Friday 3 October 2014

Not on the agenda

When Carmarthenshire County Council announced the other day that its chief executive, Mr Mark James CBE, had applied to join the council's severance scheme, the press office was keen to stress that it would be business as usual in County Hall.

Money Bags

Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the Plaid AM for Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr, has called on the council to reject Mr James's application for what would be a huge payout, pointing out that the unlawful payments approved and subsequently defended by the ruling Labour/Independent administration in County Hall have brought public trust and confidence in the council to an all-time low.

The chief executive is clearly determined to extract as much money from the council as possible as he heads off for new pastures, and despite saying previously that he was not pursuing the libel case against Jacqui Thompson for the money, he is using his legal hounds to seize the £30,000 plus interest in damages which was awarded against her.

It really is business as usual.

Hot Air

The main item on the agenda for next week's meeting of the full council is a proposal by council leader Kevin Madge to ban the sale of Chinese lanterns from council property. How many Chinese lanterns have been sold in County Hall or other council premises? None in all likelihood, and the council almost certainly has powers to implement a ban without wasting time debating what is little more than an empty gesture. But that's Kevin Madge's main priority this month.


This month's agenda includes another crop of questions from councillors airing a wide range of concerns. As we saw last month, the Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer were adamant that because the section of the constitution which allows councillors to ask questions does not mention follow-up questions, follow-up questions are not allowed.

The solution to that problem seems to be to wait an entire month to submit a question following up on a question raised the previous month. That is the case with a question concerning the £28,000 spent on the services of Mr Tim Kerr (as in 'car') QC as Kevin Madge sought to justify the unlawful payments to Mr James.

Among other interesting questions is one about air pollution in Llandeilo, another about the chaotic and byzantine new rules for holder of blue parking badges and one about the mysterious member of the Executive Board who apparently believes that the Welsh language could put off foreign investors.

Elephant in the Room

Notably missing from this month's agenda is the long-awaited report by the WLGA Governance Review Panel which was rather vaguely promised to go before councillors and the public in September or October.

A spokesperson for the WLGA told Caebrwyn that there would first be a workshop (closed to the public, of course) to "test draft themes" before the report is finalised. It seems we will have to wait another month to find out what conclusions the panel came to.

Apart from the Chinese lanterns and questions, next week's meeting will "receive" another crop of minutes from various committee meetings.


Among these are a couple of meetings of appointments committees, with the most important being the appointment of Jake Morgan as Director of Social Care, Health and Housing.

Mr Morgan was Head of Children's Services in Carmarthenshire until he left for Pembrokeshire two years ago. There are persistent claims that he was paid a handsome sum as a parting gift before he took up his current duties in Haverfordwest.

In Pembrokeshire Mr Morgan is responsible for a huge portfolio which includes social services, children's services and education.

Prior to his arrival in the Kremlin on the Cleddau, Pembrokeshire County Council was hit by a series of scandals, and at one point its education services were put in special measures. Earlier this year it emerged that there were serious failings in the way the council handled the case of Mik Smith, a paedophile who had been employed in the council's youth services.

The Smith case pre-dated Mr Morgan's appointment, but Cneifiwr has been made aware of two much more recent cases which have occurred during his watch. One involves what looks for all the world like a slick PR cover-up of a serious incident in one of the council's schools, while the other involves an extremely serious and disturbing case of sexual abuse where it is alleged that council officers brought massive pressure to bear on those involved to hush things up.

No doubt we will hear from the usual suspects next week as they welcome home the prodigal son.


Anonymous said...

Re: Moneybags

It’s most likely an already done deal, otherwise why the press release? To soften us up the PR dept “will provide updated information as and when appropriate” hoping that it may not come as such a shock when the enormity of the payout finally has to be revealed.
The fox guarding the chicken coop inevitably walks away having further feathered an already well-feathered nest. CCC then spends thousands more trying to justify the deal to the tax payer and Wales Audit Office – yes, business as usual.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand rhodri's logic here, the only reason to keep mark james is to keep an unpopular chow executive in post to help plaid's electoral chances. In the minutes of the assembly rhodri glyn is quoted defending a payout to the chief fire officer for mid and west wales, who retired for a second time, with a redundancy payout of over 100,000. There was no saving as he had to be replaced! I'll try and dig out the minutes. I remember rgt's defence was - the payout will allow reorganisation and savings at a senior level.

Anonymous said...

'James's application for what would be a huge payout'

Surely this is deserved, if, and only if, he has delivered exemplary results, combined with financial savings and benefits. In the real world, such payments are provided when employees have delivered excellent results and are rewarded in the form of a bonus.

I can see no justification whatsoever for james entitlement to a pay-off. Indeed I believe there may be some justification for a clawback, given the amount of tax payer money he has invested in his own nefarious goals.

As someone has suggested on a similar site, it may be prudent to highlight his next employer information regarding his conduct and track record.

I sincerely doubt any responsible employer would want to go anywhere near toxic james. A parasite on CCC for far too long, its good to see his departure is imminent, but please, lets not allow him to perpetuate similar undertakings on another council.

Anonymous said...

He should be treated like all other employees, with no political interference. That includes mr thomas and plaid Cymru's Ammanford office.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@10.05 I don't think this is a machiavellian plot to keep MJ in post.

MJ could most likely take early retirement or just leave if he wants to. Why should we have to give him around £250k to clear off?

As for Anon@10.51 - James is the most senior officer, and he has had a big hand in appointing all of the directors and heads of service. If he says jump, they ask how high. I don't think for a second that there is anyone who could or would stand up to him and tell him that he couldn't have a pay-off.

Making him redundant also has major political implications because it is the job rather than the individual which is being made redundant. Do you really think councillors should just roll over and let MJ decide that the role of chief exec is abolished, just so he can walk off with a truck load of money?

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that MJ does not want to remain in his post and equally obvious that all bar one or two now view him as a liability. Time to go but how to satisfy MJ's stance of a pay off ? Residents and employees of Carmarthenshire would say " If you want to go then please do but it would be immoral to needlessly give a huge payment to an individual when the money could be used to keep our essential services going" . Imagine if he also walks straight into another job not that far away,!
As for the severance scheme itself what sense is there in awarding such generous terms which the county cannot afford when many would go voluntarily in any event for much less or in MJ's case for nothing had there not been such a generous severance package available. Who recommended the generous scheme to the exec board ? Now that's an interesting question!

Joe Bloggs said...

With the impending retirement of MJ and other senior offices imminent, Carmarthenshire County Council will need to appoint some senior administrative staff to County Hall in the near future – including a Chief Executive (but do we really NEED one? – several councils manage quite well without such largely expensive and decorative “appendages”!) It is to be hoped that such appointments are made openly, honestly and with full transparency, something that has not always happened in the past! I suggest the following procedures be followed to ensure this happens:-
ALL STAFF APPOINTMENTS, where a salary level of £30k or more is involved, should be advertised NATIONALLY (not just internally, or in Carmarthenshire or Wales, but UK wide.)
The full CV of ALL APPLICANTS to be published on the Council website, so “Joe Public” can see who has applied. The CV’s should be thoroughly investigated to ensure their absolute accuracy and honesty by a senior Councillor and a senior administrative officer.
Drawing up a shortlist should be done with full public access and/or a video of the proceedings posted on the Council website – so everyone can see how honestly the process has been carried out, who was involved in the process etc.
The final appointment from those on the shortlist must, likewise, be carried out in full public view and/or a video of these proceedings again posted on the Council website.
The committee of councillors tasked with drawing up the shortlist and the final appointment from that shortlist should include Labour, Independent and Plaid councillors in equal number, with suitable senior council staff to provide legal guidance only but staff must take NO PART in the final decisions of the committee. The committee making the final appointment must have a different composition of the committee drawing up the shortlist – no councillor being allowed to serve on both committees.
Will the above ensure open and honest appointments? – it will certainly be a big improvement on what has gone before!

Anonymous said...

Re: Joe Bloggs

Not necessary, CCC’s recruitment and selection policy and code of practice is set out here -

However, as Sir David Lewis pointed out, the problem is that policies and procedures are not adhered to because of the overriding internal culture promoted by the Chief Executive and Executive Board.

Redhead said...

This may be helpful:

Anonymous said...

It was a sorry day when Jake Morgan returned to CCC!

m1books said...

Thank you Redhead 3/10 This is indeed an interesting document.
"Process: 8. There is no right to these severance arrangements. The decision made by the Authority will be final therefore there is no appeals process within this scheme."
There should be a massive ratepayer petition to make sure this payout does not happen. With public facilities being cut left right and centre CCC cannot morally sanction it. All our local co.councillors should look to their consciences. They have been complicit in this regime by lack of action and should now wake up and really represent their communities and services.

Anonymous said...

Petition and lobbying own councillors.
Spot on m1

Anonymous said...

MI books

There has to be a right to appeal to any decision.

Anonymous said...

I can't work out what will please some people: I for one will be glad to see the back of him. Those who want to see him gone have to realise that he is contractually entitled to the same severance scheme as all employees. I don't get some people who want rid of him but are now stating they won't pay out... If he doesn't get a payout he'll be here for the next 10 years! Guess what, he's contractually stuck to us unless we pay him out! I for one think we can get rid of him, employ an executive director on a much lower salary and save us money in the long run. Better still, ccc can turn a corner.

Anonymous said...

@m1 books

The right to appeal relates to the employee themselves, normally to those who are turned down for severance and try and appeal the dept directors decision. You wouldn't expect a public right of appeal in relation to an employee being turned down for severance.

Redhead said...

Perhaps he could get the council to indemnify him ...