County Hall's legal statements prove nothing – Plaid
9:54am Thursday 6th February 2014 in Ammanford news
COUNTY Hall's top brass have still not revealed the "magic bullet" which vindicates the "astonishing" position the local authority is taking in contesting the findings of the Wales Audit Office.
That is the view of Cllr Tyssul Evans, Deputy Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group on Carmarthenshire County Council, in response to yesterday's publication of two sets of legal advice regarding the decision to grant an indemnity to Chief Executive Mark James.
"We welcome this rare ritual of transparency from the Council's leadership," said Cllr Evans. "The council's statement now refers to three sets of legal advice – the first is from 2008 which strongly advised the council against granting an indemnity to cover the legal action of the Chief Executive.
“The second refers to advice given verbally to the Executive Board prior to making the decision. We have difficulty in accepting the independence of this verbal information as there is no record of it being given and it was from the same QC who was representing the Chief Executive in court.
“The third piece of advice relates to information provided 22 months after the Executive Board made its decision to grant the indemnity. Unless the Executive Board has fortune-telling abilities we would suggest that this legal opinion is irrelevant in relation to the findings of the Wales Audit Office.
"Furthermore, the Wales Audit Office saw both sets of legal advice and still concluded that the actions of the Council's leadership were unlawful. The council has not provided any new evidence.
"The Leader of the Council has promised to publish all information relating to the Wales Audit Office reports. We therefore call on him to now publish in full the report presented to him, former Leader Meryl Gravell, Deputy Leader Pam Palmer and the rest of the Executive Board on which the 'unlawful' decision to indemnify the Chief Executive's legal costs was based.
"Regarding the 'unlawful' pay and pension changes, we call upon the Council Leader to publish the report by Total Rewards Project Ltd – the content of which led the Executive Board to approve the Chief Executive having his pension contributions paid directly to him.
"We further call for publication of the legal advice the council received towards the end of last year which led to the arrangement being withdrawn.
"As things stand, the council leadership has yet to provide the magic bullet which vindicates the astonishing position it is taking in contesting the findings of the independent Audit Office."
In a separate development, Mid and West Wales AM Simon Thomas has asked an emergency question in the Senedd about the salaries and pensions of senior council officers in light of the damning Wales Audit Office reports into Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Council.
“In light of the Wales Audit Office reports specifically on Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and the unlawful payments made, chief officers should be suspended until a full council investigation takes place," said Mr Thomas.
"I demanded the Local Government Minister supported this proposal and asked her to call for this action publicly."
Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths said she could not comment on the audit reports as police were liaising with the CPS.
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