Saturday 9 May 2015


The departure of Chirstina Harrhy after just three months in post as Director of Environment at Carmarthenshire County Council has been picked up by the Carmarthenshire Herald, and it is significant for two reasons.

Neither the council nor Ms Harrhy has commented on the reasons for her resignation, but it is understood that she realised too late that she was expected merely to act as a figurehead, with all the decisions being taken by the old boys club which actually runs things.

Anyone considering applying for the well-paid post when it is readvertised would do well to bear that in mind, but if you are willing to accept a big salary in return for asking "how high?" when told to jump, this could be the job for you.

The second point to note is the course of events which led up to Ms Harrhy's appointment. Back at the end of 2013 the council went through the lengthy and expensive process of trying to find a successor to Richard Workman, who was Director of Technical Services (now rebranded Director of Environment).

The cross-party appointments committee met to consider two candidates and was a whisker away from appointing one of them when, it is alleged, the chief executive decided that the councillors were about to make the wrong choice, and Cllr Meryl Gravell obliged by derailing the process.

The result was that the meeting failed to appoint anybody and Richard Workman was asked to postpone his departure, with the appointment of a successor put back for another year.

Peter Hughes Griffiths, who was then leading the Plaid group, was furious and made his feelings known in a meeting of the full council. In all his years as a councillor, this was one of the most disgraceful scenes he had ever witnessed, he said, and he pointed out the enormous waste of money involved.

In response, Mr James smiled sweetly and blamed the fiasco on political disagreements between the councillors.

A year and a half further on, and the council is gearing up for a third attempt to find someone who ticks the right boxes, with costs continuing to mount.

Perhaps Mr James should take advice from the College of Cardinals which regularly manages to select God's Representative on Earth with much less fuss and in much less time than it takes our council to appoint a senior director.


Mystery also surrounds the post of Head of Administration and Law where Mrs Linda Rees Jones clocked up what must have been a Wales all-comers record as "acting" head since the retirement of Lyn Thomas in 2011. By installing Mrs Rees Jones as acting head, Mr James avoided the messy business of having to get the appointment approved by councillors, and so matters remained until recently when Linda Legal suddenly began signing herself off as Head of Administration and Law, no longer just acting.

It will be recalled that the eminent lawyer and co-opted member of the council's Audit Committee, Sir David Lewis, described the quality of legal advice put out by Mrs Rees Jones's department as "cavalier at best and incompetent at worst".

Strangely this transformation appears to have happened without the involvement of an appointments committee.

Perhaps there is a legal loophole somewhere, or perhaps Mrs Rees Jones was canonised by the Almighty himself without the involvement of mere mortal councillors.


Anonymous said...

I have commented previously on the hasty departure of the newly appointed Director of the Environment.`Could it be that the destruction of a protected site was a step too far and she would be the one to have to deal with the repercussions.Just
an idea.

Anonymous said...

Christina Harrhy’s open, inclusive and transparent approach was never going to be understood or welcomed at CCC. Just look at what she had to say when she was first appointed:-

“I am really keen to build an inclusive team, where everybody is informed and feels valued for the contribution they make…..I look forward to working with my team and partners to make a positive difference to the lives of all who live, work and enjoy Carmarthenshire.”

And some recent tweets:-
‘Another great staff engagement event 2day - beginning our journey towards excellence @CarmsCouncil’

‘Leading staff forums today - engagement & involving staff on building an exciting future @CarmsCouncil’

She’s obviously bright enough to have quickly realised that she was flogging a very dead horse and might as well be speaking in Swahili.

Anonymous said...

Now that I have read anon @ 15:14 and what Ms Harrhy said on being appointed it is clear why she left.She was never going to be someone who"fitted in" with the "toxic culture" existing within CCC.
Together with Mrs Linda Rees- Jones being retained for an extraordinary length of time as "Acting" Head of Legal it does suggest a desire to carefully appoint people who toe the line with Mark James and co.He must be really desperate.

Anonymous said...

Yes anonymous at 09. 43 What does he fear?

Anonymous said...

Have just remembered did not Chris Burns assistant chief executive of CCC move to Caerphilly?
Is this the council to which officers might escape the toxic culture from which they have fled?
Ms Harrhy would not jump from the frying pan into the fire.Chris Burns as far as I am aware was assigned to help sort out problems with that council.
If he needed people with integrity and enthusiasm he could have looked no further than this lady.Very interesting don't you think? Worth further investigating don't you think Cadno?

Anonymous said...

All the comments relating to the way appointments are handled in Carmarthen council have reminded me of the "Yes minister" series or even "Blackadder."
The only difference being those were fiction.Antics in Carmarthen council chamber or behind closed doors could, if it were not so serious,be quite entertaining.