Two senior bosses at the centre of Caerphilly County Borough Council’s pay scandal are to receive a £298,000 pay-off from the local authority.
At a special meeting tonight, Tuesday, October 31, councillors voted that the local authority’s deputy chief executive Nigel Barnett will get £171,00 and that its head of legal services and monitoring officer Dan Perkins will get £127,000.
The pair, together with chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan, were all suspended on full pay in 2013 in the wake of a report from the Wales Audit Office into secret pay rises for around 20 council managers.
The council has been unable to reach a settlement with Mr O’Sullivan. His case has now been referred to a designated independent person who will be appointed by Welsh Government to investigate any disciplinary allegations. It is understood that he wants to come back to work for the council.
Speaking to members during the meeting, interim chief executive Chris Burns explained the council has had to follow a strict procedure laid down by the Local Government (Wales) Standing Orders Regulations and simply could not dismiss any one without due process.
The cost of £298,000 compares to a potential total cost to the council of around £465,000 over the next year if their cases went to a designated independent person for investigation.
A report to councillors stated: “The cost of these settlements is considered to be less than the estimated cost of continuing with the investigation for these two officers.”
In a statement, Caerphilly County Borough Council said: “It was agreed at a meeting of full council this evening that the employment of the Deputy Chief Executive, Mr Nigel Barnett, and the Head of Legal Services, Mr Dan Perkins with the Authority would now end, effective October 31.
“This draws to a close a most difficult period for them, and the council.
“There has been considerable public interest in this uniquely difficult matter and in order to be open and transparent the council wishes to make it known that a financial settlement has been agreed with both officers as compensation for the loss of their employment and on condition that this brings matters to a close.
“In the case of Mr Barnett this payment is for the sum of £171,000 and for Mr Perkins the sum of £127,000. In both cases, this is considered to be much less than would have been the cost of continuing with a disciplinary investigation by a Designated Independent Person which could well have taken a further twelve months.
“The council does not have the ability to deal with cases such as this as it would in other situations because these officers were subject to statutory protection conferred by legislation and the matter could only be dealt with by appointing a Designated Independent Person as required by the relevant law.
“We would like to make clear that they have fully cooperated with the council during a lengthy preliminary investigation. We would particularly like to remind everyone that the criminal charges which had been brought against them, and which have been so heavily publicised, were dismissed by the court and that it would be wrong for any suspicion or stigma attached to that process to remain in anyone’s mind.
“We sincerely wish both of them well for the future.”
As part of the secret pay deal agreed in September 2012, Mr O’Sullivan saw his salary increase from £132,000 to £158,000, although after details of the increase were leaked to the media, the rise was reduced to £5,000.
The WAO report prompted a police investigation and Mr O’Sullivan, Mr Perkins and Mr Barnett were arrested and charged with misconduct in a public office.
All charges were later dropped over a lack of evidence and the trio’s suspensions were later ended and they were placed on voluntary special leave on full pay.
It was only when the charges were dropped in October 2015 that Caerphilly County Borough Council could restart its disciplinary proceedings against the three.
Including salaries paid out to the three officers while suspended and on leave, legal costs, and the salary of interim chief executives, the pay scandal will have cost the council around £5.25m by the end of the year.