Sunday, 19 February 2017

Caerphilly Labour are bracing themselves for a bloodbath in May,

Over thirty years ago whilst a mature student in Coleg Harlech my mother would send me (after she read it) her copy of the Pontypridd Observer and to some extent keep up with local news.

At one time throughout Wales the Weekly local newspaper was read regally and could have an important influence on local politics.

I don't know what the circulation of the Caerphilly Observer is but if it was anything like its circulation 30 years ago and impartially  reported on the council then the ruling Labour Group would be doomed .

The situation  is made worse by the dependency on local newspapers to rely on local advertising , which has led allegations the ruling group can threaten to withdraw advertising if it receives adverse criticism.

But maybe local news is getting through
Wales Online reports that 

Backbench Labour councillors in Caerphilly have been urged to dissociate themselves from their leaders or face voters’ anger over the continuing senior officers’ pay scandal that has riven the authority for more than four years.
Anthony O’Sullivan was suspended as chief executive of Caerphilly council in March 2013 after the Assistant Auditor General for Wales published a report saying he had been implicated in an unlawful process that led to big pay rises for 20 senior officers at the authority and himself.

Earlier minutes of a secret meeting which approved the rises had been leaked to WalesOnline.

Mr O’Sullivan was the author of a report that recommended his own pay should rise from £132,000 to £158,000. After a public outcry his pay rise was reduced to £5,000.
Together with two other senior council officers – his deputy Nigel Barnett and head of legal services Daniel Perkins – he was charged with misconduct in a public office. The charges were dismissed by a judge before a planned trial went ahead.
None of the three men have returned to work and a disciplinary investigation remains under way.

Daniel Perkins, Nigel Barnett, and Anthony O'Sullivan
By the end of March the scandal is expected to have cost taxpayers more than £2.5m in unexpected salary costs and legal fees.w all backbench members of the council’s controlling Labour group have received an unsigned letter warning them they could be punished in May’s council election unless they dissociate themselves from their leader Keith Reynolds and his deputy David Poole.

The letter says:

 “Back in 2012 there was a secret meeting held regarding the increasing of pay for the council’s top officers. This meeting was held at a time when all other council workers were on a pay freeze. At that meeting one Plaid member and four Labour cabinet members, it was agreed to raise the chief officers’ pay by between £20,000 and £30,000, increasing their pay by larger amounts than most council workers earn in a year.

“Three of the four Labour cabinet members who agreed these pay rises are still cabinet members – Christine Forehead, David Poole and Keith Reynolds.

“Remember this was a secret meeting that Labour backbenchers were not consulted on. Labour backbenchers were not trusted with this information by their own leadership.

“Despite this lack of trust of backbenchers, you backbenchers have promoted two of them. David Poole is now the deputy leader and Keith Reynolds is the leader. This shows backbench support for people who do not trust backbenchers.

“Christine Forehead, David Poole and Keith Reynolds did not ask you if it was OK to offer a £30,000 rise in pay. If they had asked, would you have agreed it?.

“They did not ask the unions if it was OK to offer a £30,000 rise in pay. If they had asked, would the unions have agreed it?

did not ask the people of Caerphilly if it was OK to offer a £30,000 rise in pay. If they had asked, would the people of Caerphilly have agreed it?

“Why do you continue to show support for people who didn’t trust you?

“You will soon be asking people to vote for you. How can people trust you when you continue to support these people who show no Labour values.
 “This will be the number one issue for Plaid Cymru and Ukip in the coming election, and you have no way of defending yourself on this issue because you continue to support the very people who show no concern for you.”

Nigel Dix, a councillor from Blackwood and certainly no friend of Plaid.who has resigned from the Labour group and now sits as an Independent, said: “It is crazy that the two most senior Labour councillors authorised the huge pay rises awarded to top officers. There needs to be a thorough shake-up, and it may well come at the election in May.”
Caerphilly council Labour group did not wish to comment,
Although Plaid have had some success in local Byelection it seems to me that they have been making up lost ground and not the sort vote which would indicate huge gains in May .
However it is clear Labour are worried and Caerphilly may be one of the councils to watch in May,
If it is then Plaid should consider what it would do with regards the above scandal.
As Plaid have found out in Carmathen there is a huge difference in being in opposition to leading a council  that has a "dodgy " record,
The small People First group have described it as a Poison Chalice  and if Plaid are looking at becoming the governing group on Caerphilly . I hope they  already have plans to deal with the mess made by the current administration.

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