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Badger treads Caerphilly

badger_2087377bJAMIE ADAMS, ‘popular’ leader of the IPPG, took to the Western Telegraph this week to deride those councillors seeking to examine the Staff Remuneration Committee’s decision to give Bryn Parry Jones a wodge of Council Tax payers’ cash rather than pay tax on his blue chip pension.
Councillor Adams, who is known to have difficulty remembering when to submit his expenses claims, pronounced confidently on the complex legal issues involved.
Unfortunately, the IPPG’s leader appears to be ignorant of what the Wales Audit Office (WAO) decided in Caerphilly. That Council was subject to a Public Interest Report by the WAO following a probe into payments made to senior officers. It is not suggested that there is any evidence of criminality in the decision made by Pembrokeshire County Council’s own remuneration committee, but elements of the decision-making process seem remarkably similar.
In Caerphilly, Councillors attended a meeting – at which officers were present – and during which officers’ pay and conditions were discussed.
In Pembrokeshire’s case, Councillors attended a meeting – at which officers were present – and during which officers’ pay and conditions were discussed.
In Caerphilly, the officers did not declare an interest and leave the meeting while their pay and conditions were discussed.
In Pembrokeshire, the officers did not declare an interest and leave the meeting while their pay and conditions were discussed.
Of course, one big difference exists:
In Caerphilly’s case, the Council had additional and external guidance to assist Councillors. Pembrokeshire did not. Councillors in Pembrokeshire relied upon an internal guidance prepared by an officer who potentially stood to benefit from the outcome of the Councillors’ decisions.
But even the presence of the independent report did not save Caerphilly Council from the auditor ruling the conduct of the relevant meeting unlawful.
As Jamie Adams appears to be of the opinion that he – and not the auditors – is best placed to determine the lawfulness of the decision-making process, Badger –produces the relevant section of the Auditors’ report on Caerphilly so Jamie Adams can take the time to read and try to understand it:
“Certain officers who were among the beneficiaries of the decision were present throughout the Committee meeting on September 5 2012, and no declarations of interest were made. In addition, the report presented to the Committee was authored by the Chief Executive.
“A person is disqualified from participation in a decision-making process if there is a real possibility that he or she would be influenced by a pecuniary or personal interest in the outcome of the decision as established by case law. Such an interest has to be declared. Individuals having such an interest are not entitled to participate in the decision-making process unless the interest is too remote or insignificant to matter. As such, we would have expected:
* officers to have declared an interest in the proceedings;
* officers to have left the meeting whilst the members of the Committee discussed the recommendations in the Chief Executive’s report and reached their decision;
and
* the members of the Committee to have approved the terms of reference for the independent advice commissioned into remuneration (AS A MINIMUM –emphases added – in respect of the Chief Executive’s pay).
“… In my view, the participation of these officers in the decision-making process renders the decision of the Committee ultra vires and therefore unlawful, on this further ground.”
Badger is a bit stumped as to how Jamie squares this circle.
As Bryn and the other officers were present, Jamie Adams’ bold assertion in the Telegraph that “the legality of the meeting is not in question” as the officers were “not part of the decision-making process” seems to try and draw a distinction where there is no difference. Council members’ own guidance unequivocally states that the presence of those with an interest in the outcome of meeting – whether they speak or not – is deemed to influence its outcome. How reassuring it must be to Bryn the Merciless to discover that Councillors are accustomed to ignoring him!
If Sunny Jamie and his IPPG cohorts have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear from scrutiny. Instead they are running scared of giving Councillors the advice upon which they state they rely when making assertions of lawfulness and proper process.
When it is the conduct of Jamie Adams and his motley crew which is in question, the public have a need to know and a right to know.
Jamie Adams’ attack on the motives of Labour leader Paul Miller is a crass attempt to deflect criticism and play the man and not the ball. As a transparent and squalid attempt to smear a fellow Councillor, Jamie Adams’ comments are beneath contempt.
Badger asks his readers: why should the people of Pembrokeshire, let alone their representatives, put faith in Councillor Adams’ judgement or that of his discredited administration?