Friday, 6 December 2013

Carmarthenshire Council backs down over 'unlawful' pension payments

The minutes of Wednesday's exempt Executive Board meeting have just been published and I have copied the relevant passage below.

You will see that essentially the findings of the appointed auditor in relation to the Chief Executive's pension payments have now been accepted, though unlawfulness is not admitted.

No details have been given about possible repayments and clearly many questions now need to be answered. Whether the publication of the Public Interest Report by the Wales Audit Office into the pension matter has been averted by this action remains to be seen.

The reluctant climbdown has been couched in terms of 'the pay supplement policy be withdrawn on procedural grounds'.

I will update this post when necessary.

Of course, the question of the 'unlawful' libel indemnity remains outstanding.

"Following the application of the public interest test it was UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED, pursuant to the Act referred to in Minute Number 3 above, to consider this matter in private, with the public excluded from the meeting as it would involve the disclosure of exempt information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings. 
With reference to Minute 13 of the Executive Board meeting held on the 14th November 2011, and views subsequently expressed by the Wales Audit Office [WAO] which challenged the introduction of the Pay Supplement Policy for Senior Officers approved at that meeting, the Director of Resources, Assistant Chief Executive (People Management & Performance) and Head of Administration and Law presented a factual report on the background to the Policy. 
Appended to the report were documents detailing the conflicting legal advice received by both the Authority and Wales Audit Office arising from the decision to approve the policy. 
The aforementioned officers responded to questions from the Board and, following expressions of thanks from members for the diligent way in which they had prepared and presented the report, withdrew from the meeting. 
The Board proceeded to review the policy and considered, in detail, the legal opinions of both the WAO and the Council’s own legal advisors. 
Whilst the Board was not prepared, at this stage, to accept that the principle of the policy, aimed at encouraging recruitment and retention of senior officers, was intrinsically unlawful it did accept that there may have been shortcomings in the procedures by which it had been adopted. The Board, not wishing to incur further unnecessary expenditure in this matter, therefore 
4.1. without conceding that it is intrinsically unlawful, that the pay supplement policy be withdrawn on procedural grounds; 
4.2. that any employment issues arising as a consequence of 4.1 above be addressed by the Assistant Chief Executive (People Management & Performance)."
(Link to minutes here)

For background please see numerous recent posts and this BBC article from 27th September;  Carmarthenshire blogger row: Council libel costs pledge 'unlawful

Update 4pm;
The South Wales Guardian now has a report - County Hall in u-turn over Mark James pension payment - which includes a joint statement from Jonathan Edwards MP and AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas demanding a full inquiry into the whole affair, including the cost.


Anonymous said...

It is just not good enough! The people involved in approving the unlawful transactions and the costs incurred since the WAO findings, need to be held to account for gross incompetence.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 16:00 They are refusing to admit this was unlawful and are hoping that this is the end of the matter. Whether any liability/accountability has been avoided by this partial admittance remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

Questions about their conduct are not going to go away!

Anonymous said...

Annonymous 16 37
And should not.

caebrwyn said...

It will be interesting to see what happens in Pembrokeshire Council where the same unlawful pension arrangement is being investigated. The two Councils have commissioned joint legal advice on the matter from Mr Tim Kerr QC.