LESLEY Griffiths, the Welsh Government Minister for Local Government, has been asked to intervene in the way in which Carmarthenshire county council is run.

Referring to what he considers to be a ‘democratic deficit’ at County Hall, AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas has called on the Welsh Government to examine "how democratically-elected councillors are prohibited from raising matters in meetings of the full council".

In his letter to Ms Griffiths, Mr Thomas writes: “In the almost fifteen years I have represented Carmarthenshire in the National Assembly I have never known public confidence in the county council to be so low."

At yesterday's meeting of full counci,l Gorslas member Darren Price proposed to suspend the council’s standing orders in order to raise a matter. Councillors were invited to vote, but Cllr Price was not allowed to ‘make the case’ for his request.

Mr Thomas believes proper procedures were not followed because, he said, councillors were told to vote without knowing what they were voting on.

The AM now wants the Minister to consider placing Carmarthenshire council into special measures "until faith in the democratic process had been restored".

He added: “There appears to be a culture in which decisions are made behind closed doors; with very little opportunity for opposition councillors to challenge or discuss decisions which have been made. The recent revelation surrounding the Chief Executive’s new pension arrangement is a case in point.

“The Council’s constitution has been manipulated over a number of years to concentrate power in the hands of a select group of officers and executive board members. Even when councillors follow the letter of that constitution to raise matters of concern, they immediately find themselves hitting an ‘officer road block’.

“When Cllr Darren Price requested the suspension of standing orders at this week’s full council meeting, I am at a loss to explain why officers advised councillors to vote on the request without knowing what issue they were voting on.

“There is without doubt a democrat deficit in Carmarthenshire. It’s my view that senior officers are working on behalf of the Labour and Independent coalition instead of the council as a whole."

"The people of Carmarthenshire deserve better than the way in which the current administration operates.”

Meanwhile, Plaid leader Peter Hughes-Griffiths has expressed his disappointment that leader Kevin Madge rejected Plaid's request for a statement regarding the on-going legal row with the Wales Audit Office and its claims of “unlawful” payments made on behalf of chief executive Mark James.

“The Council is embroiled in a legal battle with the Wales Audit Office over two unlawful payments of around £40,000 involving the chief executive," said Cllr Hughes-Griffiths.

“But despite my request, it is a deep disappointment that the Labour leader of the council has refused to make a statement and explain to us, as elected representatives of Carmarthenshire communities, exactly what the auditor has said and how this impacts on the council."