Update 5th November; Prospective parliamentary candidate and county councillor Calum Higgins (Lab) has popped up and joined the debate over the chief execs pay-off. Cllr Higgins is quoted in the South Wales Guardian urging councillors to put the interests of the county before the interests of Mr James.
You would think this goes without saying and I can only imagine that unlike his colleague and leader of the council Kevin Madge, Cllr Higgins has finally realised that a hefty pay-off for Mr James, voted through by the Labour/Independent administration isn't going to win him many votes next May....
Update 4th November; The Llanelli Star is also reporting on the petition and the council confirms that Mr James' pay-off will be the subject of a vote of full council 'later this year'.
The Welsh Government recommend that any pay-off over £100,000 should be voted upon, exactly how much over the £100k threshold Mr James is intending on pocketing remains to be seen. Current estimates are between £250k and £300k.
I will be returning to the newly published WLGA report later on, but meanwhile I see that the Western Mail has published an article concerning the petition, which is approaching 500 signatures and can be signed here.
Here's the article;
Petition to block Carmarthenshire council chief's severance pay gains momentum
By Rachael Misstear
Carmarthenshire Council chief Mark James is one of 400 employees to apply for severance to end his 12 year employment with the council
A petition calling for Carmarthenshire Council not to not pay its chief executive a “golden handshake” is gaining support, having already attracted hundreds of signatures.
Mark James is one of 400 employees to apply for severance to end his 12 year employment with the council.
It comes less than a week after Pembrokeshire council’s chief executive walked away from his job with a severance pay deal worth more than a quarter of a million pounds.
Bryn Parry-Jones, who stood down following a vote of no confidence is to receive around £280,000 – smaller than the £330,000 originally planned.
Both Mr James and Mr Parry Jones have come under increasing pressure since the Wales Audit Office ruled cash payments given to them in lieu of pension contributions were unlawful.
In January this year Anthony Barrett, the Assistant Auditor General for Wales, ruled that Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire councils had acted unlawfully when they authorised a tax avoidance scheme to benefit their heads of services.
The auditor also said Carmarthenshire Council acted unlawfully when it indemnified Mr James in a libel counter-claim he brought against blogger Jacqui Thompson.
The scheme enabled Mr James to avoid tax he would have been due to pay after a change in the law relating to pension contributions for high earners.
Instead of paying employer contributions to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), “pay supplements” were credited directly to Mr James on top of his salary.
However, a police investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of either chief executive.
A petition set up by Carmarthenshire resident Lyndsey Maiden, and which had gained 450 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, states that Mr James should not receive any more public money through a severance pay-off when he leaves the authority.
Meanwhile Carmarthenshire Council has dismissed claims that Mr James has already accepted another job in the west of England. Paul Thomas, Assistant Chief Executive, said: “This is speculation.”
Plaid Cymru AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas said in his view it would be wrong for Mark James of Carmarthenshire Country Council to receive such a payout but any decision which is made “must be transparent” and “brought in front of all elected councillors for discussion and scrutiny”.
“That Carmarthenshire residents are signing a petition should be ringing alarm bells with the leadership at county hall,” he said. “It is a striking example of the low level of faith local residents have in the leadership of the council to look after their money.
“Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire councils have appeared joined at the hip over the last 12 months in approving unlawful payments for the benefit of their respective chief executives.
“The involvement of the Wales Audit Office once again in the latest twist of Pembrokeshire Council wanting to pay tens of thousands of pounds extra to their departing chief executive should be a warning to Carmarthenshire.”
Carmarthenshire Council has been asked to comment.
Source; Western Mail