Wednesday 19 February 2014

Council Crisis: Benefits Street Chief Executive Style

Efforts to establish the precise terms and conditions of Mark James's decision to stand down from his duties as chief executive are continuing. What has emerged so far is that he will remain on full pay, which the South Wales Guardian reckons is about £15,000 a month.

Under the constitution he would be entitled to full pay for just two months under a suspension while allegations of misconduct are investigated, but it seems that by voluntarily agreeing "not to undertake his duties", he will continue to be paid in full.

If the case of senior council officers in Caerphilly is anything to go by, Mr James could be looking at a year or more as the most comfortable benefits claimant in Wales.

Mark James is Innocent OK

The Guardian notes that the council last week issued a press release in the name of Kevin Madge, and presumably the rest of the Executive Board, in which Mr James tells us that he has done nothing wrong. Under the Kerr-Ching rules applied in Pembrokeshire to exclude opposition members from a vote to suspend Bryn Parry Jones, that should rule out the 10 members of the Carmarthenshire Board from voting in next week's extraordinary meeting.

An Empty Diary

In addition to being council chief executive, Mr James has had a high profile in Cardiff, with many and varied duties. Simon Thomas (Plaid) yesterday received the following answer from the Welsh Government:

Simon Thomas (Mid and West Wales): What work does the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark James, do for the Welsh Government – working groups, panels, committees, advice etc?

Lesley Griffiths: Mark James will be stepping aside from the various roles he performs for the Welsh Government. These include:

• Member of the Public Service Leadership Group as regional lead for the Mid and West Wales collaborative service area.
• Member of the 21st Century Schools Programme Board as representative of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives
• Chair of the Monmouthshire Education Recovery Board and
• Chair of the Welsh Government’s Central Services Corporate Governance Committee. 

A Freedom of Information request submitted last year cast a little more light on this:

"Mr Mark James is a Non-Executive Director (NED) on one of the Welsh Government’s Director General Corporate Governance Committees (DG CGC). 
Specifically, Mr James is a NED on the Central Services CGC. Mr James was appointed to this role in April 2010. Mr James was re-appointed to this role for a further 3 year term in June 2012.

The committees meet four times a year and members are also required to attend an annual training day. The Non-Executive Directors receive remuneration on an honorarium basis of £347 per day and travel expenses.  
Mr James has attended all meetings of the Central Services CGC since April 2010.

Mr James’ expenses for the period to March 2012 were:

1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 - £3,281.00
1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012 - £2,320.50"


Anonymous said...

No doubt the proposed 4.77% increase in council tax will keep him in the manner to which he has become accustomed.

Catherine said...

I originally thought that the "stepping aside" rather than having to suffer the indignity of being suspended was an ego thing but I see now that it was actually a very astute financial move. Nice one: council taxpayers outsmarted again.

Perhaps the next sermon at the Living Word Church meeting in Wellfield Road should be on the theme of rich men, camels, eyes of needles etc. (Being a dedicated atheist having to dredge that bible stuff up from the recesses of my memory, I may have got it a bit muddled; if so, I apologise.)

Anonymous said...

Surely this is a conflict of Interest?

Anonymous said...

Mr James' expenses seem on the high side for what were presumably four or five day trips from Carmarthen to Cardiff. If attending these meetings was part of his CCC job he shouldn't have accepted an honorarium on top, as he was already being paid from the public purse. Conversely, if these responsibilities were separate from his role as Chief Executive, he should have taken leave in order to undertake them. These are issues the Gloucestershire Constabulary might usefully investigate.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Madge and associates must go. I also include Linda Rees Jones.What to do with the rest who so blindly followed Kevin I am at a loss.

Anonymous said...

This is what the hard working people of Wales pay for,to pay for fat cats in mikey mouse jobs.I wonder if the first
Minister is surprised at this as well.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to note from the S4C programme last night that the result of a poll by them, showed that 82% of the people asked didn't think the Chief Exec. salary should exceed £100,000. Personally, I don't think it should be more than 80,000, and we certainly don't need 2 Assistant Chief Exec and a deputy. Consider the salaries of these 3, and there would be a saving of nearly a quarter of a million straight away if the post of deputy and assistant Chief Exec was rolled into one. I don't think that is too much to ask as it?

Anonymous said...

To all members of the public and Unison members who were unable to attend the lobby of Cllrs outside County Hall this morning, I have heard on the grapevine that Mark Evans (Unison Carms Branch Sec)was interviewed by BBC Wales and other media reporters in attendance. No doubt his interview will be aired this evening.

Anonymous said...

What all this exposure does is to show the lengths these already high paid salary earners will go to in order to secure even more benefits.
If there is any justice the people of Carmarthenshire who are really struggling on a low wage or are experiencing cuts in services will take more of an interest in local government conduct.

Anonymous said...

It's not only executives.
From my experience Managers are surrounded by other Managers as well.

Anonymous said...

I remember being at a Cymdeithas yr Iaith rally outside county hall last year (may even have been 2 years ago) when Peter Hughes Griffiths addressed the rally with a highly political speech. I'm a Plaid member and agreed with what he said, but it's fair to say his comments didn't universally receive the same welcome.

What he said, in a nutshell, was the only way Carmarthenshire Council will ever improve the Welsh language in the county is by working our guts out and voting the Labour/Independent administration out of office.

His comments were right on so many more levels - not just the language. Not all of Cneifiwr's readers may vote Plaid, but give them your vote to get this shower out.

Anonymous said...

The chief executive of Somerset County Council has now left her post 'by mutual agreement' after taking seven weeks unauthorised absence on full pay. She went awol during their flooding crisis. Somerset are now looking for replacement. Perhaps Mr James intends to make a splash?

Anonymous said...

It's going to take more than votes: it needs political will to change root and branch an institutionalised administration bereft of integrity - and that has to mean councillors who have a clear idea of what they will do in their first "100" days to swiftly change a rotten culture. Hard job

Anonymous said...

I have been mulling over the "if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys" comment, in the light of the recent shenanigans. I know that it is very difficult to compare one Council with another, but Cardiff, with about twice the population and number of Council employees, manages to pay its top management over 10% less than Carmarthenshire.

This disparity is even more galling when you see what the taxpayers gets for their money. It seems to me that the roles of the Deputy Chief Executive and the 2 Assistant Chief Executives allow the Chief Executive plenty of spare time to:
1. Sit on external boards and committees for which he is paid even more remuneration.
2. Devise schemes (with advice paid for by the taxpayer) to enable him to pay less tax.
3. Embark on egotistical and self-important libel actions (to protect his "good name", paid for by the taxpayer.

And the last two of these, he can't even achieve lawfully. I don't recall the "monkey" in Cardiff bringing his Council into such disrepute.

johnsouthwales said...

looking at other counties across the uk, chief execs pay levels vary. some get paid more and on 250k and have slightly less of a populate.

anyone remember the fuss that was brought up around 2001 when port talbot's chief's pay was highlighted?

and pay has been going up since.

if you think about it, our chief exec costs around £2.90 per household a year(not sure if that has a relevance). it would be nice to have a management system where everyone works together but all too often in the past, that system had been at loggerheads with each other and ending up with costly mistakes.

as most of the work is already done by heads of departments, all a chief exec does is finalise, check, approve and air out problems as 'chief of corporation'

if he wasn't there, somebody else will.

everything has become too expensive whether it's justified or not, and looking at the varying payments for the other senior officers on top

but of course the system will carry on, they have the council tax payer to rely on if they became stuck for some cash

Ken Haylock said...

I may have said before that I want competent, transparent, democratic, value for money governance. I'm not much fussed whether that comes in Welsh, English or Swahili, from PC, Labour, Tories, UKIP or the Monster Raving Loonies.

I hope the plan of whoever ends up in power in Carmarthenshire after all this isn't to say "I'm glad we have got rid of the unaccountable former ruling Junta. Long live the new unaccountable ruling Junta!". Otherwise the principle of local government as it is exists in West Wales at present must be under serious threat...

Anonymous said...

Pickles says get rid of Chief Executives:

Anonymous said...

I could not resist posting this:

Dear Kevin, while reflecting
On your former test career,
Compare the roles of bat and tongue,
And which brought up the rear.
For when, perhaps resentment
And frustration come a-stalking,
You might accept you should have left
Your bat to do the talking
It’s true to say we’ll miss you
But it’s also true to say.
Your banishment was sadly
Just a case of “brain stopped play”.
From Feb 19th Daily Mail Letters

Anonymous said...

I have heard a rumour that external auditors have been sent in to go through the CCC "books"/accounts with a fine tooth comb. Can anyone verify this?
If they haven't - then they certainly should be!

Anonymous said...

That's what is needed now. The innocent will rest easy in their beds!

Anonymous said...

Whatever the justification , there is something unsavoury about delight in the downfall/ public slogging of others.
Not expecting that this will get posted as it is out of sync with the majority of commentators on this page!

Ken Haylock said...

Well, there's bound to be a little less than edifying schadenfreude, of course, but then there is also genuine unashamed satisfaction that something utterly rotten in Carmarthenshirew might be about to get the scrutiny it has long desperately needed.

They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant, so it is surely great news that things that seem to have been grievously wrong for a long time and about which all debate and challenge by democratically elected councillors and citizens alike has been seemingly been ruthlessly suppressed, is finally going to get looked at. And if you've been a councillor who has had their email hacked by officers at the council you are a member of so they can better serve their agenda at the expense of yours, or a blogger who has had her house taken away or even just a councillor denied the opportunity to do anything except take an allowance in exchange for not rocking the boat, never knowing what has been done in their name and never being allowed to ask lest the stipend is magically withdrawn, you could be forgiven at being a little satisfied that finally the edifice is crumbling, and answers might become available.

Also, in light of what happened in Pembrokeshire, there's no room for being gentle or magnanimous or giving people space & time to do the honourable thing now in their own good time, even if the milk of human kindness does overtake the pitchfork & torch wielding mob advancing on jail hill; until the vampire is properly staked, there will have to be the paranoid suspicion that there will be another dirty trick, another procedural coup, another 'We have found a reason you aren't allowed to know for preventing you elected members from discussing or voting on things we would find inconvenient if you did so we are denying you the opportunity to do so, and we laugh in the face of your so called democratic mandate, suck it people of Carmarthenshire!' moment that ensures that the junta preserves itself at the expense of democracy once again.

If the doors and shutters are flung open and the light streams in to allow scrutiny of the golf course deal, the evangelical bowling alley, the st

Anonymous said...

Turned the other cheek too many times Anon 00.11.

It's not so nice is it when the boot is on the other foot!

Anonymous said...

Anon 00.11

What goes round comes round comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

What about the unsavoury goings-on of the people who should have been upholding democracy in CCC,If it is found that illegal activity has taken place of course there is pleasure in their downfall.This would have been deliberate action on their part
What about the poorer people of
Carmarthenshire (and I am not one of them)who will suffer as a result of greed and abuse of power.
Think on.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I personally take great delight in seeing people who have used my money to feather their own nests brought to book.

If you go into "public service" you should serve the public and the public should be free to criticise you (and enjoy it) if you don't do what you are paid to do.

And let's not forget, these same people have taken great delight in enjoying the downfall of others.

Anonymous said...


Do you also condemn bullying by Managers and Senior Managers of staff?

Martin Milan said...

Anon @ 00:11,

As far as I am aware, Mark James' "suspension" is non-judgemental, and we cannot, and should not, infer anything from this in terms of his guilt - that is for the police to decide.

It could however be argued that the manner in which he has acted as won him few friends - particularly when we consider the treatment of Jacqui Thompson. The High Court can shove their opinion - Jacqui is, and remains, a woman dedicated to the public good, and the victim in my eyes of a MASSIVE miscarriage of justice.

As for whether or not adverse opinions are tolerated on this particular blog, I have to say I think you are on a losing wicket there... Cneifwr often publishes comments from opposing viewpoints - he just doesn't tolerate abusive content...

Anonymous said...

But he hasn't been suspended has he, he has "stepped aside" and none of us knows what that means.

And as for bullying: I don't understand: who are you saying has been bullied and why?

Anyone who breaks the law should expect the full force if the law. That isn't bullying - it's the law!

Anonymous said...

Anon 13.27

You misunderstand me. I will try and clarify:-

Anon 00.11 seemed to be defending hierarchy. What I was trying to say was,would the author of the comment also support junior staff if they were bullied by hierarchy? Would he/she show them the same loyalty?

For the record, I totally agree with you 13.27.

Anonymous said...

I would stick up for any officer who is being bullied, but not for one who uses bullying as a trumped-up excuse for not doing the job they are paid for

Anonymous said...

Anon 15.46

Think you have still misunderstood. If they have acted unlawfully then they deserve everything that's coming to them.