Monday, 11 July 2016

Pembrey Park scandal - where does the buck stop?


Update September 2016; Keeping close to the nest 

Update 13th July at end of this post.

Previous post; Pembrey Park scandal - an update

The council's Audit Committee met on Friday and discussed, amongst other things, the Pembrey Country Park scandal. It wasn't called that of course and appeared on the agenda as the innocently titled 'Coastal facilities'. The Audit Committee is not webcast (it should be) and so filming/recording is banned, however a short report has appeared in the Llanelli Star.

As I have mentioned in my previous post (link above), there is an opposition question from Cllr Jeff Edmunds to Cllr Dole on this very topic scheduled for Wednesday's (13th July) full council meeting, which will be webcast. Worth a watch perhaps although there has been plenty of time to script the response... (Update 13th July below)

The Head of Leisure, Ian Jones, presented the damning report on Friday and appeared to blame the chaotic failures on cutbacks and departmental restructuring. On that basis we can expect similar reports from every other council department. The 'lessons had been learned' line was trotted out and one middle manager has been suspended pending an investigation.

Whatever happens next, the most significant aspect of all this remains the fact that the 'issues', ie possible fraud and blatant breaches of nearly every policy and procedure, were flagged up long ago but were never acted upon, and as the Herald revealed, were actively covered up by senior officers. The internal audit report was commissioned following the retirement of the previous director.

The Star article quotes Cllr Bill Thomas (Lab) who demanded to know who was responsible and said that given that this was one of the worst example of corporate failure he'd seen, the buck stops with the Head of Leisure. Cllr Thomas, being one of our more outspoken councillors, has the dubious honour of being a subject of the Mark James Intelligence Service and have his own file in the presidential suite.

During the time which encompassed many of the 'historic issues', the Country Park was also under the general responsibility of the Director of Regeneration and Leisure, Dave Gilbert OBE, he is now an adviser to the Swansea Bay City Region Board. He was also the deputy chief executive of the council, with all that that might entail...

We know, of course that the buck actually goes higher than a mere Head of Department, or even a Director; as I said, it's the failure to act on earlier warnings, and attempts at cover-up, which is so damning. This was corporate knowledge. and to say that this knowledge didn't go right to the very top is simply laughable. In addition, the entire Pembrey peninsular, including its 'coastal facilities' have been the subject of one of Mark and Meryl's numerous 'Masterplans' which now includes the hiving off of leisure facilities to an arms length trust.

Incidentally this all seems to have happened (along with the pension and libel indemnity scandals) on the watch of Head of Law/Monitoring Officer Linda Rees Jones, who's appointment was made permanent in a curious interpretation of the constitution, ie, hand picked by the chief executive.

Heads tend not to roll in the corporate fortress of county hall, no matter what. From illegally bankrolling lawsuits to tax avoidance pension scams to shortchanging the taxpayer to benefit a private company. From snooping on councillors emails to emasculating the democratic process into an officer-led toxic culture. From threatening the local press to economising with the truth when speaking to them. To name but a few.

The only heads to roll are those belonging to the people who blow the whistle, those that criticise. or those that uncover something nasty in the woodshed...

Update 13th July;

Cllr Dole responded to Cllr Jeff Edmunds' question to full council by saying it would be inappropriate to comment whilst an internal investigation into a member of staff was taking place.

Cllr Edmunds' supplementary question enquired as to the fate of the whistleblower, to whom they should all be grateful, and the current situation regarding their employment. Cllr Dole merely repeated his first response.

Cllr Dole's response was to say as little as possible, a classic council PR exercise in containment....
There was no further discussion. Discussion is possible at the discretion of the Chair but this never happens. For 'Chair' read 'Chief Executive'.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Internal investigation.White-wash then.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Cllr Jeff Edmunds should invite the WAO to investigate along with a few other investigative authorities when the internal investigation, funded by tax payers, determines lessons were learnt, new procedures to be implemented, if funds allow, and someone will receive re-training in how not to do it incorrectly.

This tin-pot council led by napoleon is becoming quite the joke.

Thankfully mark james, whilst not likely to suffer the same fate as Napoleon by being banished to Corsica, is toxic, so once he's finally ejected from Carmarthen his future can hardly be good.

And as for meryl, well, 'nuf said.

Anonymous said...

And what about the catering family who were forced out what about them?

caebrwyn said...

Some further details of the Audit meeting are reported in this week's Carmarthenshire Herald (July 15th), it is not yet online but it seems that the suspension relates solely to alleged irregularities with the catering tender. Cllr Bill Thomas put forward a motion for the police to be called in to handle the whole mess, not just the tender, but was outvoted by the remaining councillors who thought that this would cast serious aspersions on officers for failing to report wrongdoing.
Yes, god forbid that that might have happened....

Jennifer Brown said...

What a cowardly, self interested shower most of our democratically elected County Councillors are. No doubt they were voting the way they believed top council officials & the executive would expect them to vote. The Carmarthenshire taxpayer's interests would not even have been considered. Sick making!

Anonymous said...

Sick but true to form.

Anonymous said...

I do believe this farce in Pembrey was boiling up in the 3 years Cllr Jeff Edmonds was in the Executive Board and more money was being thrown at Pembrey & Burry Port, the 2 facilities administered by the suspended and under investigation officers , Quite rich his stance now but then he orchestrated the coup de eat against Kevin Madge Et tu Brutus so one expects a bit of duplicity

Anonymous said...

Indeed Caebrwyn, fancy councillors wanting to expose possible treacherous and underhanded conduct by officers. That really wouldn't be cricket, would it? If you didn't have, and see the evidence, it would be impossible to believe. What a shameful lot they are. I hope the Herald does a piece on councillors conduct. They need exposing for the waste of money they are. Actually it's far worse than that!!!!

Anonymous said...

I would like Plaid councillors who read this blog to ask themselves, how can they be taken seriously if they allow this cover up to be continued under their "rule" at COunty Hall? Ever since they have taken over they have cowtowed to Mr James and thus will reap the results at the next election. As a Plaid supporter i am ashamed of their suppine behaviour and will probably abstain from voting for them in the county council election next time around. They are giving the party a bad name, I have always supported plaid for the integrity of their poltiticans, but at a local level it seems there are no principles or integrity.

Anonymous said...

Am I right in thinking that councillors are now covering up corruption by suggesting suspicion would fall on officers? If this is the case the Welsh Asssembly are also culpable by having no power to intervene.And so corruption flourishes.

Anonymous said...

If councillors have become complicit in a cover up to protect possible corruption of officers then the Minister must become involved, as this would be far too serious for the Welsh Assembly to ignore. Where do are our MPs and AMs stand on this??? Special measures come to mind.

Anonymous said...

Welsh Assembly not fit for purpose.Must be considered to be now complicit in corruption no doubt about it.

Anonymous said...

Same old, can we all just get on with the job in hand and if we keep running the council down all the time can we just sell it all off and let the private sector or the local's have a go, then the problems start.

Unknown said...

if plaid dont sort this mess up they will be finnished in this area