Wales’ Answer to a Sicilian Cartel? Where? Oh, Carmarthenshire!
Outgoing incumbent Christopher Salmon’s reflections, after defeat by Dafydd Llywelyn in the election for Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, were gracious and contemplative, but his comments suggest that one county council, Carmarthenshire, was a painful thorn in his side.
Recounting the few aspects of the job he would not miss, Mr Salmon wrote that a certain county council was on the list:
“Carmarthenshire County Council. Wales’ answer to a Sicilian cartel. It’s everywhere you look (thankfully only in Carmarthenshire – so far as I can tell). It extracts vast amounts of money from residents which it showers on favourites, hordes property, bullies opponents, co-opts friends and answers to no one, least of all local councillors.”
This is from the man who was Police and Crime Commissioner for four years.
These words are, if anything, harsher than those which landed Llanwrda blogger Jacqui Thompson into terrible trouble with the county council, leading to a lost libel claim and a massive bill which she cannot pay because her no-win no-fee insurer revoked the policy after Mr Justice Tugendhat gave her the verbal equivalent of savage mauling.
Jacqui objected to the county council’s chief executive, Mark James, criticising her on the ‘Madaxeman’s’ blog for a “campaign of harassment, intimidation and defamation”. Mr James said on the blog that the “campaign” followed the planning committee’s refusal to allow them to “develop their land at Cae Brwyn near Llanwrda for housing”.
The use of the word “housing”, which to me suggests more than one dwelling, is emotive because, as I understand it, the application was for a forestry worker’s bungalow.
In response to Jacqui Thompson’s decision to accuse Mr James of libel – a decision which, in the light of later events, backfired disastrously – Mr James set about making a counter-claim, citing words such as “slush fund” and “Pinocchio” which had appeared in Jacqui’s blog. He was protected from financial loss by the indemnity granted to him by Carmarthenshire’s councillors – an indemnity which the Wales Audit Office concluded was unlawful.
Jacqui Thompson lost, Mark James won. The implication from the judgement is that the county council is a shining beacon of democratic accountability.
But in the view of the departing Police and Crime Commissioner, it is Wales’ answer to a Sicilian cartel.