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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.

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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Charity

Calls for help over VHF radio may have been a hoax, say RNLI

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THE ANGLE All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch on service at 10:23am this morning, Monday (July 22).

Following a call to the Coastguard from Milford Haven VTS, the crew were tasked after the VTS operators overheard a female voice calling for help on VHF channel 12.

After narrowing down the transmission to having been received on the Pembroke aerial site, the crew were requested to conduct a search.

Launching at 10:30am, the lifeboat made best speed to the moorings at Hazelbeach, and a hasty search was requested by the Coastguard of any moored vessels. The crew began making their way amongst the moorings, heading up to the moorings off Neyland. With nothing untoward sighted, the crew proceeded to search the moorings off Hobbs Point, Barnlake Point, Burton, Llanion and Rudders Boat Yard.

With nothing found, the Coastguard requested that the crew continue their search up river to Picton Point. The lifeboat continued searching up the western shore encompassing Llangwm before altering course just past Landshipping and searching the eastern shore back down the river, calling in to Lawrenny on the way to check any vessels moored there.

The RNLI said that the search continued back down as far as the Cleddau Bridge.

On Facebook the organisation posted :”Following a thorough visual, communications and radar search the crew were subsequently stood down when no further information or calls had been received.

“The tasking was therefore deemed to be a hoax call.

“The lifeboat was back alongside and readied for further service by 1pm.”

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Crime

Police investigating after man injured during altercation in cemetery

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POLICE have confirmed that they are investigating a report of an altercation which occurred in the cemetery off Gelliswick Road, Hakin, Milford Haven sometime between 4.30 and 5.00pm, Wednesday 17th July, 2024.

Following the incident, a 32-year-old man went to hospital for treatment and was later released.

A 19-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail pending further police enquiries police have confirmed.

The incident caught the attention of locals, who said there was a large police response to the incident included armed officers.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: 394 of the 17th

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org

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Crime

West Wales man jailed for rape after victim’s cries heard

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A WEST WALES man has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for raping a woman in an attack that ended only when her cries for help were heard by others. Charlie Evans, a 22-year-old former Exeter University student, ignored his victim’s repeated pleas for him to stop during the 45-minute ordeal.

The incident took place after Evans and his victim had attended a party, where both had been drinking. The court heard that after kissing, the pair left together, with the woman under the impression that Evans lived in a flat with her friend.

Upon returning to the flat, the woman used the toilet before Evans raped her, despite her repeatedly saying no. The prosecutor described the victim as crying hysterically and added: “She did not want these things to happen.”

During the attack, one student testified they could hear the victim not consenting and begging Evans to stop. Another person said they were so concerned they inquired about what was happening.

Police were alerted after the incident was reported to campus staff, who then contacted the emergency services. Evans was told to leave his flat and was subsequently removed from the university. He denied the offence during his police interview.

Evans, of Victoria Avenue, Mumbles, Swansea, was convicted earlier this year at Exeter Crown Court of rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced on July 12. In a victim statement, the woman said her life had been forever changed by Evans’s actions. She expressed feelings of fear, confusion, and shame during the incident and continues to suffer from nightmares. She now feels distrustful of men and has sought support to cope with her trauma, the court heard.

Christopher Quinlan KC, defending, presented multiple good character references for Evans, describing him as a “kind and respectful” young man who was “always positive, compassionate and thoughtful.” He argued that his client’s life was “in ruins” as a result of his actions.

However, Judge Stephen Climie told Evans he had “completely misrepresented” his victim’s position, adding: “She was so far away from wishing to engage in your sexual activity that the only explanation for your attitude and approach was alcohol that blinded you to what was clearly and obviously the word ‘No’.” He continued: “So far as your life is concerned you will be crushed as a result of the sentence I’m required to impose.”

Following the sentencing, DC Michele Hicks from Devon and Cornwall Police’s major crime investigation team praised the victim for her courage and resilience throughout the investigation. She said: “I hope this case reassures the community how seriously the police take reports of sexual violence against women and girls and gives people the courage to come forward in future.”

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