Jacob Williams
Thursday 18th July, 2013

To hell with the expenses

To hell with the expenses

Without an appearance on the pages of this website in some time, Cllr. Bob ‘Long Grass’ Kilmister is to receive the rare double – two mentions in as many days.

For it was Cllr. Kilmister, this morning, at the start of the July full council meeting, who set the cat among the pigeons.

He asked, along with the support of every non-ruling group councillor present, for the highly controversial topic of the leader’s permitted backdated claims for travelling expenses, to be referred to the council’s standards committee.

There was one thing that got in the way of this matter being discussed – that it wasn’t on the agenda.

This didn’t necessarily mean it had to end there, though, because there is a provision which allows councillors to vote by a majority, to suspend particular rules.

So Cllr. Kilmister did just that – he moved that a vote be taken to suspend the relevant procedural rule which will allow the matter to be discussed without the requisite notice.

It was only through one sentence that Cllr. Kilmister outlined his desire for some form of investigation into the leader’s claim for a four-year accumulation of expenses, following which a recorded vote on the suspension of the rule was held – the result is below:


Unaffiliated
Phil Baker
Tony Brinsden
Mike Evans
Tessa Hodgson
Owen James
Bob Kilmister
David Lloyd
Jonathan Nutting
Peter Stock
Mike Stoddart
Vivien Stoddart
Jacob Williams

Plaid Cymru
Rod Bowen
Stephen Joseph
Jonathan Preston
Michael Williams

Conservative
David Bryan
David Howlett
Stan Hudson

Labour
Pat Davies
Alison Lee
Paul Miller
Gwilym Price
Tom Tudor
Tony Wilcox

25

IPG
Jamie Adams
John Allen-Mirehouse
Daphne Bush
John Davies
Mark Edwards
Wynne Evans
Lyndon Frayling
Huw George
Brian Hall
Simon Hancock
Paul Harries
Umelda Havard
Mike James
Michael John
Keith Lewis
Rob Lewis
Peter Morgan
Elwyn Morse
David Neale
Reg Owens
Myles Pepper
David Pugh
David Rees
Tom Richards
Ken Rowlands
David Simpson
Rob Summons
Arwyn Williams
Steve Yelland

29

IPG
Lyn Jenkins
Pearl Llewellyn

2


You’ll notice that only Cllr. Adams’ fellow party members came to his side, in making sure this was defeated.

It received the full backing of the Plaid Cymru, Conservative and Labour party groups, and the support of every unaffiliated member present.

Whilst two IPG members, Cllrs. Lyn Jenkins and Pearl Llewellyn abstained, none of Cllr. Adams’ own party members rebelled and supported the move.

The only absence from his own ranks, today, was that of his latest conquest, Cllr. Sue Perkins.

It meant Cllr. Adams still had more than enough votes at his disposal – including his own – to overpower those other councillors who wished to see some scrutiny take place over his vastly out-dated expenses claims, and the payment subsequently approved by the council’s chief financial officer.

Following the announcement of the result of the vote by the chief executive, Cllr. Tessa Hodgson queried whether Cllr. Adams should have declared a prejudicial interest in the matter he had just voted upon.

The code of conduct section relating to prejudicial interests in decision-making, not only requires a member with one to abstain from voting and discussion, but for them to leave the meeting place too.

Cllr. Kilmister made the reasons perfectly clear to all members why he wished for council to suspend the procedural rules.

The way Cllr. Adams voted surely had everything to do with his desire to prevent his dirty laundry receiving a very public airing – so Cllr. Hodgson may be on to something.

At another point in the meeting, where I raised the topic of the leader’s expense claims under another guise, the leader told me that if I suspected anything was wrong with the payment, to ‘report it to the Wales Audit Office.’

Something tells me he’s been reading the Western Telegraph’s comments section.

95 so far and counting, on the article about his expenses, where the lynch mob has arranged a draft letter for disgruntled county residents to refer the matter to the WAO themselves!


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27 Comments...

  • IantoTenby

    Have you asked the monitoring officer for an opinion?

  • Samantha Thomas

    Claiming money when wanting to cut back!! Have a look at Augustine Way expense. Why are they repainting the houses as they have only been done recently as it is? Why can they not just pressure wash them instead. It must be the crap paint they invested in that has only got a shelf life of, say, an incompetent council leader!!!

  • Hi IantoTenby, the leader dismissed Cllr. Hodgson’s ponderance by saying (verbatim): “Chair, for clarification, we were voting about the suspension of standing orders and nothing else.”

    It was all over in about 10 seconds, no song and dance was made by Cllr. Hodgson or Cllr. Adams, and the monitoring officer wasn’t consulted by either. The chair then swiftly moved progress back to the items that were on the agenda!

  • Pembrokeshire Exile

    What I find surprising is that Adams perceived the money to be more important than the backlash he must have known he would receive. The IPPG is struggling; there have been too many poor reports of the Authority’s performance, just look at the Education and Social Services Departments! I wonder how long it will take before people back home stop electing “good old boys” and actually demand accountability.

    Also not at all surprised to see Pearl Llewellyn abstain, she’s always tried to run with the fox and the hounds, another turncoat from Labour to the IPPG for a few pennies extra.

  • Dave Edwards

    What surprises me more than Pearl (the girl) Llewellyn is that Reg Owens and Simon Hancock, who both claim to be still Labour members, voted to defend Adams. Could it be that patronage matters more than principle – surely not!

  • John Hudson

    As we know the Council (sorry IPG) is shortly to consider yet another fundamental review of the Council’s Constitution (advised by officers) under a Working Group convened by the Leader.

    The Council has been waiting for some time for a new model constitution to be issued by Welsh Government. This has enabled officers to successfully delay Constitutional reform. The Council (advised by officers) is on record of declaring that the previous current model constitution guidance was non-statutory, and while the Council was required to have regard to it, it need not implement parts of it. Can you see the way this is going?

    After yesterday’s, in my view, extremely biased, and at times muddled chairing of the council meeting in favour of limiting and restricting debate, I looked up the roles and responsibilities of members and the Chairman.

    All members are required to effectively represent the interests of the County as a whole, their constituency and individual constituents, participate in the governance of the Council and maintain the highest standards of conduct and ethics.

    Article 5, helpfully provides advice to the Chairman of the Council. At Council meetings he is required to uphold and promote the purposes of the Constitution (one of which is to help councillors represent their constituents effectively) and Chair meetings of the council efficiently with regard to the rights of councillors and the interests of the community.

    The original Model Constitution goes further, it provides that the Chairman is to ensure that the Council meeting shall be the place at which members who are not on the cabinet are able to hold the cabinet and Committee chairpersons to account. This is omitted from Pembrokeshire’s selectively tailored version drafted by officers and approved by Council.

    I suggest that all councillors should have a copy of the new model constitution and check very carefully to see what omissions there are in the new constitution proposed by officers for PCC. The same ones that have so skilfully managed the corporate governance arrangements of the Council so far.

    Just another thought, our rights (that is the public) never seem to be a consideration in these internal council debates.

  • Dave Edwards

    It would be nice if, just for once, matters like a new constitution were put out for public comment. Councillors have a vested interest in making the constitution member-friendly rather than more effective. Those of us who sit in the gallery would have a few things to say on it.

    The performance of the Chair this week was by all accounts lamentable, but when he cannot be challenged even if he is wrong, what hope do we have?

  • John Hudson

    A properly drafted Constitution is our, the public’s, protection against abuses of power. It should ensure the ability of members, on our behalf, to hold decision makers (both cabinet members and officers) to account.

    It must be loose drafting that allows Corporate Governance, for which both the Leader and Chief Executive are directly responsible and accountable, to be omitted from any Scrutiny regime.

    Perhaps this is why nobody has been held to account for the miserable failings in corporate governance arrangements.

  • Keanjo

    The problem lies with the decision to adopt a cabinet system which immediately results in an oligarchal administration where the few in charge manipulate the system to suit themselves with their own views and not that of the whole Council.

    Until the County Council returns to the arrangement where all Councillors have a real voice in running the Council, these problems will persist.

  • Concerned

    A ‘recovery board’ has just been announced by WG. Will this do anything to sort out the constitution and governance?

  • John Hudson

    Things will only improve if the silent majority of IPG members wake up and realise they have to participate and do more. On corporate matters the Auditor found scrutiny and accountability weak and members did not adequately challenge decisions and provide leadership in the Council.

    Since the Passing of a Local government Measure by the Welsh Government, WE, the public, have had legal rights to Question Scrutiny Committees and the Council. Our Senior Officers and the Leadership have proposed to set up a working group to consider how to implement these new rights. This is supported by the majority of Councillors.

    Our legal rights are being impeded by this wretched and disgraced Council.

  • Welshman 23

    It’s now a fact that if you are not a member of IPPG then nothing gets approved I would suggest all non members of the IPPG either join the group or resign in block because you are powerless to this dictatorship.

    These councillors are a cartel, the IPPG run the show and the rest of the members just make up the numbers, you are powerless to the cause, and any proposals you put forward or agenda topics are discussed the day before the meeting at the behind close doors IPPG meeting.

    The chairman should have allowed Jamie Adams’ expenses claim to be referred to the Standards Committee there and then, this situation stinks. The recent announcement that the Welsh Office will support the education system in Pembrokeshire is further support that the authority is out of control.

    Just speak to the people that work there, morale is at an all time low, but as one employee told me they fear for their jobs if they were to speak out. Are you listening you overpaid executives of PCC? You are out of touch with your employees.

  • Keanjo

    The Education Service accounts for about 75% of the County Council’s budget. A Recovery Board has been appointed to ensure the necessary improvements to a sub standard service are attained.

    May I suggest that the Recovery Board extends its activities to cover all the services for which the Council is responsible?

  • Malcolm Calver

    One wonders at the role of Laurence Harding the Monitoring Officer in this decision.

    I would have thought as he was sitting at the meeting, at great cost to the ratepayers of Pembrokeshire, there was no need for Cllr Hodgson to make a song and dance about the motion.

    Surely it was his duty to give his advice regarding a conflict of interest, even if it is dud advice.

  • Paul Absalom

    I hope the 29 members who voted to back Cllr Adams can look the people who work for Pembrokeshire county council in the eye, knowing a lot of them have had their pay cut.

    It would not be so bad if Cllr Adams actually did something good for the people of Pembrokeshire.

    Roll on the next election, only a couple of the IPPG need to be removed and then maybe we can be run fairly rather than jobs for the boys.

  • John Hudson

    Am I right in thinking that under the Constitution, the chairman has no discretion to admit Notices of Motion and questions (apart from supplementaries) for debate that are not on the agenda. Hence the move for a suspension of standing orders?

    Am I also right in thinking that ordinarily, Notices of Motion on the Agenda stand to be referred to the appropriate Committee, normally. At the Annual meeting of the Council, a Notice of Motion on the Agenda was allowed to be debated and voted on at that meeting without referral. How was this finessed?

  • Hi John,

    I’m not sure of the wording but the chairman does have discretion for matters of urgency I believe, and he decided not to exercise it, which is why Cllr. Kilmister then proceeded to ask for the matter (whether or not to suspend the particular rule that prevented it being discussed) to be determined by a majority vote of the council.

    Notices of motion on the agenda stand referred to a committee or cabinet that is determined by the council and not by an officer, though they can also be transacted during the meeting without a referral.

    I don’t recall such an instance as you have mentioned at the 2013 AGM, though perhaps you meant last year, because I do recall at the 2012 AGM, on the agenda, Cllr. Peter Stock had a NoM worded:

    That the membership of the Planning and Rights of Way Committee and the four Overview and Scrutiny Committees (excluding co-opted members) be changed to fifteen each.

    The minutes then record:

    During the course of the deliberations, the Leader of Council submitted an amendment that the membership of the Planning and Rights of Way Committee and the five Overview and Scrutiny Committees (excluding co-opted members), be changed to fifteen each; the additional Overview and Scrutiny Committee covering issues relating to Safeguarding.

    Whether or not the creation of a brand new scrutiny committee off the back of that NoM exceeded the definition of an amendment, as laid out in the council’s constitution, was questioned at the time during the meeting, and has also been questioned since!

  • John Hudson

    Yes, that was it, apologies for the wrong year.

    I see from Part 4, 9.2(c) (ii) of our Constitution (Edition 3.4 March 2013), that the Chairman can allow late non agenda questions with the consent of the person who is going to answer. Some chance! He does not seem to have discretion to admit non-agenda NoMs to be debated, he has discretion to allow agenda NomMs to be debated.

    I understand that our new constitution is going to be ready for approval in December!

    Have you seen 14.9.4. B of the new model? Late/urgent questions to be vetted by officers!

  • You may be interested to know that, within the past few days, the council has published a version of the model constitution online, though it is in a draft form dated 25th April.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with my own acquirement of a January 31st draft of the document, and subsequent circulation to all councillors via email!

    The part you refer to has changed position from ‘14.9.4 B’ and can be found in this draft at ‘4.19.4 B.’

    http://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/content.asp?nav=646,101,1579,112,163

  • John Hudson

    Thanks Jacob. Although the Constitution is only of interest to the minority of us, without your pointer I probably would not have found it at all.

    It looks to be pretty daunting, with a lot more “meat” than the shorter version favoured by PCC which permitted much more interpretation on matters not covered.

    This is, after all, the document which sets out the way in which our Council is governed and manages itself within a legal framework.

  • Dave Edwards

    Jacob, had the Chair allowed a debate on Mr Forgetful’s expenses some surprising revelations would have had to be made.

    In response to an FOIA request the council has to admit that no correspondence at all was sent to Mr Forgetful in any way querying why he was late or questioning any one of the 4 years’ worth of claims.

    Contrast this with other Cllrs who have had admonishing letters if they were only one or two months late. As someone who was on the shortlisting panel for the County Treasurer post in 1995 I hold Mark Lewis in high regard. Sadly, my faith in him is weakening.

  • Dave Edwards

    I wonder if Cllr Joseph still thinks Mr Forgetful’s expenses claim should be heard in public. Wasn’t it Joseph who wore a coat of many colours?

  • John Hudson

    I have just seen the Draft Minutes of the Council meeting, you know that official “true” record of what was discussed and agreed. I see that members took part in a vote to suspend standing orders to allow a matter to be discussed. They apparently did so without knowing what the matter was that was considered so important!

    I know, from being present in the public gallery, what this matter was. Our councillors are apparently so inept that they will vote without consideration of any reason. We now officially know that we cannot rely on the formal minutes of council meetings as a true and fair accurate record.

    Is this political bias, incompetence or malfeasance by senior officers responsible for authorising the publication of this incomplete and inaccurate draft? I expect that the accuracy of the draft meeting minutes will be challenged at the next meeting.

    It is a good job that the Recovery Board is in place to see how the ethics of this failed council have not changed under the direct management and control of these senior officers.

  • John Hudson

    I have just received a letter from the Ombudsman who will not be investigating this matter, as I have not provided any direct evidence that Councillors at the meeting were aware that the notice to suspend standing orders related to the late expense claims submitted by Councillor Adams.

    If at a later stage such evidence becomes available the Ombudsman will revisit the matter.

  • At the previous meeting of council, Cllr. Paul Miller also moved that standing orders be suspended for the same reason – to allow a matter to be discussed without the relevant notice.

    On that occasion, Cllr. Miller’s proposal was that an investigation be undertaken into the Townscape Heritage Initiative grants scheme that was administered by the council (Google the words: Pembroke Dock and Cathal McCosker.)

    There was a recorded vote on whether or not the rules should be suspended, which was obviously included in the minutes of the meeting, but absolutely no mention of what precipitated the vote on the suspension of the rules. I suppose the council would rely on the fact that ‘only decisions’ need to be recorded in the minutes, and so this information is not bound to be included.

    In the vote to suspend rules to allow discussion on Cllr. Kilmister’s proposal to refer the leader’s late expenses claim to the standards committee, members were definitely aware of the the reason why Cllr. Kilmister wished to suspend the rules, I can say this with absolute confidence because I asked the question, and Cllr. Kilmister answered in the clearest of terms, some time before the recorded vote was conducted.

    I’m pretty sure the ombudsman will need to re-open that case file!

  • John Hudson

    I hope that the Ombudsman, the Auditor and the Recovery Board will all look in to why formal Council Minutes are not a true and accurate record and more to the point who authorised their release in this form.

    I have been able to submit a WT web-based report of that meeting to the Ombudsman. It is at least reported there that members were all well aware.

    I thought there was a recent council “improvement” in the coverage and extent of minutes, so that people not at the meeting would be aware of substantive considerations leading to votes and decisions. Obviously this is subject to officer censorship.

    If the WT article is not sufficient evidence, can I rely on councillors to formally report their awareness to the Ombudsman?

  • Dave Edwards

    I am sure that the shorthand writer/clerk’s notes will back you up.

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