Thursday 27 February 2014

Turkeys voting for Christmas

With the public sickened by the behaviour of the top brass at Carmarthenshire County Council, the county's name dragged through the mud, senior politicians from all parties horrified by the goings-on, a police investigation and the possibility of lots more courtroom action, the Labour and Independent coalition voted to carry on as usual, kicking whatever they could into the long grass.

The arguments put up in defence of the council's leadership were a mixture of denial, the daft, and the deluded. Carmarthenshire has escaped unscathed from the effects of the recession thanks to the policies pursued by the Executive Board and senior officers, according to one councillor, while according to another our council is admired by other local authorities across Wales.

One of the unsolved mysteries for the public is why Labour in Pembrokeshire are calling for the suspension of the council's chief executive and the dismissal of the council leader for the unlawful pension arrangements, while Labour in Carmarthenshire sees nothing wrong with an identical scheme which one opposition councillor today described as a scam, although it confessed to a few procedural irregularities.

Kevin Madge (Lab) emerged looking relieved, while Meryl Gravell (Ind) and Pam Palmer (Ind) looked very pleased with themselves throughout, firmly convinced that their honour and integrity remain fully intact.

Demonstrating what great value we get for our money, the manager of the council's notorious press office was ensconced alongside councillors on the Independent benches for the entire meeting (around the 5 hour mark), scribbling the occasional note and glaring up at the public gallery where sat the press, bloggers, police (the Gloucestershire Constabulary in plain clothes doing a recce) and an unusually large contingent of the long-suffering public.

Without a doubt the unhappiest person present was Labour's student councillor, Calum Higgins, who is smart enough to realise that he had just watched whatever hopes he had of representing Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in Westminster swirl down the pan.

One of the more memorable moments took place outside the chamber when a pensioner challenged the poor old reporter sent along by the Carmarthen Journal. 

"I don't know why you bothered coming when the paper will end up printing the council's press release", she taunted him.

Cneifiwr will be working over the weekend, but this blog will examine some of today's more interesting contributions in a post next week, including some new pearls from Kev and Meryl.

Meanwhile, here is a statement just put out by the Plaid Cymru group on the council:

Plaid Cymru has slammed Labour and Independent councillors in Carmarthenshire for backing council leaders who’d just admitted they’d acted unlawfully in aiding their Chief Executive to avoid paying tax.
The council’s Executive Board crumbled under constant Plaid pressure by accepting a Wales Audit Office report that they’d acted unlawfully in arranging for Chief Executive Mark James to receive a £16,000 salary supplement in lieu of pension contributions, in order to pay less income tax. Mr James is currently away from work pending the outcome of a police inquiry into the Auditor’s report.
But despite the Executive Board’s admission a Plaid Cymru motion of no confidence in the council’s Leader, Labour’s Kevin Madge, former Leader Cllr Meryl Gravell and present Independent group leader Cllr Pam Palmer, was defeated at an Extraordinary meeting of the council today.
“The Labour group and the so-called Independents voted en-bloc to support their discredited leaders,” said Plaid group leader Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths at the end of a heated five-hour debate in County Hall. “A serious error was made by the Executive Board in 2012 on the pensions issue, but no-one will be called to account. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, which is sure to further damage the council’s reputation. Indeed, the public have every right to be outraged by the council’s behaviour.” 


Wavell said...

I watched today’s meeting and it was quite obvious to me that the meeting was not about Carmarthenshire County Council but a battle royal between Labour and Plaid (or Plaid and Labour if you insist).
All of the “so called” Councillors should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves to be following party politics rather than giving their own honest opinions.
Two votes with results of 41-28 in both cases would really be a practical impossibility if the votes were true feelings.
The sooner that the Councillors start getting hold of themselves and begin doing their intended job of being honest with their electorate the better things will be. Why I use capital letters for these councillors I do not know.
I am 75 years of age and up until now I always thought my councillor was a honest and reliable person – how wrong I was !!
Sort yourselves out councillors, Plaid, Labour and Independant, let’s get a Council in Carmarthenshire that we can be proud of.
Stop messing about with politics and start doing the job you were elected to do. Vote with your hearts, not the colour of your tie. That goes for ALL parties.
AS Cneifiwr says , Labour and Independant voted en-bloc, but then so did Plaid
My vote has always been for the person I trust, but it seems I need to be far more diligent in future.
(If I ever vote again that is).

Anonymous said...

How can somebody vote for this rabble ever again is
beyond me.Police from another country in the Gallary
Monitoring events,unbelievable,what a mess.

Anonymous said...

you are right about Callum. Considering he is supposed to be in contention for a Westminster seat his performance today was - well, underwhelming.

I watched the whole debate and I found the whole situation embarrassing. mr Madge was baysmal and I have no idea how the Labour Party allow him to continue. it was so bad that the BBC could not Even find one sentence from the debate to show on the news this evening.

Mrs Gravel was cringworthy and deserved an Oscar.

A bad day for Carmarthenshire democracy and to be honest in relation to the libel indemnity I think it is jus a matter of spite on behalf of the executive board

KLS said...

So what happened to the claims of Labour disenchantment?

Wavell said...

The whole lot was spite between the political parties.
Are our councillors so thick that they cannot see this ?
The sooner UKIP come to Carmarthenshire the better, I don't fully agree with them but I will certainly give them a go. It will at least shake up the other 2.5 we have now.

passerby said...

wavell, unfortuntely i have to agree with you there. it is a plaid versus labour situation.
as for cllr cooper and co with the economic benefits (when an ex coal area was transformed into a 'country park' in his ward and a shed load of money spent and basically a load of junk. hope the next regeneration project isn't as bad. if that is the economic benefit, i feel sorry for the vision, and the potrayal he built in mark james defence. funny how they never mention these anomalies.

as for the first half, the council do not want any criticism and refereed to the mr bowen situation.. maybe it'll be good for a cross party comittee to advise mr james to give back money awarded, forget about it and drop the case. 'if' they want to move on that is. i have heard worse things said in a coffee bar than a blog.

if the want to talk about morality and high paod earners, why did they pay them the artificially high inflated wages in the first place. as i kept on saying, if they cut the wage of the top 1000 by £10 a week, that will save £520,000 a year. if i was being paid £1000 a week, i'm sure i wouldn't miss £10.

society has been like this now for over 15 years and only now councillor jones realises this with his super capitalism speech?
pity the other miners at other pits could not benefit from the super wages betws drift mine paid their staff due to the cutting machinery they had. as he said, don't forget your roots.

it isn't a pretty sight plaid attcking labour and vice versa

Morris said...

I don't often take issue with your posts but this one reads like it has all been about damaging Labour's chances in 2015. Whatever we may think about local government, I don't think it should be used as a club to further parliamentary ambitions.

Cneifiwr said...

What happened to claims of Labour disenchantment?

Well, cynicism (it'll all blow over)and lack of anything resembling a convincing alternative. Mediocrity rules.

Cneifiwr said...

What happened to claims of Labour disenchantment?

Well, cynicism (it'll all blow over)and lack of anything resembling a convincing alternative. Mediocrity rules.

Sentinel said...

I only saw a brief clip of the interview with Kevin Madge and it was immediately obvious that he could barely string two words together; he is no orator.

Mr. Madge can claim no kudos as a leader whatsoever; he may have won the vote, but the people of Carmarthenshire have no faith in him.

Anonymous said...

Labout, Conservative, Lib Dem - you can't put a sheet of paper between them these days - all tarred with the same brush.

Vote for REAL independents if you want to change the balance if power. But how do you tell the real from the sham with their weasel words?

Well, for a start don't vote for the current "Independents" who always vote Labour.

Vote for donkeys if you have to - they couldn't do a worse job!

Anna Mosity said...

What a waste of 5 hours. They could have walked in, had the vote and walked out with exactly the same result.

I thought the speeches by the majority of the Plaid members were excellent. Sian Caiach as usual made good points. For once the chair seemed to be in control and allowed the meeting to flow – no doubt thanks to the fact that Dave Gilbert sitting next to him didn’t interfere.

Some of the Labour councillors spoke well, but said nothing. The majority of the so-called Independents were appalling.

Kev “nice but dim” and Muriel Chippings were their usual bumbling and deluded selves and the most vomit inducing performance of the day has to go to Giles Morgan. He really shouldn’t brown nose Mark James wearing that white jacket.

I hope Mark James emails Jacqui Thompson to thank for all her efforts in getting these meetings webcast. Otherwise he’d have to get a summary from Kev…

Caroline said...

A vary sad day for county politics, I don't feel we can rely on our local councillors to represent us impartially again. Democracy has been totally compromised.

Anonymous said...

A sad day for the labour party in Carmarthenshire. R.I.P.

Anonymous said...

They might have won the vote but the people of Carmarthenshire are still very angry, and where was the information Kevin Madge said would be produced on the 27th to show they had done nothing wrong?
It seems to me they were all told at the 11th hour to admit mistakes were made, but the public aren't stupid.

Anonymous said...

There needs to be a big review on the number of Councillors. There are loads of hangers-on and they don't say anything so what is the point in paying so many of them just to sit there. Cut them by half and some of them are far too old.

Lesley said...

I spent all morning and most of the afternoon in the public gallery in County Hall yesterday and during that exceptionally embarrassing and depressing time, listening to the Great and the Good of the county pontificating about spending time down the mines, being in politics for over thirty years (time to retire then?), saving us all from the recession, building bungalows for old people, providing us with a brand new shopping experiences - and so on and on and on ad infinitum, I learned one or two things.

1. It was very interesting to see that with no Chief Executive at his side, the Chairman was more in charge of the meeting and was able to allow councillors - especially Cllr Sian Caiach - to speak at length without interruption and without telling them very rudely that time was up and to sit down immediately. Is this the way forward or was it just because it was an extraordinary meeting?

2. With some exceptions (mainly Plaid I have to admit), most of the contributors to the "debate" are appalling speakers. In fact some of them, particularly Cllr Madge, seemed to have difficulty even reading a speech. Doesn't fill one with confidence.

3. Muriel Chippings seemed to think she was addressing a classroom full of infants and needed to do her version of a Joyce Grenfell act. I hereby nominate her for the best Outraged Innocent act ("we were only doing our best guv")in the future Carmarthenshire Oscar Awards.

4. In order to be a councillor you need to be able to speak for at least four or five minutes saying absolutely nothing at all and making very little sense. Is there some sort of training course that they are sent on in order to learn this art form?

So, was this a day wasted or not? Yes - it was obvious the way the wind was blowing after the first vote and we could all have packed up and gone home. But it's a salutary and horrifying experience watching this lot in action and I am extremely dismayed that they are still there making such a mess of things. There is no hope for this county.

Anonymous said...

I implore people to stop voting for Independents, it doesn't exist, how can it as a party? By its very nature it can't be a party and yet it is. The trouble with Independent councillors are, that they are all things to all people, they can lie to you and you and you on various issues and tailor their beliefs according to whomever they are speaking to. Vote Labour, vote Plaid, even vote Tory, at least then you know what you're getting but don't vote Independent again! Pleasssssssseeeeee.

Jack Old Oak said...

Labour and Independent councillors in Carmarthenshire for backing council leaders (i.e the leader of the council, Kevin Madge and all councillor members of the ruling Executive Committee) have admitted they’d acted unlawfully in aiding their Chief Executive to avoid paying tax. A person who acts unlawfully has broken the law and is, surely, a criminal by whatever definition you choose.
Criminals should be prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service and be made to answer for their actions in court, and if found guilty, be punished according to the law.
Illegal payments need to be repaid – by those who sanctioned the payments ( i.e. councillors on the Executive Board) out of their own pockets and not out of public funds. Likewise, the Chief Executive himself must be made to repay out of his own pocket, all (now admitted) illegal monies he received.
Only by following this course of action, can any respectability be returned to Carmarthenshire County Council, the councillors involved and the chief executive. But will this happen? Don’t hold your breath……………going on past evidence, these people are only in it for their own glorification and financial gain…..

Anonymous said...

The council should consider a special translator for Mr Madge's speeches as he is virtually incoherent. He obviously has difficulty speaking in English so why wont he speak in Cymraeg? Anyway, much as I don't like ad hom comments, I'm afraid his utterances yesterday were a nonsense and we all have a right to expect the Leader of our Council to at least make himself clearly understood.

Anonymous said...

A question was asked yesterday "Who first suggested the libel indemnity payment"?
Did anyone else notice it was never answered?

Anonymous said...

Why are people harping on about this being a political argument.An unlawful act has taken place and whatever party is culpable has to be challenged.That is democracy.Oh I forgot in Carmarthen that is dead.

sian caiach said...

John Jenkins and myself are the only truly independent councillors. I set up the people first organisation in Carms to try to change the system and separate myself and like minded people from the "Independents". If all the councillors wouls sign up to Bell's Principles, which include not only the Nolan Principles, but also not to take a whip, not to enter coalitions but work together to represent your electorate's views, constantly consulting them as much as you can.
The Party systems are all flawed.To be fair, many Labour Party supporters and members are horrified at the behaviour of the Labour Councillors who, unlike the independents, are supposed to represent a political ideal.
I'm sorry to say that, due to some variant of the Stockholm syndrome, many labour and indy's really do admire Mark James and feel he's been hard done by. He's been their mate, attending their group meetings and making helpful suggestions to them for years. They do not have the perspective of the average Carmarthenshire resident.
My consultation prior to the meeting revealed not only that Pam Palmer is not generally known in Llanelli, but also that Meryl and Mark are extremely unpopular and I have recently heard and seen numerous expressions of utter hatred and/or contempt towards them. Not one person wanted me to support Mark James or the executive board members.
The cuts are biting and the list of grievances towards the council increasing, and there is real despair about how the council is run.

Anonymous said...

The officers don't want a Leader who can make himself understood - they want one who does as he is told, so they have got what they want. Of course, we don't get what we want.

Anonymous said...

I don't think many voters have been fooled by the contrition voiced by those who spoke for the ruling group yesterday. Weak and reluctant apologies do not compensate for the damage inflicted upon ratepayers purses by the Executive Board members underhanded conduct in approving unlawful tax dodges and libel counterclaims. The usual smug performances for camera. The rest looked gormless, said nothing and were out for a day trip, all expenses paid of course!(all extras on a film set?)

Anonymous said...

Well I was told in the 1970s not to take any interest in politics in Wales because if a monkey had a labour rosette on it would be voted in. After watching the exhibition yesterday I now find I have to agree.

Sentinel said...

By their own admission - i.e. they said they got it wrong - some senior councillors have apparently conceded that they aided the Chief Ecec to avoid paying tax. They seem to have condoned misconduct in public office.

We can only hope that at the next election that these bumbling sycophants get voted out.

Anonymous said...

And where does this leave brave Jacquie Thomas - without whom most of this scandal would have remained secret. A woman who stands to lose her home for sticking to her principles?

BAFTA said...

what was all that about in the southwales guardian the other week when leader madge all the truth will come out in the meeting? kevin madge and cllr jones both labour and mining industry backgrounds means miners rule, or their brand of socialism. capitalism gone wild and paying the officers the market rates. they been throwing the money around for years so why now after they have been caught.
where has cllr jones been for years?

jones didn't give a hoot when there were some serious problems going on affecting the electorate, but it would be fair to say that plaid cymru didn't give a hoot as well.
and maybe the blogging communuty too.

but at least i can say that the only actors i seen on that screen yesterday were the ones in the madge arena

Anonymous said...

It is perfectly clear from yesterday's quite extraordinary display of sycophancy from certain councillors being led by their noses, that they are severely lacking in the ability to think for themselves. Of course it well and truly suits Mark James to surround himself with flunkies who are easily manipulated who lack a mind of their own and are completely unaware . Very very worrying state of affairs. This whole sordid episode is as about as serious as it gets - but swept aside by Labour and the Indi buffoons as tho it's just another staff meeting in the office - unforgivable - what on earth goes on in this rotten council that we never get to hear about. Time for the Welsh Government to identify and remove from office this disreputable cabal under 'special measures' who are seriously undermining true democracy.

Anonymous said...

You haven't added my comment regarding sian caiach?? Yet all comments against Kevin Madge, Meryl and mark James are posted! Shame on you cneifiwr! Showing how biased this blog truly is!!!

Cneifiwr said...

No Anon@20.34 because what you wrote was untrue and libellous. I will not be accepting any more comments on this, but you could always try writing to one of the papers.

Anonymous said...

And still no answer: whose idea was the tax dodge and whose idea was it to indemnify the CEO? I do hope the answers are in the boxes the Constabulary took away.

Anonymous said...

I thought Glynog Davies made a good speech,to me he
described the facts as they really are.What the heck
Anthony Jones was on about I don't know.

johnsouthwales said...

i've always said that there is more to carmarthenshire than mr james. i know people have got work to do and usually left to their ability, but when things go wrong, they do go wrong. and that culture is set in the mindset.

it's true about that recent newstory featured in the SWG - my gripe with the SWG is that they could have easily written in a piece giving the briefing of what the distance between homes and windturbine's are. carms have a 2km bufferzone but this is a guideline, and boils down to noise issue, and not law. why? because there isn't a law. another recommends 500m and that deals with flicker, which isn't far but as the nearest dwelling to the turbine is approx 350m, this is inside the zone.
two problems with this planning. one is the tan8 guideline, carms not adhering to the spirit, and the planning officers attitude.

Senior planning officer Mr Noakes accepted that the application had "polarised public opinion" but insisted that "any harm {to people or properties} was not severe enough to merit refusal of the application".

wonder what our kev reckons about this?

if carms are going to change, how come this took place.

Anonymous said...

that's another victim of carmarthenshire to add onto the list over the years.. breckman, jones, jenkins

Stentinel said...

Anonymous 28/2/14 23:21 - Many of us recall the Ombudsman's report following a complaint by Mrs Breckman and Mr Roberts. This you recall was about Carmarthenshire's planning department, concerning their failure to deal with their neighbours Andrew and Karen Thomas, who were running a haulage business without planning permission for nearly 10 years.

The subsequent lack of action by Dyfed-Powys Police, should also attract criticism as there was - in my view - clear evidence of substantial harassment contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

I have been informed by a former council employee, there have been other occasions, not reported to the press, concerning the planning department's failure to act on issues that caused harassment and discomfort to residents in Carmarthenshire.

The matter was referred to the Ombudsman, but an investigation was time barred, because to complainant delayed reporting her concerns.

This failure to assist the complainant involved, not only the Planning Department, but also the public health department, who have a duty to investigate statutory nuisances, including excessive noise and burning of waste.

The bungling incompetence of Carmarthenshire County Council's departments has gone on for years, because of the ineptitude of county councillors, who allow themselves to be fobbed off by senior officers.

johnsouthwales said...

stentinel, longer than you may think. when someone has a 'complaint',there is a reason. people do not have a concern for no reason at all as most people like to get on with their lives.
But it is a real issue when things happen to someone directly, and it actually does become personal.

once again i have received information from an officer and felt compelled to check it out myself as i do have an interest in the sports fees situation.
It becomes sublime when a councillor has spoken to me and mentions he has also spoken to the same officer as i did, and as usual, the officer talks on behalf of the corporation, so when they present something, they have to do it in a good light.

Whether the officer gave a slightly different version or not is debatable, but the councillor basically repeated what the officer told him.

i see things as they are even if the info is slightly contradicting. In this case, it misleading.
the councillor believes the officer and settles for that.
daft as it sounds, even though the councillor knows me, if i say what i know, the councillor will be more inclined to believe the officer. Even if a councillor is a member of the public themselves.

and yesterday's site visit confirmed my initial thoughts by seeing for myself and talking to the people involved inside the clubs. i could have gone to any club at random, but because i have personally played on this particular pitch myself some years ago, and was relying on my own memory, and when i arrived, it seemed that it's exactly the same now as it was then.
and was confirming that the council was not doing what they say they were.

at the end of the day, the word fobbed off springs to mind.
what have they got to achieve by this? if that is their version of society.. as the words of our kev, we must look at our way of governence... or is that just empty words

Anonymous said...

If that's the quality of the council leader with that speech, then god help us!!!!! Mr Madge go back to school to study presentation skills, it was embarassing to say the least. Too many oldies who still in the dark ages, lining there own pensions with day outs in council meetings.