THE HERALD can disclose that a claim made by Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive Mark James CBE is – at best – mistaken.
Mr James told Wales Online that he had never received any offers of settlement in respect of a judgement for damages in his favour, following a libel action against Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqui Thompson.
The case against Mrs Thompson made headline news across Wales, after the Wales Audit Office ruled that the Council acted unlawfully in offering Mr James an indemnity against his costs spent in defending a libel action brought against him by Mrs Thompson and a countersuit the Chief Executive launched against the blogger.
In the article on Wales Online, Mrs Thompson set out how she had been visited by High Court Enforcement Officers, seeking to establish whether she had the wherewithal to pay off Mr James’s judgement against her.
She claimed that she had made offers to settle Mr James’s claim by payment of instalments.
Mr James is quoted as telling Wales Online: “Regrettably, Jacqui Thompson is once again not telling the truth unfortunately.
“She has refused point blank to pay anything. She has responded to my solicitor in writing saying she will never pay any of the damages and costs that the High Court awarded against her.
“Had she offered to pay in instalments, this action would not have been necessary. “Perhaps she will share with media written proof of her offer to pay in instalments? I would be most interested to see it.”
Herald columnist Cadno contacted Mrs Thompson and asked if she was prepared to back up her offers of instalments with proof they were made.
Mrs Thompson replied by sending Cadno two communications which made offers to pay off Mr James by instalments.
The first document – a copy of a letter dated March 22, 2013, is from Mrs Thompson’s then solicitors Simons Muirhead & Burton to Slater & Gordon.
That letter and its enclosure details Mrs Thompson’s financial affairs and makes an offer to pay Mr James £75 per month, which the letter describes as an offer which would ‘not create the inevitable risk of default’.
The letter acknowledges that a lump sum would be preferable, but states that Mrs Thompson’s ability to pay such a sum would be dependent on third party assistance, which could not be guaranteed.
That offer was an offer made in open correspondence. The second communication is an email to Messrs Ungoed Thomas and King of Carmarthen dated January 22, 2015.
That letter says: “I am unable to offer either a lump sum payment or anything more than token monthly instalments of around £20 per month. I have no income, no savings and am unable to obtain a loan or a mortgage.
“I believe your client is generally aware of my financial circumstances and that I am unable to discharge this debt to his satisfaction.”
The letter continues by stating: “Although I have very little to offer, I am more than happy to enter into negotiation, as invited by your client.”
We asked the Council to confirm that the statement from Mr James in Wales Online was accurately reported. We were sent a copy of Mr James’ statement to Wales Online by return and it is as one with as reported on the internet news outlet.
As both the content of the letters to Mr James’ solicitors are inconsistent with his account to Wales Online and repeated to us, Mr James’s position of absolute certainty that offers to settle were never made is in tatters.
As our columnist Cadno points out: ‘It matters not one ounce whether Mrs Thompson subsequently withdrew or amended those offers: Mr James’s claim is that they did not exist in any event … not that he rejected them, but that they were NEVER made’.
3,000 Welsh landlords still unregistered
JANET FINCH-SAUNDERS AM has called on the Welsh Government to urgently work to improve landlord registration under Rent Smart Wales, as estimates released indicate around 3,000 remain unregistered.
Ms Finch-Saunders said: “Rent Smart Wales estimates that still 3,000 landlords are unregistered here in Wales.
“Whilst that makes up a small percentage of our total landlords, it is most concerning for those living in properties leased to them by those who have not yet registered.
“The Welsh Government has confirmed that a landlord who is not registered with Rent Smart Wales is unable to serve a valid Section 21 eviction notice – so where unregistered landlords do indicate that they want tenants to vacate a property, this is not recognised by local housing associations, which can cause stress to tenants who may not be aware of their full rights under the law.
“By focusing on ensuring that all landlords are properly registered, the Welsh Government can alleviate such concerns, and I will be urging the Cabinet Secretary to act to ensure all landlords are abiding by this legislation in full.”
The Minister for Housing and Regeneration told Ms Finch-Saunders that the latest figures released by Rent Smart Wales show that 90,812 landlords are now registered. Rent Smart Wales’ latest estimate for the number of unregistered landlords is approximately 3,000.
This is based on the dwelling stock estimates recently published by StatsWales, and an estimation of the average number of properties owned by each landlord.
Care home honour Armed Forces Day
PLAS Y DDERWEN in Johnstown will be celebrating Armed Forces Day on Thursday, June 28, with a big brew up supporting SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity.
SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity, formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, provides lifelong support to serving men and women and veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families. Armed Forces Day is a chance to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community.
Janet Williams, Activities Coordinator, said: “It is very important that we keep the memories of those who fought alive and that we also think about those involved in conflicts around the world today. We welcome anyone that wishes to attend and will have the chance to meet the team and look around the home.”
Plas Y Dderwen is part of Barchester Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest care providers, supporting older people living independent lives over the last 25 years.
Barchester services include residential care and nursing care as well as expert dementia care.
Huge Brecha Forest West wind turbine project complete
ALL 28 turbines at Brechfa Forest West Wind Farm are now operational and exporting renewable energy to the National Grid, Innogy Renewables UK Ltd has announced.
With an installed capacity of 57.4MW, Brechfa Forest West can generate enough renewable energy to meet the equivalent energy needs of approximately 38,800 average UK homes, which is almost half of all the households in Carmarthenshire.
Martin Kelly, innogy’s Project Director said: “The last turbines have now been commissioned. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the local community for their patience and support during the construction phase. We will now continue to work with Natural Resource Wales (NRW) to complete all remaining reinstatement activities.
“We are really proud of what has been achieved here as a team with NRW and our Contractors. With all turbine components safely delivered to site and lifted into place, over 20km of tracks within the forest created or upgraded and a new circular walk created to improve visitor’s experience; the construction has been an engineering success and all carried out safely with no lost time due to injury or incident.”
This announcement also marks the launch of the much-anticipated community benefit fund, worth £459,200 a year.
Following a competitive tender, innogy has selected Antur Teifi as the fund administrator and Severn Wye Energy Agency to provide community development support and maximise the benefits of the fund.
Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “I am delighted Brechfa Forest West Wind Farm is now operational. It is the most recent example of our approach to using Welsh Government estate to deliver benefits for Welsh people whilst at the same time decarbonising our energy system. I am pleased that the Community fund will be delivered alongside the leisure improvements the development has funded, which are benefiting the local community and future generations.”
Kevin Harrington, Business Development Manager from Antur Teifi said: “We are thrilled to have won this contract and excited by the huge potential and significant opportunities that the Brechfa Forest West Wind Farm Fund can deliver.
“The fund is now inviting applications for funding and for more information please visit our website: www.anturteifi.org.uk”
Onsite, construction and testing activities are drawing to an end. Reinstatement works will continue as well as the implementation of innogy’s habit management plan. innogy will continue to carry out these works in close working partnership with NRW and is delighted to have also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work towards NRW’s vision of developing Energy Parks fit for our futures.
Gordon Baird, NRW’s Energy Delivery Programme Project Manager said: “This is an exciting moment for the Brechfa Forest Wind Farm Project.
“Our joined-up work with innogy on the NRW Managed Estate has demonstrated that together, we can deliver significant renewable energy and help to build a prosperous and sustainable future for Wales.
“And the recent signing of the MoU signals NRW’s intention to work with all developers who wish to use the Energy Park concept to develop Wales’ renewable energy profile.”
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