CARMARTHENSHIRE county council made headlines in the national press last week – for all the wrong reasons.

Over the preceding five days at the Royal Courts of Justice, the libel case involving chief executive Mark James and blogger Jacqui Thompson increasingly resembled a PR car crash as far as the local authority was concerned – and the full extent of the damage is still to be assessed.

Mrs Thompson, a persistent critic of County Hall, sued Mr James for comments he made about her. Mr James retaliated by counter-suing Mrs Thompson for remarks posted on her blog.

The big difference, of course, is that Mr James’ case is being supported by county council funds – in other words, money from the pockets of us ratepayers.

The extent of these costs are still unknown – £50,000? £100,000? Who knows? It’s all guesswork at this stage.

But it seems reasonable to suggest that the final bill may well exceed the £92,000 annual savings County Hall estimates it will make by the transfer of public toilets – or the combined salaries of the 15 groundsmen who may lose their jobs in the council’s latest round of cost-cutting.

That is why people are so angry.

How can such expenditure be justified in this age of austerity?

In a hard-hitting editorial, The Times accused the council of acting “arrogantly and defensively” stating: “It has wielded excessive official and financial power against a lone citizen and has therefore become a case study in how not to behave in an era of transparency and accountability.”