Monday 30 September 2013

Unlawful payments - the row continues...

Over in Pembrokeshire Council, the Corporate Governance Committee met today to discuss the 'unlawful' pension arrangements of its Chief Executive. Like Friday's Audit Committee here in Carmarthenshire, it has raised more questions than provided answers. Pembrokeshire Councillor and blogger, Jacob Williams has provided a detailed account of the meeting here. According to Cllr Williams' blog, the leader of the labour group on Pembrokeshire Council has called for the immediate suspension of its Chief Executive pending enquiries.(Oct 1st - for further details on this last point see today's Pembrokeshire Herald),
Will Labour leader Cllr Kevin Madge call for the same action in Carmarthenshire?

Pembrokeshire's accounts, despite the unlawful pension payments, were signed off, with the Independent Group (IPPG) using their majority of one vote to force it through. There is a BBC article here which reports that lawyers representing both Councils and the WAO will be meeting later this week. In Carmarthenshire, where we have a similarly minded independent group, the signing-off of the audit was at least passed to the Executive Board who will need to think extremely carefully before they do the same.

In Carmarthenshire of course there are two unlawful items relating to the Chief Executive, the pension payments and the libel indemnity.
The press office have already been in defensive overdrive.

Several bloggers have written about the unlawful libel indemnity including David Hencke; Unlawful: Auditor’s verdict on council staff using taxpayers cash to sue bloggers

With regards to the pension payments, it appears that Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire are the only two authorities in Wales which have made these 'arrangements' to allow their senior officers to opt out of the pension fund. The arrangements in Pembrokeshire were made in 2011 at a meeting in the Chief Executive's office and there doesn't appear to have been any declarations of interest. I have yet to locate any properly constituted meeting in Carmarthenshire so your guess is as good as mine as to when and where any decision took place and who was present. (Please see update below)

However, the minutes of the Executive Board meeting where the libel indemnity was granted in Carmarthenshire can be found here, there was no declaration of interest nor did anyone leave the meeting.

Update 1st October;
After contacting the council press office I learn that the pension arrangements in Carmarthenshire were decided at an Executive Board meeting on the 14th November 2011.
You would be hard pressed from the Minutes (Item 13) to guess that this particular decision took place. It was considered as an exempt item, ie press and public excluded, and it was also deemed to be 'urgent' so was not on the published agenda. The decision was included within a report on senior officers' pay and all we have with regards to the pension decision is this decidedly un-transparent sentence;

'Members also noted the impact of the changes in the HMRC Rules'.

Those responsible for applying the rubber stamp were;

Councillor M. Gravell (Chair); Councillors: M.H. Evans, W.J.W. Evans, P.M. Hughes, P.E.M. Jones, K. Madge, P.A. Palmer, H.C. Scourfield and G.H. Wooldridge; 


Anonymous said...

HMRC rules are no secret so why exclude the public?

caebrwyn said...

Only Kevin Madge (Lab), Meryl Gravell (Ind) and Pam Palmer (Ind) remain on the Executive Board since the 2012 election though Wyn Evans (Ind), Phillip Hughes (Ind) and Pat Jones (Lab) are still serving councillors.

The problem for the Council as a whole is that there is a possibility that the 'unlawful' payments have spilled over into this financial year. Quite clearly these recent revelations mean that full council should be extremely cautious before accepting the decisions of the Executive Board.

Anonymous said...

More on the three little pigs Caebrwyn referred to above and the other pokers on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. Let's hope that the wolf blows their house down!

Anonymous said...

In light of recent events, the error in the accounts which was the subject of your FOI request, the returning officer payment made prior to the election count and the pay-off of £134k to a former employee who is "believed to have walked straight into another highly paid post with a different council - Pembrokeshire to be precise." The WAO need to revisit CCC's statement of accounts!

caebrwyn said...

Anon 15:19

You are absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone be paid £134k when leaving a job and walking straight into another one? The circumstances needs to be looked into.