JOHN ARTHUR Jones is a politician with a supreme confidence in his own righteousness.
He compared himself to Jesus Christ facing crucifixion at the hands of the Pharisees when he was subjected to damning criticism as a senior council official in the 1990s.
In 2006 he claimed he was more important than Tony Blair.
In the same year he smeared a television reporter by asking him if he was a paedophile.
Jones is also responsible for an extraordinary document that has never seen the light of day.
This “gospel” is one of the most searing indictments ever written about a British local authority.
JOHN ARTHUR JONES.
One of the key figures in local government on Anglesey, John Arthur Jones is a candidate in next Thursday’s council elections. He was the authority’s Housing Director from 1990 until he was sacked in 1998. He was elected to the council in 2004 and went on to form his own political group which was one of the driving forces behind a major planning scandal. He lost his seat in the 2008 elections.
IN OCTOBER 1998 John Arthur Jones gave an interview to the current affairs programme Wales This Week.
He had just been sacked as Anglesey County Council’s Housing Director by a hastily convened council committee because the authority had lost confidence in him.
Jones told the programme:
“A man stood in front of Pilate two thousand years ago and Pilate said I can see nothing wrong in this man. But at that time the Pharisees said crucify him.”
“Now then, the descendants of those Pharisees are living today on Anglesey – they’re saying crucify him.”
Jones had been suspended since September 1997 after he was arrested by the North Wales Police.
Police had investigated the construction of his new house just outside the village of Bodffordd near Llangefni in the centre of the island.
It was alleged that he had employed men who were receiving housing benefit from the council — at a time when his own housing department was mounting an operation to prevent housing benefit fraud.
He was charged with misuse of public office, intimidating witnesses and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The case later collapsed after prosecution witnesses admitted discussing their evidence during the trial.
By the time Jones was sacked, District Auditor Ceri Stradling had produced two damning reports about the housing department.
In one report, he noted that some of the hardcore used on Jones’ new house had come from the former Shell oil terminal at Rhosgoch.
When the terminal had been taken over by the council in 1990, some 15,000 tonnes of hardcore were left on the site.
After much of the hardcore disappeared, John Arthur Jones placed an ad in the local paper calling for tenders for what he called the remaining “random rubble”.
One of the tenders — for 200 tonnes at 50 pence a tonne — came from John Arthur Jones himself.
The Housing Department did not send its Director a bill until two and a half years later.
Jones said he had asked for an invoice on three separate occasions.
The District Auditor noted that this invoice was finally raised “during the period when the Director was being investigated by the police”.
He was also concerned about three contracts which John Arthur Jones had awarded without going through the council’s tendering procedures.
The first concerned a company called NURAS which was awarded a contract to manage an Urban Renewal Area scheme in the port of Holyhead.
Between 1991 and 1997 the company invoiced for £1.8 million but never once had to tender for the work.
John Arthur Jones also awarded a second contract for £30,000 to a company called Frankie Ltd without putting the work out to tender.
The work was to produce the specification for a housing management system. The council’s chief internal auditor said “I do not consider that the council has received value for money …”
The third contract was to outsource part of the council’s crackdown on housing benefit fraud to a firm of private detectives.
The council’s benefit fraud department had been awarded public funding to employ a second benefit fraud investigator.
But in August 1997 John Arthur Jones awarded the work to a firm called Môn Investigations without bringing the matter before the housing committee.
The controversial house John Arthur Jones built at Bodffordd. He was accused of using men receiving benefit from his own housing department to help build it. The current owners of the property have no connection with Jones.
One of the directors of Môn Investigations was Clive McGregor, the recently retired North Wales Police superintendent who had been the island’s senior police officer.
The negotiations between Jones and McGregor took place after the North Wales Police Fraud Squad had arrived at the council offices to search the housing department.
After the District Auditor investigated, Môn Investigations surrendered the contract.
One of John Arthur Jones friends was Detective Inspector Roy Gregson.
In April 1998 it was revealed that Gregson and his wife, a civilian employee with the North Wales Police, had gone on holiday to Florida with Jones and his wife.
At the time, Jones was facing criminal charges.
The press reports, which did not name Gregson, said that the force had given the detective suitable advice — the mildest form of disciplinary action.
A spokesman for North Wales Police added “we do regret, however, that the detective and the civilian employee acted so unwisely.”
After John Arthur Jones was suspended, the council set up a committee to investigate his activities.
Its work was cut short when a special staff sub-committee was convened which sacked him without compensation.
It was this decision that led to Jones’ comparing his treatment with that of Jesus.
Jones brought a claim for unfair dismissal but the case was settled. He was paid just under £44,000.
John Arthur Jones also tried to get the courts to overturn Stradling’s reports.
His application for a “judicial review” to have the District Auditor’s reports overturned on the grounds that they were “unfair” and “irrational” was heard at the High Court in London in February 1999.
Mr Justice Collins said “I am far from persuaded that there has, in the circumstances of this case, been any unfairness and I am still less persuaded that there has been any irrationality in the conclusions reached by the District Auditor.”
He rejected the application.
SEVEN YEARS ago John Arthur Jones was responsible for a memorable piece of television.
One morning in April 2006 a reporter and a cameraman from the ITV Wales This Week programme were in the carpark of his Parc Cefni complex at Bodffordd.
They were filming controversial chalets on the site.John Arthur Jones, the vice-chairman of the planning committee, had made front page headlines a few weeks earlier when his own planning department told him he’d broken the conditions attached to his planning permission to build 22 holiday chalets.
Wales This Week had rung the councillor to ask for a filmed interview to hear his views on the controversy.
Jones offered to do a live interview “so that no one could manipulate or otherwise edit my words.”
He was told this was not possible — Wales This Week is a pre-recorded programme.
“You replied that not even the Prime Minister gets that treatment,” noted Jones. “I said that I was better than him”.
As the filming took place, an angry John Arthur Jones came out of his bungalow on the site.
The following exchange took place.
[In the original version of this article, a clip of the doorstep was included. However, in September 2013, the broadcaster ITV insisted on its removal.)
This is what it looks like on paper:
How do you feel about these charges that you are breaking the rules and setting a bad example?
John Arthur Jones
Is it true that you’re a paedophile? I’ve heard that you’re a paedophile.
How do you respond to these accusations?
John Arthur Jones
Is that true? Are you a paedophile?
How do you respond to these accusations?
John Arthur Jones
Are you a paedophile?
How do you respond to the charge that you’re bringing the council into disrepute?
John Arthur Jones
Are you a paedophile?
The reporter was Paddy French, now Editor of Rebecca Television.
“It’s not every day you get accused of being a child abuser,” French said, “but in these circumstances a television journalist has to stand his ground and ask the questions he believes the viewers want answered.”
“I thought that John Arthur Jones was trying to sabotage the confrontation. He was trying to be so offensive that Wales This Week wouldn’t dare show the exchange.”
He was wrong — the clip was shown in the programme.
And it was to be repeated in five other editions of Wales This Week in the years that followed.
The doorstep became notorious.
“I was told that John Arthur Jones was shopping in a superstore in Llangefni when a woman came up to him and kept asking him if he was a paedophile, over and over again,” French recalls.
“In the end, so the story goes, he abandoned his trolley and walked out of the premises.”
“It’s probably an urban myth — but it shows the exchange provoked a lot of comment on the island.”
“Jones never apologised for the smear.”
One of Jones’ political opponents complained to the Welsh Ombudsman about the accusation.
The Ombudsman, Adam Peat, reported in December 2006.
He said “the words used by Councillor Jones were, in my view, offensive and the exchange may very well have resulted in residents of Anglesey feeling embarrassed by it.”
But because Jones had declined to be interviewed and the TV crew were on his land uninvited, he concluded he was acting in his capacity as a private person and his conduct had nothing to do with his role as a councillor.
The alleged breaches of the planning conditions at the Parc Cefni chalet park were eventually settled to the satisfaction of both the council and John Arthur Jones.
Jones had bought the five acre site, a former Welsh Water depot, for £241,000 in September 2003.
The previous month he sold Nant Garedig, the controversial house he’d built on the hill overlooking the Welsh Water depot, for £365,000.
He wanted permission to build 22 Canadian-style wooden chalets.
The council was happy to give him that permission but insisted on conditions, the most important of which was that the park be managed as a single business.
This meant that Jones could not sell individual plots.
He has always maintained that this condition was unlawful and, last year, a National Assembly planning inspector agreed and ordered the council to remove the condition.
Jones has always insisted that those people who criticised his plans ” … have a personal agenda based on malice and jealousy”.
Parc Cefni had previously been investigated by the council’s external auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In September 2007 the firm produced a report which cleared Jones of any misconduct at the site.
Jones told the local paper: ” I’m extremely happy. As I’ve said all along I’ve kept to the rules and legislation and it’s a shame that people listen to those falsehoods and lies which were motivated by malice and jealousy.”
However, PricewaterhouseCoopers also produced a second report on the affair which the council did not release.
It was five months before a copy of this report surfaced.
It confirmed that Jones had broken no rules but noted “there is significant perception that member conduct has not been to the highest levels that might be expected.”
“It is our perception that alleged breaches of the planning conditions imposed upon the applicant’s permission reflect badly upon his reputation, and that of the planning committee and the council.”
IN 2004 John Arthur Jones made a dramatic statement about the way Anglesey County Council operated when he was the council’s Housing Director in the 1990s.
He declared that ” … my view of the treatment of members of the general public by the Chief Executive and the Directors of Anglesey Borough / Anglesey County Council was poor.”
“It was not uncommon to hear names crop up on a number of occasions and people make decisions based upon political gain to stonewall applications or to be downright obstructive when it came to planning permission.”
Jones had been asked to make the statement by Amlwch caravan owner Gordon Pritchard who had been fighting the council for more than 25 years.
Pritchard had taken over his father’s caravan park at Amlwch Port in 1979 but when he asked the council to transfer the licence to operate the site to him, the council refused.
Another of the Anglesey residents ruined by the council for reasons which did not stand up to scrutiny.
The council claimed the original planning permission was not valid and said they had issued an enforcement notice for its closure.
Pritchard was forced to close the site.
Later, the authority was admitted that no enforcement notice had ever been issued.
In 2000 a government planning inspector decided that there was nothing wrong with the original permission.
But when Pritchard asked the council to issue the licence, it still refused.
He sued the council arguing that council officials had been malicious towards him.
In 2004 — six years after he had been sacked as Housing Director — John Arthur Jones agreed to make a statement on Pritchard’s behalf.
The statement, based on an interview he gave to a solicitor from the Manchester firm of Harold Stock & Co, discusses the inner workings of the council’s hierarchy when he was one of its senior officials between 1990 and 1998.
Jones said that “I sat in on all top-level management meetings which usually took place once a week at the Chief Executive’s office.”
This small group of officers also included the directors of planning, finance, technical services, the finance chief, social services, education, legal and personnel.
“There would be discussions between all the Directors and a consensus approach would be taken.”
“However, the Chief Executive was a political animal and his decisions could therefore be swayed by people if it assisted the political agenda at the time.”
At the time the Chief Executive was Leon Gibson. He was sacked in 1998 after he was caught lying on television.
Jones says that “other people were pulling his strings and influencing his decisions.”
This was especially true in planning.
“If it was politically suitable to allow planning permission for certain members of the county council then permission would be granted.”
“If however it was not suitable or alternatively somebody had indicated that they wanted a particular applicant to fail in their request for planning permission then, providing it was politically suitable to do so, these people would find their application rejected for almost any reason.”
“It was not uncommon for people to be treated differently when making the same request dependent upon who they were.”
This analysis is a remarkably accurate reflection of what happened to Amlwch haulage contractor Bill Farrell in the early 1990s at the hands of councillor Gareth Winston Roberts and his friends — see the article Dirty Rotten Scoundrel, OBE.
The front page of the statement John Arthur Jones made in 2004. There are mistakes — it says it’s the witness statement of Gordon Pritchard when it’s actually John Arthur Jones’ and Jones did not become Housing Director until 1990.
“The general view from the planning department was that if we refuse planning permission people would not challenge it and if they did then it would take quite a while for them to get through the Appeals process by which time they would have spent too much money and decided against pursuing it any further or would simply be frustrated by the whole situation and decide not to carry on.”
Gordon Pritchard believes this is what happened to him.
Jones added: “I confirm that the committee would do as they pleased. They would look for any reason to refuse permission or drag matters on.”
“It was not uncommon for a councillor to approach the chief executive and state that he would wish a particular applicant to be refused planning permission.”
“The chief executive would sway matters for certain councillors.”
Jones then gives the names of five of these councillors. The name Gareth Winston Roberts, OBE is not mentioned.
Jones says of these five councillors: “each have their own agendas and tell their applicants from their particular constituencies one thing but in reality be doing something quite different behind the scenes.”
“I have no doubt that Mr Pritchard’s applications met with the same treatment. Decisions were made on a subjective basis and not following standard policy. They were usually made for the individuals’ own benefit.”
“If a planning officer decides that planning has been refused then the matter does not go to a committee. The officer is not accountable if the matter is referred to an Appeal and if at the end of the day an injustice has been done the planning officer was never accountable and therefore the taxpayer would pick up the bill.”
“Once again I confirm that I cannot be specific about the treatment of the Pritchards by the local authority but can confirm that permissions were rejected on an ad hoc basis without following any precedent because of the subjective nature of the chief executive’s office when it came to granting or refusing permission.”
Jones made the statement in 2004. By the time it was sent for his signature, he had been elected to the council in June 2004. He did not sign it.
Nevertheless, Rebecca Television is convinced that the statement is genuine and that John Arthur Jones is telling the gospel truth.
Jones’ failure to sign his statement weakened Pritchard’s case against the council. The judge ruled that the council had acted in good faith.
Pritchard was saddled with a massive legal bill. He sold the site in 2003 for £250,000 to a caravan operator from the North Wales coast.
Most of his share went on legal bills.
Shortly after the sale, the council granted the new owners a site licence.
With the site licence, the value of the park jumped to more than a million pounds.
“My family lost more than £3 million in earnings in the years when the caravan park was shut and now we found that we had been cheated of another three-quarters of a million pounds.”
“Something has gone badly wrong here — and nobody seems to want to do anything to put it right.”
The only council officer still in post from the period covered by Jones’ statement is Arthur Owen.
He’s the current Director of Sustainable Development.
Yesterday we asked him to comment on the allegations made by John Arthur Jones.
There was no reply by the time this article was published.
© Rebecca Television 2013
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In the next article — A Plague On All Their Houses — Rebecca Television charts the way planning permissions for new houses has blighted political life on Anglesey. John Arthur Jones is campaigning for more affordable homes on the island. We look at one extraordinary case when he was Housing Director where a member of the public was cheated out of a prime site to build his own home. The plot was diverted to a member of Jones’ staff — who then went on to get much of the house built for nothing by contractors who depended on the authority for their work…