Around 150 people gathered outside Pembrokeshire County Hall this lunchtime to protest about the council's 'catalogue of failiures' under the leadership of chief executive, Bryn Parry Jones.
County councillors, members of the public and council employees, many of them members of the GMB, Unite and UNISON trade unions, made their feelings known about the continuing employment of the chief executive at a time when a second police investigation into “unlawful” pension payments to himself and another senior council officer was taking place.
UNISON branch secretary Vic Dennis said that he was pleased with the turnout despite the “culture of fear”.
“Despite this we had a response rate of 98% on our ballot of no confidence,” he said. “There are people inside who are too scared to come out. They simply won’t come out, they are afraid those eyes from the second floor.”
“This isn’t a witch hunt we just want things to be done fairly. There is definitely one rule for one person and one rule for everybody else.”
Althea Phillips GMB regional officer added: “I represent members who earn not much more than minimum wage, and not the living wage. Why should they be treated differently from the chief executive?”
Alan Card from Unite congratulated the demonstrators: “It takes a lot of courage to demonstrate outside of the council and in front of councillors. We have hundreds of people who stated clearly they have no confidence in the chief executive. He should be suspended until the police investigation is concluded."
Union reps also questioned how the chief executive could take a £45,000 pension payment as many front line council workers took a substantial pay cut as part of last year’s pay review.
William Rees an ex-head teacher also addressed the crowd. He said he had been a founder member of the council’s independent group 25 years ago.
“I’m now disgusted by it,” he said. This county was known as a premier county right across Wales. How many people would call it a premier county now? There are good good people I worked with in the past. Today they are turning in their graves.”
Trade union representatives promised that today’s event was just the beginning and there would be more protests in the near future.
Speaking after the demonstration county councillor Paul Miller said: “I was here to support the council staff and show people there are councillors who will do what’s right for them. I’m convinced that the money should be paid back. It is public money that has been paid out unlawfully.”
Cllr Miller is organising a public meeting in the Picton Centre on August 19th to discuss the next steps in the campaign to get the money repaid.