Jacob Williams
Tuesday 12th October, 2021

‘Holding position’ in pay-off saga

‘Holding position’ in pay-off saga

Pembrokeshire councillors have decided to “defer any decision” in the former chief executive’s £95k pay-off saga.

Yesterday’s extraordinary meeting considered two statutory reports which concluded that the council’s leader, Cllr. David Simpson, had “no proper authority” to sign-off the departure deal he had negotiated with Ian Westley in August 2020.

Councillors voted to hold the debate of the s.5 and s.114 reports in private, by 35 votes to 17, with one abstention.

Among the grounds for excluding the public and press was the desire to retain control over privileged legal advice, which formed part of the private report.

The almost ninety-minute behind-closed-doors session reached no more than a ‘holding position’ – where nothing has been ruled in or out.

A proposal drafted and tabled by Conservative group leader, Cllr. Rob Summons, and seconded by former council leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams, was the only vote taken, where councillors resolved by 38 to 10:

“To defer any decision on this matter until the Audit Wales report and the internal review report is published and made available to all members; when available to arrange another EGM [extraordinary meeting] to discuss the matters in hand, and then decide on the way forward once in possession of all the facts.”

Audit Wales, the statutory auditor, has been investigating the pay-off since the start of the year. Their report is anticipated within weeks.

Many more questions were asked by councillors yesterday, than answers provided.

Due to his obvious conflict of interest, Cllr. David Simpson recused himself from this item of business, on advice.

My effort – during the public session – to see that Cllr. Simpson could be asked to appear in a ‘witness’ capacity to answer members’ questions but leave for any debate and vote, could not be accommodated.

Councillors were told that the very limited set of circumstances where a member who has declared a prejudicial interest in a topic, but can still take part in a limited evidentiary capacity, was not met by yesterday’s meeting.

Since he appears to have negotiated the deal alone, the value in Cllr. Simpson’s input appears patently obvious to me.

I don’t think there is much serious doubt that that he is conflicted out of debating and voting on the matter, but if the situation remains where he is unable to answer all councillors’ questions, it’s difficult to see how we can be expected to fully and fairly probe the affair.


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12 Comments...

  • Keanjo

    I am surprised that the opposition proposed deferral. What is their motive?

    The council tax has increased and householders cannot afford to see their money squandered. This matter must be debated in the public view and not behind locked doors.

    Cllr Simpson should certainly be required to explain the reasons behind the payment. Was Ian Westley bribed or bullied into retirement? Why was a gagging clause required?

  • Jon Lowndes

    Thank you for the update Jacob, how could anyone possibly abstain from voting to go into a private session? Surely everyone would have a yes or no stance on that.

    Also in your opinion will there ever be a point at which they will reach a decision or are they hoping that by delaying it will just fade away?

    Keep up the good work.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Deferral, looks like another case of the extra long grass that Pembrokeshire County Councillors are famous for.

  • Barrie Smith

    It’s 2 years tomorrow since Old Grumpy posted on his website, why has he been silent.

  • John Hudson

    There are still the questions of what procedurally went wrong, and whether any maladministration (inefficient or dishonest administration; management) or malfeasance (wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official) occurred.

    These are I understand potential criminal offences. The awaited Audit Wales report may provide a guide. AW has been quite pointed and unusually direct in its reports about failures in some Welsh community councils recently.

    Legislation and the council’s constitution, or rulebook provides that only a council’s Audit Committee has the legal authority to conduct investigations into the decisions made and decision making procedures. (Not that our council seems to pay much heed to them).

    Audit Committees have the legal power to require members and all officers to appear before it and require them to provide evidence. The only allowed exemption is if such evidence could incriminate witnesses in any potential consequential legal proceedings.

    With such a reprehensible public failure by responsible senior officers in the matter of following correct procedure and in providing advice to members in this instance, it would appear that the Audit Committee has a role to perform, if its members have the appetite to do so. I suppose council could require its Audit Committee to investigate.

    Who is looking after our interest in this matter? As residents and council tax and charge payers for the users of services, we have a right to expect that our council acts within the law and regulations, and that decisions made are reasonable and fair in all relevant circumstances.

  • Oliver Cromwell

    And so begins the cover up!

    These are matters that the public, who are the losers, have the absolute right to see and hear IN FULL.

    What we will now get, as with BPJ, is dribbles of censored information over the next two years with no conclusion.

  • Barrie Smith

    This makes sense to get the third review on the table and then bury all of them in the archives never to be seen again.

  • Dave Edwards

    The investigation must surely start with the simple answer to the question: “Did the CEO ask for an early termination or did a leading Councillor ask him to resign?”

  • Flashbang

    I bet Westley keeps the money, nothing happens to Simpson and PCC will carry on as before, dysfunctional and distrusted by the taxpayers of the county who expect much better from this bloated bureaucracy.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Surely not, Flashbang. Cllr Simpson is or was a JP/justice of the peace, thus passing judgement on others.

  • Malcolm Calver

    What has happened to David Simpson? Have not seen his frequent media advice on the pandemic of late.

  • Flashbang

    Malcolm Calver: David Simpson appears on the Western Telegraph website for the briefest of flashes before the story gets disappeared as a result of having eggs thrown at it through the comments section.

    As said comments are generally less than complimentary about PCC they’re quickly sped out the back door because PCC spends big at the WT on ads.

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