First Minister Mark Drakeford promises review following council pay row
News | | Published: 11:14, Thursday March 28th, 2019.
Rules governing the pay of senior council officers are to be reviewed following Caerphilly Council’s pay scandal, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The long-running dispute in Caerphilly County Borough has so far cost taxpayers in excess of £4 million.
An investigation is currently underway with a Welsh Government appointed independent person.
Councillors agreed back in December last year to set aside an extra £242,000 to pay for the investigation and the salary of chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan.
Mr O’Sullivan, together with deputy chief executive Nigel Barnett and head of legal Daniel Perkins, was suspended on full pay in March 2013 following allegations of misconduct.
The charges were dropped before trial in 2015, with Caerphilly Council agreeing to pay-outs of £171,000 and £127,000 for Mr Barnett and Mr Perkins in October last year.
But the authority has yet to reach an agreement with Mr O’Sullivan, who is currently on special leave.
The row centres on secret pay rises agreed for around 20 senior council bosses – which included Mr O’Sullivan.
Speaking in the Senedd recently, First Minister Mark Drakeford told Assembly Members: “The position in Caerphilly is one that is not satisfactory to anybody, but there is a process, which is there, that we are all bound by. It is nothing at all to do with any individuals or any organisations.
“The Welsh Government discharged its part of that responsibility in appointing an independent person to oversee the next stage in that process.
“I gave an undertaking to Hefin David, the local Member, when I was the Minister responsible, that as soon as the current system has worked its way through, we will institute a review of it.
“It is not satisfactory. It does not work. It does not deliver for local residents or for the council itself. But, when you are in a process, you have a legal obligation to see it through.”
The Wales Audit Office had previously found the decision to award the pay rises was unlawful because Mr O’Sullivan had written the report recommending the pay rises and that he was present at a secret meeting in September 2012 that agreed them.
The meeting itself, attended by five councillors, was also unlawfully held because it was not publicised beforehand.
Mr O’Sullivan saw his salary increased 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.
It was only when the charges were dropped in October 2015 that Caerphilly County Borough Council could start its disciplinary proceedings.