Dear Editor, Cllr Attridge’s blistering attack on the First Minister for dismissing the chairman of a European Programme Monitoring Committee for criticising funding the controversial M 4 extension was both courageous & vitally important. The sacked AM confirmed “in her mind there is an unhealthy culture at the top of the Welsh Government which does not allow for rigorous debate ‘. To me, statement highlights how easy it is for any Administration to lose openness & transparency thus sliding into the Culture of secrecy that now exists in Labour led Welsh Government. l’ve worked with Carwyn Jones when I was an AM and I cannot understand how a young & intelligent politician can make such a gaff. Bernie Attridge ‘s rightful criticism should be directed closer to home in Flintshire. However, it’s interesting, he did not come galloping to my rescue when I was mauled by the Chief Executive as I was critical of the CE’s performance when the Authority’s Statement of Accounts came before Council on 24th September. I stated that he was doing his best but it was woefully inadequate.

These accounts were robustly criticised, by both WAO auditors & members themselves at the morning meeting of Audit Committee, when Cllr Attridge was present. The WAOs financial shortcomings for our accounts, contained in Appendix 3; made depressing reading for me. I asked the WOA accountant HOW could we recommend these accounts to Council that afternoon. He hesitated before answering that it was for this committee(Audit),to decide. My criticism drew an immediate response from the CE over a non financial unrelated topic. As stated, Cllr Attridge had been present at the earlier Audit Committee but was silent over the Audit Committee’s earlier concerns.

Following my justified comments, things have gone very wrong for me. On 26/9, the Chair of Council wrote that I had brought the Authority into disrepute by failing to obey the Chairman’s instruction to withdraw my criticism of the Chief Executive. He gave me limited time to respond. On 29th September, Head of Legal Services wrote to me demanding an apology for accusing the CE of ‘falsifying’ minutes at the Audit Commute meeting. I recoiled at this serious allegation which was both unintentional & unproven. We were checking previous Audit minutes which are only official once agreed.

Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed by emails, mostly from the CE, all demanding an apology. On 26/10/15, the CE emailed me 5 times still making impossible demands on me & just for good measure, I got the lot again in hard copy by post. On19th October, the Chairman wrote again as he is still waiting for me to apologise for my criticism of the Chief Executive. (To take advantage of the high office of the Flintshire Chair, to elicit an apology from our top servant is surely very bad form?). Why did the CE to publicly rebuke me over a controversial planning issue? Who knows? He had been copied into an email I had sent Cllr Attridge in July about an unprecedented protracted delay for the Northop Crematorium. I worried that a perfect storm could be brewing over the suspicion that planning policy may have been flouted & I gave enough detail to Bernie to start an investigation if required. The CE immediately wanted to meet me. I refused as I was not the only concerned elected member who had reading the planning files. Furthermore, we needed a report that firstly; according to Head of Legal Services never existed but the story changed to that was only draft so not placed on file. So why had Flintshire spent £1500 for a barrister’s opinion on this document which allegedly did not exist? Why has the document now been given legal privilege? The document is dated 4-6-14. The culture of secrecy is working well! I’ve been threatened with action from the CE Union to a veiled threat of civil action because I will not meet with the CE & clarify my allegations. He’s not interested it seems in meeting my colleagues, one a Group Leader.

After the Council meeting, (which don’t record the CE’s rebuke), I begged the Head of Legal Services to intervene & explain things to the CE. His unhelpful reply beggared belief. “Tell the CE yourself”! I feel totally vulnerable.

Are alarm bells ringing, Cllr Attridge about the culture in Flintshire? I feel that I am being harassed & threatened for giving my honest account of our top official’s performance. There was no malice. I worry for staff who have lost the protection of two of their former senior officers. A Culture of Secrecy is operating vigorously in Flintshire too. As in Cardiff, as quoted by the deposed AM; “if someone does step out of line, they are ruthlessly dealt with”.

Yours Truly,

Alison Halford. Ewloe Ward.

Dear Editor, all this will stand up and I would be grateful to have it published. I’m trying to find a way forward as I cannot understand why the CE won’t ask his Internal Audit manager to look at 3 cllrs worries over how the Northop Crem was handled. I am working on a article on this topic too but BA’s letter was an opportunity to good to miss. I usually get on well with Bernie. He has to support his Party. I have amazing email from the CE dated 26:9. He is really very exercised over my comments & frankly don’t read well for the holder of his rank.

Alison Halford.

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