Wednesday 9 April 2014

Pension scandal - Trustees kept in the dark

Former Chair of the Council and a trustee of the Dyfed Pension Fund, Cllr Sian Thomas (Plaid) has spoken out again over the pension scandal relating to the Chief Executive Mark James. She also spoke at the Extraordinary meeting on the 27th February to say how devastated she was that the reputation of the Fund, which is administered by Carmarthenshire County Council, had been reduced to tatters by the scandal.

Cllr Thomas, you may remember, appeared on the Byd ar Bedwar programme and revealed how Mr James continually sought to influence her position as Chair, and effectively control full council meetings himself, by making comments, remarks and gestures from the seat next to her.

In today's South Wales Guardian (the article is not yet online) she expresses her concern that the trustees of the pension fund were kept in the dark about Mr James' 'pay supplement', (as County Hall like to refer to it), well, all the trustees that is apart from the one who happened to sit on the Executive Board.
She said;

"Cllr Wyn Evans (Ind), as well as being Chair of the Pension Fund, was a member of the Executive Board which approved the unlawful payments to Mr James, so it is very disappointing that he did not inform the trustees of the decision....When I requested a meeting, on several occasions, to discuss the Wales Audit Office report regarding the pension changes I was told it was none of my business. 

The pay supplements to the Chief Executive have annoyed my constituents considerably. I have had people stopping me in the street to complain about these unlawful payments"

The County council 'response', from an anonymous spokeswoman, is typically defensive saying that a decision to offer a 'pay supplement' was 'a matter for the employing body, and not the pension fund' and, as the Audit Reports were issued to the Council and not the fund they could not be referred to the trustees.

However, the Appointed Auditor was unable to sign off the Statement of Accounts for the Dyfed Pension Fund last year due to the unlawful payment so it would seem it was very relevant to the trustees;

Anthony Barrett, Appointed Auditor, Dyfed Pension Fund, 1st October 2013
Of course, what it boils down to is that it all stinks. Although no one is committed to remain with the fund it was only the Chief Executive who left in such personally beneficial and spectacular circumstances. The Executive Board decision in 2011 was, as we know, shrouded in deliberately vague terms. Incidentally, given that the Council's Director of Resources (and Section 151 officer), plays a 'key role' in the financial management of the Fund and is also an 'active member' of the said fund, he has been surprisingly quiet on the subject.

Mr James has 'stepped down' from his post on full pay whilst Gloucestershire Police continue with their investigations into the two reports concerning the pension and his libel indemnity but he is still going to take the role of local Returning Officer for the European election.

As this will mean extensive involvement in council business and contact with staff, it makes the 'stepping down' position something of a mockery.

Incidentally, the agenda for next week's full council meeting has been published and up for approval are the Minutes of that very extraordinary meeting on the 27th February.... 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done Cllr Thomas! I have never met or spoken to this lady but I admire her not only for speaking out but for the support she gave to a vulnerable person who faced the bullies in CCC.