Monday 3 February 2014

Carmarthenshire in Crisis: Council goes on the offensive

The council has responded to Jonathan Edwards' decision to request a police investigation of the matters covered in last week's WAO public interest reports with an explosive statement of its own. So bitter is the statement that it cannot even bring itself to name Jonathan, who is referred to rather childishly as "an MP".

The full text is shown below.

The first point which springs to mind is that the appointed auditor carried out a very lengthy and detailed investigation into the libel indemnity and pensions pay "supplement". We know that the council refused to disclose legal advice it had commissioned to the auditor - an extraordinary state of affairs in itself. We also know that the auditor gave the council advice and time to sort things out.

Now the council appears to be saying that the auditor's reports are misleading or even wrong, and that it has documentary evidence which will prove that.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the council is accusing the Wales Audit Office of acting in bad faith.

The council should now publish any evidence which was either withheld from the auditor or ignored by him immediately, rather than play for time and drag things out for another month. It has all of this information at its fingertips, and there is no excuse for any more delays.


Statement on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board:
 There is a saying in this country that has been upheld over many years and that is – innocent until proven guilty.

However, this sentiment appears to have been lost on an MP who penned a letter, copied to the press, which finds two Carmarthenshire County Council senior officers guilty of varying charges without making any pretence of fairness or balance.

We understand he has asked two police forces to look into this matter prior to council even having the opportunity to look at all the information and debate these issues. This is premature at best, or political opportunism at its worst.

The letter contains libellous and factually inaccurate statements, which is ironic because if the officers concerned issued information of this nature they would be pilloried for doing so.

It appears the MP feels he has licence to publish any information regardless of checking all the facts which is extremely unfair on the individuals concerned.

Both officers robustly deny they have acted in any way other than a professional and proper manner and are confident that this will be supported by the evidence when the matters go before full council.

As an executive board they have our full support and we are sure that they will be vindicated, it would be wise if opposition politicians waited to see the full evidence before making judgement.


Anonymous said...

This is now beyond ludicrous
Even if the council could provide legal advice to support its position it cannot overcome the issue that officers both advised and attended meetings that they clearly had a conflict of interest in

How can the Caerphilly chief be suspended and bailed,is Carmarthen governed by a different legal system?

Ministerial intervention is long overdue

Anonymous said...

Blimey - who wrote this? Its awful! It sounds so desperate! Which isn't surprising in the circumstances, but in this particular situation, it would be so much better to keep quiet! Still - good - keep digging, I say!

Anonymous said...

Surely they have had plenty of time to give their side of the story to the Auditor, what else could there be!!

Jac o' the North, said...

If the Executive Board, or Mark James, has evidence supporting the decisions taken, then it would have been produced long before now. What they have is legal advice that they chose to misinterpret, and will persist in misinterpreting. This being their only defence.

The guilty and the dupes seem to feel that things have gone too far to admit they were wrong. They have therefore decided to persist with the charade, thereby ensuring that the inevitable crash, when it comes, will be bigger, louder, and bloodier than it would have been had they realised earlier the hole they were in.

I like the reference to "full council". When was the last time "full council" was presented with the facts? Is the Executive Board going to break with its normal practice and give all councillors all the facts?

P.S. Looking down I see that one of the captcha words is 'coercive'. How apt.

Anonymous said...

Oh where to begin?

First of all, it would be a lot easier for everyone to review your evidence if you would only, you know, present it. I don't believe you have a smoking gun with which to blow the auditor's arguments away. If you had, you would have used it already. It sounds as though the auditor has had to drag whatever information he has out of the council - and it's not like you were not given a chance to present anything you thought relevant.

Next, I don't have any party affiliation, so I would like to know where exactly you feel Jonathan Edwards has found anyone guilty of anything! All he has done is request that an investigation be carried out to determine if indeed there is a problem - and that request is perfectly reasonable in circumstances where we have senior officers benefiting to the tune of thousands of pounds from decisions that the auditor believes to be unlawful.

It is also something of a delicious irony that your assertion that Jonathan has published libelous material might be, well, libelous! As Jonathan is an elected politician with a reputation to maintain, it seems to me that the damages in such a case might well exceed those of a chief exec with hurt feelings.

Of course, since you have made the allegation that Jonathan has published libelous material, should Jonathan act against you it would be for you to prove the veracity of your claims - the burden of proof in libel cases being reversed...

Jonathan is not engaged in political opportunism. He's engaged in representing those who elected him - though I can see how that concept might confuse you.

As another commenter said earlier today, it's time to get the drains up... Let's find everything that needs finding, take whatever action is needed, and get back to having a council doing it's job.

Ken Haylock said...

Whatever happens, this is not going to end well for them, is it?

What on earth do they think is going to happen next? Do they imagine the MP concerned, the police, the Audit Office & the opposition councillors are all going to apologise for their impertinence in questioning the self-asserted righteousness of the great and the good at Carms Council and slink away, tails tucked between legs, never to mention their alleged transgressions again? And yet the executive at the council has closed ranks with the two senior officers who are alleged to have committed gross misconduct in public office and decided not to suspend them on full pay pending an investigation, in fact more than that, to robustly try to prevent any such investigation taking place.

If criminality is subsequently turned up by the police investigation, do the members of the Executive particularly wish to share the dock with the council officers concerned as alleged co-conspirators? Or are they simply unable to conceive of a world where the two officers concerned aren't present every day to hold their hands, tell them what to say and when to say it?

This, after all, is not a grey area. If I credibly accuse a junior council employee in a position of trust of an imprisonable offence relating to their integrity, then they will certainly be suspended, on full pay, while the allegation was investigated, full stop, end of matter. They might be reinstated without a stain on their character or their record in the end but suspension is effectively mandatory!

To be honest if the power to put a council into special measures isn't appropriate for use in Carmarthenshire's current circumstances then when the hell would it ever be? Would Carmarthenshire County Council have to raise a mercenary army and march it on Cardiff Bay to overthrow the Assembly and drive off the auditor perhaps? If this situation the council finds itself in now, with all the history attached to it, does not put Carms above the threshold for immediate deployment of special measures then realistically as far as I can tell no council will ever do enough to trigger special measures...

Mrs Angry said...

The arrogance of such a statement is truly gobsmacking,or would be if it were not so comically inept, implying as it does that a meeting instigated by the executive board of CCC is an appropriate assessment of such serious allegations.

I think that Jonathan Edwards was acting quite within his rights to refer the matter for investigation, and such scrutiny can only be for the public good. If there has been no wrongdoing, then the investigation will demonstrate this, so I cannot see why any party would wish to avoid such a procedure.

Anonymous said...

They are sticking together for now but just watch what happens when the going gets really tuff. One by one they will fall like a stack of cards.

The future of CCC is only in the hands of the Executives because we allowed it to be. It is time for change! Get behind Jonathan Edwards no matter what party you support and let these despicable people feel the might and force of the public.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is in the interests of either the senior officers or councillors to attack the local MP whatever they think of his comments today.

I vote Labour and Plaid (depending on the election) but its quite clear from websites, blogs and general chit-chat down the shop that the public are on his side for challenging the council. I don't think Kevin Madge or the officers could withstand the uprising that would come if they took him on!

It's in the interests of we tax-paying citizens of Carmarthenshire that the council accepts the Auditor's reports with somebody being sacrificed by losing their job, and Jonathan Edwards now lets the police get on with their investigation.

I certainly don't want any more of my council tax going to fund even more legal costs of the council. That would be the final straw.

Anonymous said...

I read today that on top of all this Kevin Madge is putting up council tax by nearly 5%

Anonymous said...

Hubris syndrome seems to be contagious within the upper echelons of this rotten council. Whoever challenges their decision making, they come under attack - the Ombudsman in the Trisha Breckman case, others in the Delyth Jenkins case - Jonathan Edwards and Rhodri Glyn in the Crosshands development - not to mention Jacqui in the libel case - they have quite clearly lost all sense of objectivity and reality. The Assembly needs to step in - now!

Anonymous said...

The spinmeisters are obviously working hard, but they have missed a trick or two, which will no doubt be familiar to older observers of totalitarian regimes. Next time, perhaps the statement should be liberally (if that in itself is not offensive) sprinkled with a selection of the following:

Running dogs
Enemies of the people
Paper tigers
Despicable human scum

Incidentally, one of my captcha words is "Answer".

Anonymous said...

I Agree. If the Council had evidence to support what they say, they would have produced it long ago. The full Council meeting must happen asap. What can the public do in this situation? Demonstrate outside the Assembly? What does it take for them to Intervene? Morale is low and the tax payers have had enough.

Catherine said...

I heartily agree with all those people who are calling for Carmarthenshire to be put in to special measures. This situation has gone far enough - we deserve better and therefore I suggest that as many people as possible write or email Lesley Griffiths AM asking that WAG take over until this mess can be satisfactorily sorted out.