Government Minister Eric Pickles raises concerns about Carmarthenshire Council funding libel action of chief executive Mark James
A UK Government minister has revealed his concerns about Carmarthenshire Council using public money to sue a blogger.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles was at a Westminster lunch for journalists when he spoke about the case involving Jacqui Thompson and the council's chief executive Mark James.
Mrs Thompson lost her libel case against Mr James and was ordered to pay him £25,000 in damages.
She had sued him following a letter sent to councillors, with Mr James counter-suing her for five blog posts — using taxpayers' money to fund the action — but High Court Mr Justice Tugendhat dismissed her claim.
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Mr Pickles said he was "deeply unhappy" about the "tendency" for local authorities to use the "resources of the public" to initiate legal action.
"I have no problem about a councillor or an officer (defending) their position when they are acting on behalf (of their council)," he said.
"What I am very wary of, very worried about (is) where authorities have used their position to take on individuals or newspapers and to use the resources of the public to initiate an action."
He acknowledged, however, that his "remit" did not extend to Wales.
The legal spat developed after Mrs Thompson was removed from a council meeting and arrested after she refused to stop filming it in June 2011.
A Carmarthenshire Council spokeswoman said: "It's disappointing to note that Eric Pickles criticises local government for using the powers they have in exceptional circumstances to assist officers to bring defamation proceedings to clear their names when they've personally been defamed for doing their job.
"The judge's findings demonstrate what they've had to endure just because of being employees."
She added that Mrs Thompson would not have to pay the legal costs because she was insured under a conditional fee arrangement.