CARMARTHENSHIRE county council’s executive board have reversed a decision to grant chief executive Mark James the sum of £16,353 paid in lieu of pension contributions.

A U-turn was always going to launch a raft of awkward questions, yet an obstinate refusal to budge could conceivably have set them on the path to the High Court and a huge legal bill.

Yet the feeling persists that Wednesday’s decision reflects a mood of rising panic within the Cabinet and was made in the hope of throwing the pursuing hounds off the scent.

As to whether it succeeds or not, the jury is still out. The Wales Audit Office continue to deliberate whether to issue a public interest report or not.

The council minutes state the executive board resolved that “without conceding that it is intrinsically unlawful, that the pay supplement policy be withdrawn on procedural grounds”.

It would be interesting to know what those grounds were. More pertinently, who instigated the authority’s legal advice, how much did it cost and will it now be repaid?

One suspects Yuletide will scarcely bring good cheer for the executive board, its beleagured members dogged by the fear of something nasty lurking at the bottom of their Christmas stockings.