John’s gone

It came as a surprise to learn earlier this week that John Evans the independent (lay) chairman of the county council’s audit committee had resigned.
From what I can gather, his letter announcing that he was quitting was sent to the Chief Executive last Friday, though, a week later, members still haven’t been officially informed of this development.
Mushrooms, anyone?
Normally the resignation of a co-opted lay member would be no big deal, but in Mr Evans’ case it raises all sorts of interesting issues, not the least of which is why he has taken such a dramatic step. I’m afraid we may have to wait for the answer to that, though there are vague rumours that he felt he wasn’t achieving as much as he had hoped and expected.
Old Grumpy has an interest in this matter because Mr Evans’ committee is currently investigating my concerns over the commercial property grants in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.
As regular readers will know this matter has now been referred to the police, but, at Mr Evans’ insistence, the audit committee was pressing on with its probe into the administration of these grants which are outside the criminal investigation.
The committee was due to consider a report on this subject by the council’s internal auditors at a meeting on 29 May, but that was cancelled without explanation.
I hear on the grapevine that the reason for the cancellation was to to give the Director of Development Dr Steven Jones, the opportunity to answer any criticisms of his department and explain what steps were being taken to correct any flaws in the current procedures.
That meeting had been rescheduled for later this month but, following Mr Evans’ departure, it will not now take place.
That is because there is a statutory requirement that the audit committee must have at least one lay member.
So, during the time it takes for the council to advertise the post and appoint a replacement, the committee is in limbo – possibly until September.
This delay is rather inconvenient.
I have have to say I’m a bit disappointed by this development because, although I didn’t always see eye to eye with Mr Evans – we have had several robust exchanges – I had come to the conclusion that (a) he had a firm grasp of the issues, some of which are extremely complicated, and (b) he was determined to follow the evidence to wherever it led.
His successor will be chosen by a shadowy body known as the appointments panel which so far as I can ascertain always meets in secret.
As it isn’t an official council committee it doesn’t publish an agenda so it has no need even to go through the motions of excluding the public from its meetings.
Its members are Mrs Lynette George – former chairman of some health board or another – who was appointed by Maurice Hughes (remember he?) way back in November 2001.
The other two panellists are Cllr Jamie Adams’ nominees: Cllrs Tom Richards and Stan Hudson.
It will be interesting to see who they recommend to council for the post.
All we can hope for is that it is someone as independently-minded as Mr Evans.