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Carmarthenshire spill the beans: QC’s legal advice published online • This is what they didn’t want you to see

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spill the beansCOUNCIL IN CRISIS • PENSION SCANDAL

LEGAL ADVICE given to Carmarthenshire County Council about an unlawful pay supplement given to its CEO Mark James has been published on that Council’s website.

Having entirely coincidentally made the same arrangements for their respective CEOs, both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire Councils were the subject of Wales Audit Office investigations on which they took advice from the same barrister, Tim Kerr QC.

The content of the advice runs a coach and horses through the insistence of Pembrokeshire’s IPPG leader Jamie Adams that the Council acted lawfully in giving controversial CEO Bryn Parry Jones a tax break on his seven-figure pension pot.

The row over Bryn Parry Jones’ pension was the subject of the farcical Extraordinary Council Meeting held on Valentine’s Day, when an attempt to suspend the CEO pending an investigation was thwarted by an IPPG coordinated procedural stunt.

Although the advice online relates directly to the situation in Carmarthenshire, its content lays bare common and gross defects in procedure and decision-making that also affect Pembrokeshire.

Far from containing the “robust” advice that the discredited IPPG leadership claimed, Tim Kerr QC sets out that – on the basis of the information provided to him – the chances of successfully defending the unlawful payments was no better than 50-50.

The claim that the Council could lawfully assist its employees to avoid tax on their pensions by adopting the right procedure is also shown to be less than certain.

Mr Kerr concludes that if the Council wished to maintain the pay supplement it should do so only “ … after full consideration, with detailed advice from junior counsel, the involvement of external consultants, a full equality impact assessment, and a fresh decision, as far as possible excluding the participation of senior officers eligible for the pay supplement. But if the fresh decision is again to offer the pay supplement, the WAO or the auditor could still challenge it as intrinsically unlawful. Again, it would be advisable to write to the WAO in appropriate terms.

“In my view, the prospects of defending the legality of the pay supplement would be materially increased if the procedural issues were fully addressed and a fresh decision made. There would still be a risk of a finding that the pay supplement is intrinsically unlawful … the question turns ultimately on the adequacy of the evidence to show that the pay supplement is likely to enhance the Council’s ability to recruit and retain good senior officers.”

When advising the Councils on the procedure adopted when awarding the pay supplement, Mr Kerr writes:

“Some of that evidence [to support giving the unlawful “pay supplement”] is rather thin. The decision was not preceded by thorough research.”

The advice runs in the teeth of assertions made by the IPPG leadership in the media and in the Council chamber that the Council’s problems could be solved by simply re-running the process.

In addition, Mr Kerr identifies the risk that the Council potentially risks undermining the pension fund, stating that:

“The notion of compensating members of the workforce for leaving the LGPS by a salary rise equivalent to saved employer contributions could damage the pension fund by acting as an incentive to leave the LGPS. It is not in the interests of the Council’s fund members collectively for their fellow members to leave in droves.”

Tim Kerr QC also concludes that there are several areas of “risk” for the Council, not least the absence of documentary evidence to back up the flawed decision, to properly inform those Committee members who ended up acting unlawfully, and the failure to carry out a proper equalities assessment before reaching it.

Such is the cost of embarking on what Tim Kerr QC notes is an uncertain exercise, it remains to be seen just how much money the affair will end up costing Pembrokeshire’s Council Tax payers. The cost of the arrangements now appear to far outweigh any possible benefit to Pembrokeshire’s Council Tax payers.

The publication of the advice in Carmarthenshire raises questions as to why the IPPG denied Pembrokeshire’s electors the chance to form their own conclusions on the content of Leading Counsel’s advice.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Kate Becton

    March 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    This is surely the real scandal. Despite the best efforts of a number of Opposition Councillors, as I understand it they were not allowed to see this legal advice. Who did see it? At best councillors were misled about the advice; at worst deliberately kept away from information that could informed their decisions, not just on the Auditors Report,but on the no confidence notices of motion against the CEO and Monitoring Officer.

    An even money shot based on an unprecedented legal argument that it was necessary to offer this tax break to recruit and retain senior staff strikes me (as a betting women)as a very expensive long shot.

    It makes me wonder why Mr. Kerr was there, apart from the Brown/white envelope farce. Surely he should have at least summed up his findings to ensure that all councillors were at least familiar with his opinions. I know that the question was asked at the meeting, but does anyone know who was Mr, Kerr’s client?

    Anyway it’s the start of the Cheltenham Festival tomorrow and I can assure you that I will not be betting on any horse that does’nt seem to have a decided trainer and whose form is redacted.

  2. Teifion

    March 10, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Things are beginning to crumble for Bryn and the Adams boy, always hoped decent IPPG members would have voted the right way but now I’ll just say the rats will soon be leaving the sinking ship

  3. Kate Becton

    March 10, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Teifion – Please bear in mind that the rats have nowhere to go and the ship may be sinking (or at least listing)- maybe;however it still contains the pieces of silver.

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Monkton man with ‘no regard for the law’ jailed for two attempted robberies

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A MAN who threatened to stab a vulnerable victim just a day after trying to commit a robbery against a stranger has been jailed.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers arrested 29-year-old Jamie Rawlinson 20 minutes after receiving a report that he’d threatened to stab a stranger on June 26.

The victim reported that Rawlinson, of Colley Court, in Monkton, had approached him outside his home and held a sharp object to his chest.

The victim managed to get inside his house safely, and called the police.

Rawlinson was arrested 20 minutes later and taken to police custody, where he was interviewed the following day, and released on bail with conditions while officers carried out enquiries.

But just hours later, he was under arrest for a second time.

Detective Sergeant Tanya Rendell said: “The suspect was released on bail with stringent conditions to comply to while we carried out an investigation into the offence. There were a number of enquiries we needed to progress, which would take longer than we would have been able to keep him in custody. Despite the conditions imposed the suspect clearly had no regard for the law or the conditions imposed, and with less than three hours after being released, went on to commit another attempted robbery, this time against a vulnerable man who was known to him.

“The pair had met at a friend’s house and had gone for a walk, when they ended up in an alleyway.

“The victim was physically assaulted – punched and kicked – and was threatened that he would be stabbed if he didn’t give Rawlinson £40 and tobacco.”

PCSOs on patrol saw the victim and took him to a place of safety. Rawlinson, who was still in the area was arrested following this.

He was charged with two counts of attempt robbery and appeared at Swansea Crown Court, where he was sentenced to six years in prison.

DS Rendell said: “This was a swift an comprehensive investigation, involving officers from a number of teams. Evidence was captured by Neighbourhood Policing Teams at the scene, which was followed up with house-to-house and CCTV enquiries, as well as work from the dog unit, CID and firearms officers.

“This excellent teamwork secured the evidence needed to get a charge, conviction and a prison sentence for a man who is clearly a danger to the community.”

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Surge in reports of personal watercraft incidents on the South Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE NATIONAL PARK is appealing for riders of personal watercraft to consider the impact of their activities on other visitors and wildlife following a recent rise in reported incidents.

Launching the small jet-powered boats has already been banned in a number of locations around the Pembrokeshire Coast due to the actions of irresponsible riders and the noise nuisance generated by the crafts.

Recent reports include a personal watercraft weaving at high speed through the moorings close to the shore in Dale and a near miss with a kayaker in Freshwater East.

Park Authority Chief Executive, Tegryn Jones said: “Noisy, intrusive activities such as personal watercraft riding are not generally welcome on the Pembrokeshire Coast due to their impact on the special qualities of the National Park.

“Peace and tranquillity are some of key things that our residents and visitors value and perhaps more importantly our rare and protected wildlife depends on it. One inconsiderate jet-powered craft user has the potential to ruin the day of hundreds of other people.

“High visitor numbers mean many people are taking to the water in various vessels and kayaks and stand up paddleboards are particularly vulnerable to being overturned by the heavy wakes generated by personal watercraft.

“We are urging people to stick to the dedicated aquabatics zones on the Milford Haven Waterway and follow the ‘dead slow’ and minimum wake guidelines that are in place around beaches, harbours and other people.”

Anyone heading out into the water around the Pembrokeshire Coast is reminded to read and follow the Pembrokeshire Marine Code to minimise any disturbance to wildlife and to enable you to have the best experience possible.

Further information and maps highlighting the dedicated personal watercraft and aquabatics zones on the Milford Haven Waterway is available from the Port of Milford Haven website: https://www.mhpa.co.uk/powered-craft/.

To find out how you can minimise disturbance to wildlife while enjoying the waters around the Pembrokeshire Coast visit the Pembrokeshire Marine Code website: https://www.pembrokeshiremarinecode.org.uk/.

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Johnston: Police appeal after boy on scooter injured in collision

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POLICE are appealing for witnesses after a collision in Johnston, near Haverfordwest, on Wednesday (Aug 5).

A boy on a scooter sustained minor injuries during the collision, which took place at around 4.20pm.

A red 4×4 is also believed to have been involved.

Anyone who was in the area of the St Peters Road pelican crossing, or nearby Langford road, and either witnessed the collision or who has CCTV that covers this area is asked to get in touch with Dyfed-Powys Police

As spokesman said: “You can telephone 101 or email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired you can text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Please quote Dyfed-Powys Police Ref DP-20200805-249.”

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