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A motion of no confidence in the leader, deputy leader and former leader of Carmarthenshire county council failed this afternoon.

With two officers of Gloucestershire Police watching proceedings from the public gallery, councillors followed strict party lines as the Plaid Cymru motion targeting Councillors Kevin Madge, Pam Palmer and Meryl Gravell was defeated by 41 votes to 28.

The vote followed a day of intense debate into the two Wales Audit Office Public Interest reports indentifying “unlawful” payments made to chief executive Mark James, who has “stepped aside” from his duties at the authority for the duration of a police investigation, currently being carried out by the English force.

In an often heated debate, opposition politicians pointed to Cllrs Madge, Palmer and Gravell – all of whom were members of the council executive board at the time both decisions identified by the WAO were made. Cllr Gravell was then leader of the council.

Cllr Madge repeatedly acknowledged that “mistakes had been made” in relation to both the decisions, but vowed that lessons had been learned.

Opposition councillors meanwhile said it was vital that members set aside the question of whether decisions were “legally right or wrong” and instead considered whether they were “morally correct”.

However, a plea by Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards that councillors “vote with their conscience” appeared to have fallen on deaf ears as members followed strict party lines. All members of the ruling Labour and Independent Group coalition opposed the motion while opposition members unsurprisingly all voted in favour.