CARMARTHENSHIRE county council leader Kevin Madge has acknowledged that the row over two allegedly unlawful payments to chief executive Mark James has “damaged” the authority’s reputation.

But he maintains that there will be a public debate on the issue once the Wales Audit Office have completed their investigations in the coming weeks and that there is no question of police becoming involved as a result of the claims.

County Hall have been forced on the defensive since September when it emerged that Anthony Barrett, the WAO’s assistant auditor general, was looking into the granting of a £23,217 indemnity to pay Mr James’s costs in his libel case and counter claim against blogger Jacqui Thompson, plus £16,353 paid in lieu of pension contributions.

The council maintain that both transactions were lawful and were carried out following legal advice.

“Of course any report which says rules have been broken is damaging,” Cllr Madge told the Guardian.

“Unfortunately we have not been allowed the opportunity to defend ourselves while the auditors’ report is being put together.

“Letters we have received make it crystal-clear we cannot speak out on these matters at this stage.

“When the auditors’ report is finally published we will at last get the chance to have our say and the public will be able to make their minds up.

“We took legal advice on both issues – I want everyone to know that there will be a debate on this in January – I have nothing to hide."