Vote of no confidence in Pembrokeshire County Council monitoring officer fails

First published in News

THE involvement of Pembrokeshire County Council’s monitoring officer in the way a call for the chief executive to stand down failed last month sparked a number of notices of no confidence against him.

An extraordinary meeting on February 14th discussed a Wales Audit Office report declaring pension payments made to the chief executive as unlawful.

Debate on a notice calling for Bryn Parry-Jones to step aside while the matter was investigated descended into farce when it emerged that monitoring officer Laurence Harding had passed press cuttings to Timothy Kerr QC.

Mr Kerr compiled a list from those cuttings of those he felt had potentially predetermined their position when they were surveyed on their opinion on whether Bryn Parry-Jones should resign.

At Thursday’s full council meeting there were five notices of no confidence in Mr Harding tabled by Cllrs Phil Baker, Mike Stoddart, Jacob Williams, Tony Brinsden and Jonathan Nutting.

Some of the councillors said they had received incorrect advice from Mr Harding in the past and questioned his impartiality following the ‘envelope incident’.

Cllr Stoddart, who said he had emailed back and forth with Mr Harding before being allowed access to information he was entitled to see, added: “That is not the way the monitoring officer should behave, the monitoring officer should be facilitating me accessing the information.”

He said monitoring officers are “supposed to be the council’s conscience” and the “honest broker that keeps us on the straight and narrow”.

There was criticism that the concern of prejudicial predetermined judgements were not brought to the attention of those councillors identified beforehand but rather announced at the February meeting in what was described as an “ambush”.

Cllr Williams said:” Mr Harding had every intention of bringing it to our attention but did it in the form of an ambush. As soon as he became aware that members may have predetermined their position his first port of call should have been those councillors not a QC.

“It’s a disgrace. He let himself down and this authority.”

He added that Mr Kerr’s presence during that part of the extraordinary meeting, in his opinion, had been to do with the vote to suspend Mr Bryn-Parry Jones and not to offer advice on the pension legal position.

Council leader Cllr Jamie Adams said as instructing solicitor for the authority to Mr Kerr, Mr Harding had an obligation to pass on any relevant information, adding that a copy of the meeting agenda was also in the envelope.

“The monitoring officer has to be impartial and I truly believe the monitoring officer we have undertakes his role with regards to that. The advice is always based on the quality of question asked of him. I have found Mr Harding to do that to my satisfaction and provide me with sound advice on a personal basis in my role on council.”

The vote of no confidence in Mr Harding failed by 20 to 34 with one abstention.

Comments (13)

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2:20pm Sat 8 Mar 14

Justiceforall says...

Vote of no confidence in Pembrokeshire County Council monitoring officer fails.

It is not the vote that failed, it was our poor excuse for a Council that failed.
Vote of no confidence in Pembrokeshire County Council monitoring officer fails. It is not the vote that failed, it was our poor excuse for a Council that failed. Justiceforall
  • Score: 22

2:34pm Sat 8 Mar 14

Flashbang says...

I suspect that there is more than one brown envelope being dropped in people's laps anonymously.
I suspect that there is more than one brown envelope being dropped in people's laps anonymously. Flashbang
  • Score: 13

3:05pm Sat 8 Mar 14

hardcheese says...

There is only one way to sort this problem out and that is to get rid of all the councillors who supported Bryn Parry-Jones next week....we don't need people in power who we can't trust. TIME FOR A DEMONSTRATION !!!!
There is only one way to sort this problem out and that is to get rid of all the councillors who supported Bryn Parry-Jones next week....we don't need people in power who we can't trust. TIME FOR A DEMONSTRATION !!!! hardcheese
  • Score: 21

6:42pm Sat 8 Mar 14

seaveiw says...

Radio Pembrokeshire getting involved now ballot today proved once again that the people need to be heard.
Radio Pembrokeshire getting involved now ballot today proved once again that the people need to be heard. seaveiw
  • Score: 16

7:24pm Sat 8 Mar 14

KeanJo says...

When BJP regally left the Chamber, I fully expected the :Deputy CE to take his seat but up toddled the Monitoring Officer. Is that appropriate? If so it needs to be changed.
When BJP regally left the Chamber, I fully expected the :Deputy CE to take his seat but up toddled the Monitoring Officer. Is that appropriate? If so it needs to be changed. KeanJo
  • Score: 15

10:28pm Sat 8 Mar 14

Tttoommy says...

seaveiw wrote:
Radio Pembrokeshire getting involved now ballot today proved once again that the people need to be heard.
bit late in the day, but glad they've come around to it
[quote][p][bold]seaveiw[/bold] wrote: Radio Pembrokeshire getting involved now ballot today proved once again that the people need to be heard.[/p][/quote]bit late in the day, but glad they've come around to it Tttoommy
  • Score: 13

8:59am Sun 9 Mar 14

Shunnie50 says...

How is it that a pensioner, for reasons of desperation, steals a loaf of bread is caught, prosecuted, fined and given a criminal record. then you have a CE of a local authority who de-frauds thousands of pounds from council tax payers does not even get arrested pending an investigation, where is the justice in all this. The vote of no confidence should be given to the council tax payers to decide, democracy, yes.
How is it that a pensioner, for reasons of desperation, steals a loaf of bread is caught, prosecuted, fined and given a criminal record. then you have a CE of a local authority who de-frauds thousands of pounds from council tax payers does not even get arrested pending an investigation, where is the justice in all this. The vote of no confidence should be given to the council tax payers to decide, democracy, yes. Shunnie50
  • Score: 13

1:43pm Sun 9 Mar 14

Indeview J Hudson says...

The Council's Constitution helpfully describes the function sand responsibility of the Monitoring Officer, which is to
" undertake those responsibilities assigned to him/her by statute and will maintain an up to date version of the Constitution, ensure lawfulness and fairness of decision making in consultation with the Head of paid service ( thats the CEO) and the Chief financial officer when appropriate, support the work of the Standards Committee in the promotion and maintenance of high standards of conduct, be responsible for systems to record executive decisions, provide public access to information and provide legal advice generally."
The Council's Constitution helpfully describes the function sand responsibility of the Monitoring Officer, which is to " undertake those responsibilities assigned to him/her by statute and will maintain an up to date version of the Constitution, ensure lawfulness and fairness of decision making in consultation with the Head of paid service ( thats the CEO) and the Chief financial officer when appropriate, support the work of the Standards Committee in the promotion and maintenance of high standards of conduct, be responsible for systems to record executive decisions, provide public access to information and provide legal advice generally." Indeview J Hudson
  • Score: 5

1:45pm Sun 9 Mar 14

js9325 says...

Shunnie50

I think the chorus of the old Billy Bennett monologue explains it:

It's the same the whole world over,
It's the poor what gets the blame,
It's the rich what gets the pleasure,
Isn't it a blooming shame?
Shunnie50 I think the chorus of the old Billy Bennett monologue explains it: It's the same the whole world over, It's the poor what gets the blame, It's the rich what gets the pleasure, Isn't it a blooming shame? js9325
  • Score: 8

12:08am Mon 10 Mar 14

Kiwitaff says...

As a pensioner and former employee of Pembrokeshire CC I am appalled at the abuse of power that a small cohort of masons seem to be able to exert and manipulate the public service.

Why did the Monitoring Officer allow someone to claim four years of backdated expenses and also openly allowing two senior members of staff to be present to negotiate an unlawful pension tax dodge. This is falling well short of the professional standards expected in the public sector.

There was clearly a lack of due diligence shown by all of those involved in this affair and the longer it drags on the credibility of Pembrokeshire CC will continue its downward spiral.
As a pensioner and former employee of Pembrokeshire CC I am appalled at the abuse of power that a small cohort of masons seem to be able to exert and manipulate the public service. Why did the Monitoring Officer allow someone to claim four years of backdated expenses and also openly allowing two senior members of staff to be present to negotiate an unlawful pension tax dodge. This is falling well short of the professional standards expected in the public sector. There was clearly a lack of due diligence shown by all of those involved in this affair and the longer it drags on the credibility of Pembrokeshire CC will continue its downward spiral. Kiwitaff
  • Score: 9

12:55pm Mon 10 Mar 14

Citizen Pembs says...

Indeview J Hudson wrote:
The Council's Constitution helpfully describes the function sand responsibility of the Monitoring Officer, which is to
" undertake those responsibilities assigned to him/her by statute and will maintain an up to date version of the Constitution, ensure lawfulness and fairness of decision making in consultation with the Head of paid service ( thats the CEO) and the Chief financial officer when appropriate, support the work of the Standards Committee in the promotion and maintenance of high standards of conduct, be responsible for systems to record executive decisions, provide public access to information and provide legal advice generally."
Then clearly our alleged Monitoring Officer must have a different job description.
[quote][p][bold]Indeview J Hudson[/bold] wrote: The Council's Constitution helpfully describes the function sand responsibility of the Monitoring Officer, which is to " undertake those responsibilities assigned to him/her by statute and will maintain an up to date version of the Constitution, ensure lawfulness and fairness of decision making in consultation with the Head of paid service ( thats the CEO) and the Chief financial officer when appropriate, support the work of the Standards Committee in the promotion and maintenance of high standards of conduct, be responsible for systems to record executive decisions, provide public access to information and provide legal advice generally."[/p][/quote]Then clearly our alleged Monitoring Officer must have a different job description. Citizen Pembs
  • Score: 7

9:00am Tue 11 Mar 14

Tttoommy says...

Carms CC have published the Legal advice which is a "secret" in Pembrokeshire - another fiasco, doesn't look as though everyone was 100% truthful ;)

http://pembrokeshire
herald.com/3822/carm
arthenshire-spill-be
ans-qcs-legal-advice
-published-online-%E
2%80%A2-didnt/
Carms CC have published the Legal advice which is a "secret" in Pembrokeshire - another fiasco, doesn't look as though everyone was 100% truthful ;) http://pembrokeshire herald.com/3822/carm arthenshire-spill-be ans-qcs-legal-advice -published-online-%E 2%80%A2-didnt/ Tttoommy
  • Score: 3

9:55am Tue 11 Mar 14

Indeview J Hudson says...

It would appear that our CEO and the Council Leader ( and his IPG) fully approve of our Monitoring officer apparently obstructing councillors to access information for which they are entitled, in law and the terms of the Council's own Constitution to see.

Councillor Stoddart is to be congratulated on his bloody minded persistence in the face of obstruction by the council's establishment, including its own internal audit.

PS where is the formal correction of the Council Record for Councillor Pugh's now admitted incorrect allegations against Councillor Stoddart?
It seems that there isn't to be any, not even the courtesy of a formal apology and clarification in Council.. This again is acceptable to the Council's leadership.

Titoommy is correct that while Carmarthenshire residents can see the legal advice, we still cannot. Who is restricting this and why?

Perhaps it may also indicate that the PCC legal case was also of dubious foundation as regards the procedure adopted by our professional officers to get this through committee.
It would appear that our CEO and the Council Leader ( and his IPG) fully approve of our Monitoring officer apparently obstructing councillors to access information for which they are entitled, in law and the terms of the Council's own Constitution to see. Councillor Stoddart is to be congratulated on his bloody minded persistence in the face of obstruction by the council's establishment, including its own internal audit. PS where is the formal correction of the Council Record for Councillor Pugh's now admitted incorrect allegations against Councillor Stoddart? It seems that there isn't to be any, not even the courtesy of a formal apology and clarification in Council.. This again is acceptable to the Council's leadership. Titoommy is correct that while Carmarthenshire residents can see the legal advice, we still cannot. Who is restricting this and why? Perhaps it may also indicate that the PCC legal case was also of dubious foundation as regards the procedure adopted by our professional officers to get this through committee. Indeview J Hudson
  • Score: 3

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