Jacob Williams
Monday 15th September, 2014

Arguing the toss

Arguing the toss

Last Friday’s extraordinary council meeting was a high profile affair, and with three big items on the agenda a lot was packed into it, though it wasn’t all debated in the open in front of the public, press and web cameras.

The morning started with the vote of no confidence in the leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams.

Surprisingly – and some say disappointingly – not all signatories to the notice of motion spoke on this matter.

Chairman Cllr. Tom Richards invited all signatories to the motion who were present to speak first, and once all of those willing to speak had had their say, Tom moved to “any other member who wishes to address council.”

First of these was Cllr. Myles Pepper, who simply said he would be supporting the motion of no confidence. In fact he turned out to be the only ruling group councillor present who failed to give support to his party’s leader.

None of his IPPG colleagues even abstained, which led Cllr. Mike Evans to observe later on in the debate: “Look out Myles, that’s you gone!” which was a reference to the £9k per year chairmanship of the authority’s planning committee which Cllr. Pepper currently holds onto at the sole discretion of the leader he failed to support.

We then moved on to Cllr. Keith Lewis, who started by reminding us he was from up north, where they “all work hard, speak Welsh and try our best to maintain the traditional way of life.”

This was to set the tone of things to come from the cabinet benches, because, with nods throughout from Cllr. Elwyn Morse sitting beside him, Cllr. Lewis then set out a few examples where Cllr. Adams had been the key element of the fast progress the council has made through recent tough times.

This includes that elongated period involving much managerial bloodshed where the spotlight fell on the council’s education and safeguarding matters, and which required the intervention of the Ministerial Board. Cllr. Lewis parted with the suggestion that “now is not the time to change leader.”

That the council moved quickly through the intervention of the Ministerial Board doesn’t ring that clearly with my own recollection, because in early correspondence – and all while under Cllr. Adams’ leadership – His Honour, Graham Jones, the Ministerial Board’s chair, made references to the resistance to change he was facing from the authority.

Then again, as the leader always tells us, it’s all about outcomes, not processes.

Staying up north, and in the cabinet, we next heard from the Maenclochog maestro, Cllr. Rev. Huw George.

Encapsulating the speech in words would be missing the point. You’ve got to watch it for yourself to appreciate the theatrics of the contribution, which some have since referred to as “a load of crêpe.”

All I’m saying is, if councillors had any doubts going into the meeting that a pancake has two sides, then they came out of it in certain knowledge that, no matter how thin – or thick in some councillors’ cases – a pancake always has two sides, thanks to the wise old sayings of one of Cllr. George’s church congregation.

Cllr. George asked us to “flip the pancake for a minute,” presumably so we could all inspect some of the good things lurking on the surface of Cllr. Adams’ charred underbelly which only a toss would enable sufficient access to.

After reciting the bizarre culinary allusion, the deputy leader posed the question: “Why do I – and why should we – have confidence in our leader Jamie Adams?”

Now I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure the thirty-one grand plus he receives each year for being a deputy to Cllr. Adams has some influence here.

He then gave us chapter and verse on the leader’s credentials. He’s a Keeston boy, went to school at Ysgol Dewi Sant, played football, been in the Young Farmers’ Club, which makes him “Pembrokeshire through and through.”

He reminded us that our dear leader also consistently stands up for “high quality services,” and getting “value for money” and wants to “promote and protect Pembrokeshire.”

There were some audible groans when he said “Jamie believes in local democracy,” but this was nothing compared to the reception he received in response to: “…and the people of Pembrokeshire trust him.”

I’m all for giving credit when and where credit’s due, but does Cllr. George really think that Cllr. Adams was, as he said, “integral to the work of safeguarding 400 jobs in this county,” at the Murco refinery, and that the campaign to save Withybush services was “led by Jamie Adams”?

Other contributions included Cllr. John Allen-Mirehouse who sought further clarification from Cllr. Mike Stoddart who claimed Cllr. Adams had lied to council at the December full council meeting when he said he had seen with his own eyes that a roof which Cllr. Stoddart says has not been fully re-slated using grant money, had, in fact, been fully re-slated.

Cllr. Allen-Mirehouse couldn’t quite get his head around how part of a roof could be re-slated but not the whole of it. After some toing and froing betwen Cllrs. Allen-Mirehouse and Stoddart, this line of inquiry got chairman Tom hot under the collar and he put an abrupt end to it, even stopping Cllr. Brian Hall in his tracks.

I think it was former leader, Cllr. John Davies who summed up the intentional disregard shown by the majority of councillors to the views advanced by those who think Cllr. Adams is not worthy of confidence.

Notwithstanding all that had been said about Cllr. Adams, he explained why he would still be supporting his successor. The way he worded this was important because he didn’t admit any disagreement with the negative aspects that had been advanced against the leader.

He said: “I do not question the issues that have been very much rehearsed by the signatories of the notice of motion…” before explaining why it was important to have a strong leader to take the good ship PCC through the choppy waters ahead, so he couldn’t support a change in leadership, and concluded with the urge to councillors to “stick by Cllr. Jamie Adams.”

One of the most interesting votes and contributions came from Cllr. Reg Owens.

I revealed just weeks ago, how, at a non-secret secret meeting of the ruling party, Cllr. Owens had told Cllr. Adams that, while he supported him in private, when it came to a vote of no confidence in public and in front of the webcam, he would have to abstain.

So it came as a surprise to hear Cllr. Owens saying that Cllr. Adams was needed to lead the council “into battle,” and justified his intention to vote against no confidence by saying that it was the chief executive “who has brought Pembrokeshire County Council down into the gutter, and he’s the one who we should be dealing with today, and hopefully we will deal with later on,” concluding that he didn’t think now was the time to change the ‘elected leadership’ of the council.

Aside from an abstention from Cllr. Mike Evans, and a vote against from Cllr. Phil Kidney – both of whom come from the unaffiliated benches – and Cllr. Pepper’s rebellion, the vote followed party lines, with all opposition councillors present voting for no confidence, and all ruling IPPG councillors against.

The recorded vote appears below:

Unaffiliated
Phil Baker
Tessa Hodgson
Owen James
Stephen Joseph
David Lloyd
Mike Stoddart
Vivien Stoddart
Jacob Williams

Plaid Cymru
Rod Bowen
Michael Williams

Labour
Pat Davies
Alison Lee
Paul Miller
Gwilym Price
Tony Wilcox
Guy Woodham

Conservative
David Howlett

Pembrokeshire Alliance
Jonathan Nutting
Peter Stock

IPPG
Myles Pepper

20

IPPG
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
Pearl Llewellyn
Peter Morgan
Elwyn Morse
David Neale
Reg Owens
Sue Perkins
David Pugh
David Rees
Tom Richards
Ken Rowlands
Rob Summons
Arwyn Williams
Steve Yelland

Unaffiliated
Phil Kidney

29

Unaffiliated
Mike Evans

1



Next up was the vote of no confidence in the council’s chief executive, Bryn Parry-Jones.

The debate was brief – but the result was a resounding blow for the chief executive who’s served nineteen years in post.

It was all the more remarkable for the names of the key figures of the council, dating back to its inception, who voted for no confidence in the man they’d served under for so long.

Fresh from his own brush with no confidence, Cllr. Jamie Adams did his best to give the appearance that he was making up his mind as he spoke, but eventually came down on the side of no confidence, though not because of any particular reasons, but because he didn’t think “that any individual can effectively operate within the current environment.”

It’s unclear whether he included his own leadership as a contributor to the “current environment” he spoke of, and he didn’t elaborate on this point so we can only guess.

Towards the crunch end of the debate, at the request of Cllrs. Mike Evans and Paul Harries, a majority of councillors then voted to go into private session, which necessitated excluding the press and public, and turning off the webcam.

This was so – and at their request – some legal advice could be imparted by two lawyers from Eversheds who been parachuted in to aid the council’s own legal eagles, who had sat in on the meeting.

Following the legal intermission the matter went to the vote. The recorded vote appears below, which shows that all councillors present voted for no confidence in Mr. Parry-Jones, apart from Cllrs. John Allen-Mirehouse, Daphne Bush, John Davies, Brian Hall, Owen James and David Pugh.

IPPG
Jamie Adams
Mark Edwards
Wynne Evans
Lyndon Frayling
Huw George
Simon Hancock
Paul Harries
Umelda Havard
Mike James
Michael John
Keith Lewis
Rob Lewis
Pearl Llewellyn
Peter Morgan
Elwyn Morse
David Neale
Reg Owens
Myles Pepper
Sue Perkins
David Rees
Tom Richards
Ken Rowlands
Rob Summons
Arwyn Williams
Steve Yelland

Unaffiliated
Phil Baker
Mike Evans
Tessa Hodgson
Stephen Joseph
Phil Kidney
David Lloyd
Mike Stoddart
Vivien Stoddart
Jacob Williams

Plaid Cymru
Rod Bowen
Michael Williams

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

Conservative
David Howlett

Pembrokeshire Alliance
Jonathan Nutting
Peter Stock

46

IPPG
John Allen-Mirehouse
Brian Hall

Unaffiliated
Owen James

3

IPPG
Daphne Bush
John Davies
David Pugh

3



The final item on the agenda was taken in private session, and for quite some time it seemed – to me at least – that discussion went around in circles.

The debate was on Cllr. Paul Miller’s proposal that a disciplinary investigatory committee be established to investigate the chief executive’s conduct with a view to ascertaining if Mr. Parry-Jones has a case to answer.

As well as setting up the panel, Cllr. Miller’s proposal also sought the immediate suspension of the chief executive.

Though such an option is open to full council, immediate suspension must be reasoned by one or more grounds of urgency that are set out in the rules, one of which relates to the harm on the reputation of the authority should the employee remain in post during the committee’s investigation.

This element of the motion was met with some resistance and saw some impassioned and persuasive arguments from both sides, however it was eventually voted down by 26 votes to 22, with two abstentions.

Unaffiliated
Phil Baker
Mike Evans
Tessa Hodgson
Stephen Joseph
Mike Stoddart
Vivien Stoddart
Jacob Williams

Plaid Cymru
Rod Bowen
Michael Williams

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

IPPG
Wynne Evans
Simon Hancock
Michael John
Reg Owens

Conservative
David Howlett

Pembrokeshire Alliance
Jonathan Nutting

22

IPPG
Jamie Adams
Daphne Bush
John Davies
Mark Edwards
Huw George
Brian Hall
Paul Harries
Umelda Havard
Mike James
Keith Lewis
Rob Lewis
Pearl Llewellyn
Elwyn Morse
David Neale
Myles Pepper
Sue Perkins
David Pugh
David Rees
Tom Richards
Ken Rowlands
Rob Summons
Arwyn Williams
Steve Yelland

Unaffiliated
Owen James
Phil Kidney
David Lloyd

26

IPPG
Lyndon Frayling
Peter Morgan

2



Having voted down the proposal which included the immediate suspension of the chief executive in private, the council then went back into open session to vote on Cllr. Jamie Adams’ own proposal which, though broadly similar to Cllr. Miller’s, did not entail any suspension, but it does delegate power to the chairman of the disciplinary investigatory committee – who will be appointed at its first meeting – to direct an ’emergency’ suspension.

When we came back into public session Cllr. Reg Owens raised a very pertinent point of order – he said that, as we were going in to public session to vote on Cllr. Adams’ proposal, we should also have taken the vote on Cllr. Paul Miller’s proposal in public session too, but we didn’t. It’s hard to disagree but, disagree they did, because Cllr. Owens was not listened to.

As members had discussed the matters in full in private session during the debate on Cllr. Miller’s proposal, there wasn’t much left to discuss on Cllr. Adams’ amendment, apart from seeking some clarification.

The leader told council in answer to one of my questions that this delegated power would not affect the committee’s own pre-existing power to introduce an ordinary suspension by a resolution of the committee members when they meet.

So who are they?

This new investigatory committee consists of:

Cllrs. Daphne Bush, Wynne Evans, Lyndon Frayling, Mike James, Michael John, Keith Lewis, Elwyn Morse and Steve Yelland for the ruling IPPG.

Cllr. David Howlett for the Conservatives.

Cllrs. David Lloyd and Mike Stoddart from unaffiliated members.

Cllrs. Alison Lee and Paul Miller for Labour.

Cllr. Jonathan Nutting for the Pembrokeshire Alliance

Cllr. Michael Williams for Plaid Cymru.

A notification was sent out to councillors this afternoon with details of the first gathering of this ‘Disciplinary Investigation Committee,’ which will be held on Friday 19th September at 11am, the main part of which will be behind closed doors.


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70 Comments...

  • Gwylon Phillips

    Who is the independent chair?

  • Good evening Gwylon, as I said in the post, the chairman of the committee will be elected by its members when it first meets. The committee consists entirely of elected councillors and has no lay members like the standards committee does.

    If the committee decides the chief executive has a case to answer then a ‘designated independent person’ will be appointed to conduct the full investigation. That person will be appointed with the agreement of the committee and the chief executive, or, in the case where no agreement can be reached, by the Welsh Government.

  • Martin Lewis

    What are the chances of a whitewash? Considering the IPPG members have an 8/15 majority on the committee, it raises a stench immediately. Will the decision whether there is a case to answer be made on a majority vote?

  • Jon Coles

    Not a surprise. So many “without strong views” from the ruling group = “so many who can be leaned on” to do the right thing for the ruling group.

    How about John Evans MBE for Chair? He laughed.

  • Pembroke Philosopher

    You’re all so quick to mock Councillor George but those of an ideological and metaphysical bent think his pancake parallel poses particularly plaguing philosophical problems for us all to ponder.

    Now we all know that the IPPG is a pretty tight knit family, and they say blood is thicker than water. However maple syrup is thicker than blood, so does that mean pancakes are more important than the IPPG?

  • Dave Edwards

    Can anyone think of a weaker IPPG contingent?

  • Andrew Lye

    15 is a rather large committee, that’s 1 in 4 councillors.

  • Observer

    I’m reminded of the chap on Shrove Tuesday whose wife asked him to pop into the shop on his way home from work to get something nice to go on the pancakes.

    She wasn’t very amused when he turned up that evening with a frilly push-up bra.

  • Jon Coles

    After Huw George’s apparent description of his leader’s administration as akin to a “pancake of destiny”, I am – and no doubt many others are – agog to find out precisely how many metaphors it is that one man can get lost in.

    Or perhaps Huw sees himself as sort of like Forrest Gump, after all, others do. “The IPPG is like a box of chocolates. Sooner or later, all that will be left is the nuts.”

    The custard pie of truth, followed by the door of exit, cannot be far away.

  • Paul Absalom

    I read Mark Muller’s piece in the WT last week about the workhouse. In it he says ‘instruction was given to ensure the election of a board of guardians; one member from each parish. Initially unpopular as an unpaid position, the resulting board consisted largely of uneducated, ill suited representatives and became the early form of county councils.’

    This was in 1836, except for the unpaid position not a lot has changed in 178 years. (Sorry Cllr George, you’ll have to ask someone to explain how I worked that sum out.)

    Listening to Cllr George on Friday, I thought he was going to say Jamie was the new Messiah. He was Chris Overton and he saved Murco. Perhaps we should all bow. Then poor old Squirehouse and Hall did not understand that it does not matter whether the roof had been re-slated fully or not but the fact Cllr Adams and Pugh had LIED about seeing the WHOLE of the roof from inside.

    Roll on 2017, let’s get this shower out.

  • Observer

    A weak contingent indeed, David Edwards. I think the IPPG’s lineup does bear some resemblance to Burton’s shop window.

    Full of dummies.

  • John Hudson

    8 of the 8 cabinet members present voted against the motion of no confidence in the Leader. They were all appointed to their positions by him personally and all derive a senior salary as it is called by virtue of this appointment.

    Would any member of the public reasonably perceive a conflict with their role in taking part in the vote of no confidence in their Leader, their well-being or financial position or that of a person with whom they have a close personal association? Should these interests have been declared?

    29 voted against, less the 8 (who may be perceived as having prejudicial interests, if a member of the public would regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice their judgement of the public interest), leaves 21. Still a majority of 1 with confidence in the Leader! Did these votes influence matters in any way?

    Was not this meeting originally planned for the 12th, and changed to the 19th before being changed again to the 12th? According to the council’s agenda meeting website all 60 members were expected to attend on 12th. Had any members given prior notice that they would not be able to attend on 12th leading to the change to the 19th?

  • Martin,

    The statutory political balance rules require the majority group on the council to have a majority on ALL committees – hence the 8-7 split. And, yes, decisions will be made by majority vote.

    Andrew,

    15 was chosen because that was the best number to reflect the overall political balance on the council. Nine, for instance would be 5 IPPG, 1 Lab, 1 Plaid Cymru and 2 unaffiliated with no place for Tories or Pembrokeshire Alliance.

    You can work out the allocations for other committee sizes by applying the formula: number of members in group divided by total number of seats (60) multiplied by number of seats on committee, with any left over seats going to unaffiliated members.

    All fractions above half are rounded up to next highest whole number.

  • Welshman 23

    Great comment Observer, it’s a little harsh though because at least dummies stand up on their own.

    Who selected the people for the other parties? The IPPG members all supported their leader in the recent vote of no confidence, will they be bleating back to their leader which in turn will get back to BPJ?

    This starts to smell like a wishy washy investigation. Does any one of them have the skills of running a business or carrying out investigations?

    Most of the IPPG are mute, they usually take no part in any discussions. E.g. Michael John, Steve Yelland, Wynne Evans. I would like to have seen Mr Summons in the mix at least his skills could have been beneficial!

  • Quill

    Disappointing turnout on the day for opposition councillors, only half of Plaid Cymru turned up, a third of the Tories, no Bob Kilmister for the Alliance. Also David Simpson and Lyn Jenkins were absent from the IPPG, this pair aren’t always solid party supporters and could have rebelled had they been present.

    There would probably have been some different results had there been a full house. It makes the multiple changes of dates look a bit fishy to me now.

  • Keanjo

    These boys really shouldn’t look to science and maths for their metaphors – no matter how thin a pancake is made it has three sides not two.

  • William Rees

    You can be absolutely sure that the way that each of the members of this committee vote will be well scrutinised by the electors and drawn to attention in future election campaigns.

  • Keanjo is right. A pancake with only two sides would have zero thickness and therefore wouldn’t provide much nourishment. I suppose you’d just have to double-up on the lemon juice and sugar.

    And, according to Newton’s Laws, if you pushed up against it it wouldn’t push back because it would have no mass.

    You would have to ask a tax specialist like Cllr Rev Huw George whether it would be subject to VAT.

  • John Hudson

    Who will be writing the minutes of the Committee’s deliberations, together with the reasons on issues determined by votes? This committee, if I understand matters, will have to report its findings to full council, even if the Chairman is convinced immediate suspension is warranted and executed by the power delegated to him/her by Council.

    The findings, whatever they are, will have to withstand the test of reasonableness. Is there a process (I do like that word) for recorded votes at non-Council meetings, or would individual councillors need to request that the way in which they voted for or against be recorded, just to preserve themselves from any fallout?

  • John,

    While to call a recorded vote at full council requires ten members to stand (in addition to the member proposing the recorded vote) at committees they can only be held by resolution of the committee i.e. a majority have to vote for it.

    In addition, in the absence of a full recorded vote, individual members have the right to ask that the way they voted be recorded in the minutes.

  • John Hudson

    I just wondered how we, on the outside, can hold councillors to account, if the vote is just recorded as agreed by majority. This might not tell the whole tale.

  • Skipper's Mate

    Rotten dealings are probably like an iceberg at the north west passage, my hearties. What you see is not what you get. The vast majority of an iceberg is under the water and can’t be seen.

    So in round figures we know of about 10% of the council’s dirty dealings. Let’s all hope we find out much more before it melts away to nothing.

  • China Teapot

    The whole lot is completely wrong. Open and honest, surely that is what independent is, not all voting for the monies received, the committee needs to be true to Pembrokeshire people, the downtrodden, who by law pay your wages…

  • Timetraveller

    I don’t think Myles Pepper has a thing to worry about with his SRA, the only reason more IPPG members didn’t join him is the present lack of alternatives.

    The problem for IPPG members is they have an entire cabinet to replace, from an oft quoted small pool. There is no mechanism for this, possible dissolution followed by some form of reconstruction around a new group may be the only way forward.

    The current leader has famously and wilfully misled the council about one of the properties (Coronation School and its roof) involved in the PD grants scheme, allegations surrounding which concern fraud involving large sums of public money. To me, this on its own should end up barring him from public office. The various regulators are reluctant to act for various reasons, but mainly because this case involves irregularities sanctioned or at the least tolerated, at a high level (Jamie doesn’t come much higher) for “the good of Pembrokeshire”.

    The “good of Pembrokeshire” in this instance is about keeping rates low. If this is only the 10% of the iceberg showing on the surface, the authority’s budget is going to be more than a bit stressed. How many could have stepped forward to replace Capt Smith AFTER the Titanic had struck? Possibly a hero who never was may somehow have saved her, more likely all anyone could have done is to arrange the deck chairs.

    Apart from Capt Adams’ seeming reluctance to leave the bridge, who really wants his job? Best find a lifeboat quick.

  • Welshman 23

    Is BPJ still in work and running the show? If so does he still have full access to all information and full IT access? I must point out that a vote of no confidence was declared last week.

  • John Hudson

    I must apologise for getting my dates wrong in my earlier comment. The original date set for the extraordinary meeting was 10th September, not the 12th.

    Still I am in good company as the 10th date was apparently set by the Chairman of the Council, until he was told that this date clashed with a National Park meeting at which several PCC appointed members would need to attend, and the meeting was re-scheduled as published on the Council’s website for the 19th. Subsequently, as we all know, the date was finally set for 12 September.

    In my mind, the question still remains, how many councillors had told the council of their holiday plans and their non-availability. They had presumably worked their holidays around the published Council calendar of meetings, so perhaps they didn’t tell anyone.

    It would be interesting to know how and why the 12th date was determined and the 19th junked.

  • Welshman 23

    I was speaking with a barrister friend of the family today who is an expert in employment law and has been following the PCC fiasco. He put a different slant on the legal side of things, saying the panel who meet on Friday should first suspend the CEO sadly on full pay until there is a full investigation into the allegations.

    He felt that the panel should have an extensive knowledge of conducting an internal investigation, it is too easy to let your emotions run away. This style of investigation usually falters and ends up costing the company in this case PCC a lot of money because procedures have not been followed.

    There are many examples were lay people have carried internal investigations in local government and it’s cost the council a fortune. Costly legal advice from a reputable employment law specialist must be sought at every stage. It has been known that the person under investigation is being guided by legal experts and can cloud the investigation taking place, as a result, suspension of the individual or individuals allows the process to proceed.

    Caution has to come into play because the persons being investigated can go on the sick and this could further delay the process for the length of the time a person’s contract states how long he or she can be paid according to their terms and conditions.

    The panel selected must be guided every step of the way to ensure fairness and the investigation must be thorough. Good luck to all 15 embarking on this challenge, it may get ugly and trust no one.

  • John Hudson

    Could the Committee decide that it did not have the appropriate legal expertise and knowledge necessary to conduct an investigation of such importance, and for the sake of proper process (that word again) and to protect the Council (and us), proceed to a formal suspension as provided for in the legislation?

    The proper investigation would then be guided by an independent chair appointed with some authority.

  • Keanjo

    The phrase ending in ‘short and curlies’ comes to mind. Spell checker tried to change ‘curlies’ to ‘cur lies’. Goes to show you have to be careful.

  • Welshman 23

    John Hudson, I did ask that particular question depending on the constitution and they do vary from one authority to another, but they could if they are allowed to appoint a chairman. My barrister friend suggested (and he would) that using specialist employment specialists was the best option.

    One thing I forgot to mention if the allegations are proved is that a disciplinary process would begin. Who in the council has the backbone to conduct a disciplinary meeting with their boss? I am not legally qualified but I think this is going to drag on and the bills will soar, legal advice is not cheap.

  • Welshman 23,

    With respect to your barrister friend – who may have experience with employment matters in the private sector – I don’t think his advice is applicable or helpful to this situation.

    There is a strict process for investigating and pursuing disciplinary complaints in relation to statutory officers. The process is set out in statute and must be followed. Might I suggest you read this article from a few weeks ago by Old Grumpy:

    http://oldgrumpy.co.uk/2014/1307/adams-and-the-gardener/

    Unlike a private sector company, there’s no debate over which is the best way of going about the issue, there is only one process and it is being followed. The committee must consist of a minimum of three councillors (the one that was set up on Friday has 15) and it is tasked with establishing if the officer has a case to answer.

    If the committee establishes that the officer has a case to answer, at that stage and only at that stage, a designated independent person will be appointed to conduct the investigation, and produce a report. This person will be suitably qualified to undertake the investigation, and you are correct in suggesting that it is likely to be a costly process, but it is the only way it can be done.

    The leader did also suggest at the full council meeting that legal assistance from Eversheds will be available to assist the committee.

  • Goldingsboy

    Who actually engaged the services of Eversheds, and will BP-J have an equal right of access to their advice in his capacity as CEO of PCC?

  • I guess the leader did. As for your second point, I don’t know about written advice, or if there will be any, as the committee is only investigating if there is a case to answer at this stage.

    I suppose oral advice relating to technical points/procedure (rather than legal opinions) could be given during a meeting of this committee at which the chief executive could be present, however it’s in all parties’ interest to follow correct procedure.

    A full investigation – should the committee ultimately decide there is a case to answer – would be undertaken by a person independent of the authority so your question wouldn’t apply at that stage as the designated independent person would have, if required, independent legal support.

  • John Hudson

    I understand that there will possibly be two committees, one set up by the Council last Friday. This preliminary investigation by 15 Councillors will have to choose a Chairman. It seems that this committee will have some legal advice.

    This Chairman will have delegated authority, from Council, to determine whether there is cause for immediate suspension. Presumably this will require a majority vote by the committee. If not, then the process stops there and the CEO returns to work, if he ever left.

    If there is thought to be a case to answer, then, we move back to the procedures laid out in legislation, whereby a suitably qualified independent chairman, mutually agreed, will investigate further. This process will result in a formal report to Council, who will then take a decision on the CEO’s future.

    Is this right?

  • John Hudson

    The Leader has no authority to incur expenditure. I think it is only the Head of Legal Services who can seek legal advice and incur the necessary expenditure. Did I read somewhere that Eversheds had been engaged through the WLGA?

  • Hi John, no, there’s only one committee, which will decide firstly if there is a case to answer. If so, a designated independent person will carry out the full investigation.

    The chairman of the committee will be appointed from among (and by) the fifteen councillors at their first meeting (tomorrow morning) and, due to the resolution of council, he or she will have the power to invoke an immediate suspension.

    Having checked with the leader during Friday’s meeting personally – on webcam – he confirmed that the chairman’s power to invoke emergency suspension does not affect the committee’s pre-existing power to invoke suspension by a majority vote, however from what I understand, the emergency suspension can take place with more or less immediate effect, whereas the normal suspension takes longer to invoke due to the process and notice to be given.

    I did hear the WLGA being mentioned during Friday’s meeting, but I’m not sure which relationship, if any, the WLGA has to Eversheds being appointed.

  • John Hudson

    Thanks Jacob,

    Surely the Council is the only body that can appoint, and pay, for its legal advice at the investigative committee stage.

    If a formal Investigation is required, led by an agreed and appointed Independent person, then both his fees and any legal advice provided to him will have to be paid for by the Council.

    Interesting murky times, I wonder what the future has in store for Pembrokeshire? All the while officers are working on the cuts. What political input is there? Yet more members only seminars behind closed doors.

    I won’t be bothering to attend any window dressing Cabinet consultations this year.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Even the Council’s own newspaper is featuring an article on the damning internal review of the management of Pembroke Dock’s grant funding scheme where it’s been reported by Katy Woodhouse: “there were instances of ‘non-compliance’ and assurance cannot be given that all work was completed to specification.”

    Why has it taken since April for the review findings to reach the public domain and did any senior officers and/or councillors know of its content before last Friday’s Day of the Long Knives?

    Highlighted in the review were concerns that work to properties, for which grant money was paid for, had not actually been completed, just as Cllr. Stoddart has been saying all along.

    Responsibility for the fiasco lies with whom? BPJ? Farmer Adams? Putrid Pugh? As a starting point, I think these three amigos must consider their positions.

    Extend my thoughts to the Officers who administered the grant scheme, the developer, architect and builder? Are any of these immune?

    What about all others including officers and councillors who have attempted to defend and downplay matters relating to the scheme and what has happened; surely they must be under consideration for discipline or fall upon their swords?

    Cllr. Stoddart and the previous lay chairman of the audit committee who resigned after what he says he perceived as a “hostile” encounter with BPJ must be applauded for backing their convictions on our behalf, and their endeavours have been rewarded when we read that “the areas of non-compliance must be further reviewed and disciplinary action considered.”

    One now has the notion that the gravy train is off the rails…at last!

  • Welshman 23

    Historic day tomorrow, Scotland voting on Independence and we may see BPJ suspended while the investigation takes place. Good luck to the committee members, make sure you select a strong Chairman.

  • The Rock

    With all this discussion on lawyers perhaps it is time to step back a little. To quote Edmund Burke – “It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.”

    But then I have to wonder, given the past behaviour of some of the IPG’s sheep, how many understand the concept.

  • Welshman 23

    The Scots voted NO, let’s hope the vote today is YES to suspend BPJ. My suggestion for Chairman would be Paul Miler, will the committee members have the balls to pick him?

  • Goldingsboy

    Jon Boy Jovi is a little premature, the gravy train may be halted due to a few leaves on the track, but it is most certainly not derailed.

    Given time, the IPG operators, who remain in full strength, will sweep those pesky obstructions away and will return to service as usual.

    Only an election is capable of achieving an ethical result in the Kremlin.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    I remain optimistic now that with the entire furore over BPJ, the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation bubbling up and the Council’s own audit department stepping up to the birds’ nest, the IPPG vessel is taking on too much water.

    Just how many of the crew will consider a mutiny before she finally sinks taking all on board with her? I doubt even Edward John Smith would want to be Captain of this ship in the current choppy waters of Pembrokeshire.

    2017 is still a long way off. We take it month by month, day by day, hour by hour. Bon Voyage Farmer Adams and your motley crew.

  • Goldingsboy

    I see from his interview in the current issue of the Pembrokeshire Herald that Jamie Adams is the individual who actually instructed Eversheds.

    If John Hudson is right that “the Council is the only body that can appoint, and pay, for its legal advice at the investigative committee stage”, then it appears the Kremlin’s Leader has bungled, yet again.

  • Dave Edwards

    Surprise, surprise. An IPPG member in the chair of the investigation panel.

  • Welshman 23

    See this article on the Western Telegraph website, Paul Miller was late for the vote to decide the chairman, and they’ve only got 3 weeks to investigate.

  • Observer

    So it seems like my comment above (16 Sept 9.38 am) which likened the IPPG contingent on the disciplinary committee to Burton’s window (full of dummies) seems to have done the trick because the Leader promptly removed Daphne Bush and Lyndon Frayling from the committee and replaced them with Ken Rowlands and Sue Perkins.

    So Burton has given way to Hepworths and Laura Ashley!

  • The Rock

    Transparency and accountability, forget it.

    According to the agenda for the Urgency Committee on 16th Sept 2014 which ratified the appointment of the new Lay Member to the Audit Committee: “Three applicants were interviewed on 1 August 2014 by the [undemocratic] Appointments Panel which comprised Mrs L George and Councillors T J Richards and S T Hudson.”

    That’s more than 5 weeks ago.

    Perhaps the agenda should have read: “In order to facilitate delaying discussion on the embarrassing issues regarding the grants scheme and also avoiding exposure to full council of the selection process for a new (perhaps more compliant) Audit Committee lay person whilst at the same time pretending we are acting speedily, we have decided to call the urgency committee to ratify the appointment with as little meaningful information as we can get away with. This meeting to take place on the 16th September only 2 working days after an EGM was held where the item could have been on its agenda. (EGMs only need 5 days notice).”

    However the serious lack of meaningful information on the candidates and the selection process, reportedly, did not go unnoticed by Cllr Tessa Hodgson.

    This is another attempt by County Hall to avoid scrutiny, openness and accountability that contributed to the previous Lay Member’s resignation which has already begun to unravel.

    The Audit Committee is apparently restricted by what it can discuss due to an ongoing investigation (or non investigation) of some matters by the police, who appear like County Hall to have adopted a rather slow approach to what appears to be a relatively straight forward issue.

    No doubt Old Grumpy knows the Fraud Act 2006 by heart by now. I can understand his frustration because the Fraud Act prescribes that an offence takes place “If a person dishonestly makes a false representation, and intends, by making the representation to make a gain for himself or another…” e.g. trousering money for work you have not done or overcharged for.

    Provided potential evidence exists of this then there should be no excuse for not starting an investigation. Giving back trousered money does not get you off. If it does then the next time I get a speeding ticket I’m going to try reversing back down the same road to reduce my average speed. Neither does suggesting you have to have an identifiable loser before you investigate.

    All you need, I believe, is a false representation intended to make a gain for yourself or another.

    Just another couple of examples of Pembrokeshire ‘Democracy Inaction’ for us to consider when we elect our next councillors and Police Commissioner.

  • John Hudson

    The Council has an interesting attitude to how it authorises our money to be spent. As usual these rules are set out in the Constitution. All the money collected from us is ultimately the responsibility of the Council for which, through the Cabinet, it is accountable.

    The Council approves the annual budget, and authorises Directors/Heads of Department to spend within their department’s approved budget allocations. The Cabinet receives monitoring reports of financial performance.

    At the 2014/15 3 month stage it was reported that the target for cost reduction was unlikely to be achieved and that reductions would have to be made from elsewhere. This reported comment was received by Cabinet without any detailed plan being required!

    NO councillor has authority to incur expenditure, they can only claim for legitimate expenses that they incur. ALL spending is authorised by officers under delegated powers. Where additional expenditure is required, outside of the approved annual budget, officers are required to seek authority from cabinet with collective – not individual, responsibility.

    The Leader has responsibility for corporate affairs, including the balancing of the budget, i.e. ensuring that expenditure does not exceed income. Having said that, the Council/Cabinet has agreed that the Director of Finance can allocate and spend the reserves both capital and revenue. Effectively this means the Director can approve expenditure outside of the approved budget with it being met from the reserves under his delegated authority.

    The Cabinet does not receive reports of the state of the reserves or details of drawings/allocation made. These are however available in the final annual accounts – too late to do anything.

    Coming back to the legal expenses, which would not have been known about or provided for in the Council approved budgets for 2013/14 OR 2014/15. The Head of Legal Service has authority to defend or settle legal proceedings as set out in Part 3 Section 5.3. The Chief Executive is also authorised to undertake this and other functions delegated to Directors.

    I suspect that the additional cost of legal fees was met from the reserves, or “lost” in the (£11.7m 2013/14) Central Services expenditure that is charged out over services, and avoids any central scrutiny. Who would know?

    One further twist is that the Council, or rather its officers, prefer to monitor expenditure at NET level rather than the GROSS cost of providing our services. In this way additional expenditure incurred during the year can be masked by increases in income and nobody is any the wiser!

  • Quill

    John Hudson, the legal fees incurred trying to defend the indefensible at Pembrokeshire County Council are stacking up. A few years ago there were the two judicial reviews brought against the council’s setting of care home fees where the judge had comments about the authority’s attitude. I forget what it was, but it was to the effect that it was essentially reckless in its actions. Those legal fees were a waste of money.

    Then there was the pension issue with Tim Kerr QC who was parachuted in to defend officers and/or the council’s unlawful opt-out amendment. Not to mention the costs that had been incurred before that in obtaining legal advice jointly with Carmarthenshire council. That was all a waste of money because councillors accepted the auditor’s findings.

    While we’re at money wasted, what about the council’s “investment” in Bluestone?

    Don’t even get me started on European money spent on cycle tracks and the new Haverfordwest Bridge Street paving.

  • The Rock,

    As you say, there is something not quite right about the way the lay member of the audit committee was appointed.

    I have been in correspondence with the Monitoring Officer about this over the past few weeks and my view is that the whole process is unlawful.

    Needless to say he does not agree with me, though he is yet to provide any evidence that convinces me that I am wrong.

    The use of the urgency committee to endorse the latest appointment seems to indicate that he has given some ground because his previous stance was that the three-person appointments panel, which meets in secret and publishes no minutes, had the power to appoint without reference to anyone.

    However, that causes some difficulty for the authority because the previous incumbent, Mr John Evans was appointed by the panel acting alone.

    Of course, if that appointment did require endorsement by full council/urgency committee, it was never properly made which casts doubt on the lawfulness of the audit committee’s activities over the past two years.

    It would also mean that any payments made to Mr Evans by way of allowances and expenses would be unlawful items of account.

    I think you might be hearing quite a bit more about this issue over the coming week or so.

    It is a bit unfair to drag the Police Commissioner into this because my understanding is that he has no control whatsoever over operational decisions such as whether or not to mount an investigation.

  • John Hudson

    Is our Council run by incompetents, who, because of failure to identify and abide by proper constitutional process, then have to seek to defend, or get round, obstacles by seeking other constitutional arguments or pathways that do not stand up to scrutiny?

    Thank goodness there are some Councillors who are prepared to challenge.

  • The Rock

    Thanks Mike, the appointment fiasco makes more sense now.

    I understand where Mike (Old Grumpy) is coming from, taking a pop at the police commissioner is not directly going to resolve the grants issue. However the sort of problems with the investigation (or lack of it in my opinion) are symptomatic of a leadership issue. (Plenty of good examples of these available locally).

    The ordinary detective and police constables joined up to fight crime and solve crime. Doing nothing and finding excuses for inactivity was not in their minds, they invariably join to serve the people. The problem therefore is elsewhere. It lies with those who set policy and priorities. Those who lead.

    As the Police Commissioner was set up to have a “mission to fight crime” and two of his roles are: ensuring the police provide an efficient and effective service, and setting the local policing priorities based on consultation with local people, I feel he is a legitimate target if the police force he oversees takes forever to start an investigation (lack of efficiency) and where tea and biscuits with Welsh Office auditors takes priority over apprehending potential criminals.

    I think it is time to question if he has set the right culture for his police to work within. After all his mission set by parliament is to fight crime.

  • Keanjo

    Tesco discovers discrepancies in their accounts and immediately suspend four people pending an investigation. What a contrast to PCC who dither about for months on end, seeking legal advice and wasting time.

  • Casual Observer

    Not really one for this site but a thought to share.

    Each of the Home Nations is to have greater control over its affairs with only defence etc being decided by the Westminster UK Government.

    So let each country, including England, have Assembly Members for their own. They will vote on what affects their country. Where appropriate they will also vote on defence issues etc.

    I hear you ask where our MPs will fit in. They will not be needed as they are duplicating what the Assembly Members can do. That’s a huge saving on 654 MPs, salaries, pensions, duck houses…

    I never could understand with the introduction of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Assemblies we still retained 654 MPs.

  • Dave Edwards

    Jacob, I saw with interest that the Audit Committee, of which you are a member, met yesterday. The committee, as expected, welcomed the new “Independent Member”, one Peter Jones, and installed him in the Chair. So far so good I thought but then something was nagging at my brain (yes I still have one)! I realised that I had come across Mr Jones before – at an Ombudsman’s hearing in the Lamphey Court Hotel!

    In July 2007 the Ombudsman, in response to a complaint by Mike Stoddart, brought a case against Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse for breaching the Code of Conduct by failing to declare an interest in the National Park’s “homes for locals” policy when he clearly had land that fell within the policy. The defence team include a certain Peter Jones and he received £5,360 for his efforts! So in my mind questions need to be asked about impartiality.

    Did Mr Jones tell the selection panel of his connection with JAM? Did JAM say anything of his relationship with Mr Jones at the committee? Was Mr Jones given preferential treatment in his application?

    Finally, given JAM’s denials of any wrongdoing in relation to the Pembroke Dock Grant Scheme can the public perception of the Committee’s independence be anything other than extreme scepticism?

  • Rerun 57

    Three dimensional shapes have faces, not sides, in correct mathematical terminology. Faces, edges, vertices.

  • John Hudson

    I note from the report considered by the Urgency Committee of the Council, that the interviews for the Lay Member of the Audit Committee were conducted on 1 August 2014 by the Appointments Panel, Mrs Lynette George, and Councillors Tom Richards and Stan Hudson.

    The Notice of the Urgency Committee for 16 September is dated 10 September and was sent to Jamie Adams, Huw George, Rob Lewis and Tom Richards of the IPG, Paul Miller of Labour, and Phil Baker and Tessa Hodgson who are not affiliated to any group.

    No doubt Councillor Tom Richards’ presence at BOTH meetings provided him with the opportunity to provide the Urgency Committee with fuller details, if required, of the personal qualities or background of the preferred candidate which were not included in the written report.

    The summons notice for the extraordinary council meeting held on the 12th, is dated 8 September.

    Is there any particular reason why this important statutory appointment, (agreed on 1 August) and required to be made by the Authority/Council (60 members) was made by a “stand in” Urgency Committee of only 7 members on 16 September?

    I seem to recall a former Council Leader having an opportunity to give the Senior Staff Committee “advice” about a matter which was not included in the report or even minuted.

    It does look as though Mike has caught the Council out again and it is true that the Appointments Panel had no authority to interview or determine the Lay Audit Committee member. Hence the need for the Urgency Committee to meet to rubber stamp the appointment based on little other than a recommendation.

    What a wonderful council this is!

  • Martin Lewis

    I asked in an earlier comment “what chance of a whitewash?”…after reading Stodds’ blog tonight the odds have shortened severely. You just couldn’t make it up. Are these people incapable of learning ANYTHING???

    And to top it all I witnessed Huw “Pancake” George on Castle Square today indulging in another photo opportunity with some road sweepers, ironic really considering that Castle Square was half covered in litter while he was patting them all on the back.

  • The Rock

    It’s back. The webcast returns. After at least a month hiding away you can now listen to the member for Angle/Hundleton Allen-Mirehouse and assorted fellow travellers dribbling on about “facts” on the official webcast, December 2013.

    How times change, what was once true is not so true now. But without Jacob and the YouTube version I suspect it might have been lost forever. (At least 150 views per last month). Thanks Jacob.

  • Goldingsboy

    Old Grumpy has just described on his website the highly questionable, possibly illegal, selection process used by the council in the appointment of the new lay member of the Audit Committee. If this is democracy in action then I am a banana.

  • Martin,

    Over the years, I have noticed that whenever a member of the IPPG is under pressure, the response is to increase the number of times they feature in council press releases. This is designed to persuade a sceptical public that they are doing a really important job.

    Cllr George has put in quite a number of such appearances over the past three weeks.

    The classic example was some years ago when I highlighted Cllr Brian Hall’s dubious expense claiming practices (see here).

    These included purchasing a meal at the service station near the Severn Bridge at 1.15 pm and, on the same day, leaving Pembroke Dock at 2.00 pm to attend a meeting in Swansea.

    I calculated that this required an average speed of approx 150 mph.

    Over the following weeks, there was a rash of press releases in the Western Telegraph showing Cllr Hall in his important role as the council’s transport supremo.

    Someone in the press office obviously had a sense of humour because one of them showed Cllr Hall with his road safety hat on, standing in front of a billboard bearing the words “SPEED KILLS!”

  • Martin Lewis

    Jamie Adams, Johnny Allen-Mirehouse and Huw George were sat having a pint in the Bristol Trader, putting the world to rights, discussing many things when conversation got around to how they named their children.

    Jamie Adams says: “My son was born on St DAVID’s Day, so we named him David, in terms of a Christian name…”

    Johnny Allen-Mirehouse says: “My first born son arrived on St GEORGES’s day don’t you know, so we named him George…”

    Huw George says: “I don’t believe it, you two had the same idea as me! My son is called Pancake!”

  • Tonto

    Martin Lewis, I am one of the road sweepers who was on the square on Wednesday. The photo was being taken because Pembrokeshire has the cleanest streets in Wales, 2013-2014. This is because of the efforts of the road sweepers.

    There was no litter on Castle Square that morning, so please don’t knock the road sweepers, we don’t deserve it, thanks.

  • Clive Davies

    Great Tonto. Well done to you road sweepers. But what’s it got to do with Huw George who gets much more than you do for all your hard work but it seems is little more than a (pancake) tosser?

  • John Hudson

    I wonder how much the Council’s press or media office costs us? If it does little more than provide puff for Cabinet members and ready made articles for the local press, could not this be a front-line cut?

  • Martin Lewis

    Wasn’t meant to be a derisory comment about the road sweepers Tonto, I have nothing but admiration for the workers. It’s pancake tossers like Huw George parading around like he’s lord of the manor when he should be off doing some real work.

    It’s all the time he spent doing photo opportunities that caused him to fall flat on his arse when he was Cabinet Member for Education and the council was subsequently put into special measures. He spends far too much time doing PR which is nothing more than an exercise to try and deceive the public that all is well with the county when the fact is it’s anything but!

    Your award is well deserved, I just can’t see what the hell Huw George has to do with your sterling efforts.

  • Goldingsboy

    Huw George, in defending his leader during the no confidence debate, claimed that Jamie had been “integral to the work of safeguarding 400 jobs” at the Murco refinery. Now that we know that Cllr. George’s assertion had as much substance as his pancake mix, will Adams now do the decent thing and resign?

  • Dave Edwards

    A very interesting chart has been published in the scathing WLGA report on Carmarthenshire County Council. When voters in every local authority in Wales were asked “Do you agree or disagree that you can influence decisions in you local authority”, Pembrokeshire had the lowest percentage(15%) who agreed. Food for much thought as this report could have easily been written about Pembrokeshire.

  • Goldingsboy

    Dave, are you sure it was as high as 15%?

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