Jacob Williams
Wednesday 29th October, 2014

WALES AUDIT OFFICE BLOCKS GOLDEN HANDSHAKE

WALES AUDIT OFFICE BLOCKS GOLDEN HANDSHAKE

The appointed auditor to Pembrokeshire County Council, Anthony Barrett, has this afternoon issued a formal notice to halt the controversial third of a million pounds settlement to the authority’s outgoing chief executive, Bryn Parry-Jones.

Mr. Barrett has taken what he describes as “unprecedented action” by serving the authority with an advisory notice because he says he has “reason to believe that the Council’s decision to enter into a settlement agreement with the Chief Executive will incur unlawful expenditure.”

The effect of the advisory notice is to stop the council’s controversial pay-off decision taken on 16th October from being implemented whilst the notice is in place.

Mr Barrett states:

“After careful consideration, I have reason to believe that Pembrokeshire Council will incur unlawful expenditure if it continues its current settlement agreement with the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry-Jones.

For this reason, I feel I have no option but to exercise my statutory responsibilities and take this unprecedented action.”

Earlier this year at a highly notorious meeting on February 14th which immediately become known as the ‘Valentine’s day massacre,’ councillors considered a public interest report authored by the same Mr. Barrett, in which he held that a controversial alternative pension payment scheme introduced in 2011 enabling senior officers to have a ‘pay supplement’ in lieu of their employer’s pension contributions if they opted out of their pension schemes, was unlawful.

Councillors voted unanimously during this meeting to endorse all of Mr. Barrett’s report recommendations, terminating the scheme forthwith and resolving to make no further payments under it.

However the matter has reared its head in an interesting twist because Mr. Barrett states in today’s advisory notice that all three elements of the recently ratified termination settlement intended to be paid to Mr. Parry-Jones, are similarly unlawful. As part of the deal, Mr. Parry-Jones’ last day as an employee of the authority is supposed to be Halloween – Friday October 31st.

The smallest aspect of the third of a million pounds package for the outgoing chief executive is compensation (£16,695) for the pension opt-out payments – known as ‘pay supplements’ – that he has been deprived of since the unlawful opt-out scheme was shelved in February.

Another element of the pay-off deal agreed on 16th October was a sum in lieu of his three months’ contractual termination notice (£48,600) however the main bulk is the ‘severance’ sum (£266,721) based upon the authority’s redundancy policy. Both of these figures are based upon the chief executive’s salary, and were calculated with the unlawful ‘pay supplements’ included. This, Mr. Barrett holds, is why he took the “unprecedented” action under the powers available to him, to prevent the payment being made in its current form:

“On advice, I take the view, that to the extent that the financial terms of any settlement agreement with the Chief Executive relies on and/or gives effect to the (unlawful) pay supplements, any decision to enter into a settlement agreement on those terms would itself be unlawful as:

a. being beyond the powers of the Council;
b. involving the Council misdirecting itself in law; and
c. involving the Council taking into account an irrelevant consideration.”

The announcement from the Wales Audit Office and a copy of the notice and Mr. Barrett’s reasons can be read here:

http://www.wao.gov.uk/news/appointed-auditor-serves-pembrokeshire-council-advisory-notice

Since this afternoon’s announcement from the WAO, the county council has issued a press statement suggesting Mr. Barrett’s objection relates to a misunderstanding over some of the wording contained within the chief executive’s settlement agreement.

A spokesperson for the authority states that the WAO have been in discussions with the council for at least a fortnight, and claims that a consensus has now been reached. The statement reads:

“Pembrokeshire County Council and its legal advisors have been in discussion with the Wales Audit Office since before the meeting of Council on the 16th October and have reached a consensus on the phrasing of the Settlement Agreement with the Chief Executive.

This resolves the concerns of the Auditor.

The Council has been advised by the Wales Audit Office that the Advisory Notice will be withdrawn tomorrow, Thursday, 30th October.

The Council will not be incurring any unlawful expenditure.”

However the council’s statement is directly contradicted by what Labour group leader, Cllr. Paul Miller, says he learned during telephone discussions with Mr. Barrett earlier this evening.

On his Facebook page, Cllr. Miller says:

“The council have released a statement tonight claiming that they have changed some of the wording in the settlement and the Auditor’s concerns are now resolved.

I have spoken personally to the Deputy Auditor General for Wales, Mr Anthony Barrett, twice this evening and he has confirmed that he has not agreed to remove the stop notice and will not be doing so while the element relating to the Chief Executive’s pension remains in the agreement.”

I have also spoken to Mr. Barrett this evening and he confirmed that contrary to the council’s statement, no agreement has been reached but that ‘a number of options’ are available to resolve the impasse, which may require an extraordinary meeting for all councillors to re-ratify a new deal.

Mr. Barrett also told me, among other things, that he raised his concerns over the content of the settlement agreement with officers PRIOR to the meeting on the 16th where the golden handshake was approved. Needless to say, councillors were NOT informed about this during the secret debate, despite several questions being asked – I can say this with some certainty as I was one of the councillors who queried this very topic.

I have also become aware of other matters this evening, relating to the settlement agreement and the original pension opt-out scheme dating back to February, that I certainly intend to pursue.


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76 Comments...

  • Dave Edwards

    There is a god after all!

  • Robin Wilson

    Good, now let’s hope we can have a proper, rugby tackle-free investigation in the light!

  • Dave Edwards

    I am glad that the WAO agreed with the comment I posted on October 20th on your “Golden goodbye article,” that to compensate for an illegal payment was ultra vires. (Sorry to gloat, but I have been waiting a long time)!

  • Tony Wilcox

    As the payment has now been stopped does that mean the disciplinary proceedings restart?

  • Rosieone

    Well, it looks like the Cllrs in opposition to the payoff may have been in possession of a bit more foresight and backbone than certain members of the IPPG gave them credit for…

  • Welshman 23

    The Herald is reporting that the council issued a statement saying they have done a deal with the WAO late this afternoon and the payment will go ahead.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    That manure heap in front of the Kremlin is in serious danger of collapsing and suffocating all beneath her. The Pembrokeshire Herald newspaper lays open the debate further if it’s true the Welsh Audit were in discussions prior to the Council meeting on the 16th. There were no such declarations of interest from Farmer Adams and his collaborators, so could this amount to a further investigation?

    A Guy Fawkes lookalike could well be prowling the corridors of the Kremlin in the next day 10 days especially if Bryn’s nightmare of horrors is prolonged past Friday.

    Now the Wales Audit Office have dug deep enough to unearth some concerns do they commit to rumbling further into the grants scandal? Now or never, one feels.

  • Tom Pritchard

    Let’s hope that this will lead to the rescue of the £330,000 of hard working Pembrokeshire people’s money. The people who voted for the payout are also on the gravy train. We desperately need change.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Tony, I am still not sure if Cllr Adams and his cronies made Mr Parry Jones redundant or did he resign of his own accord.

    Before we restart any disciplinary proceedings perhaps one courageous councillor or better still Cllr Adams can give us peasants a complete breakdown of the existing £330,000 settlement figure.

  • Malcolm, I published the breakdown of the £332k payoff over a week ago, within this article.

  • As I understand the situation, if this deal isn’t finalised by Friday, Mr Parry-Jones will remain an employee of the council and, as he hasn’t been suspended, there would be nothing to stop him turning up for work next Monday morning.

  • Les

    Just when you think things couldn’t get worse! I keep saying that in normal circumstances there would be resignations but I won’t hold my breath.

    Bet some councillors who were forthright in defence of the payout feel a bit silly now! Again!!

  • Goldingsboy

    BPJ’s view that Anthony Barrett’s motive behind the initial pension unlawfulness issue – as reported by Old Grumpy, which “was to make a name for himself and get promotion” – will have been considerably reinforced in his mind today following the WAO’s announcement of yet another decision by PCC that he believes will result in unlawful expenditure.

  • Martin Lewis

    Surely if there is a recalculation/renegotiation of the settlement then that will entail the need for a further vote to be taken by full council???

  • Welshman 23

    Paul Miller says that he has spoken with Mr Barrett late this afternoon and that no deal has been done with the council so the payment remains on hold. With these developments, the councillors must be called to an emergency meeting tomorrow to be told what is going on.

  • Faux Espoir

    Why is a Council meeting required Martin? Not many of the Council have seen the agreement as it can’t be viewed until the CEO has signed the document.

  • Martin Lewis

    Because if a vote was required on the settlement then any change to that settlement would surely require the new settlement be put to full council for ratification again.

    Paul Miller’s email tonight indicates to me that the council have INTERPRETED something communicated by the WAO in a way it wasn’t meant and PCC are hiding behind some of the “phrasing of the settlement agreement”…whatever the hell that means.

    Maybe they’ve got Bob Kilmister on board after all…

  • According to the Western Telegraph: “A council spokesman said an agreement has now been reached on how the pay-off deal will be worded to resolve the WAO’s concerns.”

    That means that this is not the same settlement that members approved on 16 October and, therefore, this revised agreement will need to come before the council to be endorsed.

    In addition, in respect of these pension payments, members were told by our expert legal advisors that “the chief executive has a contractual entitlement to pension contributions and would therefore be able to pursue a claim for breach of contract into this separate element of pay.”

    Clearly, if that advice is not sound, the matter needs to be revisited.

    It also raises the question of whether members have a duty to re-examine the expert legal advice in respect of other elements of the settlement.

  • Lobsterman

    Where was the Monitoring Officer when this unlawful payment was proposed and then ratified? His job is to prevent this sort of faux pas.

  • Martin Lewis

    Mike, according to Paul’s email tonight Anthony Barrett has dismissed PCC’s statement as not accurate and the block remains. I bet Jamie Adams isn’t watching the soaps tonight…well why would he? He’s starring in one all of his own!

    Common sense must prevail. Surely the IPPG won’t be crass enough to misinterpret the WAO and drag the authority into a messy and expensive retrospective legal battle.

  • Rockface

    Well done Jacob!

  • Les

    Will there be an emergency council meeting tomorrow and will it be streamed?

  • Keanjo

    If you all remember, Jamie is on record at the time of the original pension scandal as suggesting the appointed Auditor did not understand the law! I think we may be about to find out if he was right! What a complete mess this Administration is. Why doesn’t the leader and his wooden cabinet resign?

  • Mayday

    I would not doubt for a second that Bryn is contractually entitled to pension payments like every other employee.

    If, as I understand, the unlawfulness arose from the revision to direct payments (taken with him in the room), then the sensible move upon suspending the direct payments six months ago would have been to agree to move back to the payments into the Local Government pension.

    This would have supported the request for repayment of direct contributions (which would then have to be paid back into the local government pension ie to balance the books).

    Did Bryn break any code of conduct/regulations by not declaring an interest, and if so, who has authority to penalise him for it? And if the wording changes from payments to cover missed pension contributions to anything else, does the door remain open for a breach of contract claim?

    I still don’t understand why Adams was allowed to go off and negotiate a settlement. Why not the Disciplinary Committee who could have used their analysis to leverage a deal – roll of the dice with DIP for a payoff or statutory three months notice due to loss of confidence in Bryn to do the job.

    The councillors (many of whom appear to have a conflict of interest) really have been led up the garden path by the leadership, who, being in control of the facts, can say and do what they like to achieve their political and personal goals.

  • Martin Lewis

    I believe Bryn exited the LGPS in a year where the Standard Lifetime Allowance was quite high which would apply to when he takes his pension. If he were to opt back in he’d be subject to a much lower SLA (currently 1.25 million versus something like 1.6 million when he opted out).

    If he were to opt back in he’d be taxed very heavily on each pound that his pension fund is above the SLA so it’s in his interests not to opt back in, which was the reason the payments in lieu were sanctioned and he made use of them in the first place.

  • Cymro

    Those councillors who have consistently and foolishly backed their leader and Bryn including Mike James, Keith Lewis, John Davies and the Reverend Huw George (does he still preach Christianity?) could be in serious trouble if they persist in their nasty little habits.

  • Welshman 23

    Why were these details not brought to the attention of the councillors, it seems that people are covering their backsides and telling porkies to save their futures. Now there is hope that higher authorities are making a legal challenge. I am sure BPJ’s comments about Mr Barrett are going to bite him on the arse.

  • Flashbang

    With a bit of luck this may be the catalyst to flush out the whole bloody sewer that is PCC.

  • Goldingsboy

    Once again BPJ makes it into the columns of Private Eye but not, I fear, for the last time as they went to press before the WAO opinion of the proposed settlement was known.

  • The Rock

    How long before Leader Adams and CEO work out that it might be better to take the offer less £17,000 and run and hide. After all, in the leader’s mind it is an insignificant sum when creating cabinet posts and the like. Now there’s a saving for Pembrokeshire – no EGM, no paying more lawyers to attend and no WAG intervention. Oh, and NO chance.

  • Welshman 23

    What an interesting day ahead. I sent an e mail to Mr Crabb MP regarding the fiasco in the Kremlin last week, asking him to intervene. Here is his reply:

    “It would be inappropriate for me to use my role as Secretary of State for Wales to advise Welsh Ministers on whether they should intervene in this case. Whilst I understand the point you are making, my role simply does not allow me to follow the course of action you suggest. Local government in Wales is now solely a matter for Welsh Government Ministers in Cardiff.”

  • Goldingsboy

    It increasingly looks to me as though the £⅓m settlement agreement, regardless of its legitimacy, was cynically calculated to bring to a halt the inquiry into the conduct of Bryn Parry-Jones.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Poor old Stephen Crabb, now that he is Secretary of State for Wales, he seems to have conveniently forgotten his tax paying electors in Pembrokeshire.

    No wonder the electorate is in the process of deserting the major parties for UKIP.

  • Paul Absalom

    BPJ has been in charge while schools have been put into special measures, while child safeguarding has been found to be inadequate, while Mik Smith was allowed to carry on working with vulnerable children even though concerns were raised about his perverted interests and grooming of children, the Pembroke Dock grants fiasco also went on under his watch and so did the cover up that went on after it.

    Now someone who is earning £200k+ should bear responsibility for this, not be rewarded with another £332k. Well done to the WAO for stopping this ridiculous amount of money from leaving the public purse.

  • China Teapot

    In an ideal world…

    Withdraw the offer, go to inquiry, allow resignation if requested, pay up only at the end!

    Councillors really need to be seen doing the right thing (open and transparent), not a hidden deal, and then the people of Pembrokeshire may start to respect the way that a larger majority of Councillors do the job they have been elected for.

    Pembrokeshire People really need more Councillors to be looking at the way they spend our money, and with the savings to meet budgets coming, the role is going to get even more challenging. Stand up and be counted, for what you morally believe is right, not which way you seem to have been advised to vote.

    Keep on with the good work to those few who question, challenge, investigate, and inform – i.e. Jacob, Mike S, Paul to name a few.

  • Mayday

    So by staying in the room and not declaring an interest in the vote to change pension arrangements Bryn (employee) has:-

    a) implicitly created a legal minefield which has cost the council (employer) thousands in fees,

    b) potentially lost out on the extra £350k of LGPS Standard Lifetime Allowance (I wonder if this is what the current settlement figure is based on).

    Not quite the bright spark he is made out to be then…and having created the situation, why are the council offering him a payoff?

  • John Hudson

    As has been said, it is for the Officer with Statutory Section 151 responsibility and the Monitoring officer to ensure that the Council does take unlawful decisions or make unlawful payments.

    It is apparent that the Auditor’s view was known before the Council meeting on 16th, but the Council, not for the first time, was not properly informed by officers. This was a finding of the Auditor into the Council’s corporate governance arrangements some year ago, to the extent that councillors could not fulfil their statutory responsibilities.

    Can it be that officers did not inform the Leader (or the Council’s legal advisors). Is he so arrogant, he hoped to get this through with just the blind help and support of his political group?

    Were his group even told of the Auditor’s reservation? If so, why did they nod the agreement through and why were opposition councillors not told? If not, how are they feeling now, having been duped and exposed as unthinking fools and by their Leader.

    This is another peel of the rotten onion that needs to be exposed before the Council can move on.

  • Dave Edwards

    The Section 151 officer who was party to the discussion was Jon Haswell. Maybe one of your councillor correspondents can tell us what he reported during the secret session.

  • Dave Edwards

    If the EGM is confirmed, what odds on a secret session?

  • William Rees

    Dave, a secret session is a certainty. By the time we cast this lot into the cess-pool, where they belong, they will have destroyed democracy in Pembrokeshire.

  • John

    Re: Welshman 23’s e mail to Stephen Crabb and his refusal to intervene as it is a ‘matter for Welsh Ministers’, such protocol is clearly not in mind when he, Simon Hart, Glyn Davies and other Welsh Conservative MPs try to attack the ‘Welsh Assembly’ and run the Welsh NHS down at every conceivable opportunity.

    They are quite happy to poke their noses in then if they think there is any political gain in it for them! In general, all efforts should be made to complete the inquiry into BPJ’s conduct and take any necessary appropriate action based on the findings.

  • Welshman 23

    Dave Edwards, who is Jon Haswell and what is his job? I am sure we would like to know.

  • Dave Edwards

    Welshman, Jon Haswell is the Chief Finance Officer and the statutory Section 151 officer with responsibility for the financial conduct of the authority.

    With a minimum three clear days’ notice required to set an extraordinary council meeting and if the date is set tomorrow, we could expect next Thursday to be the day of judgement!

  • Welshman, as Dave says, Jon Haswell is the council’s statutory finance officer. Earlier this year he took over as the Director of Finance following Mark Lewis’ retirement.

    From what I remember he was present at the meeting on the 16th where the pay-off was approved, but I can’t remember him speaking at all.

  • Welshman 23

    Thank you for filling in the gaps. Do we know who the other benefactor of the pension fiasco was along with BPJ?

  • Dave Edwards

    WalesOnline have just posted an interesting article which denies Jamie’s version of “a few simple procedures” and reiterates the need for a new council resolution.

  • Robert Williams

    Martin Lewis is quite correct – the pension payments, undoubtedly, were made due to the rules concerning Standard Lifetime Allowance (SLA) and a tax charge of 55% (should you exceed them). Passing it off to a spouse (for example) would naturally reduce this: – 40% (if he or she was a high rate taxpayer) is better than 55%, and 20% (if he or she was a basic rate taxpayer) is better still. However, if he or she was a non-taxpayer, then…’back of the net’.

    John also made a valid comment. A number of weeks ago, Simon Hart MP made a front page ‘plea’ – “sort this mess out!” Where are you now Simon and to that mind, the rest of our Tory MPs and AMs? Nowhere – that’s where you are – apart from the surgeries you hold in pubs – just to show that you’re a man of the people (I remember William Hague pulling that stunt a long time back – before he lost the leadership).

    My final point is this. As a taxpayer of Pembrokeshire, I would rather end up with a bill of £500k and have taken the fight to its conclusion, than succumb to a settlement of £330k without any fight. I would be more than happy for my council tax to increase knowing that Council members did the right thing, ethically and morally.

    But whatever the outcome, I am content in the knowledge that almost all of my local councillors have done the right thing – Cllr Pugh – pick up the gauntlet for a clean sweep, think of it as a kind of redemption for the way you voted.

  • Faux Espoir

    That question time debate hosted by the Haverfordwest Civic Society on 21st November gets more interesting by the minute. One concern maybe Councillor Jamie Adams. If he’s not in post by then he’ll be totally out of place on the stage…

  • Pembs. Exile

    May I through your website seek clarification regarding the functioning/malfunctioning of the Pembs. County Council: does the constitution/standing orders of the Council make provision for members to requisition an extraordinary meeting?

    Am I right in believing that under Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act of 1989 the council has a duty to designate one of its officers as Monitoring Officer? Do I understand correctly that the duty of the officer so designated is to ensure the lawfulness and fairness of Council decision making and that he also has a duty to ensure that the council, its officers and its elected Councillors maintain the highest standards?

    Why in these circumstances is the appointed auditor able to allege so many decisions of the Council as being ultra vires? Why when the council is in crisis are members denied the opportunity of debating the decision made by the appointed auditor?

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Spotted in the murky waters of the Western Cleddau, a paddle belonging to Farmer Adams. Also lurking in the background was a Reverend blessing the water in hope of redemption and a big dog snooping for clues as to the cause of the disaster whilst there are a few turncoats being distributed by ‘Bruce’ Lee.

    All this being filmed for a return of Hancock’s Half Hour, although it might have been better if one of the Simpsons was involved!

  • Pembs. Exile, yes, the constitution allows councillors to call extraordinary council meetings – several have occurred since I’ve been on the council and I’ve been a signatory to nearly all of them.

    The authority’s monitoring officer is a statutory post with the duties you set out, why these duties appear not to have been met in this instance, is a good question.

    There were also external legal advisers involved (from Eversheds in Cardiff) who advised the council, and, presumably the monitoring officer. I also have reason to believe they regard Mr. Barrett’s view of unlawfulness as unfounded.

    In other words, it’s the classic ‘difference of legal opinion’ just like the ‘difference of legal opinion’ we had the last time Mr. Barrett intervened.

    That occasion resulted in Cllr. Adams caving in and agreeing to Mr. Barrett’s recommendations. This time, who knows? The same monitoring officer was in post when the original opt-out pension pay-supplement scheme was introduced, ultra vires, in 2011.

  • Welshman 23

    Jon Boy Jovi, great line however on a serious note I understand from a reliable source that the IPPG councillors are being lined up for the upcoming I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

    Jacob, you say Jamie Adams would not agree with the WAO, well Mr Barrett is a well educated and extremely competent official. However when it suits Jamie, he takes and agrees with the advice from Eversheds who are employment lawyers. There are are 2 sides to every story that’s why we need lawyers.

    I do agree with Robert Williams, our so called AMs and MPs could not care less, they enjoy the easy life but when you need them to do something they run for cover. In my language they chicken out a little like the people that voted for the pay off. How many people have signed the “sorry you are leaving card” for BPJ?.

  • The Rock

    Did I hear this correctly in the Jamie Adams Herald Interview: “I’m not going to give you a straight answer on it as yet.” – Nothing new there, then.

  • I am also picking up vibrations that there will be no extraordinary meeting to endorse this revised deal, if that is what is in the pipeline. The thinking seems to be that, if a lesser sum is agreed, there will be no need for elected members to give their approval.

    However, at the meeting of council on October 16, members were given the clearest possible advice by our lawyers that, if we didn’t include the pension contributions in the settlement, Mr Parry-Jones would have a cast iron case against the council for breach of contract.

    If it now proposed to exclude these pension payments, members should be satisfied that this is no longer the case. That is what I assume Cllr Adams is referring to when he talks of “minimising the financial risk” to the authority. Clearly, shaving a few bob off the settlement only to be faced with a bigger bill for breach of contract further down the line would, to coin a phrase, be taking a gamble with public money.

    That is why, in my opinion, any new deal should come before full council so that members can satisfy themselves that it doesn’t contain the seeds of a nasty future surprise.

  • John Hudson

    Councillors can call for an extraordinary meeting, but constitutionally only the CEO can sign the summons for councillors to attend a meeting. The Head of Legal Services can only send the papers out.

    Is the Monitoring Officer empowered to negotiate the Council’s way around this impasse built into its Constitution? Perhaps he is now the default controller of the council including its councillors, or is it Ian Westley?

    The Council has not authorised a Deputy CEO to act in this matter, or when it comes to it, for any officer, other than the CEO/Head of Paid Service to act as the Returning Officer. Under the Leader’s dynamic guidance the Constitutional Working Group, set up to review the Council’s Constitution, has been moribund for months.

  • John

    I fully agree that there should be a further meeting, and any payment curbed pending the conclusion of the disciplinary enquiry. But in the event that a payment is made to Mr Parry-Jones, any reasonable lawyer should ensure that a fully binding compromise agreement is signed that this settlement was in full and final settlement and that no party would then be able to take any further legal action for breach of contract or whatever relating to the matter.

    In that circumstance there would be no prospect of any further legal action or any further potential cost liability to the Council. Mike is quite right given the ruling group’s record thus far to insist that even if a payment is made (ideally it would be cancelled!) that the wording does not leave the Council subject to further liability and a meeting must be held to ratify that.

  • Pembs. Exile

    Thank you to those of you who have offered clarification to my earlier missive. What a sad state of affairs – a council unable to act because it has, it appears, failed to be advised and to act on the consequences of its own actions. The appointed auditor has, in the public interest, published his reasons for reaching the decisions that he has. I have no doubt that before publishing his report it was scrutinised by lawyers.

    Can Pembrokeshire County Council now, in the public interest, and to justify the decisions that it has/has not taken, publish in full the legal advice on which those decisions are based? Only then will the public be able to judge whether the council have acted on the advice which they have received or only on the advice which they wanted to hear.

    Pembrokeshire is in crisis – it seems to be lacking any leadership. If the cry that I hear “we are acting in the best interest of the Pembrokeshire public” is to be believed then all councillors must be involved in an open debate with members free to vote on the evidence placed before them and backed by sound legal advice.

    Most of the members of the county council have been elected on an independent ticket. Now they must act as independents and vote as independents. “Independent” in the Oxford dictionary is defined as “Not depending on others for one’s opinions or conduct”. If this debate is not held then I fear democracy in Pembrokeshire is dead.

  • John Hudson

    Jacob, as I understand it there are 4 statutory officers responsible for ensuring that the Council acts lawfully:- 1. CEO/Head of Paid Service, 2. Monitoring officer, 3. Director of Finance/Chief financial officer also under s 151 responsible for ensuring that the Council does not incur unlawful expenditure and also for reporting to council any expenditure that will cause the Council to overspend. (This officer, under case law also has a special fiduciary duty to council tax payers) and 4. The head of Legal and Committee Services.

    All of these officers are required to consult with each other over such matters and advise councillors as appropriate. Councillors are in turn required to have regard to such advice and exercise their own judgement taking into account all relevant considerations and disregarding non relevant considerations. This may include voting along “party lines”.

    How can 4 highly paid professional officers get it so wrong, mostly in administrative procedure it would seem? The differing legal positions may only be settled by an independent judicial review or High Court judgement. This may well hinge on the level of information given to councillors in order for them to fully consider matters in the light of ALL relevant considerations. I think this situation qualifies as a shambles. This council cannot ensure that its decisions are lawful. Meanwhile the budget process for next year rolls on.

  • Martin Lewis

    The Eversheds legal advice seems to have included provision for previously established “unlawful” payments to be included in the final settlement calculation. This puts the council on a direct collision course with the WAO legally, which in turn lines us up for a costly legal battle costing god knows how much.

    Hardly doing what’s best for the financial well-being of the council is it Jamie? This is just a big mess now and Jamie Adams and Laurence Harding BOTH need to resign right now.

  • Welshman 23

    Mike, I understand that there may be no meeting because of a lesser amount being paid, what happens if further down the line the council are sued because of breach of contract as the legal people are saying?

    This is farcical and very frustrating for you councillors, surely common sense would say let’s hold a meeting just to satisfy that people can vote on the actual facts.

  • Martin Lewis

    So now the WT are reporting that a deal has been done with the removal of some £52k of unlawful payments. Can the 29 members of council who voted FOR these unlawful payments to be made please account for their actions?

    The legal advice was obviously flawed, I would be seeking a reduction in fees if I were Jamie & Co.

  • Patrick

    I find it difficult to understand why Eversheds felt that the C.E.O. had a cast iron case when the instigation of the pension scheme was at a meeting the C.E.O should not have attended, and by attending made any decision taken there null and void (unlawful/ultra vires according to the W.A.O. and accepted as being so by full Council). Therefore any subsequent contracts based on the decisions taken at the unlawful meeting must in my view be invalid.

    But lawyers for the council say it’s alright to pay the pension money the W.A.O. deemed unlawful. Unfortunately I see a day in court approaching unless the C.E.O. drops this money out of the settlement and agrees with the W.A.O.

    So summing up, the council took and accepted the advice of the W.A.O. about the unlawfulness of the pension scheme and stopped it, and now they have taken the advice of Eversheds and are trying to pay money in lieu of the unlawful pension scheme that does not exist. No shambles here, then!

  • Welshman 23

    Are all you IPPG members naive to think he is going to give up a sum of £52k without a fight – he is being guided by his union. If you think this is the end dream on this is just the start of another embarrassing situation for the county of Pembrokeshire.

  • Flashbang

    In response to John Hudson’s comment about statutory officers, if there is a regime change in the Kremlin, these heads should roll as they appear to be blocking information that should have been presented to all the council.

    If they aren’t doing their duty shouldn’t there be criminal charges laid for nondisclosure of critical info in a very important juncture of council business? They are supposed to be working for the taxpayer, not the few with vested interests.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Surely Welshman, think about it, which would you rather choose, leave with £280,000 put in your hand today and a clean sheet to pursue alternative employment or pressing for a full payout, perhaps losing your case in the disciplinary hearing, then having to seek out an alternative revenue source.

    I hope both Cllr Peter Morgan and Cllr Mark Edwards can sleep well at nights and consider their actions over the last few months have benefited the people of Pembrokeshire.

  • Sealight

    Stephen Crabb is one of our county’s MPs. This matter is one for the Welsh Government. We should be contacting all the relevant AMs as it is they who must take action. I shall do so this weekend.

  • John Hudson

    On the basis of incomplete information, advice and assurances, 29 councillors were persuaded to vote for the “best” payoff agreement possible. It now transpires that this agreement included elements of recompense based on, and in respect of, unlawful payments.

    What other aspects of this agreement were not disclosed, but were voted through without councillors being aware of the full relevant considerations necessary for them to reach a proper, reasonable decision?

    I have in the past been informed by officers of the Council that it not necessary for councillors to be informed of all considerations, but only those considerations that officers deem relevant. This is the law as interpreted by official impartial, well paid professional advisors to Pembrokeshire County Councillors.

    There is still much to improve within this council, not least the slavish unquestioning behaviour of some councillors. As the auditor has commented in the past, some councillors lack motivation to challenge officers and also capacity. I never quite understood this last point, thinking it might refer to opportunity rather than to mental capacity.

  • Keanjo

    I am delighted that Jamie has now accepted that the Welsh Assembly Auditor might know more about the law on pensions than he does, and even more delighted that the severance payment has been reduced to the still substantial sum of £270,000.

    However I am still unaware how this sum has been calculated because, apparently, our Jamie does not think that mere mortals will understand the intricacies of employment law. Is it not high time the people who have to pay out, were given a detailed explanation of the basis of the calculation?

  • Timetraveller

    If all this was a work of fiction, many would say it was too convoluted, overdone and implausible. However Abe Lincoln once advised about telling the truth, so you don’t have to make it up as you go along. So may be it is fiction after all?

  • Goldingsboy

    Is it possible to mount an online petition to reopen the disciplinary enquiry and/or the paying of the financial settlement?

  • Welshman 23

    Malcolm totally agree, the council CEO in Carmarthenshire has also recently applied for voluntary redundancy.

  • Simply Stunned

    If the Herald latest is fact, I wonder if the saviour of Murco is on the phone right now, to ensure all the ‘t’s are crossed on ‘i’s dotted, as he was so instrumental in sorting the deal?

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    So the Pembrokeshire Alliance are looking for a grand coalition. Bungling Bob had a backdoor offer before Alison Lee had turned down the fatted calf. Can anyone else see a grand coalition working? There is no scrutiny of the current debacle and too few really know what is going on behind closed doors.

    I feel only the WAG commissioners can open this out and lay bare a platform from which to work. With a general election looming why can’t it just dissolve the current Council and set up an election in the same day? Party Politics at a national and local level otherwise there is no hope. As long as Farmer Adams recruits turncoats through his tenure nothing will change.

    Jon Coles of the Herald’s next meeting with the Farmer needs to be direct and explicit in seeking answers. It cannot be acceptable to give bland replies and fob off the electorate and his Councillors any longer.

  • Welshman 23

    Jon Boy Jovi, perhaps some of the questions for Mr Coles should come from the people who have been banging the drums for a long time.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Hear hear! Perhaps Jacob can collate a few questions via his website, however I can’t see them being answered! Is there any opportunity where the electorate can be granted an open forum with the Cabinet? That said, I don’t think there would be a venue big enough to house it so it would be outdoors. Scolton Manor perhaps. But that’s shutting early now…

  • Brian

    The WAO hasn’t been without its own difficulties in the past. BPJ’s golden handshake was a bargain compared to one of their own £750K pay-offs.

    As this article says: “The discovery of the failures of integrity at the very top of the organisation and of the weakness in the governance and management arrangements of the Wales Audit Office has been a blow to the morale of hard working and highly committed staff, and has left a legacy of anxiety in the organisation.”

    Sort of sets the tone in public life!

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