Tuesday 4 February 2014

Council Crisis - The Council goes on the rampage again

With apologies to readers for this blizzard of claims and counterclaims, but here is the latest from the council itself and a succinct reply from Plaid Cymru.

First up the Ministry of Spin.

Firstly, as stated yesterday, and published on our website, the Leader and Executive Board have called an extraordinary meeting which the Chair has agreed will take place on Thursday, February 27.

It is a matter for Plaid Cymru if they wish to present notices of motion prior to that meeting.
However, given that the opportunity for full debate of the Wales Audit Office reports will take place on February 27 it seems reasonable for any decisions to wait until such time as all the facts are known.

Votes of no confidence in officers or members should not, in our view, be taken without the full evidence against allegations being made known.

As members know, we are currently circulating evidence regarding these two issues to all councillors.

As Plaid Cymru knows, we were unable to do this previously, or to discuss these issues as they were under investigation by the Wales Audit Office.

Can Plaid Cymru not wait to be in possession of all the facts before they make their minds up, or have they already done so?

If that is the case, sadly it will not make a difference what the evidence says as headline grabbing and power is what they are after, not truth and justice.

Cllr Hughes Griffiths asks us to unconditionally accept the Wales Audit Office reports. It would seem he would have us hang officers and members out to dry on evidence we strongly dispute.

Whilst we have every respect for the Wales Audit Office we cannot blindly accept what our information contradicts.

We accept the recommendations regarding the pension pay policy, this decision was reversed at a meeting last year.*

It is the intention of the Executive Board to accept the Wales Audit Office findings regarding this.

However, in the matter of the indemnity we dispute some of the findings. This is what the meeting on February 27 will debate – evidence and information from both ourselves and the Wales Audit Office.

Councillors can then make their own minds up and make their own decisions based on their findings. Until such time it is premature and extremely unfair to be calling for votes of no confidence or suspensions of any kind. [END]

* The policy was indeed reversed, but the Council did so while insisting that it still believed that its actions were legal. Ed. 

Next up Plaid's rather less verbose response.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s latest statement is further evidence that it is failing or refusing to grasp the gravity of the situation, says Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, leader of the 28-strong Plaid Cymru opposition group in County Hall. " The Executive Board says it accepts the Wales Audit Office findings regarding the pension pay policy, which was deemed unlawful. The public expects people who are responsible for unlawful action to be called to account. Yet nothing had been done – which is why Plaid Cymru is persistently pursuing this matter."


Ken Haylock said...

Suspending the officers who are under investigation _shouldn't_ be partisan. They are supposed to be officers, functionaries of the democratically elected council, interchangeable with others of their ilk and subject to the same disciplinary process as any other public sector employee accused of criminality in relation to their work and/or gross misconduct; suspension on full pay pending resolution. The fact that 'the council' is arguing against this, is evidence all on its own of exactly what is wrong with Carms County Council!

Anonymous said...

Due to the severity of the situation a full Council meeting should be called this week. To delay it until the 27th February gives the impression that it is unimportant and is a kick in the teeth to the public. If, as the Council maintain they have the evidence, then the sooner it is cleared up the better!

Owen said...

Well, it's not as if none of us saw this coming?

If it wasn't so serious it would almost be funny.

sian caiach said...

The only information I've been circulated is 2 legal reports about the indemnity already seen by the Wales audit Office which did not persuade them that the indemnity payment was lawful.
The spectre of discredited officers trying to persuade their councillors that they are right and the Welsh Audit Office is wrong is unbelievable. Then where do we go?
Are we declaring UDI and leaving Wales because the pesky Welsh Government say our executive made unlawful payments?

Duke21 said...

I find the latest statement from the Executive Board quite staggering to say the least and for several reasons. Misconduct in public office is a crime at common law, a serious criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Most of us in Carmarthenshire will realise that the two matters that will now probably be investigated by the police are just the tip of the iceberg as far as what has been going on in the best Council in Wales is concerned.

It is clearly apparent from the statement made, that the Leader of the Council, and the Executive Board do not realise the seriousness of there own positions in this matter. At common law we are all as individuals responsible for our own actions. Whatever our councillors new or did not know, as seems to be the case being made here, is irrelevant as it is their personal responsibility to make sure that what they say and do is lawful and, this goes for all councillors, officers and council staff. They cannot hide behind the organisation and as was proven at Nuremberg it is no defence to say I was doing my job, I was following orders.

It seems to me that the Executive Board, past and present are vicariously liable for there employees actions or inactions especially as they were responsible for approving them.

There is quite allot of hypocrisy by councillors who seem to think that they are not responsible for the position the Council finds itself in. Well I have got news for you councillors, all of you, regardless of party or group, you are all responsible. Councillors are elected in to office to serve – they are not elected into power to rule. Councils never gain power; they are burdened with responsibility and duties and therefore how did our councillors allow an unelected Chief Clerk of the Council and other senior officers(who decided to start calling them Chief Executives?) to dictate policy and what should be done. It has been obvious to all of us in Carmarthenshire for many years that our Council was and still is an officer run Council. Our councillors allowed this to take place over many years and very few of them (there are one or two and thank goodness for them) had the principal or gumption to speak out or do something about it. And let’s not forget the Welsh Assembly Government is also responsible as there inaction also left this dictatorship continue unabated.

We now need to get rid of all of the councillors and senior officers. We do not need a Chief Executive any longer, other councils are doing away with this post in order to save money and Carmarthenshire needs to do the same. We have far too many councillors; the numbers need to be reduced. An election needs to be called and let the people of Carmarthenshire decide if they want these unprincipled yes men and women representing them any longer.

I say all of the above as someone who has endured much vindictive and defamatory action from the Chief Executive and other officers of this rotten Council over many

Anonymous said...

Enough of this already! Plaid Cymru, I strongly suggest you stick to your guns for the following reasons:-

Mark James and Linda Rees Jones are EMPLOYEES in CCC. Therefore, as employees they are fully aware of the various policies and procedures CCC operate e.g. Investigation and disciplinary policy!

"Can Plaid Cymru not wait to be in possession of all the facts before they make their minds up...?" Who is the author of this statement? Are they serious? Is CCC not in enough trouble for breaching procedures and/or policies? As Mark James and Linda Rees Jones are EMPLOYEES of CCC, please give me one good reason why they should be treated differently to any other employee in CCC? Any other employee further down the ladder would have been instantly dismissed for gross misconduct! If not instant dismissal then the investigation policy needs to be enforced!!!!

With reference to Cllr Hughes Griffiths CCC states, “It would seem he would have us hang officers and members out to dry on evidence we strongly dispute.” That is rich coming from an organisation that would appear to have hung many a former employee out to dry on evidence that the employee strongly REFUTED! I would suggest that Plaid remind the author of the equality policy! Furthermore, if these employees are not dismissed or suspended then Cllrs are setting a very dangerous president. I urge ALL Cllrs to stand firm on this and enforce the policies and procedures in place. If Mark and Linda are unhappy with the outcome then I suggest they read CCC’s grievance policy.

Sorry Cllr Hughes Griffiths but I am not sure if CCC’s dignity in work policy applies to you Cllrs. However, I do hope that Judge Tugendhat is reading the newspapers with interest and has noted the insidious comments made about you. One could argue that you are being “victimised not because of anything in your personal life, but because of the job” you do for us ...THE PUBLIC!!!!

Anonymous said...

Has Kevin Madge made a Freudian slip when he says, "However, in the matter of the indemnity we dispute some of the findings." SOME of the findings eh! So tell us Kev, which of Anthony Barrett findings in respect of the indemnity do you agree with?

Anonymous said...

If the pensions issue is accepted then action on that requires suspension and disciplinary investigation

The auditor said it was unlawful not just based on legal opinion but also due to the process

If you are charged with burglary returning the goods doesn't end the matter!,

However it is clear that action from within is not going to happen and others with powers are standing aside

Anonymous said...

Mr Madge

You are missing the point here.

Nobody is saying that the officers are guilty. BUT the allegations have been made and a criminal investigation is underway.

It is surely common practice to suspend suspects. This is standard and protects all involved. Suspension only allows space for an investigation to take place and does not infer or imply guilt.

There must have been many occasions when CCC staff have been suspended and following investigation have returned to work.

When you think carefully about it Mr Madge how can you cooperate with a criminal investigation when the officers involved are still in post. It could also be reasonably construed that by allowing the officers to remain in post they could interfere or block an investigation.

Anonymous said...

As a child, when watching the denouement in umpteen James Bond films, I always used to wonder why it was that the arch-villain's minions used to fight on with such tenacity when it must have been clear to them that all was lost.

I used to put it down to a combination of weak-mindedness, gullibility, the ingrained habit of obeying orders, fear and hopeless optimism.

As I grew older, I changed my mind when I realised that it was only fiction, and nothing would happen like that in real life.

Seeing Kev & Co tying their colours to the mast of a fast sinking ship makes me think that my first thoughts were right after all.

Anonymous said...

Dead men walking.

Mrs Angry said...

Amongst all the extraordinary features of this incredible story, there is one thing which is almost being overlooked: the way in which these statements from CCC are being released.

Is the press team not employed to speak on behalf of all parties represented in council, rather than issuing such clearly party political responses - subjective and personalised responses - in regard to a matter concerning senior council officers?

Are those officers involved in any way in directing the statements and press releases, when it is their actions under investigation?

Is this really a proper use of council resources, or even compliant with the authority's own constitutional regulations?

Anonymous said...

Having seen the report & the QC comments to Exec Board I say it was right and proper to indemnify a council employee against a libel case . The Council would have only paid if they had lost the case and they did not as the lady from Llanwrtda was found to have lied - yes lied in court and her insurers withdrew their support so if you live by the sword you will die by the sword .
the pension was wrong and Mark James should not have tried to avoid paying tax - he is in a public sector job and whilst tax efficiency is admiral in commercial enterprises it should not be approved

Tessa said...

In whose names are these council press releases being done, anyway? Do we assume ALL councillors unless they have made it clear to the public they aren't of this view? I have emailed my councillor and asked him to nail his colours to the mast - but I haven't had any response (yet, anyway).

Anonymous said...

What is the specific lie that you believe Mrs Thompson told in court, Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Anon 13:50 I take it that having seen the report & the QC comments I I am replying to a Cllr. Am I not? If you are so sure "it was right and proper to indemnify a council employee against a libel case" then why don't you stand by your convictions and reveal your identity? The public have had enough of CCC's secret and lies!!!! Credit where credit is due if Cllr Caiach has anything to say, she isn't afraid to put her name to it.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 13:50 - yes you are bloody right that "Mark James should not have tried to avoid paying tax!" So why haven't CCC followed their policies and procedures and suspended him pending an investigation?

Anonymous said...

Press offices and officers? Who butters their bread gets the service.

Anonymous said...

Anon 15.46

CCC only follow their policies and procedures when it suits them!