Wednesday 7 January 2015

Repentant sinners

Hard on the heels of the disclosure by the Western Mail that Mark James's proposed departure from the council could cost Carmarthenshire's council tax payers £446,000 comes an announcement in the South Wales Guardian (here) that the Labour group, which runs the council with Meryl Gravell's "Independents" (fronted by Pam Palmer), will block a golden goodbye payment to the chief executive.

As announcements go, this is a very important statement affecting the council's future, and so you would expect that the Labour leader, Kevin Madge, would be doing the talking. Instead, the message has been delivered by a 20-something backbench councillor elected for the first time in 2012.

The reason for this bit of PR is of course that Calum Higgins is Labour's candidate for the general election in May, and it has obviously been decided that delivering the good news might boost his flagging campaign.

Whether this means that Mr James would walk away from County Hall empty-handed is rather less clear, with Cllr Higgins saying that various options were being looked at. Before anyone organises any street parties, it would be wise to wait and read the small-print.

The only surprise in this is that it has taken Labour so long to wake up to the reality that Mark James has for some time been a massive electoral liability to the party. Kevin Madge and colleagues have over the years approved all sorts of pay deals and perks for Mark James, now the highest paid council chief executive in Wales, and they approved and defended to the death the unlawful pension opt-out and libel indemnity.

Only last month Kevin Madge was telling councillors that his decision to throw bucket loads of cash at a Tim Kerr QC to defend the payments was good value for money.

How the thought of having to face the voters concentrates minds.


caebrwyn said...

I agree, Calum Higgins made a lot of noise but said very little, the devil will be in the detail...
With Labour and the Independents currently on an equal footing Kevin Madge will have to tiptoe round Meryl who will have been busy planning a grand and expensive departure for her favourite monkey.

Anonymous said...

"How the thought of having to face the voters concentrates minds."

Indeed, and voters would be well advised to remember that there are periods between elections when their alleged representatives might not be quite so incentivised to do their job.

Clearly care needs to be taken to vote in the right sort of people. The task of sorting out your council is well beyond the ability of many of your councillors... Fresh blood needed - both in the gene pool and on the carpet...

Anonymous said...

I really fail to see what confidential information has been released:

1) Mark James has applied for severance- already in the public domain.

2) the labour party will not be supporting the application- a political decision, not bound by any confidentiality clause.

3) he has applied for an extraordinary package- in the western mail on Tuesday night. leaked by somebody else

4) Severance would mean redundancy- that's available to read on the Council's severance policy put to full Council annually.

All the figures were announced by the Western Mail on Tuesday night ready for the Wednesday morning paper.