Friday 24 October 2014
Stand by for a stitch up
As the dust settles on the latest act of the farce in Pembrokeshire, events are beginning to take shape in Carmarthenshire which will provide local government watchers with another master class in rotten borough studies.
There are growing signs that Kevin Madge, the Labour leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, is preparing to cough up a massive pay-off for Mark James, the council's chief executive, in a move which is certain to receive the enthusiastic backing of Meryl Gravell, Pam Palmer and their "Independent" troops - not because they want to see the back of Mr James, but because they think he deserves to be paid as much money as the council can scrape together.
Unusually for Carmarthenshire County Council, the mechanism for bringing this about is relatively simple. Mr James was one of the architects of the council's severance programme and has also been responsible for carrying out a review of senior management.
The senior management review, which is not yet in the public domain, is believed to have recommended abolition of the post of chief executive. Purely by coincidence, Mr James has applied for a pay-out under the severance scheme he engineered on the assumption that his proposals to restructure senior management will be approved.
As Caebrwyn reports, Kevin Madge last week softened up readers of the South Wales Guardian by telling them that abolition of the post of chief executive was one of the options he was considering. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
And so the municipal slot machine has been programmed to come up with three cherries in a row and pay out a jackpot. All Kev needs to do is accept the recommendations and read from a pre-prepared statement saying that in this time of austerity and belt-tightening, the move will lead to a leaner administration and save truckloads of money.
Except, of course it won't, and the council will still need a head of paid service performing the same functions as Mr James, albeit on a slightly less inflated salary.
This won't go down at all well with the voters, of course, but as with the row over the unlawful pension and libel indemnity schemes, Kev is calculating that everyone will have forgotten all about it by the next council elections in May 2017. Let us draw another line in the sand and move on, he will say.
Expect all this to happen before Christmas, with Labour and Independent councillors voting to exclude press and public from the crunch meeting on legal advice (Mrs Rees Jones, possibly with the backing of a report drawn up at considerable additional expense by someone like Mr Tim Kerr QC) before they give Mark the best Christmas present ever and he heads off for new pastures, heaped with praise from Meryl, Kevin Madge, Uncle Tom Theophilus and the rest.
You don't need to be Mystic Meg to predict that Kev's hopes of drawing a line in the sand, with or without ostriches, will be quickly dashed as the Wales Audit Office announces that it will carry out an investigation following complaints.
And just as we saw with the pensions scandal (tucked away and in heavy disguise in minutes of an Executive Board meeting), there is every reason to believe that there are more time bombs ticking away in County Hall.
Like the Ancient Mariner and his albatross, Kevin Madge's support for Mark James will hang over the Labour Party in Carmarthenshire for years to come.
Posted by Cneifiwr at 14:44