Wednesday, 7 May 2014

MP calls for Mark James to repay the cash

Following Pembrokeshire councillors' request last week that Bryn Parry Jones should pay back his unlawful pension payments, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has renewed his call for Carmarthenshire Chief Executive Mark James CBE to pay back his unlawful payments.

He goes one step further and states that Mr James should be 'instructed' to pay back the money.
"The action taken by councillors in Pembrokeshire echo the calls that I and my Plaid Cymru colleagues have made since the publication of the damning Wales Audit Office reports which deemed the payments for the chief executive's benefit to be 'unlawful'.  
"I welcome the position taken by Pembrokeshire Council and firmly believe the chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council should also have to pay back that money." 
"The unlawful payments equated to over £55,000 and it appears that up to £100,000 extra will be spent because of the actions taken by the Labour and Independent Executive Board" 
"Instructing the chief executive to pay back what the auditor considers to be 'unlawful' is not only the right thing to do, but would go some way to clawing back the enormous amount of taxpayers' money which has been spent on this issue."
Then we have the response from, as usual, the unnamed 'council spokeswoman';
"We have been clear that the council does not acknowledge the indemnity as unlawful, and, whilst the pay supplement policy has been rescinded on procedural grounds, we do not concede that it was intrinsically unlawful.  
"Our chief executive benefited from a policy implemented by his employer for a short period of time, and as such we do not consider that pursuing recovery of monies is the best action to take at this time."
Who exactly is saying this? Who is speaking on behalf of the council? Apparently Mr James' stand-in, Dave Gilbert is writing statements for Kevin Madge, so presumably Mr James, with the police investigation over, will be taking up the duty again from now on. 

The council, or whoever it is that is putting out statements, continues to reject the findings of the independent auditor. The auditor has said he will take no further action and as far as the libel indemnity goes, the clause in the constitution has been suspended. If the findings continue to be rejected will the clause go back in? If so then this will, and should, end up in court. I'll take it there myself if I have to.

Unless either the WAO or the seemingly impotent Welsh Government take a firm stand will this set a precedent for other council executives to give away cash, to the total detriment of the taxpayer, and ignore the fact or even the possibility that such payments are unlawful?
It's not just the tens of thousands of pounds paid out unlawfully of course, but the staggering amount spent on defending the chief executive since the auditor flagged up the scandals last year. 

They "do not consider that pursuing recovery of monies is the best action to take at this time", so what is the best action to take? Well, with the police off their backs, sit back and stick two fingers up at the WAO and the taxpayers I suppose, with trebles all round...

(source; Llanelli Star and South Wales Guardian)

9th May; The story has now appeared in the Western Mail;
 MP insists chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council Mark James should pay back money deemed ‘unlawful’ 


Sian Caiach said...

As the statement says, it is Mr James' employers, the ruling group Councillors, led by Labour, who have generously given Mr James this extra financial support.

The police have probably decided the executive board Councillors were personally acting legally in giving this money away to reward an employee, so there is no crime.

These top Councillors, themselves well paid, supported secretly giving extra money to our highest paid employee while cutting back on the jobs of their own staff, many of whom did not earn as much as that secret pay rise.

So it is not a crime for our highest paid Councillors to give thousands of pounds away to our highest earner because they were elected representatives of the people. Also, on our behalf, they have decided that the payments were not unlawful as the government auditors claim.

But legal here does not mean moral.

It is surely shameful that in a time of austerity when many struggle in poverty, our executive Councillors, clearly not fans of Robin Hood, have managed to take from the poor and give to the rich.

Anonymous said...

It appears that we have all been made impotent by the actions of this council. Not one person in this county now has a leg to stand on and can be driven into the ground because they lack the finances to pursue legal action. The only way the people of Carmarthenshire can stop this rot is at the ballot box at the next elections. Plaid need to get their act together and fight for the people's votes while this scandal is still fresh in people's minds.

Anonymous said...

An FOI request should find out who wrote the statement. Should also be able to find out who approved it...

Anonymous said...

Surely what the Police have done is decide that no individual is criminally liable for the unlawful payments and that there would be no prospect of a successful prosecution.

It wasn't mentioned but I wonder if a file of evidence was submitted to the CPS for advice or was the decision made by the Police. Were individuals interviewed under caution I wonder ?

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 10:33
I'll make some enquiries.

@Anon 11.10
I have written to the Police Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, for advice on whether the details of the investigation and the final report can, or will, be disclosed.

Redhead said...

Independent Police Complaints Commission?