Jacob Williams
Saturday 9th August, 2014.

EXCLUSIVE

MOLEHUNT: Chief executive threatened to engage private investigator over council leak


• Explosive new letter claims Bryn Parry-Jones “threatened to engage a private investigator” to uncover council mole
• John Evans MBE claims he is “shocked at the tone, attitude and hostility” of Bryn Parry-Jones in letter to leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams
• Council officers backtracked on aspects of internal review into Pembroke Dock grant scheme fraud allegations
• Mr. Evans claims he had ‘no option’ but to resign his position on council’s audit committee two months ago, comparing his treatment by officers to ‘constructive dismissal’
• Cllr. Adams knew everything but failed to say so at July full council meeting

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An explosive letter sent to the leader of Pembrokeshire County Council by the ex-chairman of the authority’s audit committee lays bare the reasons for his shock resignation earlier this year, including the ‘hostile’ conduct of chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones, backtracking on committee decisions, and an attitude towards him by senior officers which he says made it impossible for him to continue in his role.

John Evans MBE unexpectedly announced his resignation at the end of May as the co-opted lay member of the committee which, since January, has been investigating the well-documented irregularities that were uncovered by my fellow unaffiliated councillor, Mike Stoddart, in the Pembroke Dock grant schemes which are administered by the authority.

Cllr. Stoddart’s allegations have all been published via his Old Grumpy website, and relate to public cash being awarded for restoration works on old buildings in Pembroke Dock that haven’t been carried out, or as Tim Minogue of Private Eye magazine’s Rotten Boroughs column put it in November 2013: “phantom building works.” Other sinister revelations made by Cllr. Stoddart concern what Private Eye described in a later edition as “unaccountably favourable treatment” to a particular building contractor in supposedly competitive tendering processes.

Under the chairmanship of Mr. Evans, the council’s audit committee had been tasked with investigating the internal procedural matters pertaining to two grant schemes operating in the town, whilst in April, potential criminal aspects of the saga were compiled into a dossier by the council and handed to the police, who as I revealed last month, have not yet decided “if a Police investigation is appropriate under the circumstances.” Despite having half of his term remaining, Mr. Evans tendered his resignation from the committee to council chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones in a letter dated 29th May, which contained cryptic hints that “the vision” he held and “the appetite for change held by the authority” were “no longer aligned.”

Old Grumpy blogged about the resignation at the time, and at the end of June he took full advantage of my absence from the county (my tennis trip to Wimbledon) by publishing Mr. Evans’ resignation letter in full. It was a low blow, especially as he knew I had a copy of the letter myself much sooner than he did, but you don’t have friends in the blogosphere, only rivals. To read the letter, along with the old duffer’s impudent ramblings, click here!

Five weeks to the day after tendering his resignation, and amid “some speculation” surrounding his departure, Mr. Evans chose to write to the leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams, laying bare in clear detail the circumstances surrounding his decision to stand down. It includes shocking claims that the attitude and actions of the chief executive and other senior officers had ‘intimidated,’ ‘compromised’ and ‘violated’ his independence as the co-opted non-councillor committee lay member.

Until now, the reasons for Mr. Evans’ resignation remained unknown, but jacobwilliams.com has obtained a copy of his July 3rd letter to Cllr. Adams. Within it he expresses concern that the authority doesn’t have the will to probe or properly investigate the internal handling of the Pembroke Dock grant schemes issues, and that his own views and intentions as audit committee chairman were steamrollered by senior officers who didn’t buy into his concept of scrutiny or his quest to fully identify the council’s internal shortcomings.

In terms much clearer than he expressed in his resignation letter, Mr. Evans claims he was left “totally compromised” in his position, and cites the threatening, heavy-handed actions of the council’s chief executive, Bryn Parry-Jones, as well as a decision taken by officers to backtrack on an agreement that had been made to scrutinise the disciplinary process that dealt with an officer who tampered with official council records directly related to the controversial grant applications.

Senior council officers assisting with the audit committee’s investigation into the Pembroke Dock grant scheme fraud allegations left Mr. Evans feeling “isolated,” and he says that he was “unable to garner support from any quarter” and that “consequently I had no option other than to resign.”

Prior to taking up the role in 2012, Mr. Evans had lengthy experience in senior management at a multinational electronics company. He claims that with regard to the grants issue, the conduct of council officers left him “unable to serve in an independent, objective manner,” and that under private sector circumstances, the attitude towards him “would have been considered as constructive dismissal.”

The shocking letter, which I reproduce in full below, outlines some of the key disagreements Mr. Evans had with officers which led to his decision to resign, including chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones, former head of internal audit and now director of finance Jonathan Haswell, and the head of revenue services and assurance, Kerry MacDermott.

One of them relates to the scandal in which it was revealed that select alterations were made by a senior council officer – whose identity has always been protected by the council – to the minutes of key grant panel meetings which considered – and supposedly scrutinised – applications for the publicly-funded cash grants.

As with the grant scheme fraud allegations, this document-tampering sub-scandal came to light thanks to Cllr. Mike Stoddart. In April he revealed on his website that he had been informed by the council that copies of grant panel minutes he had previously obtained under the Freedom of Information Act had been tampered with in-between the time he submitted his request for them, and the documents being disclosed to him. Cllr. Stoddart was eventually provided with the unadulterated copies and was informed that the officer who altered the minutes had been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Mr. Evans reveals in his letter to Cllr. Adams that he was the person who discovered crucial documents had been tampered with, and suggests that it appeared to him the reason the officer had made the alterations was in response to the rising temperatures at County Hall caused by growing “press speculation” over “suspicion of wrongdoing” in the grant schemes.

The alterations that are publicly known to have been made by the officer include both the addition and removal of information, much of which was designed to coat a more favourable gloss over the amount of scrutiny that had taken place by the CPGS grants panel – which consists entirely of unelected officers – who recommended awards of public cash should be made to restoration projects including those now under suspicion of irregularities.

The Pembrokeshire Herald ran comprehensive coverage of the tampering scandal and highlighted that these documents could be key pieces of evidence in an impending criminal investigation. The Herald dubbed the then unnamed officer the ‘minutes meddler’ – and featured the scandal in great detail over numerous editions, outlining the extent of the alterations to several documents, and citing statute suggesting the officer’s alterations constituted a criminal offence in its own right liable to a maximum £5,000 fine per offence.

In his unrelenting letter to Cllr. Jamie Adams, Mr. Evans explains that on 13th May he was summoned by the chief executive’s personal assistant along with a number of senior council officers and two unidentified councillors to an emergency meeting in the chief executive’s upstairs office at 8.15am on Friday 16th May.

This early-morning showdown had been arranged by the chief executive in response to the story he had read splashed over the front page of the previous week’s Pembrokeshire Herald.

In its May 9th edition under the headline ‘MINUTES MEDDLER UNMASKED,’ the Herald revealed the identity of the county council officer who had tampered with the grant panel meeting minutes, and also disclosed that the disciplinary process into the officer’s actions had resulted in just a written warning – one of the lowest sanctions possible.

Mr. Evans claims that during this encounter, Mr. Parry-Jones “held aloft a copy of the Pembrokeshire Herald and demanded to know who present had disclosed to the newspaper the name of the Officer who had tampered with the CPGS Grant minutes.”

He continues: “The Chief Executive stated that the only people to know the identity of the Officer were those present at the meeting bar one who was away on business and this unprecedented situation required immediate resolution.”

Mr. Parry-Jones then: “requested that those responsible own up then and there” and after nobody did own up, he “threatened to engage a private investigator to investigate everyone present if no one would admit to the disclosure of the Officer’s name.”

Mr. Evans claims that this “threat” caused him “great anguish and concern,” as he was “uncertain of the extent of the activities that a private investigator would resort,” and in his letter to Cllr. Adams he questions whether it could have included “surveillance” and “phone hacking?”

The chief executive then: “instructed all present to issue a signed written statement of discussions or meetings during which the identity of the Officer could have been revealed.”

The meeting “ended in a stunned silence” and left Mr. Evans “shocked at the tone, attitude and hostility of the Chief Executive.” He claims that the “hostile nature of the encounter” instigated by Mr. Parry-Jones and such “intimidation” had “violated” and “compromised” his independence as the committee’s statutory lay member.

The ex-committee chair’s no-nonsense letter expresses disappointment that Cllr. Adams failed to contact him following his resignation, and that he felt he was owed a “duty of care.” Mr. Evans also told Cllr. Adams that the more appropriate course of action for Mr. Parry-Jones to have taken under the circumstances would have been to arrange a one-to-one meeting, concluding: “Clearly it would appear that such an appropriate manner is below the high office of Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council.”

In an interesting twist, Mr. Evans claims that during his inspection of grant scheme documentation, as well as the tampering of minutes he had also uncovered “significant shortcomings of the Grant administration, control and scrutiny.”

He says he took the view that “insufficient management supervision and control was the root cause of the potential wrongdoing” that had been uncovered in the grant schemes, and that numerous audits commissioned by “PCC, WEFO and WAO had missed some serious flaws in the Grant delivery process.”

On May 28th, the day before he tendered his resignation, Mr. Evans attended a meeting with Mr. Haswell and Mr. MacDermott. During this meeting he said he was “extremely disappointed” to learn that senior officers had backtracked on two of the resolutions that audit committee members – of which I am one – had made during their most recent regular committee meeting held on 24th April.

The two resolutions he claims officers had reneged on were that the committee agreed to be presented with a report at its next meeting by the authority’s head of human resources into the internal disciplinary process of the ‘minutes meddler,’ and that a management review be conducted into the concerns relating solely to 29 Dimond Street over which many allegations of fraud linger.

During the meeting Mr. Evans was told that despite the committee’s democratic resolutions weeks earlier, officers had overruled it and decided that committee members would not be presented with a report into the minutes meddler’s disciplinary, and that the promised management review would instead be taking the form of an “internal audit.”

Mr. Evans explains to Cllr. Adams that the latter moved the goalposts and was not in the best interests of openness and transparency because it conferred a benefit on senior officers as: “the Directorate responsible for administering the [Pembroke Dock grant schemes] would be afforded the opportunity to respond to possible errors within their department before the Members of the Audit Committee were allowed to even see the Audit report.”

Concluding his letter to the leader, Mr. Evans expresses his fear that despite legislation that’s been put in place to aid accountability in public authorities, “true openness, transparency governance and probity will not be delivered” if the council remains without an “appetite to change” and “improve.”

At the last council meeting held on 17th July, Cllr. Mike Stoddart tabled a written question directly related to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Evans’ resignation, to be answered by leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams. It is worth publishing the full wording of Cllr. Stodddart’s question:

“In his letter of resignation, Mr John Evans MBE the former lay member of the audit committee stated: “It is now clear to me that the vision I held, when I was appointed Lay member, is no longer aligned to the appetite for change by the authority.”

Mr Evans appears to have reached this conclusion following a meeting with Mr Kerry McDermott and Jonathan Haswell to discuss the scope of the Audit Committee’s investigation of the commercial property grants scheme.

Can the Leader give some indication of the areas of disagreement between Mr Evans and the finance department that led to his decision to resign?”

In response, the leader told council:

“In the meeting between Mr. Evans and the officers, the ongoing internal audit investigation into the CPGS [Commercial Property Grant Scheme] was discussed, including how this would be reported to the reconvened extraordinary meeting of the Audit Committee.

In addition to this, Mr. Evans made enquiries about the disciplinary process and its relationship to the remit of the audit committee.

Even though there is no such direct relationship, the meeting concluded without obvious disagreement.”

Cllr. Adams wasn’t present at the private meeting between Mr. Evans, Mr. Haswell and Mr. MacDermott. I’ve checked the council’s webcast library and it doesn’t appear on there either, so any recollection he gave to council could only have been hearsay at best.

Mr. Evans sent his letter to the leader two weeks before the July full council meeting, so Cllr. Adams had in his possession full knowledge of Mr. Evans’ views of the encounter with Messrs Haswell and MacDermott, but you’d never guess that from the pre-scripted account he read out to council. No doubt you’ve already come up with your own reasons for this omission.

Luckily for you, Pembrokeshire is well-served by bloggers and media outlets who are only too keen to pick up the leader’s dropped baton and run with it.

In fact I even hear Cllr. Simon Hancock is getting in on the councillor-blogger action with his own brand new website, which means there’s now three of us at it.

If Cllr. Hancock’s rise in the blogosphere is anywhere near as steep as his dizzying rise to the county council’s cabinet, it won’t be too long before Old Grumpy’s relegated to the third most influential Pembrokeshire politics blog.

Every blog has its day!


THE LETTER:

Letter from John Evans MBE to Cllr. Jamie Adams


Posted on: Saturday 9th August, 2014.
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66 Comments...

  • Timetraveller

    The unions warn to beware of the “eyes on the second floor”. I am so scared.

  • Julian

    Shoot the b******s…

  • Concerned

    Wow! Explosive stuff for a Saturday evening. This definitely has the feel of the beginning of the end…

  • Nev Andrews

    I wonder why the independent chair did not behave in an independent way and advise the CEO to mind his manners?

  • Robin Wilson

    This surely is the beginning of the end for several people?

  • Jon Coles

    The extent of the cover up and hypocrisy is exposed for all to see.

    Of course, it is nice to discover that the Herald is where Bryn finds out what is going on!

    And on here (as well as that other website) of course, Jacob!

  • Tony Wilcox

    Wow! Bryn waving a copy of the Herald. That might be construed as showing emotion!

    Perhaps Rob Lewis is giving lessons in paper waving?

    The grants inquiry must have touched a nerve. Who knew the chief executive had such strong ties to anything (or anyone?) in Pembroke Dock?!

  • Goldingsboy

    The police have to act now, if only to restore our faith in local democracy, accountability and, crucially, them!

  • Welshman 23

    Fantastic Jacob, I wonder who bought the paper?

    To treat the people like this is shocking, they are council employees and should have made a complaint to HR about bullying.

    Councillor Adams, all the support you have given to your master, I think you should consider your position, the net is tightening and you could be blamed. I would suggest you all resign and let the public choose again.

    Famous line from a song:

    And now the end is near…and so I face the final curtain…

  • Welshman 23

    Did you go to the demonstration on Friday Jacob?

  • Ken

    There was me thinking our ELECTED representatives controlled the public employees we fund. A lot of thought come election time.

  • It is interesting to consider the discrepancies between what Mr Evans told the Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, in his letter of 3 July and the Leader’s answer to my question at the council meeting two weeks later on 17 July.

    Being charitable, could I suggest that the Leader was being somewhat economical with the truth?

    This follows a pattern established in his speech to council on December 12 when he claimed to have visited the roofspace at Coronation School Pembroke Dock and “seen for himself” that the whole of the roof had been reslated on new felt and battens.

    As we now know, it is not possible to inspect the whole of the inside of the roof from the two open access points available. I understand this was explained to an IPPG group meeting by Cllr Brian Hall who told members of the ruling group that inspection of the whole of the roof would require holes to be cut in the ceiling at great expense.

    So, not only was Cllr Adams’ account of his visit to the roofspace untrue, but all those members of the IPPG present at this private meeting know it was untrue. And yet they continue to offer him their unswerving support!

    Also, at the meeting on July 17, in answer to a question from Cllr Paul Miller, Cllr Adams gave a less than honest account of the correspondence between Sue Thomas (the whistleblower in the Mik Smith affair) and the Chief Executive back in 2005 when Smith was given a verbal warning over his inappropriate behaviour (grooming) towards children in his care.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Several years ago, I think it was Mike Stoddart, who produced a photograph with the caption “what makes Bryn grin” surely this grin is fading now and perhaps someone can produce a more up to date caption.

    John Evans’ remark that Bryn Parry-Jones had a hostile attitude seems out of context with his appearance of being such a mild mannered man when photographed regarding his role as CEO or on election duties.

    I note your remarks, Tony, regarding any strong ties Mr Parry-Jones may have with anything or anyone in Pembroke Dock, you could contact your ex-Labour colleagues especially Cllr Perkins who may have some inside information, now she is a member of the ruling IPPG cabal.

    There is mention of two unnamed councillors who attended the meeting on the 13th July and I wonder has any declaration of any interest being declared by any councillors in relation to this affair.

    I am afraid Mr Parry-Jones’ tentacles spread very widely in Pembrokeshire.

  • Teifion

    There’s no point in complaining to PCC Human Resources – I’ve previously asked them about their SOPs (standard operating procedures) relating to when one of their employees is being investigated by the police.

    It appears that each case is judged on its “merits”, I’m guessing (unfairly, I’m sure) that means there is no standard practice as it always depends on who it is, you get the idea.

    I’ve posted the answer I was provided below:

    “Thank you for your enquiry which has been passed to me for a response. Any cases involving a Police investigation would be assessed with the nature of the alleged offence in mind.

    In that respect, each case will always be judged on its own merit with the decision to suspend or invoke ‘garden leave’ as an option would be based on an assessment of any potential risk involved.

    That is standard practice within the Authority. I trust that this clarifies the matter.”

  • I wonder why we bother to have chief executives at all, surely the political leadership should come from the elected council leader and the officers should report to that person, it seems to me that the chief executive is:

    1. Too powerful.
    2. Superfluous.
    3. In danger of usurping the democratic role of the leader.

    Perhaps we would be better off with the heads of departments answering directly to the leader and thus save ourselves some money. The returning officer role can easily be given to some other officer.

  • Les

    The situation in Pembrokeshire is dire but I think the best cure is the disinfectant of sunlight reaching parts that were previously in the shadows.

    It is clear to me that we would all be totally ignorant of the “goings on” were it not for Old Grumpy and latterly Jacob.

    Crucially a good free local press in the form of the Pembrokeshire Herald has been instrumental in unlocking information. I love the fact that we have a paper not afraid of anybody and certainly not afraid of the council and its Chief Executive. I wonder what the circulation is compared to the Western Telegraph?

    Personally I think the next big scandal will be when the police decide not to conduct a formal investigation into the grants or pensions issue. They will say something like ‘nobody has been a victim, no money is lost and the council are not making a complaint.’

    If this happens we really do have problems as the next council elections are years away.

  • Andrew Lye

    The iron dome seems to have been breached and time has come for Jamie to consider the Chief Executive’s position following actions of his which have brought the Council and even Pembrokeshire into disrepute.

    This cannot go on. This has to be the final piece of evidence over a few months now.

    I hope over the course of today, that action will belatedly be taken and tomorrow will see the start of restoring sanity and openness at the Council. Then Jamie and his cohorts need to consider their positions.

    As I type this, I expect the knives are out, behind the scenes.

  • Keanjo

    I served under several Chief Executives in England and Wales and although I was asked to attend meetings with them I was never ‘required’ to do so.

    Lyn Thomas is perfectly correct in the comment above. The system whereby each department had a Director answerable to a Chairman who was directly answerable to the Council Leader was far superior.

    Chief Executives were introduced following the 1972 Baines report into local governance arrangements, which suggested a Chief Executive without his own department to head the executive. Without a department! Have a look at the Pembrokeshire establishment.

  • Kermit

    I watched with interest the BBC Wales news item about the demonstration on Friday at Haverfordwest. Is it not time for the rest of us to stand up and demonstrate our anger about BPJ and the rest of the ruling party?

  • Galf

    By coincidence, I’ve just finished reading ‘The Last Days of Hitler’ by Hugh Trevor-Roper.

    Accusations of betrayal, screaming and shouting at subordinates, witch hunts of people he thought were helping the enemy, once loyal part members deserting his cause…Hitler faced similar problems.

  • Goldingsboy

    …and we all know what happened to Blondi.

  • Michael Williams

    I have just spoken to Jacob re the future administration of the council and he indicated that if he comes out on top and becomes leader, he might well appoint Mike Stoddart to serve as one of his two deputies.

    As for the second deputy leadership, I understand several members including Kilmister, Splinters and Owen James are sitting by their phones in anticipation. I have requested counselling from the Samaritans, but they informed me that they are far too busy dealing with IPPG members.

    If Adams and his cronies go, who will inherit their legacy? I must try the Samaritans again.

  • Robin Wilson

    So two of our elected representatives were present at the meeting on May 16. I wonder who they were, and what their “take” on the meeting is?

  • Robin, I only know one of the two councillors present at the showdown in the chief executive’s office and that was David Simpson, the cabinet member with responsibility for the grant schemes. As for the other councillor you would have thought the most likely candidate was Cllr. Tom Richards who is the audit committee’s vice chairman, or perhaps the leader, Jamie Adams.

    In answer to Welshman 23 – no I didn’t attend the protest on Friday outside County Hall.

    And Michael, I’m sure you’ll find much more solace in a pint or six during happy hour at the Hope and Anchor. The wind can howl through those narrow Tenby streets in gusty weather like this so take care of yourself on the walk back home – I’ve got you pencilled in as my representative on the fire authority and I’d hate to see you incapacitated before your official appointment is made.

  • Robin Wilson

    Oh!

  • Welshman 23

    Michael, it’s nice to know that opposition members are planning the revolution, bring it on…

    What is the process to call an extraordinary council meeting to discuss the latest disaster, and can the electorate do anything to help?

    Surely there needs to be action.

  • Anoldman

    So! What’s new?

  • Welshman 23

    http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/8007/kilmister-grand-alliance-overthrow-discredited-administration/

    Cllr Kilmister wants to make up a grand alliance with all the members that are not IPPG, a little late I think. What you need to do is forget the name of the party, but take some sort of action:

    – Emergency Meeting.
    – Vote of no confidence in Adams and BPJ.
    – Disciplinary investigations on all people involved in the grants fiasco.
    – Contact Dyfed-Powys and Gloucestershire police forces for an update on their investigations into the grant schemes and the pensions scandal.
    – Letter to the Audit Office calling for a full investigation into PCC.
    – Ask for help from the Wales Audit Office.

    Talk is cheap, councillors get some fire in your bellies and sort this mess out NOWWWWWW!

  • Timetraveller

    If the Leader was one of the summoned, why would John Evans write to him about it? Anyway it does clarify who wears the trousers. Jamie Adams running the council without a CX? Who will work the strings?

    This authority operates within a dead space between the police, Ombudsman and Auditor. None will extend their remits to cover the situation holistically. The Police don’t want to take on the role of policing local authorities, likely to be a growth industry. The Auditor sees problems, but has no remit to investigate, hence passing it on to the police. The Ombudsman is trying to stay out of politics.

    The elected body can assert its authority tomorrow, but that could mean things over the years that were never meant to see light of day may rattle out. Political suicide for those implicated.

  • Clive Davies

    Your inclusiveness impresses me, Jacob.

    Surely there would be a place for Jamie in your own council administration – tea-boy, perhaps?

  • I agree, Timetraveller. I don’t believe it was the leader as it’s unlikely Mr. Evans would have written to him about the encounter in such descriptive terms had they both been present, though I haven’t overlooked the possibility that two councillors were invited but only one – Cllr. Simpson – attended.

    However, since my previous comment I’ve become almost certain that the other councillor was Tom Richards, and as Robin Wilson said in an earlier comment, it would be very interesting to hear these two councillors’ opinions on the ‘hostile’ encounter.

  • Robin Wilson

    I know that I am being an idealist when I say what I am going to say, but I really feel that I have to put this in simple language.

    It is high time that the people of Pembrokeshire were served by an administration devoid of Apparatchiks and Commissars; and by senior members that really understand the needs of the people.

    Senior members who understand business, and let’s not forget that PCC is basically a business, and who put the needs of that business and the population in the forefront of their focus.

    Senior members who know how to motivate a team of people, lead from the front, and who are willing to forego the trappings of the office to ensure that the needs of the people are served.

    Senior members who actually talk to their staff colleagues, and engage with them, and lead.

    Let’s have a body of elected Councillors who are not interested in the trappings too…who set the tone and the direction; and who truly represent the people.

    I am heartily sick and tired of the endless machinations of the IPPG and PCC, the latest iterations which have been highlighted by the excellent Councillors, Messrs Williams and Stoddart.

  • A side show in comparison to the machinations described above, but the disposal of heritage assets by PCC, at least some by “delegation”, and little engagement with the local population, reflects the almost dictatorial approach to consultation by PCC.

  • Welshman 23

    I have sent a copy of the letter to MP Mr Stephen Crabb, the First Minister and the head of the Wales Audit Office demanding action and have had acknowledgement of my communication.

    Also the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, I have written to him for updates on the police investigation. Hopefully this will push the fiasco at PCC to a conclusion.

  • Goldingsboy

    Timetraveller queries: “If the Leader was one of the summoned, why would John Evans write to him about it?”

    The answer, surely, is to get his version of the tone and fundamental nature of the meeting into the public record. So, don’t exclude the leader on those grounds.

  • John Hudson

    I share Robin Wilson’s despair over the way this Council is run, both by senior professional officers and the Cabinet, appointed by the Leader, backed by the IPG Membership.

    This Council is supposed to be run within the terms of legislation handed down through parliament and rules issued by the Welsh Assembly. Legal authority is given to Councillors to direct officers. Councillors should be advised how to carry out their policies by professional officers, this is not, in my view an ideal situation, but the norm backed by law.

    Somehow in PCC, things have been allowed to get out of shape so much so that IPG councillors, for whatever reasons, are content to let officers dictate policy and then provide the necessary public front and unquestioning support for the officers’ party.

  • A colleague of mine at the Mercury had it about right when he described the, then, IPG as “the political wing of the Chief Officers’ Management Board (COMB)”.

    The same colleague said that, if there was an Olympic event for synchronised voting, the IPG would win it hands up.

  • Casual Obsever

    The CEO waving a copy of the Herald? Is it not a criminal offence to wave an offensive weapon? Certainly a sword which one might fall on would be so categorised!

    I noted in an earlier comment someone suggested a complaint to HR over bullying.

    My experience of HR in such circumstances is that:

    1. It will do nothing.
    2. It will delay replying to letters/points raised. That puts added stress on the person complaining.
    3. It ignores the fact that HR comes under the CEO. They are no more independent of him than any other department.
    4. In my experience HR will not produce minutes of any meeting to do with bullying.
    5. If you make your own minutes HR will neither agree or disagree with them.
    6. It is well established that if bullies are in charge of an organisation – and I have no view on whether the CEO or other senior officers are – then bullying spreads down the organisation.

    The world is full of “playground bullies” from the school playground to, in the extreme, “National Socialism”, so do not depend on HR to be your salvation. Some of us felt mauled, rather than helped by them. Anyone need moral support and advice based on experience…let me know.

  • Welshman 23

    Casual Observer, I think you are correct however, In my experience, there is a code of conduct that they must abide by and sweeping under the carpet is not accepted.

    What should happen is that the Head of HR should look into this and say that such behaviour will not be tolerated by any person in PCC irrespective of what role they have.

    PS I wonder if Jamie claimed his expenses for July.

  • William Rees

    I really feel we are starting to come towards the ‘end game’. Surely a referral of John Evans’ letter to Jamie Adams to the Wales Government might prompt them to re-intervene.

    If we are, hopefully, going to see the end of IPPG control then the last thing we want is undignified scenes of groups trying to grab power.

    South Pembrokeshire and Preseli District Councils ran effectively without controlling groups. Wouldn’t it be novel for the council to elect a leader who formed a cabinet based on ability and competence and that policy was decided after full debate in the chamber?

    It’s called democracy and is laborious but it is the only way.

  • PD Girl

    I have worked in local government (not in Pembrokeshire!) for most of my working life, some 30+ Years. I have worked at senior levels and like others here have been in meetings with a chief executive and a leader of the ruling group. I have never been ‘required’ to attend a meeting and have never been treated in such a way.

    This chief executive should go and the leader needs to seriously consider his position…the council has an unacceptable management style!

    The issues surrounding alleged fraud should be made open and transparent, not covered up and council resolutions ignored and changed by senior officers.

    One can only hope that these issues will see the overdue changes to the management of PCC and that if any culture of fear and intimidation exists, it should be stopped. I am astonished and horrified by the content of the letter, even though I should not be surprised.

  • John Hudson

    Do not worry, the Leader of the Council, and the IPG, assures us that things are improving. What were things like before this latest revelation? Are we to believe anything he says?

  • Casual Observer

    Welshman, the reason why no one will challenge a bully in higher authority is the fear of retribution. Retribution can take many forms. Is it happening in PCC? I know not.

  • Mayday

    “Required” is the term used in Lotus Notes email meaning “invited”. My guess is it is written that way to get more attention as it’s harder to ignore a “required” than an “invitation”. The recipient has the option to “Decline”, “Defer” to a new time or “Delegate” (with or without comments.)

  • John Heartfelt

    I am getting confused. Would anybody like to compile a list of the issues that have haunted PCC over say the last six years?

    I would be pleased if you could tell me what the issues are/were, who were the players and what were the outcomes or explanations for these events.

    I feel that some of the important events of the near past may have been buried under the ever deepening layers of…well, call it what you like but seems to be getting thicker by the week.

    Bullet points would be fine.

  • John Williams

    From personal experience no one working in PCC should rely on the HR department to help them out with bullying.

  • Casual Observer

    John Williams,

    The really regrettable thing is, I suggest, that people, especially girls, go into HR to help people and then find themselves involved in following courses of action which they do not wish to follow.

    In my case, I believe a senior member of staff hid behind a more junior member of staff. Telling a junior member of staff to do something which they feel they ought not to is…bullying.

    People typically bullied are often hard working or good at their job or well liked or against corruption etc. – attributes which the bully is jealous of.

  • The Rock

    Section 28 (Authorisation of directed surveillance) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is very clear on how it can be used.

    The use of surveillance to threaten people is not lawful.

  • Martin Lewis

    I see Tom Richards most mornings having a pint in the Castle Hotel on the square, I’ll get the low down on what went on at that meeting and fill you in later. He’ll give me a scoop in return for a chaser.

  • Martin Lewis

    Jacob/Mike,

    What’s your feelings on this latest story? Even as shocking as it is, Bryn’s legal advisers will no doubt be assuring him that he’s done nothing wrong in law and he’ll be able to take the council’s money (ours) for X number of thousands if he was sacked. Can he even be sacked? Are there such procedures in place? Who can sack him? Who does he answer to?

    And I’d like to personally pay tribute to Mr Evans for having the balls to go the whole hog and put his feelings into writing on at least two occasions and create his own version of ‘meeting minutes’ for the meeting with Bryn.

    I find the image in my mind of Bryn being angry at the leak and holding a copy of the Herald in his hand very VERY satisfying. Thank God for free press.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I note your comment regarding how SPDC and PDC ran effectively without controlling groups William but I can remember some of the dodgy deals that went on at SPDC.

    It is only due to the determination of Mike, Jacob and the editor of the Herald that has brought to light the goings on at Pembrokeshire County Council.

    I must be missing something but who would have had to authorise the employment of private investigators and more importantly from a ratepayers point of view “who would be paying”?

  • John Hudson

    An “open” letter to the Wales Audit Office:-

    Request for a Report in the Public Interest into the Corporate Governance arrangements of Pembrokeshire County Council.

    I understand that you are required to report on these “arrangements” as part of your audit process and that you are able to:-

    • Conduct a special inspection and publish a report and make recommendations and
    • Recommend to Ministers of the Welsh Government that they intervene in some way.

    I note from your latest Annual Improvement Report on PCC issued in July, that you have concluded, inter-alia, that the Council is improving its governance arrangements and encouraging greater member involvement and challenge. However you do identify some specific governance issues the Council needs to consider.

    I need not rehearse the failings of this council over recent years and months, (some under continuing investigation) but it does seem time for a definitive comprehensive review into the continuing ongoing ethos of this Council and its corporate governance arrangements.

    Since your report was published there have been three issues that have caused great concern to some councillors and many citizens of Pembrokeshire, to the extent that any remaining confidence in the council’s ability to put its house in order may have been lost:-

    1. The revelations about the Mik Smith “case” and implied administrative shortcomings and

    2. The public reported resignation of the Lay member and appointed chairman of the Council’s Audit Committee over undue officer influence on the former Chairman causing him to resign, and

    3. The subsequent reported actions of the Chief Executive Officer at a meeting.

    The Council’s political leadership seem to be incapable of even recognising that things have gone seriously wrong, and presumably drawing comfort from your reports, continues to try and assure us that things are improving.

    It has to be said, that I suspect many of us do not believe this. Will you please, under the powers available to you, undertake appropriate action that you consider necessary.

  • John Hudson

    Is there an official minute of the meeting that can be published and agreed by those present?

  • Welshman 23

    I have received a response from the Welsh Office, let’s all send them a copy of the Mr Evans’ letter, the more the better.

    The Welsh Government expects local authorities to take complaints seriously and to have proper procedures in place for dealing with them. If you have not already done so, may I suggest you bring your complaint, to the attention of Pembrokeshire County Council and ask for it to be addressed under their internal complaints procedures. Pembrokeshire County Council provide advice on how to do this on their website, here:

    http://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/content.asp?id=6362&nav=101,1039&parent_directory_id=646

    If you remain dissatisfied after the Council has responded to any formal complaint you have made, then it is open to you to approach the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. The Ombudsman is an independent person empowered to consider complaints about public bodies in Wales including local authorities.

    Thank you for also including a copy of the letter that Mr John Evans MBE has sent to Councillor James Adams. I will bring it to the attention of the Minister for Local Government Business.

  • Tony Wilcox

    Malcolm, your old business partner might have been willing to do the dirty deed for mates’ rates. Plus expenses of course.

  • Harfat Girl

    Has Bryn ever made threats relating to the use of private investigators before? It would be interesting to know. From Mr Evans’ account of events it seems P-J felt it was an acceptable idea. Would it be worth asking at the next meeting of full council if PCC has ever used private investigators and if so in what circumstances?

  • John Hudson

    Your readers may like to visit the sage’s Old Grumpy website of 9 July 2001 Fools and our Money for a bit of light amusement in these troubled times.

  • Goldingsboy

    John Hudson has, by his trawl of Old Grumpy’s archive, found this little nugget concerning the inexorable rise of BPJ’s golden pay packet:

    Chairman Peter Stock opined that “The only way Pembrokeshire will ever become the Premier County again is through this man,” and the vice chairman Bryan Phillips intoned: “He is our insurance policy and we must keep paying the premiums.”

    Yet one more example of mis-selling overlooked by our financial regulators?

  • Keanjo

    John, many a true word is said in jest.

  • Fox

    Re ‘Fools and our money’. It was well known in those days the way in which pay rises were arranged. I don’t think much has changed.

  • John Hudson

    Some of you might remember the judicial review into the fees the council set for care home placement fees some years ago. This failed twice.

    In the first one, (cost I think £400,000) the High Court Judge found that the council could not provide evidence of its decision making trail as no minutes of meetings were available to be produced.

    In addition the Council had “overlooked” the requirements of a Statutory Instrument that applied, or could not evidence the reasons why specific requirements had been considered but were not applicable. There was also the small matter of incorrect calculations, by the council’s consultant.

    The council was required to review the setting of fee rates. Because a second judicial review had been applied for, senior officers blocked investigation by the Older Persons’ Scrutiny Committee as it might prejudice the council’s case.

    This was at a time when councillors had been informed of the administrative arrangement between the council’s CEO and the health board CEO for the council’s Director of Social Services and one other member of council staff to be shared on a 50/50 time and money basis. I have been informed that the council did not supplement staffing for the loss of staff input at this high level.

    What effect, if any, this arrangement had on the council’s ability to administer its social services at this level, has never been considered. I understand that this arrangement is no longer in place and that children’s and social service senior management has been reorganised.

    Senior officers have never apparently addressed the High Court’s findings concerning the council’s highlighted administrative shortcomings in not being able to evidence its reasons for decisions in the light of all relevant considerations. Such an internal administrative exercise or review would not have impinged upon the second judicial review in my view.

    We have subsequently been through the farce of senior pension arrangements, since rescinded at, as yet, undisclosed wasted costs, where not only were the minutes found to be inadequate but the report submitted by officers (who had a financial interest, as well as officers in attendance at the meeting) did not apparently give consideration to all relevant factors. We need not mention Pembroke Dock grant scheme internal issues including the alteration of minutes, or misleading internal audit assurances.

    Going back to the “overlooked” Statutory Instrument, the council’s consideration of this was approved by cabinet on the eve of the second judicial review. Going to court without evidence that this had been considered, would have course been incompetence beyond even this council’s senior management. Cabinet did however refer the matter to O&S for review; this involved a commissioning plan for older persons’ services.

    I took the trouble to go through this and wrote to my councillor, (David Bryan, the then IPG Chairman of the O&S Committee) and my Older Person’s Champion and the then Cabinet member for Adult Services, David Wildman, with a series of questions that I thought relevant to the O&S committee’s review.

    Do not forget this plan had already been approved by cabinet, and although founded on the need to contain expenditure in the face of increasing demand, the plan did not mention or detail any financial effects, but then reports rarely if ever do. I would have thought this aspect was very much relevant.

    I received a detailed response from an officer of the council, to which I responded with more questions arising from that response. I made it quite clear that I did not expect a response from officers but rather hoped that my concerns would be addressed by the in depth scrutiny to be undertaken by the O&S committee. Such misplaced faith.

    (The external auditor has subsequently found that most members lack the ‘motivation’ and ‘capacity’ to challenge and that officers do not properly inform members of all relevant considerations). I understand that the council’s view is that relevant consideration are those considered by officers to be relevant.

    I subsequently received a letter from the Monitoring Officer listing the number of times that I had submitted FoI requests to Council and advising me that by writing to officers, I was taking up their time from service delivery. It was pointed out that exercising rights carried responsibility.

    My original letter had been referred to officers by a councillor. I also received a letter from cabinet member Wildman that any correspondence he sent me, was considered confidential.

    Given the state that this wretched council is in, when senior officers also baulk at allowing councillors access to documents, it seems that the only way we, the paying public, can influence matters is by engaging with the council formally and directly.

    We have a right to Freedom of Information, which the council must supply if it holds it, and we also have the right to submit our views and concerns to the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Such committees must consider our views and let us know the outcome. I have availed my self of this opportunity twice, with no obvious effect and the committee did not even consider my views which were addressed (dismissed?) in passing, at the meeting by an officer.

    I understand my views had been handed round to members just before the meeting. So much for the public engagement that the council advertises.

    The Monitoring Officer also advised that councillors were not obliged to respond to their constituents.

  • Welshman 23

    Hi John Hudson,

    You were correct but could you put together a letter we could put our names to and forward, not knowing you I feel that you have a wealth of experience.

    My reply from the Ombudsman is this:

    Thank you for your email. From the information you have provided I can only give you a general response at this time.

    If you want the Ombudsman to consider any of your concerns about Pembrokeshire County Council, you will have to make a specific complaint to us detailing your concerns.

    If your complaint concerns the maladministration or service failure of the Council as a public body, you can complete our Public Body complaint form, available on our website at http://www.ombudsman-wales.org.uk/en/Making%20a%20complaint.aspx

    However please note that the Ombudsman can only consider complaints that have been through the formal complaints procedure of the relevant body. You would therefore have to make a formal complaint, and receive a final response, from the Council before having recourse to the Ombudsman.

    If you wish to make a complaint about an individual Councillor, you can do this by completing our Code of Conduct form, available on our website via the link above.

    Please note, however, that there are some restrictions governing what the Ombudsman can and cannot investigate, for example matters relating to pay and staff discipline. You may wish to look at our website for more information.

    I hope this information is useful to you.

    Yours sincerely

    Complaints Advice Team
    Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

  • Martin Lewis

    Jacob, what’s the record for the number of comments on one of your blog posts?

  • Martin,

    Coincidently, both this article from January along with this one from April have attracted 89 comments so far, the most of any on my site, so far!

  • This morning’s revelations in the Pembrokeshire Herald, regarding the chief executive’s “expletive-laden” tirade, directed at two of the IPPG members who dared to vote the wrong way over the pension business, put even this “molehunt” in the shade.

  • Welshman 23

    Jacob and Old Grumpy you are 5 star people. I would like to thank Paul Miller and the unions who had the courage to organise last week’s demonstration.

    If someone is going to take over on a temporary basis in BPJ’s absence, god forbid if this person is selected by the IPPG members. I hear next Monday’s IPPG meeting is a guarded secret and the members will be told only hours before were it’s being held.

    I hope BPJ has had his keys for the Kremlin taken back and he is suffering for the way he has treated his staff and Pembrokeshire people. Sue Thomas was a whistle blower and ended up being sacked by the council, I hope someone has the courage to reopen her case and either apologise in public or reinstate her. I wonder how many other council employes have been bullied and eventually forced to leave PCC.

    To all IPPG councillors, I hope yesterday’s news will pull you to your senses and make you do the job you are paid for, that is representing your constituents, and not follow your leader like sheep. I hope some common sense will prevail.

    Final point, I know Mark Edwards and I ask the question if you had treated one of your staff like BPJ treated you then I am sure you would have been taken for bullying, why oh why did you leave this so long?

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