THE OUTBURSTS by Council Leader Emlyn Dole and soon-to-depart CEO Mark James against efforts made by bloggers and media to hold the County Council to account (see last week’s Herald) have received a stinging response from local blogger Jacqui Thompson.
To describe Mr James and Mrs Thompson as ‘having form’ understates the level of dislike and mistrust between the pair.
Mr James was sued for libel by Mrs Thompson, an action in which he made an offer to settle before Mr James’ employers stumped up an unlawful indemnity in respect of his legal fees. Mr James won that action but the cost to the Council’s reputation was immeasurably more than the sum the Court awarded him in damages. Particularly as the case was accompanied by the scandal of the Executive Board permitting its most senior employee to enter into a tax avoidance scheme in relation to his public sector pension.
Mr James’ subsequent repudiation of his agreement to repay the Council in respect of the unlawful indemnity, saying through his barrister that he could throw the £35,000 in the gutter if he so wished arguably demonstrated Mr James’ status as ‘untouchable’. Even efforts by some councillors to persuade the CEO to compromise his position and reach an accommodation about the unlawful indemnity was howled down by the Council’s Head of Legal, a witness in Mr James’ libel case.
And all that came after a former independent external member of the Council’s Audit Committee slated the quality of the Council’s internal legal advice and processes.
Mr James attempted to have Mrs Thompson prosecuted for harassment, only for the case to collapse embarrassingly when it went before the Magistrates’ Court in Llanelli.
Mrs Thompson has consistently alleged that Mr James has exploited his position as Council CEO to use public facilities to pursue what is – at law – a private matter between individuals.
In her letter to Mr James, which Jacqui Thompson copied to Council Leader Emlyn Dole, she vigorously hammers away at both men.
Due to its content, The Herald has edited the letter, but what we are able to publish is below.
A FOND FAREWELL
Dear Mr James,
Your remarks about bloggers at Wednesday’s AGM require this brief response, which will also be published on my blog.
As there are not many bloggers, or “keyboard warriors” about, and, as you have actually met me, albeit in a courtroom, the consensus of opinion is that you were including me in your comment. As was Emlyn Dole.
I am not anonymous, far from it as you are well aware, and neither do I hide away in dark corners, and I’m quite capable of speaking my name. There is nothing I have said on my blog which I wouldn’t say directly to you, or anyone else, in an instant. If you wish to try and argue over anything I’ve said, then do get in touch.
It was me who called you out and went through a public trial; you hid behind the taxpayer to make your attack, also calling on them to fund your first class travel and upmarket hotels.
You didn’t even have the bottle to attend Carmarthen County Court and face me while you attempted to take my home, you hid.
The taxpayer had already funded your legal costs once, and your unlawful tax avoidance scam. I wouldn’t put anything past you. I represented myself and was quite capable of saying a lot more than my name.
It is you who have hidden, Mr James, behind your puppet councillors, your legal department, your money, and your junior staff.
Urging councillors, or anyone, to ignore the press and public opinion is appalling but has been a trademark of your regime, and councillors who have toed the line have been rewarded. Those who have not have been bullied and treated with contempt.
You have withdrawn support for local newspapers for publishing negative stories and enabled, unlawfully, for the council to sue. And more.
You do not ignore the press or blogs as you claim, you just get someone else to read it all for you, at public expense. If it was all so unimportant then why did you refer to it all in your farewell speech?
I do not have time on my hands, we work hard to ensure we can live and that you get your monthly ‘gutter’ money so that you do not take our home. The time I do have I spend unearthing the facts and the truth which you are so reluctant to impart. And as I said, I will continue to hold you to account for your actions at this council, retired or not. You have not heard the last from this particular ‘anonymous’ blogger.
You will certainly be remembered Mr James, not as a man of vision, nor even one with a ridiculous Honour, but as the man who trashed the reputation of Carmarthenshire County Council, and Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs ‘Shit of the Year’.
Possible super-hospital plans released as Pembrokeshire site ruled out
HYWEL Dda Health Board have reduced the number of potential sites for the new “super-hospital” in West Wales from five to three.
The new site has been narrowed down to two possible locations in Whitland or one in St Clears.
According to the plans provided in Hywel Dda’s technical appraisal reports, all sites will include a main building divided into planned and urgent care, as well as a separate facility for mental health services. Parking, administrative facilities, and a helipad are also planned.
The potential Narberth site is no longer being considered, meaning that the new hospital would be built outside of Pembrokeshire.
Hywel Dda presented the findings of a “transport infrastructure analysis,” stating that both sites had bus services that are “infrequent” and “short,” making shift work difficult.
For Whitland, it noted that there was an approximate 750m walking distance from the train station to the hospital site, with recommended walking distance of 400m, and that local roads do ‘not appear’ to suffer from significant congestion during a typical weekday.
In St Clears, the report highlighted the impact a planned new railway station – expected to open in 2024 – could have on the town, saying it would be a ‘major boost’ to the area providing viable alternative car travel, with it being understood there is a commitment to increase the frequency of services at some stations along the west Wales line from two hourly to hourly.
After it was announced that Narberth would not be the site of the new hospital, Hywel Dda University Health Board Chair, Maria Battle, assured the residents of Pembrokeshire that their concerns would be taken into account.
“Our programme business case to the Welsh Government is seeking the greatest investment west Wales will have ever seen,” said Ms Battle.
“We have listened to and continue to listen to the fears and voices of the public we serve and our staff who understand the frontline challenges of trying to deliver services across so many sites and spread so thinly.
“Recognising the fragility of our services and the risk this poses every day, we do not intend to make changes at Glangwili or Withybush hospitals before a new hospital is built. And afterwards, they will continue to provide valuable health services to our communities.”
New ward extension opens at Werndale Hospital
WERNDALE Hospital opens its £1millon ward extension, featuring a suite of new spacious patient en-suite rooms and additional light and airy ward space for new nurses’ stations, new technology and medical equipment, in pleasant and comfortable spaces.
Werndale is part of Circle Health Group, the UK’s largest provider of private healthcare. The group is carrying out a £125 million redevelopment programme across its 50 hospitals in the UK.
Werndale has a strong history in the village of Bancyfelin, where is has been serving the local communities of Wales for over 32 years.
James Davies, Wales and Scarlets rugby player, from Bancyfelin, cut the ribbon to mark the official opening on Monday 1st August. His nickname “Cubby”, is reference to his brother’s nickname, “Fox”; this refers to the Fox & Hounds pub their parents ran in Bancyfelin, the village where they grew up. Staff and consultants were given the chance to view the new extension, with a small gathering to mark the occasion and celebrate all the hard work that has gone into this project over the last 12 months.
Jacky Jones, Executive Director of Werndale Hospital said: “The investment programme is an exciting opportunity to expand what we can offer to patients at Werndale. Our staff and consultants are delighted with this expansion which will allow us to meet the private healthcare needs of patients and families in Wales and will decrease waiting times which will positively impact the patient’s experience. Having the new patient rooms here increases our ward capacity by 20%, it is a great investment”.
Gaynor Llewellyn, Director of Clinical Services said: “At Werndale we are committed to continuous improvement of clinical facilities and services. We continually invest in the hospital so that we can offer our patients and consultants reassurance when they visit us for treatments”.
Werndale Hospital is seeing increased demand for its services across all specialities particularly orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology, and general surgery. Nearly 4,000 patients had surgery at Werndale Hospital, Bancyfelin during 2021 and the new investment will enable ward capacity to be increased by 25 per cent.
Help shape the future of third sector services in Carmarthenshire
RESIDENTS are being asked for their views to help shape the future of third sector services in Carmarthenshire.
The third sector includes a range of different organisations, such as charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups that deliver essential services to a wide range of residents, helping to improve people’s health and wellbeing.
Carmarthenshire County Council is looking to change the way it commissions third sector services to make it simpler and easier for residents to access, and to enhance the quality of support and activities provided by focusing on what is important to local people.
Changes that had to be made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are being looked at as an opportunity to build on the positive work that has been carried out and to identify what services are needed for the future.
A public consultation exercise is underway to gather people’s views to help plan and deliver a new community-based service model which will meet the needs of communities.
The council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services Cllr Jane Tremlett said: “The council has a long-standing, valued relationship with the third sector which plays an important role in helping to improve people’s wellbeing
“Our discussions have highlighted that there is a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills within organisations, particularly in relation to the lived experience of service users and what matters to them.
“It is important that we continue to work together to deliver modern, high-quality services that meet the needs of the communities we serve.
“This consultation will help us to identify what services are needed in the future and where, and how people would like to access them.”
Visit the consultation pages on the council website before August 26 to have your say. Paper copies are also available from the council’s customer service Hwbs in Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford, and a number of face-to-face events are being held over the summer to engage directly with residents. For more information, please visit carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations
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