Jacob Williams
Sunday 4th July, 2021

Probing questions

Probing questions

Early indications suggest some interest has been stirred by my last blogpost on the pending fallout over the cloudy 2020 paid departure of Pembrokeshire County Council’s CEO, Ian Westley.

It’s triggered Milford Haven councillor Stephen Joseph to table three questions to this month’s full council meeting, inspired, he says, by the blog of “a councillor who appears to be far better informed than most other members…”

Well…I’ll take the accolade, Steve, but I don’t like to boast…

Firstly Cllr. Joseph is asking for “an idea of when the long awaited Audit Wales report will be made available to councillors?”

As I’ve previously commented, the statutory auditor’s probe into the circumstances of the erstwhile chief exec’s exit and £95k payoff is very long in the tooth.

Secondly he’s asking the council’s leader, Cllr. David Simpson, to “comment on rumours that the council has commissioned an independent review on the same subject and what is its purpose and how does this report relate to the long overdue Audit Wales report?”

The preamble to Cllr. Joseph’s final question is:

“My previous question is born out of a blog by a councillor who appears to be far better informed than most other members, even speculating on the findings of the Audit Wales report in such a manner as to prejudice the decision of those involved.”

This is an interesting one, because I make no real comment on the the upcoming report’s findings – save to say that I’ve long been hearing whispers that it’ll be “damning” and “that big news is coming.”

These undetailed suspicions of impending doom are what every councillor has been hearing for months, now – and they can’t have escaped Steve, who’s shown a uncannily keen interest in the affair.

But, as good as my sources may be, I don’t know any specific content of the hotly-anticipated publication – and if I did, you might be reading about it here!

Cllr. Joseph’s third question concludes:

“Would the leader shed some light on the source of the blogger’s information and do you agree that the sensitive nature of this subject should not be the subject of a councillor’s blog?”

Cllr. Joseph has a rich history of tabling full council questions on matters relating to Mr. Westley’s seemingly bitterly-regretted departure – submitting the maximum allowed of three each to the authority’s December 2020 and March 2021 meetings.

It’s not clear why the Milford Maigret believes Cllr. Simpson might have – or if he did, would share – any information on JW’s sources.

Nor is it obvious how any comment I might possibly make on Audit Wales’ investigation or pending report could even be capable of prejudicing any decision that body might make.

One thing I think we can all agree on is the great irony, here, that Cllr. Joseph should table a question which seeks some unspecified “comment on rumours that the council has commissioned an independent review.”

‘Speculation’ over the details of a ‘sensitive’ topic, anyone?!

All this interest in JW’s sources of information is understandable – but it’s got me intrigued, too, as it seems Cllr. Joseph is revealing he may have some sources of his own, if his rumoured “independent review” is to be believed.

On the telephone to the author of that other website the other night, he joked: “you’ve finally got some proof that at least one other councillor reads your blog!”

Cllr. Joseph’s reputaton may never recover from the suggestion that he inflicts that sort of pain on himself.

And since it’s a claim which might not even be true, I feel duty-bound to point out that Grumpy’s wisecrack at my expense is of course based on the not unreasonable assumption that Cllr. Joseph wasn’t inspired by somebody else who has jacobwilliams.com bookmarked!

The paperwork for the July 15th full council meeting, featuring Cllr. Joseph’s trio of questions, will be published in the coming week.

It’s just possible that something else appearing on this meeting’s agenda will downgrade them to a mere footnote…


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4 Comments...

  • Paul Dowson

    Downgrade?

    Where on earth do you get that inside information from.

    Outrageous privilege!

  • Malcolm Calver

    To be fair to Cllr Simpson he has been busy over the last twelve months guiding the county through the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. Give the man a little time and I am sure all will be revealed.

  • John Hudson

    The draft statement of the council’s 2020/2021 accounts (page 67) remuneration section 10.5.1 senior staff comments:

    Chief Executive/Returning Officer left the employment of the Council on 30 November 2020 and was paid a settlement agreement payment of £95,000. There is an ongoing review by Audit Wales into the lawfulness of the settlement agreement payment.

    As in the case of the previous CEO’s settlement, the unlawful element paid, as advised with internal and external professional advice and as approved by councillors, was met by us.

    If the outcome of the current Audit Wales investigation is the same, and an unlawful element is identified, the same outcome will be likely.

    We will be required to pay up, the corporate council has no money of its own, and nobody will be accountable.

    Isn’t local government accountability wonderful?

  • I think you may have erred when you quoted me as saying: “you’ve finally got some proof that at least one other councillor reads your blog!”

    I deny using the word “other”.

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