Jacob Williams
Wednesday 12th February, 2014

STOP PRESS! Police confirm criminal investigation into pensions scandal

STOP PRESS! Police confirm criminal investigation into pensions scandal

Dyfed-Powys Police issued the following press release on their website this afternoon, confirming that Gloucestershire Constabulary has launched a formal investigation to establish whether criminal offences have taken place at either Pembrokeshire County Council, or neighbouring Carmarthenshire, relative to the recent highly-critical public interest reports issued by the Wales Audit Office:

Dyfed-Powys Police have now fully considered the three Public Interest Reports published on 30th January 2014 by Wales Audit Office, into matters relating to Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire County Councils.

As a result, the Force has decided that it is a matter which should be investigated in the public interest by the Police, to ascertain whether or not any criminal offences have taken place.

Due to the close working relationships and partnership arrangements that exist between Dyfed-Powys Police and both local authorities, it is not appropriate for the Force to carry out the enquiry. As such the matter has been referred to Gloucestershire Constabulary who will undertake the investigation.

Dyfed-Powys Police would like to make it absolutely clear that this decision has been taken by the Police alone, and has in no way been influenced by political commentary or media reporting on this issue.

The story has also been covered by the Western Mail.

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  • Ianto

    What about the grants in the Dock?

  • Welshman 23

    With the investigation taking place will Friday’s meeting be cancelled or will the CEO be suspended pending an inquiry?

  • Keanjo

    If the police are now conducting a formal investigation is the matter sub judice and if that is so, can the Friday meeting take place?

  • Jon Preston

    This whole charade is an embarrassment. Supposedly educated individuals behaving in such an unacceptable manner and with such contempt. I would say “book ’em Dano” but I’m not sure you’d remember that cop show JW!

  • Concerned

    Nothing will come of this.

  • Hello Ianto, the council initiated contact with the police this morning, regarding the Pembroke Dock grant scheme.

    I will update further at some point soon, and no doubt Old Grumpy will do the same.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Do Dyfed-Powys Police really expect us to believe that the decision taken to investigate has not been influenced by political commentary and media reporting of the case?

    It will be interesting to also see what the Welsh Assembly is going to do about the inflated salaries in local government.

  • Ianto

    Who made the decision to refer the matter to the police? If it was not resulting from the Audit Committee review, was it officer driven and if so which officer/s instigated the referral?

    If the council now feels there are issues to be investigated, what happened to the initial verification procedure in respect of grant claims?

    On the pensions issue I would doubt the long letter signed by Huw Miller was his own draft, suspect the QC was involved, at what further cost?

  • The grant scheme documents are stored in a room known as the ‘data room.’ I booked an appointment yesterday afternoon, where Mike Stoddart joined me.

    Mike revealed an alarming discovery he had made, which we took to the director of finance and leisure, who decided it was time to refer the matter to the police.

    All I know so far is that the police have been ‘called,’ but I do not know if this constitutes a ‘referral’ of the matter, but it was ‘referral’ of the matter to the police that was pledged by the director.

  • Casual Observer

    There is a major flaw in recording documents and decisions on Council files. Nothing is numbered so documents such as letters and officer comments can be added and removed without anyone knowing.

    Some Government departments prevent that happening by having a file in two parts.

    1. On the right documents numbered as they are put on.

    2. On the left a minute sheet where hand written comments are numbered on and dated.

    It work as follows. Say a letter comes in and is added to the file on the right. As there are already 3 documents on the file it is numbered “4”.

    On the left, the last minute noted was 9 so the next numbered minute will be “10” it will record what action is taken. eg Letter at doc 4 received and reply sent at doc 5″ Or maybe it is referred to a senior officer for comment so the minute might read “Please see doc 4. How do you wish me to reply?”

    The file will become so interwoven that it is virtually impossible to take anything off without it being noticed. Or to add something out of order.

    For that reason it will never happen.

  • Goldingsboy

    Casual Observer, I imagine that most of the documentary evidence that you allude to will be in the form of emails. If so let’s hope that appropriate measures, to protect this form of evidence, are undertaken by the “proper” officer.

  • Goldingsboy

    Jacob, have you just dropped Old Grumpy in the s**t?

    He revealed to us on the 8th February, “that the council’s Monitoring Officer has decreed that only one member at a time is allowed into the [data] room”.

    You, however, reveal that he joined you in that very holy place.

    Is this a sign that the pronouncements of the MO are being treated lightly by the old geezer, or, that rules and regulations in the Kremlin have a certain variability?

  • Anoldman

    The Herald covered the story on the grants yesterday, saying that PCC had called the police.

    Quote from Herald, who requested a statement from the council:

    “We can confirm that we have been in contact with the police. In the event that we are satisfied that a fraud has been committed against the Council, we will formally refer the matter”.

    So it would appear PCC are not convinced that something fraudulent has taken place.

  • John Hudson

    It is not necessary for minutes to record everything, all that is necessary is for the decision to be recorded.

    Such was the view of the council’s legals, when I pointed out the guidelines and advice issued by the Assembly, which required more detail of reports and reasons to be included in decision recording, both of committees and officers.

    The findings of a judicial review pointing out this basic good administrative practice did not influence, or change, the Council’s view. Even now, officers’ delegated decisions need only to be recorded on the Council’s website if the Director thinks it advisable. I suspect that most times he/she does not.

    Last time I looked, which was recently, the new Director of Adult Services didn’t even have a page!

  • Keanjo, it wouldn’t be the first time that sub judice has been used to close down debate.

    However, sub judice (properly the Contempt of Court Acts) only kicks in when a person has been arrested, not, as sometimes seems to be claimed, whenever a police car drives past County Hall.

  • Hi Goldingsboy, a bit of both, I think.

    The monitoring officer’s ‘rules’ of only one member at a time were relaxed slightly, so that IF a member who has booked the data room consents to another member joining him, that second person is allowed in too!

  • Les

    Just read OG’s latest post and things are becoming a bit serious to say the least.

    Clearly if the matter has been reported to the police I would have thought they would be duty bound to investigate. The police would be well aware of what is going on – they have computers and presumably will be monitoring blog sites for intelligence purposes.

  • Keanjo

    Well Tony Blair wanted Local Government to be more like the USA, (elected Mayors and paid politicians) and County Hall is certainly becoming more like a City Hall being exposed by our very own Batman and Robin, the intrepid duo.

    The cops have been called in. Will they make any dastardly discoveries? Will Freeman’s Way have to be renamed? Watch this space.

  • Ianto

    Given the level of ‘inaccuracy’ discovered, one has to ask how long is the chain of participants in this conspiracy?

    Is the council department involved totally incompetent, or does it take a Nelsonian view of items which do not accord with the intended outcome?

  • Richie S.

    Hooray!! The chickens are coming home to roost at last! A full clearout of all the rotten apples in the barrel is badly overdue. Hopefully criminal proceedings will be initiated. Sadly, my cynical side is thinking that the buck won’t stop where it should.

    How did Local Government sink this low!

  • Sandboy

    Regarding the CE’s attendance at the senior staff committee meeting, check out the extensive case law on bias and the ‘perception of bias.’

    Decisions must be seen to be done in a transparent way without favour – seems to tick all the wrong boxes, council officers too will have obligations to codes of conduct.

    Remember, the council as a statutory body is bigger than any one individual and the council are the members collectively, who meet tomorrow.

  • Wayne

    It’s a good job that we have councillors like OG and Jacob who are prepared to put their necks on the block in order to expose such “indiscretions”, and not simply look the other way, as so many of the other ‘sheep’ seem prepared to do!!

    What’s with all the hard sums at the bottom of the page?!

  • Galf

    Shouldn’t you and Mike have gone to the police rather than the Director of Finance? Are you sure he can be trusted to do his job? Can you name the architect used by Kinver Kreations?

  • Chas.

    Where is our newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Mr. Salmon, in all this? What about the Fraud Squad? Isn’t it about time this investigation went outside Wales? Too much ‘back scratching’ and ‘funny handshakes’ here for justice methinks.

  • Bayard

    Perhaps you and Mike ought to refer the matter to Private Eye. I’m sure they’d love it for their “Rotten Boroughs” column. Faced by inaction from the officers (who are they protecting?) the only answer is the widest possible publicity, starting with our MPs and AMs and working down (or up, depending on how you look at it).

  • Galf, Kinver Kreations is the company which conducted the architectural role, though the eponymous principal, Mr. Tomas Kinver, is not an architect but an architectural technologist.

  • Nev Andrews

    Freeman’s Way was always a misnomer…it should have been Freemason’s Way all along…or No Way at all…

  • Welshman 23

    Jacob and Old Grumpy, good luck tomorrow.

  • Goldingsboy

    Hi Jacob, is this the same Monitoring Officer who entered into a “protracted” battle with OG over the interpretation of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act?

    If so, as Mike has disclosed, the Monitoring Officer has been forced into an apology to councillors and has caused a “slight” volte-face over access to the once-secret documents.

    Now we have your report that he has slightly relaxed his rule governing the number of occupants allowed into this data room at any one time.

    The actions of this highly-paid official, (he’s employed by PCC, so it must be so) can be compared to that of a football referee who “slightly” relaxes the off-side rule during an important cup final.

  • Ianto

    Travel expenses, lunch allowances, collecting and returning the QC, QC’s costs, how much and for what?

    Where are we with the auditor’s report, has it been accepted to be acted upon or left in the long grass?

    It strikes me that the late production of the QC with his take on prejudicial interests smacks of low politics. Why was this revelation left until this far into proceedings? Worth every penny of his fee to the IPPG.

  • Sealight

    Casual Observer, early last year I spent half a day examining the three files on the Conygar/Stena outline planning application for Fishguard Bay. No enclosures were numbered and hence no cross referencing was possible. Furthermore, enclosures could be removed or inserted at will with no evidence that anything had occurred.

    I have served in the Armed Forces and can confirm that even the most inexperienced admin’ clerk would know the need to number enclosures, cross reference enclosures and how to insert and remove enclosures whilst leaving evidence of this action.

    I wrote to the Planning Department and expressed my concern at the lax filing procedures. I never got a reply.

    Poor* admin = poor* management decision making.

    (*I inserted “poor” after deleting my original choice of word!)

  • Roy McGurn

    Jacob, is that really Carew castle on your website header, or a simulation of County Hall in the (near) future?

  • AAD

    What happens next Jacob – does this mean that things will continue as they are until the Gloucestershire coppers pronounce on the matter?

    If the boys in blue pronounce negatively on the matter, will they do the QC stunt again? I don’t think the long arms and legs of the Law would be easily pleased by that!

  • Goldingsboy

    The appearance in the council chamber of an expensive QC, to answer questions on the pension scandal, raised a fundamental issue: who, or what, did he actually represent?

    He appeared to say that he was only answerable, not to the full council (as represented by the elected representatives), but to the small group of senior people who actually employed his legal talent. Summing that up, it seems to me, comes down to: heads-they-win-tails-you-lose. In short, he’s their consigliere, but paid by us and serving to defend their interests even when it conflicts with that of Pembrokeshire’s.

    However, I cannot leave it there without mentioning the utter farce which brought to a close this shambolic exercise in the IPG’s version of democratic accountability.

    It was the sight of the London lawyer saying, and I paraphrase, that a list of rebels and their disloyal remarks to the Pembrokeshire Herald, had been communicated to him which, in his professional opinion, amounted to prejudgment of the issue.

    When asked by whom, he rapidly back-pedalled, saying that he just happened upon an envelope containing the Kremlin’s hit-list dissidents, on the passenger seat of the council’s car, sent to pick him up from the railway station.

    There then followed the spectacle, so resonant of Stalin’s show trials of the 1930s, of queues of decent, honourable men and women, confessing to their crime of “incorrect behaviour” and walking into a brief, self-imposed, exile.

  • PreseliView

    Galf, Kinver Kreations is the brainchild of Tom Kinver, who is not an architect but an architectural technologist. Kinver Kreations have been involved with other projects involving large amounts of grant money.

  • Ianto

    This latest event confirms a view I have held for some time, the post of Monitoring Officer should be funded and appointed by the Assembly (like the auditor) not in the fief of the local authority they are meant to oversee. OG has a very relevant and apt quote on his ‘historic’ site.

  • Keanjo

    If prejudgment disqualifies a person from voting and everyone is expected to have an open mind and listen to the debate before deciding which way they should vote, I would suggest that the majority of those attending should have left the chamber, not just the people selected by Mr Kerr.

  • Roy McGurn

    Ianto is quite right that the monitoring officer should be “independent”. However in “normal” authorities all officers are supposed to behave so, and usually do. If there is no intent to act impartially, no amount of rules will work.

    Huw Miller once held Head of Legal and Monitoring Officer at the same time, quite how that could have even happened is something that a thorough investigation of this authority should add to their list.

    Even if paid by the WG, monitoring officers will need regular rotation and would need additional powers to prevent their neutrality being skewed by the executive in the same way the elected body has just been.

  • Wayne

    Here’s something that puzzles me, why are we (the ratepayers) paying to hire an expensive QC to defend a scheme which resulted in ‘unlawful’ payments being made, when the finances of the authority, by right, are meant to be used for the benefit of us (the ratepayers)?

    Surely, whoever chose to employ the services of a top QC should be expected to demonstrate the clear and overriding public benefit in defending the scheme, or, if they can’t (as in this case) they should pay from their own pockets?

  • John Hudson

    Wayne, we could ask to see the decision trail leading to the appointment of a QC, but I would not hold your breath.

    Apparently the Head of Legal Services has statutory power to do this, but I imagine that in all cases some discretion must be exercised before incurring expenditure. Do not forget that the judicial review into care home fees found that the Council could not evidence its decision making.

    Reports were made to the Auditor by the 5 officers who received copies of his initial report. Now that the Monitoring Officer has had to allow members to see the Council’s legal advice, I wonder if they can see these reports/letters.

    WE must get some answers as to why our money is being wasted in this way.

  • Goldingsboy

    Wayne, you have put the basic point regarding the QC better than I have.

    However, the other question that I tried to get through was, if the lawyer’s advice to the senior officers conflicts with the wider interests of the taxpayers of Pembrokeshire, has he not got a professional code, let alone a moral one, to declare such an ethical dilemma and withdraw?

  • Casual Observer

    Re Sealight’s reply, I’m pleased that Sealight has given a recent example of why PCC files do not work as no documents are numbered – we don’t know what used to be on them and what might have been added.

    I invite Sealight, OG and Jacob to a meeting to show in detail how a reliable filing system should work. Tea and biccies at the Kremlin??? let’s invite your local member!

  • Casual Observer

    Goldingsboy’s comment about council filing suggests that the information I might need would be held in the form of emails. It surely is but I am never going to be allowed access to a PCC computer and indeed one computer is unlikely to hold all the information.

    Paper data held on a file could be inspected by me and as Sealight notes, documents on PCC’s files are not numbered etc.

    Do I recall correctly that Brecon Beacons National Park had issues with papers not being as they should be and wasn’t there something with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park?

    Seems to be a bit of a theme…

  • John Hudson

    The apparent reason for giving staff the option to receive the equivalent of their employer’s contribution to top up their salaries was “to aid staff recruitment and retention”.

    Appendix 7 to the report listed recruitment details since 2007, and identifies candidates who appeared for interview but subsequently withdrew. Although the committee considered that tax implications were a factor in recruitment difficulties, it does not appear to have considered that there might be other factors at play.

    After visiting, perhaps potential recruits might also have thought PCC was not that much of an attractive employer to work for.

  • Casual Observer

    Re Recruitment at PCC, how many people leaving had “exit interviews” and how many didn’t? Another one for our councillors to ask is how many were brave enough to cite bullying as the reason for leaving?

  • Wayne

    I’ve just heard on the radio that Carmarthenshire Council have voted against a vote of no confidence in their Chief Exec, who faced similar revelations as our own beloved BPJ. With the exception of a few, both Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Councils are rotten to the core!

  • Keanjo

    I think you may have it wrong there Wayne. Whilst I agree the core is rotten there is some good apple there. Get rid of the rotten core and the Cabinet system and we might have a decent Council.

  • Hi Wayne, the vote of no confidence in Carmarthenshire was actually tabled over their council leader and members of his executive board, and not the council’s chief executive.

  • Welshman 23

    Do not hold your breath, the vote of no confidence has already been decided, the yes brigade 31 the no brigade 29.

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