South Wales Guardian opinion

First published in Ammanford news

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s chief executive Mark James will no longer undertake his duties as chief executive until police enquiries concerning the two Wales Audit Office Public Interest Reports are concluded.

His “stepping aside” is obviously a move to be welcomed – it clears the way for the investigation by Gloucestershire Police.

But what exactly are the terms and conditions of Mr James’s current position? Highly-paid public civil servants are traditionally suspended on full pay.

But this is not a suspension, remember. According to council leader Kevin Madge, Mr James voluntarily stepped aside “by mutual agreement”. Yet we have been told he is still being paid his £180,000-a-year salary.

And there is just no let-up for this beleagured authority. Today (Wednesday) sees what promises to be a highly stormy budget meeting when members will be asked to approve, on the recommendation of officers, reports which the Wales Audit Office believe misled councillors.

Back in November, Cllr Madge laughed off suggestions that the police could ultimately be called in.

As he fastens his seatbelt for another turbulent week, he will no doubt be reflecting on Sir Harold Wilson’s famous observation: “A week is a long time in politics.

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