Monday, 2 December 2013

Unlawful payments - Executive Board to discuss pension payments

Update 3rd Dec below; 'Carmarthenshire County Council's reputation 'damaged' says Kevin Madge'

Further update 5th December; I asked the council press office for a statement regarding the outcome of the Exec Board meeting. Here's the reply; 'The meeting was exempt, the outcome will be published in the minutes on our website. No press releases have been issued'. 

As there was only the one item on the agenda, and as whatever decisions were made would have been made in the pre-meeting meeting, the whole event would have lasted less than ten minutes. So we can expect the minutes to be published, say, tomorrow? Or after Christmas?


The South Wales Guardian reports today that the mysterious 'extra' Executive Board meeting on Wednesday will be discussing the Chief Executive's pension payments.

The payments, along with the libel indemnity have been deemed unlawful by the appointed auditor, Anthony Barrett.

The agenda contains only one item, the vaguely worded; 'REVIEW OF THE AUTHORITY’S PAY SUPPLEMENT POLICY TO SENIOR OFFICERS'. The meeting, subject to the public interest test, will be held behind closed doors. Despite the public interest, it is unlikely that the Executive Members and officers will break the habit of a lifetime and hold it in front of public and press.

Certain officers and Members were given until the 22nd November to confirm the facts within the auditor's 'consideration documents' referred to below. It will be interesting to see who is present at the meeting and whether those involved in the original decision, as well as the beneficiary of the payments remains during the discussion.

Executive board to review chief's pension payments
Members of Carmarthenshire county council's executive board will be summoned to a special meeting on Wednesday to review the pension arrangements of chief executive Mark James, the Guardian has learnt.
Although the press and public will be excluded from the discussion, the Guardian understands the issue under scrutiny is the sum of £16,353 paid to the chief executive in lieu of pension contributions. 
This transaction, plus the granting of a £23,217 indemnity to pay Mr James's costs in his libel case and counter claim against blogger Jacqui Thompson, have been deemed unlawful by the Wales Audit Office, although the council maintain they sought legal advice and have done nothing wrong. 
Anthony Barrett, the auditor heading the WAO's investigation, is expected to issue a public interest report sometime in the next fortnight but it is understood he will not make a final decision until having considered the responses to the consideration document. 
(South Wales Guardian report here

Update 3rd December;

Council leader Kevin Madge has spoken to the South Wales Guardian and acknowledges that the unlawful payments scandal involving the Chief Executive Mark James has damaged the reputation of Carmarthenshire Council.

Cllr Madge, who was involved in both unlawful payment decisions is, not surprisingly, certain that the council have done no wrong, and maintains "that there is no question of police becoming involved as a result of the claims". We'll see.

So it would seem that those involved are refusing to accept the auditors findings and are prepared to spend and do whatever it takes to prove them wrong. Cllr Madge ensures the public that they will be able to make their own minds up when the council is able to openly defend itself after the report is published, and promises a 'full debate' in January.

With regards to the libel indemnity, I will certainly be expressing my views and comment, publicly.

Given Cllr Madge's comments, it would seem that tomorrow's Exec Board 'discussion' will rubber stamp a decision to continue to defend the council's position.

I am certain that there will be considerable interest in this particular gathering of the executive, and, 'exempt' or not, I trust a full statement will be issued following the meeting. Actually, I expect it's already in draft form...


Anonymous said...

"... after the report is published ..." Does this mean that a report from the WAO is imminent?

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 15:15
I assume only the WAO know that...hopefully it will be published before Christmas.