, our occasional drinking buddy, had been conducting a clandestine affair with her boss for years, and that a great deal of company money had been privately invested in some very swish real estate.

The second in command of the company, a large and pompous man who had the strange habit of thrusting both hands down his trousers and fiddling with himself while talking down to his inferiors, was instantly dispatched to New York to tidy things up, a job which involved rather more than just running round with a duster and Hoover. The Old Bat disappeared, probably into early retirement with a himbo in tow, and the whole affair was consigned to the icy depths of the Hudson River, never to be spoken about again.

There were no prosecutions, the police never seem to have been troubled with the affair on either side of the Atlantic, and nothing leaked out to the press; or if it did they kept shtum.

Carmarthenshire County Council will count itself very lucky indeed if it manages to pull off a similarly successful cover-up of the scandals emerging from Pembrey and the Millennium Coastal Park.

For a start, some of the allegations and rumours are circulating well beyond County Hall, and second, Cllr Bill Thomas is on the case.

As far as Cllr Thomas is concerned, one or two senior officers will be praying for all they are worth that the veteran councillor will decide not to stand for re-election as an unaffiliated member in May. Incredibly, the mad house which is the Labour Party in Carmarthenshire has deselected him.

This week's Carmarthenshire Herald and its Llanelli sister (both worth at least 70p) carry an interview with Cllr Thomas and a report of the Audit Committee meeting on 6 January.

Looking back on the meeting, Cllr Thomas told the newspaper that he thought members of the Audit Committee were being duped, and he is calling for a full "forensic" audit of Pembrey Country Park.

Responding to Cllr Thomas's concerns, the council wheeled out its chief financial officer, Chris Moore, to pirouette and spin across some very thin ice as he spoke to the Herald. The paper was given the standard County Hall line. Progress was being made, processes improved, members had been 'reassured', etc.

During the meeting Cllr Thomas had asked if the committee was aware of any imminent court cases. Apparently not, it would seem, which is very odd given that a hearing has been scheduled for 6 February in Cardiff. Even odder when you consider that the council is a party to the case and that one or two of those present at the meeting are likely to play a prominent role in the proceedings.

The solution to this mystery probably boils down to semantics. The 6 February hearing is an employment tribunal, a judicial body stuffed full of lawyers which will at some point deliver a verdict. But it is not, as Mr Moore helpfully pointed out, a criminal court.

The line which council officers are grimly sticking to is that there is no evidence of criminality at Pembrey. It's just that they can't give assurances that all assets can be accounted for, and they cannot guarantee that all revenues from gate receipts and other activities were correctly booked.

The council had engaged in a "dialogue" with the police, he said, and Dyfed Powys had now confirmed that they would be taking no further action.

Note the very careful wording. Did the council go to the police with evidence of fraud and corrupt practices which had been presented to it (remember that there is a recording in which a senior officer yelps "For Christ's sake, don't go to the police)?

It would seem not, even though the accusations are of an extremely serious nature. Whereas the chief executive had no qualms about wasting police time with complaints about Jacqui Thompson's use of the phrase "lumpy carpets", the council seems to have decided not to worry the boys in blue with trivial worries about fraud, theft, blackmail and corruption.

What we can surmise from this is that the police approached the council with some questions (or a "dialogue") based on material which had been forwarded to them by third parties, including Nia Griffiths MP.

Cneifiwr understands that the MP has been given a contradictory assurance by the police that their investigations are continuing.

Performing a final pirouette, Mr Moore told the Herald that members of the Audit Committee had been reassured by officers that action had been taken, including seconding a new team to run the park. If they were reassured by that, they probably also believe that the moon is made of cheese.

Back on 22 March 2016, members of the Audit Committee were told for the first time that various "historical" issues had been identified at the park. The very next day the then manager of the park, Rory Dickinson, assaulted the manager of the catering facilities in a row about what in all likelihood was a severely compromised tender process.

Mr Dickinson remained in post, despite facing a welter of allegations about his conduct, until he resigned from the council a week before his trial seven months later. Was the new team seconded to run the park before or after Mr Dickinson's abrupt departure, which meant that the council had to find someone to replace him in any event? Was the council really as proactive as Mr Moore would like us to believe?

The very anodyne version of what has happened at Pembrey spoon fed to members of the Audit Committee is, as many of them will be aware, a very pale reflection of accusations which extend very much further than the gates of the country park.

The claims include fraud on an industrial scale, thuggery, secret attempts to hive off public assets, nepotism and cover-ups of utterly bizarre conduct by certain officers. One alleged cover-up relates to an incident in which a naturally aggrieved husband caught a senior manager in bed with his wife.The angry husband is said to have thrown the officer out of a first floor bedroom window, breaking his arm. He was then carted off to A&E with the irate husband in pursuit, with another fracas ensuing at the hospital.

After a high level intervention from Jail Hill, the incident was quietly smoothed over. Meryl ("we always defend our officers") was apparently not amused.

Readers with long memories will recall that the latest developments are not the first time that Pembrey has been the subject of controversy.

Back in July 2013 an almighty row broke out when Unison alleged that the council was preparing to privatise the park. Council leader at the time was Kevin Madge (Lab), with Meryl Gravell then, as now, responsible for Regeneration and Leisure.

The allegations met with a furious response from County Hall which released a statement couched in language which sounds more like a hybrid dowager duchess/stroppy teenager on Facebook than a public body:

 Unison's claims are complete and utter tosh and scaremongering. This is same old same old rumour and fabricated diatribe that is resurrected every few years that has absolutely no foundation at all. It is a downright and cheap-shot lie that the park is for sale, designed to provoke anxiety.

Contrary to that outburst, Cneifiwr understands that very real discussions with external investors took place, and that expressions of interest came from far and wide, including from someone in Australia who wanted £22,500 to be paid in expenses to enable him to travel to Pembrey. It was later established that he was a bit strapped for cash at the time after his rose farm went bust.

Proposals included building a theme park on part of the park, extending out on to land owned by Pembrey Airport. Readers may recall that at one time Pembrey Airport had this interesting message to would-be investors on its website:

One of the few Airports in the United Kingdom that has 5000 acres of adjoining land available for joint venture with very little planning and environmental constraints. We are within Convergence funding Area (qualifies for European funding). Pembrey Airport is exempt planning and large tracts of freehold development land are immediately available from the Local Authority.

Sadly, these exciting plans came to nothing, probably because would-be investors discovered that the council had inconveniently leased off some of the biggest cash generators in the park, and some of the allegations now swirling around suggest that attempts to get rid of those inconvenient leaseholders may have something to do with the turbulence which the park has seen in recent years.

Where is Anthony Barrett when you need him?

Friday, 13 January 2017

New Year Honours

After the usual nauseating lists of gongs for Tory party donors, shifty businessmen, hangers-on and assorted brown nosers, here's a richly deserved municipal award from Private Eye which is unlikely to make it into the glass cabinets in the lobby of County Hall.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Undulating Axminster

In the smoke and mirrors world of spin and public relations management, the defective moral compasses used by some authorities can lead them into believing that anything goes when they set about the business of shoring up their reputations.

As this blog has pointed out ad nauseam, the joke on these public institutions, and Carmarthenshire County Council is by no means alone in this, is that while they move heaven and earth to protect what they fondly believe are unassailable reputations for excellence in every way, an increasingly cynical public has long since concluded, often unfairly, that the same institutions are rotten to the core.

Let's call it the public relations paradox.

Simpler souls might think that a wiser option and one which might help restore tarnished images would be to fess up, acknowledge that we all live in the real world where not everyone, not even public servants, is an angel, and root out the bad apples. But that is not how things work.

It is this paradox which explains why whistleblowers so often find themselves treated as the real villains. It helps explain why, for example, Cllr Jacob Williams in Pembrokeshire found himself caught up in a Kafka-esque procedure designed to silence and discredit him for daring to post a link to a Western Telegraph article about that council's ongoing grants scandal.

Neither the article nor the comments beneath it submitted by members of the public named the council officer at the centre of the row, but he nevertheless felt, or quite possibly was persuaded to feel, that his reputation had been besmirched and his human rights infringed. Why, one or two commentators had even called for the Fraud Squad to be sent in. What an outrageous suggestion to make.

The slight problem with using these comments as a stick with which to beat Cllr Williams was that after a great deal of prodding, the council itself called in the cops.

For much, much more (a long Sunday afternoon read, perhaps), turn to the councillor's blog and embark on Trumped Up Charges. Parts 1 and 2 out now, with a promise that Bryn Parry Jones will enter the scene in Part 3.

In the same vein, when Cllr Siân Caiach inadvertently discovered a few years back that her official e-mail account was being "monitored" by council officers, the chief executive claimed the complaint was an attack on the integrity of the hapless council employee tasked with accessing her e-mails.

Further afield, readers of the Christmas issue of Private Eye were treated to a brief report on the activities of Cleveland Police in the north of England. A whistleblower had tipped off a local newspaper that all was not well in the force, and that among other things an internal review had found evidence of widespread racism.

The force then invoked powers to tap the landlines, mobile phones and home phones of two journalists on a local paper in an attempt to discover the identity of the whistleblower, arguing before an Investigatory Powers Tribunal that the racism report was damaging the force's reputation, and was therefore "not in the public interest".

A verdict is due this month, but the judge, Mr Justice Edis, commented in the final hearing that, "Isn't it in the public interest that the police force should have a reputation it deserves, rather than an artificially good reputation that it gets from brushing things under the carpet?"

Luckily Mr Justice Edis is a judge and does not live in Carmarthenshire because his reference to uneven floor coverings may well have prompted the council chief executive, Mark James CBE, to make a complaint to the police of criminal harassment.

That is what happened last year to blogger Jacqui Thompson who used the phrase "lumpy carpets" in a piece about the ongoing Pembrey Country Park scandal.

One of the odder aspects of this complaint is that Jacqui Thompson was simply quoting an opinion piece by Cadno in the Carmarthenshire Herald, as the council's press office which monitors the press, blogs and social media for criticism of Jail Hill would have been well aware.

As far as we know, Cadno has not had his brush felt by Dyfed Powys Police for this defamatory reference to whoever was responsible for the carpets in County Hall, but the cases of Jacob Williams and Jacqui Thompson show that even quoting or linking to mildly critical comments on local newspapers articles can land you in serious trouble with your council in what some people still like to call "a free country".

As for snooping on whistleblowers, the press, councillors and bloggers, we can all sleep easily in the knowledge that responsibility for supervising the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act lies in the capable hands of Cllr Pam Palmer who would no doubt firmly resist any attempts to put anyone under covert surveillance to protect the county council's immaculate reputation.


That was a long preamble to what will, for various reasons, have to be a fairly short update on the scandals emanating from Pembrey County Park, or as the council would prefer to have it, the progress it is making in tightening up various procedures.

Although there had been rumours and whispers that all was not well at Pembrey for some time, the first councillors got to hear about it officially was when a very brief report on Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Park appeared on the agenda of a meeting of the Audit Committee on 22 March 2016.

The report said that a number of weaknesses had been identified after the robustness of various procedures had been tested. Various things needed to be tightened up to ensure that policies were correctly adhered to, and that the review had come about at the request of the new Director, Jake Morgan (who rejoined Carmarthenshire after a spell at the Kremlin on the Cleddau in Haverfordwest under Bryn Parry Jones). Any issues identified were "historical".

Several councillors smelled a rat. What they had been given was not a report detailing allegations or the results of any investigations into them, but a very bland summary saying that new measures needed to be put in place to account for revenue, assets and health and safety, etc.

The even blander minutes recorded:

 In terms of the review of the leisure facilities at Pembrey Country Park and the Millennium Coastal Park which had been undertaken at the request of the Director of Communities the Committee was assured by the Head of Leisure that the weaknesses identified were being addressed and officers would be working closely with the Audit Section. This included ensuring that Corporate Financial Procedure Rules were adhered to at all times and that health and safety issues were addressed. Members were advised that an Action Plan was being prepared in respect of the issues in question and it was suggested that this could be brought to the Committee at its next meeting.

Much as the senior officers may have worried about the health and safety of park users, it is fair to say that they were probably even more concerned about the risk to their own health and safety should anyone peek under those allegedly lumpy carpets.

Councillors were assured that there was no evidence of any fraud.

The following month, the full council met and a couple of councillors wondered whether findings from investigations into the "historical" issues should be handed for checking to the police, or even worse, the Wales Audit Office.

Certainly not, they were told, the clear implication being that this was all about procedural fine tuning with no hint of any criminality.

The Audit Committee next met on 16 May, but would have been disappointed if they were looking forward to the update promised back in March. Instead they appointed a successor to Sir David Lewis whose retirement at this tricky juncture must have lightened the mood on Jail Hill somewhat.

Roll forward to the next Audit Committee on 8 July 2016 where the minutes record in full technicolor magnolia that:

Reference was made to the serious failings which had come to light at Pembrey Country Park and an assurance was sought that lessons have been learned and taken on board.  The Head of Leisure pointed out that the rate of change in the service over the past 4/5 years had been substantial.  He added that the challenge was to deliver services whilst deriving income at the same time.  The lesson they had learned was the importance of having the correct structure in place.  He assured the Committee that processes and procedures are being put in place and progress was being made.

Lessons had been learned, progress was being made, and the challenge was really not about unfortunate "historical" issues but delivering services and improving income.

Nothing to worry about there then. 

The committee was back at work on 30 September where it considered another brief summary. There had been yet more progress and improvement, and "the Head of Leisure outlined the measures being taken to resolve the catering issues at the Park which included an extended café at the ski shop for an interim period whilst refurbishment work was being undertaken."

According to the minutes, "the Committee was reassured that appropriate measures and procedures were being put in place to address the increased cash flow at the park since the establishment of the caravan site".

Far from this being a scandal, it was actually all about maximising cash flow.

In view of what had been going on behind the scenes and was about to happen a few weeks later, members of the committee should have been left feeling rather less than reassured by what they heard

A big part of the "catering issues" involved allegations that the tender process for a contract to run the park cafe and kiosks had been rigged.

The local company which had run the catering facilities for a number of years was SFS Events, run by Ms Stephanie Thomas. SFS lost the contract to a Yorkshire-based company after what the Head of Leisure, Ian Jones, described as "a rigorous application process designed to get the best value and service for the County Council and users of Pembrey Country Park"

Unfortunately, this turned out to be a little wide of the mark. The outcome of the tender process was challenged, and the whole process was scrapped in July, with the council saying,"it is possible that a member of staff involved in the process may have had a personal interest which might be perceived to compromise the impartiality and independence of the process".

Note the equivocations with all of those 'possibles', 'mays' and 'perceiveds'. The tender process had been gravely compromised, and in most people's book, this bland statement would have been reworded to read "suspected corruption".

Having been reassured, members of the Audit Committee may have spluttered on their cornflakes when they opened the Llanelli Herald or the Llanelli Star in the last week of October to read that Rory Dickinson, the council's 'Countryside and Coast' manager, had pleaded guilty to assault against Mrs Stephanie Thomas of SFS Events.

Observant members of the committee will also have noted the date of the assault with some discomfort because it took place on 23 March 2016, the day after they had been presented with a report which spoke of progress in dealing with "historic" issues:

A former Carmarthenshire Council manager has been fined nearly £1,000 after he admitted assaulting a catering manager in a row over the tendering process at Pembrey Country Park.

While appearing at Llanelli Magistrates' Court this afternoon, Rory Dickinson pleaded guilty to assaulting Stephanie Jayne Thomas on March 23 earlier this year.

(Llanelli Star)

It is now clear that the vague issues referred to in the March 2016 report to the Audit Committee were anything but historic. Like proverbial mushrooms, members of the Audit Committee were being kept in the dark and fed horse poo.

In view of the seriousness of the allegations, councillors may also wonder why the council did not refer Mr Dickinson's activities to the police, and why he was allowed to resign from the council a week before the trial in October.

As a senior manager put it when confronted by a whistleblower recording their conversation, "FFS don't call the police!"
The Dickinson case is by no means the end of matters. Back in October, Ms Thomas told the Llanelli Herald that she was still involved in a legal dispute with the council, and a further court hearing in a different case also relating to Pembrey Country Park is scheduled for 6 February in Cardiff.

In the meantime, the Audit Committee plods on. The most recent meeting took place on 6 January, with members being told of yet more 'progress'.

Unfortunately, meetings of this key committee are not broadcast or filmed, and unless you go along in person, you will have to reply on press reports or those heavily disinfected minutes. What we do know is that Cllr Bill Thomas (Lab., Lliedi, deselected) took up the cudgels once more and questioned the council's Head of Leisure, Ian Jones, and that the questions focussed on the fate of machinery and other assets belonging to the park.

The minutes will not be available for another couple of weeks at least, but no doubt we will read once more that members were reassured to hear that there was no evidence of any theft or fraud, which is what they were told.

The catering contract, the assault on Ms Thomas and the fate of those assets are just some of the ingredients  swirling around in this toxic soup. Others include claims that one employee was taking £10,000 a week out of the park; extortion; illegal, unlicensed commercial fishing; a sexual assault, blackmail and industrial scale cover-ups.

Of course, there is no hint of anything remotely worth telling the police about in any of those trivial allegations. References to lumpy carpets by a blogger, on the other hand, are a much more serious matter.

A key question is who knew what and when. Jake Morgan's March 2016 report was into "historical" issues which would have taken place during the tenure of his predecessor, Dave Gilbert OBE (now advising the Swansea Bay City Region). How much did Gilbert know about what was happening in his department? By the same token, was Cllr Meryl Gravell as former council leader and current portfolio holder ("we always defend our officers") in the loop?

And given the extraordinarily sensitive nature of what has happened, what part was played by the chief executive, and has there been a concerted cover-up and attempt to mislead councillors by some officers?

OBEs and CBEs all round!