Monday 1 April 2013

A bit on the side

In the recent James v Thompson libel trial, Mr James was keen to let the judge know that he wasn't just any old council chief executive, but also a trusted adviser to the Welsh Government. The court heard that he had recently had his appointment as a non-executive director extended for a further three year period.

A non-executive director of what wasn't exactly clear, so Cneifiwr decided to make some enquiries in the form of a Freedom of Information request.

It turns out that in addition to his extremely well-paid duties as council chief executive and highly lucrative activities as returning officer (more than £20,000 for running last year's council elections), Mr James is also a non-executive director on one of the Welsh Government's Director General Corporate Governance Committees. 

There are six of these committees, and Mr James is a member of the Central Services Committee, which has as its remit "Strategic Planning, Finance and performance, (SPFP), People, Places and Corporate Services (PPCS) and Legal Directorate".

Mr James's advice to the Legal Directorate probably does not include how to circumvent Welsh Government legal guidelines and an Order prohibiting the use of public funds to bring actions for libel.

He was appointed to the role in April 2010, and his appointment was extended for a further three years in June 2012.

The Central Services Committee has two non-executive directors, the other being Mr Clive Grace. Mr Grace replaced Mr Clive Wolfenden. Mr Grace is, among other things, honorary secretary of the SOLACE Foundation, the rather odd name given to the official body which represents local authority bigwigs. Clive Wolfenden was assistant chief constable of North Wales Police, where he called for rank and file police officers routinely to be given fire arms when on the beat. It must be more dangerous than we thought up in the Gogs.

Non-executive directors are required to attend four meetings per year, and they also receive one day of training every year on top of that. For this they are paid an honorarium of £347 per day, plus travel expenses.

Judging by the expenses claimed, the meetings must be held a very long way from Cardiff, because Mr James clocked up just over £5,600 in expenses for the two years to 31 March 2012. To be fair to Mr James, Mr Wolfenden claimed just as much.

Expenses for the most recent year were running at a more modest £757 for Mr James and £748 for Mr Grace, although the full year figures were not available at the time of the FOI request.

A recent edition of the BBC's Week In Week Out looked at the extraordinarily generous pay packages enjoyed by some of the top brass in the Welsh public sector, and it drew up a shortlist of 10 top earners.

As Cneifiwr complained at the time, the list gave a rather skewed picture because it was made up of the top earners from ten different fields in the public sector, rather than the ten individuals with the fattest pay cheques. This meant, for example, that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council did not make it onto the list because, despite Meryl Gravell's best efforts, he earns only slightly less than his counterpart in Cardiff, although in reality he is almost certainly in the public sector top five.

One of the other difficulties the BBC researchers faced was that establishing exactly how much public sector  fat cats really earn is not at all easy, as we can see in the case of Mr James, whose salary and fees are paid out of at least four different pots. For all we know, there may be more.


Anonymous said...

Ok - ha ha. This continuing saga is making April Fools of all of us and I, for one, am not laughing. If the CEO is only working part-time for CCC, why are we paying him a more than full-time salary?

Anonymous said...

Anon 15:11 - Interesting point you have made!

Anonymous said...

Blame the game, not the player. But be careful what you wish for, the brain drain on Wales, especially West of Swansea will leave us all in a precarious position in years to come, the saviours you appear to be waiting for post Mr James won't work for the honour of it.

Tessa said...

Blimey - no end to it with this bloke, is there? I wonder what he's cost the taxpayer in total from the start of his career? Worth every penny (if you take the number of pounds and multiply that by pennies instead).

Anonymous said...

Anon 22:01 - "Democracy is a process by which people are free to choose the man who will get the blame." Laurence J. Peter.

I wish for honest, open and transparent business!