Thursday 16 October 2014

Cashing in

The Llanelli Star has picked up on rumours that Mark James, the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, has a plum new job lined up, but before he goes he would like a severance payment from the council.

In Pembrokeshire the chief executive, who is currently the subject of disciplinary procedures, is reported to be in line for a pay-off of more than £320,000. Based on length of service and salary, Mr James could be looking at something between £250,000 and £300,000.

Returning to the Llanelli Star for a moment, the paper says that there have been numerous suggestions that Mr James is planning to move to a new job in the west of England. Let's be more specific.

For about a year now there have been persistent whispers that Mr James is planning to move to Bath, and the word on the street is that he is set to take up a top job at Bath University. University vice chancellors and pro vice chancellors earn more than even the chief executives of Welsh councils.

The council's reaction to the rumours is interesting. If the Star has reported the response to its questions accurately, County Hall would say only that the suggestions were "speculative" while noting that an employee who accepts a severance deal is free to take up new employment. The council's spokesman did not say, it seems, that the rumours were untrue.

Over the last few weeks there have been a number of attempts by County Hall sources to give the impression that Mr James is just another employee offering to take redundancy, but there are some important differences.
  • Mr James was instrumental in setting up the scheme he now hopes to benefit from.
  • Unlike other staff, Mr James does not have a departmental boss to approve or reject his application. It will fall to the elected councillors to decide, probably with the Executive Board making a recommendation.
  • By making his application, Mr James is effectively calling on the council to abolish the post of chief executive. By law the council must have a Head of Paid Service, and invariably the Head of Paid Service is also the chief executive in Welsh councils. Abolishing the title may not make a scrap of difference.
  • If the proposal is somehow to save the council money, as has been suggested, how long would it take for Carmarthenshire to realise a saving of, say £250,000? Someone still has to be Head of Paid Service, and the Head of Paid Service would naturally expect to earn more than other senior officers. The truth is that it could take years for the council to achieve a saving, and it may never see any financial benefit if it goes down the severance route.
The council could share a chief executive with a neighbouring local authority, but just about all of the neighbouring councils are due to disappear in the shake-up of Welsh local government. The only realistic contender is Swansea where the council has restructured in such a way by thinning the ranks of senior officers that it would be very difficult for the current incumbent, Jack Straw, to take on additional responsibilities. And running Swansea is a very different proposition from providing services to the rural north of Carmarthenshire.

Whatever happens, Mark James's application for severance will be a political decision, and councillors will need to think very carefully about what is best for Carmarthenshire rather than what is best for Mr James.

In the final analysis, everything will come down to which way the Labour group on the council decides to jump. If it succumbs to temptation and gives Mark James a cheque to clear off, public opinion will not forgive it. Furthermore, there are already signs that the chief executive's legacy is beginning to unravel even before he leaves, and who knows what may come out of the woodwork once he is gone. Kevin Madge could face years of having to defend a payment as all sorts of time bombs go off around him.

A refusal to agree to a severance package will most likely not go down well with the leading lights of the Independent group, giving Kevin Madge yet more headaches. Worse still, a by election in a ward held by one of Labour's creaking doors could really upset the apple cart and cost Kev his job as council leader.

Events over the past year have lost Mark James much of the support he used to enjoy from councillors, and his application for a pay-off speaks volumes about his loyalty and commitment to the people of Carmarthenshire. He wants to go, and most people in County Hall would be glad to see the back of him.

If someone else wants him, presumably an employer who is not familiar with Google, let him go. But say no to a pay-off.

If you have not done so already, you may wish to sign this online petition.


Redhead said...

Just say no, we want you to stay - and watch how quickly he resigns for the better paid job he has lined up.

Anonymous said...

head of paid service could be a director or a managing director. I disagree that his replacement needs to be paid any more than a chief executive. Also, if the deputy chief executive leaves at the same time the two can be combined making a saving of over 150,000 a year!

Anonymous said...

Could the press office who spend lots of time monitoring this and other blogs ( and even longer trying to trace the source of leaks) please provide a factual response to the following questions to assist the residents of Carmarthenshire to form their own conclusions ?
Could you confirm that the severance deal on offer is considerably more generous than the statutory level?
If so - why?
How many employees applied for severance during the first round of requests and how many actually left on the terms being offered and at what cost ?
What is the difference in financial terms between what it actually cost and if it had been the statutory limit ?
Who recommended that the discretionary levels of severance payments be offered as opposed to the sttatutory and what levels of reserves have been set aside for the cost ( which could be released for key services)?

Anonymous said...

I think Redhead has the best solution yet.
But will the Labourers and Indians agree for their buddy to be made pennyless ?
I don't think so, the gang are too involved in things unknown to the commoner.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable the arrogance of the man when Jacqui has to suffer such injustice. Surely councillors are beginning to realise the scale of chaos and misery that Mark James has caused in Carmarthenshire.Not only that but the aftermath will be something else as well.!

Anonymous said...

It is common knowledge in certain circles that the deal has already been done and now only a PR exercise how best to dress it up with all sorts of figures prepared on how MJ going will save Carmarthenshire at least a Million pounds. Really!
Facts are the council need to make millions of cuts to services. What's more important - Line MJ's pocket or protect vital services? Come on politicians - show you've got the balls to represent your electorate - you won't regret it as if you do you will still be here long after MJ has left and feathering his nest elsewhere

Redhead said...

Anonymous said...

I agree with redhead , if he gave a damn he would stay , if not he will resign !!
Shame half the exec board members dont resign , especially Llanelli lot !!!!

Anonymous said...

'For about a year now there have been persistent whispers that Mr James is planning to move to Bath, and the word on the street is that he is set to take up a top job at Bath University. University vice chancellors and pro vice chancellors earn more than even the chief executives of Welsh councils.'


Whilst Medwin Hughes is Vice-Chancellor at Trinity University College Carmarthen lets not forget that he holds a doctorate, something which james does not.

The idea that mr james could be awarded title of Professor is simply not possible - I believe he has achieved a degree of some sort, irrespective of any honorary title bestowed by Trinity.

Therefore I doubt he could become a Vice-Chancellor. Though I do stand to be corrected.

More interestingly - the comment above by Redhead is excellent; simple and effective.

Anonymous said...

Be patient anon @22.o7 when Mark James is gone I think we will see a change-all his little disciples will have no more protection and then the opposition can move in.What worries me is what will the Towy church do without him.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

So, let me get this right: Labour in Pembrokeshire was vehemently opposed to a £320,000 golden handshake for BPJ, but will gladly agree to a £300,000 payoff to James. Am I right?

This is the same party in broadly similar circumstances, but with completely different responses. I wonder what Transport House thinks of all this?

Anonymous said...

@anon 17:58. I'm not a council press officer, but I've had experience of severance packages in my work. Severance packages work on the basis that they are normally slightly better than compulsory redundancy. There has to be a set policy for all employees that is open to all employees. If you don't make the severance pay more attractive than a compulsory redundancy, then employees will wait until they are made compulsory redundant, and this usually means putting the whole workforce through the mill.
On the info your looking for- I think it's available in the council statement if accounts. If my memory serves me right about 25% of the applications were accepted last year, which accounted for around half the savings required for last years round of cuts.

Anonymous said...

@anon 21:31. I don't know how you can say that it 'common knowledge in certain circles that it's a done deal', as it's going to full council. Council members have not been given any figures yet or been told what happens to the post of chief executive. With respect, stop talking out of your rear. The problem with this blog is that anyone can say anything and claim to be anyone. I feel like posting as a council press officer and making a figure up to see how seriously I'm taken.

Anonymous said...

What mj has finally realised is that ccc is falling apart and when he stood down he realised exactly who was against him . Even the so called supporters who showed where their liyalty lay . Labour are falling apart as Llanelli are too power hungry . There is a split there . And there are a few decent ones wjo genuinely do work for theirvelectorate without a hidden agenda but NOONE can survive if you say NO to them . So more need to leave and go independent or Plaid and shake this council leadership up . People are not benefiting currently they are losing out with millions being "kept for a rainy day" well tge rainy day is here

Anonymous said...

Anon 21:31
It depends on what circle you're in! Are you really saying that full council make the decisions ? With equal respect it's not I whose talking from the rear

Anonymous said...

Just one question who will Mrs Thompson have to complain about after he is gone ? Perhaps when he is gone he will have more time to pursue his claim against for her! Personally if it is true he has another job he should go by resigning his post, working the statutory notice and leaving the Council recruit a successor

caebrwyn said...

Anon 09:08
Mrs Thompson will have plenty to complain about until such time as this council becomes the 'most transparent in Wales' - their words not mine. My 'complaints', if that's how you wish to refer to my blog are directed at the council, not Mr James however, once you take the time to scratch under the surface, it is he who is ultimately and directly responsible for many of the problems.
Incidentally, he seems to have had plenty of time, public money and officer time to pursue me whilst in his present post.

Anonymous said...

@anon 8:50. Full council will have the final say. If Councillors vote against it won't go through. The deal isn't done until a majority of Councillors vote for it, the more that comments like yours are perpetuated the more at risk we are that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous said...

K M has been well trained to do as he is told.
He would make an exellent guide dog I think.

Anonymous said...

Maybe MJ has some dirt on some of them councillors/Labour party?