Jacob Williams
Friday 31st October, 2014

Legal challenge in pipeline to halt revised CEO pay-off

Legal challenge in pipeline to halt revised CEO pay-off

UPDATE: The court injunction to prevent the revised pay-off from going ahead has failed.

The papers were formally lodged at the eleventh hour by Cllr. Paul Miller on Friday afternoon (31st) – the chief executive’s scheduled final day, however the judge refused to grant the injunction.

Within minutes of the court’s refusal of the application, the golden handshake documentation was signed and completed minus the elements – amounting to £52,760 – which the Wales Audit Office had deemed unlawful. The authority’s acting chief executive is Ian Westley, director of transportation and housing.



A LEGAL CHALLENGE is in the pipeline to prevent Pembrokeshire County Council from going through with a deal to give a revised pay-off to its outgoing chief executive, Bryn Parry-Jones.

I will reveal full details in due course, however I understand legal papers are due to be be filed this afternoon in an attempt to injunct the authority from entering into a recently-announced amended agreement with Mr. Parry-Jones.

Earlier this week the Wales Audit Office formally intervened by issuing a notice to block the £332k golden handshake which councillors originally awarded Mr. Parry-Jones at a controversial behind-closed-doors meeting on October 16th.

This morning the Wales Audit Office said it had conditionally lifted the formal notice it served on the authority after Mr. Parry-Jones agreed to accept a cut of more than £50k to remove the elements of the handshake which Anthony Barrett, the appointed auditor, deemed ‘unlawful’ in his advisory notice.

A court application due to be lodged by Labour party group leader Cllr. Paul Miller will seek to halt the approval of this revised settlement on the basis that it is materially different to that which was approved by councillors on October 16th and would lack the authority/approval of full council.

Despite giving confirmation yesterday afternoon to Labour group leader Cllr. Paul Miller that an extraordinary meeting would be held, legal officers of the authority now intend for this deal to be concluded without the approval of full council.

Mr. Barrett, the assistant auditor general for Wales, who served the notice on the council earlier in the week, this morning announced:

“A revised settlement agreement, to terminate the employment of the Chief Executive, has been agreed by all parties – in which the unlawful expenditure has been removed. The overall amount of the settlement has been reduced by £52,760.”

Adding:

“I am pleased that Pembrokeshire Council has removed items of unlawful expenditure from its settlement agreement with the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry-Jones.”

“For this reason, I am withdrawing the Advisory Notice I served on Tuesday and the Council is now free to proceed”


Like many others, it is my belief that any action taken following the formal stop notice must require full council approval, however if the pay-off returns to the council chamber it could give rise to the prospect of the deal being refused.

A second outing in the municipal bear pit could also result in councillors voting to recommence the formal disciplinary process into allegations of Mr. Parry-Jones’ misconduct.

Though the delegated authority on which these changes to the deal have been made remains unclear, council officers and presumably the leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams, in negotiation with the chief executive, have reduced the pay-off that was agreed by full council on October 16th.

The sum of £52,760 has been shaved off the elements of the £332k pay-off which took account of pension opt-out alternative sums – known as ‘pay supplements’- that Mr. Barrett, earlier this year, deemed were unlawful, and in doing so, it appears County Hall believes the requirement for full council debate and final ratification can be averted.

So what about that extraordinary meeting we were promised?

Yesterday afternoon, following an exchange of emails with the authority’s monitoring officer, Laurence Harding, Labour group leader Cllr. Paul Miller was told that an extraordinary meeting was being arranged, and that it would probably be held next week.

In contrast, by last night, an anonymous council ‘spokesman’ was telling the Western Mail that this was not the case: “a spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said that despite reports to the contrary an extraordinary meeting hadn’t been confirmed.”

In an email to councillors this morning, Mr. Harding explains this about-turn was as a result of a change in negotiations:

“At one point it was thought that an Extraordinary Meeting of Council would be required because of difficulties in negotiations with the CEO. I had responded to a query from Cllr Miller, who had been in contact with Mr Barrett (WAO), indicating that such a meeting was probable.

“However, there then was a change in the negotiations and it is probable that an ECM is not now necessary. If the compromise agreement is not completed today then an ECM may need to be called.”

However the email Mr. Harding had sent to Cllr. Miller yesterday afternoon – of which I have a copy – was worded:

“As a consequence of the Advisory Notice and the outcome of discussions with the WAO, an Extraordinary Meeting of Council is being arranged – probably on a day next week.”

So Cllr. Miller wasn’t told “that such a meeting was probable,” he was told that “an Extraordinary Meeting of Council is being arranged” – the only element of uncertainty was that it was said to be probably on a day next week.”

It’s possible that an extraordinary meeting may well go ahead yet, though whether it will be convened to bring members up to speed with what has taken place, or to debate and approve or refuse the revised deal which is hoped to take place, seems to be the question.


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65 Comments...

  • Andrew Lye

    Confused dot com…

    This story just runs and runs. You couldn’t write a novel like this, even if you tried. All the twists and turns. I would guess that if the amended sum is not mentioned in the original motion, then yes, an EGM would be required. Shame the wording was so tight it didn’t give any room to vary it by negotiation.

  • Welshman 23

    Well done to all that are fighting to get this EGM sorted.

  • Cymro

    It seems to me that an injunction will only delay this settlement. After all, Bryn will not be in the Council’s employment after today.

  • Faux Espoir

    Jamie Adams is fighting this to the precipice. If a court injunction is put in place this would put the Leader and his Cabinet on a serious collision course with Authorities. Those Councillors who voted the original payout through without viewing the paperwork and those in the know who withheld the information they had are under immense scrutiny.

    Will Cllr Jamie Adams be the person to hand the gavel over to the Welsh Government? This injunction carries more than £52k on its outcome.

  • Billy Dokar

    Am I alone in finding it disconcerting that councillors were not told that the appointed auditor had not seen the settlement agreement before its terms were put to full council and that it had not been approved by him?

    In short, the Council winged it and it has now found itself in the middle of quite unnecessary further controversy. At best, officers and Jamie Adams acted in a shambolically amateurish way; at worst, councillors were misled by not being given the whole story.

    It is unbelievable that anyone could think it lawful to compensate an employee in respect of unlawful payments. The law is clear on enforcing unlawful contracts and the rights flowing from them. Nobody forced Bryn out of the pension scheme, his personal greed led him to try and have the penny and the bun.

    It is incredible that having made such a basic error, the Council and its lawyers now seem to think that a new agreement can be entered into without going to a fresh council meeting for approval.

    Finally, it is disgraceful that Jamie Adams has sought to smear councillors who think that local democracy should actually mean democracy locally.

  • Dave Edwards

    INJUNCTION NOT GIVEN.

  • Goldingsboy

    Jacob, as a matter of interest, do you know who or what is funding the legal challenge mounted by Cllr. Miller?

  • I’m pretty sure it was Cllr. Miller personally.

  • Welshman 23

    The words forbid me to say what I would like to say but all the people that voted for this payment I hope you enjoy the remainder of your terms as councillors and ensure you top up your savings. You lot deserve each other.

  • Scorpio

    Now hang on, let me get this right. When the £330k payoff was announced, the IPPG said it was the best deal for Pembrokeshire, or words to that effect. However once challenged they find a way to shave £50k off it. Hmmm…interesting.

  • Rockface

    A disciplinary panel should be formed for those who voted for this pay-out. Kick them out! The time has come for protest.

  • Michael

    Well now that bit is settled let’s all go down to the Bristol Trader for BPJ’s leaving do. Doubt if he will buy us a drink though! We will need a bigger place for when the IPPG get kicked out!

  • Scorpio

    Jacob, has anyone else added to the call for Cllr. Adams’ resignation?

  • When you say ‘anyone else’ do you mean people other than the whole population of Pembrokeshire minus his IPPG councillors?

  • Rockface, the only disciplinary panel that is capable of delivering the desired outcome is the electorate.

    Unfortunately, its next meeting isn’t scheduled until May 2017 – and maybe 2018 if Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion merge voluntarily.

  • Scorpio

    I was referring to the call by the leader of Plaid Cymru in today’s Herald. I was wondering if any other councillors have supported it.

  • Malcolm Calver

    The tentacles of some spread very wide and deep.

  • Tony Wilcox

    I’m concerned that because the terms have been amended does this give him the opportunity to enter into litigation to reclaim his lost pension rights?

  • Pembs. Exile

    So, after all the huffing and puffing, the leader of Pembrokeshire County Council has again conceded that the case presented by the appointed auditor was the stronger. The auditor should be thanked by the members of the County Council and the electorate for: a) pointing out the flawed recommendations that the Council were asked to (and did) rubber stamp, b) for saving the community charge payers £52,000. I hope that the ‘pay agreement’ reached has been signed off as a full and final settlement and does not contain any supplementary payments in lieu.

    Whilst this episode may have finally been put to bed, many questions remain in relation to the conduct of both members and officers of the council. I have a very simplistic view of the workings of local government. Members are elected to establish policies for the good governance of the county and to act in the best interest of the electorate. Officers are appointed by the council to professionally advise them in establishing policies. Members can accept or reject the advice which is proffered.

    Provided that the policies which the Council eventually endorse are lawful, it is the duty of the administration to implement those policies. The relationship between members and officers must at all times be a professional one and must command mutual respect, it cannot and must not be matey-matey/hail fellow well met.

    All members and officers are, I believe, fully aware of the need in certain circumstances to make a “declaration of interest” and to observe the associated protocol. If I was on the Pembrokeshire electoral register I would certainly want to know who chaired the meeting which recommended the pension opt out scheme and why he/she as chairperson allowed persons with a pecuniary interest to take part/be present at that meeting?

    Why was the protocol of the Council in relation to the meeting itself not observed by the Chairperson? Why did a responsible officer not draw to the attention of the Council these breaches? This particular meeting and the decisions taken were declared ‘Ulra Vires’ by the appointed auditor. In the days up until the turn of the century officers/members who promulgated unlawful decisions would have been held responsible for any unlawful expenditure. (It was called accountability).

    The leader of the council has in recent months conceded to the views of the appointed auditor on two issues. Will he now in the public interest and in the interest of integrity/openness of local government, make available to the public the advice which he was provided in both of these issues. If it transpires that the advice was flawed, will he give an assurance that action will be taken against those who proffered the advice? If this information is not voluntarily forthcoming I would, were I a Pembrokeshire resident, be tempted to pursue the issue under the Freedom of Information legislation.

    The other issue which seems to be rumbling on and on is in relation to the restoration grants for work done on heritage/commercial buildings in Pembroke Dock. I assume that a contract was drawn up for this work and that the contract was awarded under the jurisdiction of the County Council. I assume that a clerk of works/responsible officer was designated to ensure that the work was carried out in accordance with the terms of the contract. I assume that on completion of the contract a designated officer signed off that the work had been completed in accordance with the terms of the contract.

    I accept that it is the responsibility of a member of the council to draw the attention of the council to any perceived shortcomings in relation to the contract. I do not believe that it is the responsibility of members to go crawling about in roof spaces to judge whether or not a contract has been fulfilled. It is, I humbly suggest, the responsibility of officers to report to members whether or not the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. If any dispute arises then surely the contract will have made provision for an independent arbitrator, preferably appointed by a professional body, to carry out a survey and report to the Council. If the necessary contractual procedures are in place then the failures can be identified and someone can be held accountable for those failures.

    I will watch with interest who offers the leadership to turn around the mistakes/disasters of recent years.

  • Keanjo

    Tony, I think BPJ would probably do that if SOLACE agreed to pick up the tab.

  • Scorpio,

    As recently as September 12 there was a vote of no confidence in Jamie Adams. He survived comfortably by 29-20 with one abstention. The voting list can be seen here.

    The result was somewhat skewed by the absence of seven opposition members, but even if they had been present and all voted against the leader – one of the absentees was Cllr Stan Hudson – the result would have been the same.

    And it is unlikely that it would be any different if the vote was taken again next week because one of those who voted against Cllr Adams back in September was Cllr Alison Lee, who has now joined his Cabinet.

    We must assume that Cllr Lee has changed her mind about the leader’s qualities because surely nobody would be so cynical as to serve under someone in whom they had no confidence.

  • Dennis Clutton

    Why didn’t the so called independent legal advice and the WLGA adviser pick this over-payment up. Are they being paid to advise in the best interests of us “Pembrokeshire residents” or are they in place to support Council Management?

    I think we should be getting a rebate from the legal advisors for lack of due diligence. Also, the council members should be looking at the membership fee it pays to be a part of the WLGA. Is it value for money? It seems to me they are more concerned about increasing management salaries than anything else.

  • John Hudson

    It seems that bullying at PCC is not restricted to councillors. Under Freedom of Information I obtained a copy of the Council’s own evaluation report on the Haverfordwest Town Heritage Initiative Phase 1 Project, reported to have cost £3.47m (WDA, Cadw, Heritage Lottery Fund and PCC) with additional PCC funding of £320,000.

    The Evaluation report comments:-

    Section 2.1
    Economic circumstances, a long period of decline, low income from property and a long term culture of lack of investment in maintenance all contributed to a situation whereby few of the owners were willing to invest their share of the costs. Indeed it is probable that if we had to rely on the original individual owners for the entire programme, the whole scheme would have been significantly less successful.

    However the THI programme did attract the attention of new owners and investors and as a result there has been a significant change in the ownership of properties within the THI area. Some of these ownership changes followed a very active interventionist role on the part of the County Council, for instance on occasion serving or threatening to serve substantial repair notices.

    The changes of ownership have been instrumental in the success and the solution to the slow start of the project. Is this a case of the outcome justifying the means, reflecting the ethos and ethics of the Council? 25 properties were renovated in this scheme.

  • John Hudson

    Do have a read of Bob’s blog on the Pembrokeshire Alliance website. Do all Councillors have free access to County Hall out-of office hours?

  • Dave Edwards

    Why did Bryn take Uncle Brian? Too many skeletons in too many cupboards? Why did Adams sanction Hall’s attendance? What was removed? So many questions, too few answers.

  • Brian

    It’s not over until its over. So if BPJ has had to accept the findings of the WAO that elements of his wad of wonga were unlawful then where does that leave the second ‘mystery individual’ who also had his/her trotters deep in the trough under the same scheme?

  • Pembs. Exile

    I agree with you Dave. Many questions arise from this episode and as yet no answers are being provided. Can I add to the questions being asked?

    I am deafened by the silence of the Leader of the council, surely the electorate are entitled to know:

    a) Who sat at the table to broker the flawed severance deal?

    b) Did the Chief Executive tender his resignation?

    c) Since the Chief Executive had not been suspended, did not face any disciplinary action and had only been subjected to a vote of no confidence, was his contract terminated by the authority? If so on what grounds?

    d) Was the Chief Executive made redundant? If so on what grounds?

    e) Was the contract terminated by mutual agreement?

    These are not frivolous questions. Future decisions/expenditures to be made by the Council depend upon the answers. I think the leader of the Council should also provide answers concerning the brokered deal negotiations and the so called “opt out” meeting.

    In a newspaper interview in relation to the opt out meeting he declared “Our legal advice is that our position is lawful”. In that same interview he declared “I’m a little bit perplexed as to how the Wales Audit Office can consider the position to be unlawful, they’re not the law”, and: “The chief executive and head of HR were both present and had no interest to declare because they were not part of the decision making process.”

    In accordance with perceived protocol, even if they took no part in the decision making, the mere fact that they were present rendered the decision and payments made under it ultra vires. The Council in the end, by its acceptance of the report and recommendations, concurred that the case put forward by the Wales Audit Office was right.

    Coming to the brokered deal for a pay-off of £330,000, the leader is quoted as having said that it was done in the “best interest of the Council” and that the “speedy, decisive action” taken will allow the council to “move on with confidence”.

    The deal was of course called in by the Wales Audit Office and a “new deal” was brokered. Does the leader in having to accept the view of the Wales Audit Office, feel that in both instances his judgement was found to be lacking?

    Will he as leader of the Council accept that the appointed auditor and his team have done the work that they are appointed to do, very professionally and without any ulterior motive being evident. I would hope that members of the council who hinted that the formal intervention was made with ulterior motives, would be persuaded to offer an apology.

    I note on another website that the Chief Executive was allowed to enter County Hall unaccompanied. I wonder why the outrage?

    The Chief Executive had not been suspended, was not the subject of any disciplinary action had not been dismissed. Unless as part of the brokered deal he was barred from entering unless escorted on what ground could he have been denied access to remove personal material?

    I wrote on a previous occasion the council must live with the consequences of the decisions that it did/did not take.

  • Pembs. Exile, I couldn’t agree with your comment more. I’m aware of the article about the chief executive clearing his County Hall office. My first reaction was, to borrow an oft-rehearsed phrase from the contrarian contributor to this blog, Nev Andrews, “so what?”

    As you suggest, Mr. Parry-Jones was still employed as the most senior officer of the council and he was in his place of work. He did not need anybody’s permission. His ‘working from home’ was a voluntary arrangement, rather than a formal one which prevented him from turning up to work.

    He had presumably not signed the termination contract up until that point, and even if he had, he wasn’t due to step down until 31st October and I’m not aware of any clause within the contract barring him from the council unsupervised if he signed before 31st October.

    It may look and feel wrong, but unless anything can be proven to the contrary, he didn’t do anything wrong by turning up and doing that.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t think it looks wrong, Cllr. Kilmister clearly thinks so to have blogged about it, and I agree it looks wrong, but to me, the main issue this raises is not what has happened, but what has not happened.

    It shows how important it was to suspend the chief executive at the first opportunity. That was a key factor, and there were multiple votes for suspension taken at the disciplinary committee meetings, and each and every time they failed.

    Any other council employee facing similar allegations would have been suspended with immediate effect as a matter of course, this would obviously prevent access to council buildings unaided. Mr. Parry-Jones was gifted special treatment, but he cannot be blamed for that, the councillors should be.

    In the week I intend to publish a post setting out the peculiar actions of a certain councillor on the day of the chief executive’s disciplinary committee appearance.

  • Jacob, as I understand it, “working from home” was the result of a mutually agreed arrangement with the Leader. So the chief executive was not free to come and go as he pleased.

    Having seen the settlement document, I can say that it does contain a standard clause about Mr Parry-Jones being allowed to return to County Hall, with the permission of the leader, to collect his personal belongings.

    However, that clause didn’t become effective until the document was signed and sealed at approximately 6.00 pm last Friday (October 31) at which time the chief executive ceased to be an employee of the council. So the timing of this alleged visit by Mr Parry-Jones and Cllr Hall is important.

    If it was prior to 31 October it was in breach of the “working from home” agreement and, if after, it should have been supervised.

  • Hi Mike,

    I have spoken to Bob and he says he knew about the chief executive’s visit – allegedly with Cllr. Brian Hall in tow – prior to the severance deal being signed on October 31st. Indeed, he only blogged about it on Saturday 1st November, so if, as you suggest, the visit Bob refers to may have taken place subsequent to the severance deal going through on the 31st, the window of opportunity was only a handful of hours.

    So, on the assumption that the chief executive’s office-emptying visit Bob refers to happened prior to the 31st signing, the clause you refer to within the severance agreement could have had no effect.

    And, as I said in my comment, the working from home arrangement is a red herring. It had no formal basis, just like the initial ‘period of absence’ before it, which, in a serendipitous twist that Jamie Adams never told anyone about, coincided with the chief executive’s annual leave.

    Jamie had no authority to grant either the initial ‘period of absence’ or the subsequent working from home arrangement, and as many others including you have previously noted, throughout the ‘working from home’ period there was nothing to prevent the chief executive from coming into work if he wanted to. The fact he ostensibly chose not to, by ‘mutual agreement’ or ‘mutual arrangement’ or whatever they want to call it, is irrelevant.

    I should add, not that I believe it had any legitimacy whatsoever, but even if it did, nobody has any idea of the ‘terms’ of this working from home arrangement.

    Thin gruel, I’m afraid.

  • Jacob, as far as I was concerned the working from home arrangement was the result of a gentleman’s agreement between the Leader and the chief executive.

    That being the case, you would expect it to be honoured. Unless, of course, you agree with Sam Goldwyn that “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

    Of course, Jamie Adams might have have given his consent for the agreement to be temporarily set aside so that the chief executive could visit the office to retrieve his personal belongings though why he felt the need to go outside office hours and accompanied by Cllr Brian Hall, is anybody’s guess.
    And, if the visit had already taken place, what was the point in including it in the severance agreement?

  • Mike, there are many expectations right-thinking people of the county would have of their council and its officers and councillors.

    Unfortunately as we all know too well, gazing at Pembrokeshire politics through rose-tinted spectacles carries a serious public health warning.

    Brian Hall’s alleged accompaniment at an out-of-hours retrieval operation does raise questions. Perhaps it was Mr. Parry-Jones’ idea and at his request. Bulky marble figurines, perhaps? Or maybe the leader took it upon himself to appoint Cllr. Hall to accompany the chief executive, for his own reasons, just as he took it upon himself to appoint an interim acting chief executive.

    Similar to the way he recently took it upon himself to involve Bob ‘Rumpole’ Summons in the renegotiation discussions following the WAO’s intervention.

    As for the severance agreement, I think the obvious answer is that the clause you refer to was included from the start, as a guarantee that the ex-chief executive – as he would then be – would be provided the express (enforceable) right to come in and collect any of his possessions which may have remained following his termination of employment.

    At such a point in time, he should of course be supervised, because he is a member of the public off the street. Up until his termination of employment he was never suspended and had free rein as the authority’s most senior officer, regardless of the worthless gentleman’s ‘working from home’ agreement.

    And what’s to say there aren’t any more of Mr. Parry-Jones’ personal effects left at County Hall?

  • John Hudson

    Have all the locks and card keys been changed yet? Did/Will all councillors have the same access rights and card keys? What are the new senior management arrangements and responsibilities?

  • Bob Kilmister

    The questions I think that need answering concerning the former CEO’s visit out of hours to clear his office are:

    1). Is it County Council policy for all services have to have a retention and destruction schedule for records and data utilised by that service. How was that carried out in this case?

    2). It is obviously normal to be allowed to clear your office of personal papers and effects but why was this unsupervised?

    3). Who gave the Leader authority to allow the former CEO to clear his office unsupervised before he had even signed the settlement agreement?

    I can confirm that the information provided to me is that his visit was carried out on 18/10/14. I can also confirm that the Leader emailed me to say that he had given his permission for the visit but had no idea Cllr Brian Hall would be involved.

  • Goldingsboy

    Cllr. Kilmister has overlooked another important question: who gave Cllr Hall permission to enter the building? It cannot have been the former CEO as, presumably, he no longer had the authority.

  • Keanjo

    What is happening with the Pembroke Dock grants scandal? Are the police going to take action?

  • Martin Lewis

    Cllr Hall is well known for burning the midnight oil at County Hall, I remember a few years back a cleaner commenting on the WT website that she thought he was on permanent night shift as he was there so often.

  • Goldingsboy

    I am not querying the right of Cllr. Hall to “burn the midnight oil” at his desk or workstation when filling out his expenses sheet. But is he allowed to wander around that area of the Kremlin without the formal permission of a legally responsible person?

  • Dave Edwards

    Keanjo, according to WEFO today, the police are still investigating.

  • Galf

    Surely there are enough CCTV cameras around County Hall to have captured this?

  • Pembs. Exile

    So, with the departure of the Chief Executive, the problems of Pembrokeshire County Council seem to be multiplying by the minute. Mike’s comment confirms the Chief Executive was “working from home” as the result of a mutually agreed arrangement with the leader, and Jamie may have given him permission to collect his belongings.

    Who is aware of the detail of any of these negotiations? I would humbly suggest that a Council cannot and should not be run on the basis of gentlemen’s agreement. I agree with Jacob that sadly these days, gentlemen’s agreements, unless recorded on tablets of stone, are pretty useless.

    Statements such as those made by Mike along with others makes one wonder about the culture which exists in Pembrokeshire County Council. Did the leader of the council have delegated powers or a mandate to:

    a) negotiate an agreement with the Chief Executive? Having negotiated that agreement was he empowered to vary it?

    b) negotiate a severance agreement with the Chief Executive when the Council had established a committee to examine allegations which had been made?

    c) appoint an interim Chief Executive? If the Chief Executive had been made redundant was this lawful?

    In all of these instances were records made of the decisions taken and by whom. Are these records, if not available to the general public, available for Councillors to peruse? I understand that one of the functions of the monitoring officer of the authority is for the publication of records of all decisions taken by or on behalf of the Council and the Executive. Since the Council has collective responsibility for the decisions taken or taken on its behalf. The information cannot be available on a basis of “need to know”.

    What are the arrangements within the Council for the leader to report on executive actions which he has taken on behalf of the Council? I am sure that at some stage in the near future the Council will want to ponder whether the vote of no confidence in the Chief Executive was not a vote of no confidence in its inertia to take, in the words of the leader “speedy decisive action”.

  • China Teapot

    The effigy on the bonfire tomorrow (which bonfire will it be? That’s the question!) may be stuffed with some interesting content.

    On the Pembroke Dock grant scheme issue, questions need to be asked about the purchases of buildings in Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest that fell under this grant scheme, not just the ones that are actually owned by Cathal McCosker or his shell companies. A really good investigation on this one is most certainly needed.

    As for clearing your desk as a high ranking employee…security would usually be present, is Cllr Hall security?

  • The Rock

    One has to ask what on earth was the monitoring officer doing whilst this fiasco was in progress. It is not what the IPPG councillors did it is what they failed to do. The policy of the council was to have a settlement. Not everybody agreed but that’s democracy. All that was left to do was to implement the policy competently and without breaking the law.

    If at the secret meeting the members did not agree a mechanism for an alternative settlement then subsequent events must surely be compromised. ALL the members are the employer and it is they, collectively, who should have endorsed the settlement. If there was any doubt then the matter should have been put to full council or maybe the urgency committee to obtain the required authority to endorse the final settlement. A simple solution to a simple problem.

    Also at the secret meeting, if any individuals knew that the WAO Auditor had not endorsed the settlement, or had not yet formed an opinion, or they purposely avoided this and went fishing to find some alternative (irrelevant) opinions that suited their wishes, I think they would have failed to take into account all relevant factors, and in so doing breached Wednesbury principles which are fundamental to all local authority decisions.

  • Flashbang

    You could divert a whole police force’s resources into looking at PCC. They (PCC) really do have a wilful disregard for the rule of law, separation of powers and other mechanisms for keeping things honest. It’s a shame the police aren’t much better.

  • John Hudson

    Exactly what legal powers has the Leader of the Council got? According to the Council’s Constitution, he can only appoint members to his Cabinet and make appointments to outside bodies. Are we able to see the legal opinions that allowed him to take the various actions he has taken upon himself over this matter?

    There is, or was, a statutory procedure to be followed that was junked by ad-hoc Pembrokeshire law. Is there an audit decision trail of the necessary decisions? What was the Monitoring Officer’s and the Head of Legal Services’ advice, not to mention that of the Council’s external legal advisors on the question of the Leader’s powers?

    There is a good reason why a Council Leader’s legal authority is restricted by law, or are we now in a situation where the Council is run by an unelected “mayor” type of figure with unwritten authority.

    Did the Council even have legal authority to grant the necessary legal authority to the Leader?

  • The Rock, all the report to members had to say was that: “The settlement is being considered by the Wales Audit Office.” No hint of any problems there!

    Certainly, when the matter was raised by both Jacob Williams and Bob Kilmister, nobody mentioned that the WAO had any doubts. Indeed, in an email dated 31 October, the Monitoring Officer told members: “Despite information in the public domain to the contrary, the officers at the WAO who were in discussion with the Council officers did not raise any concerns to them regarding the pension element of the calculation prior to the meeting of the 16 October.”

    During the meeting on October 16, there was no mention of any mechanism for arriving at an alternative settlement should the one before council fail to be be signed. It was just assumed that, as the draft settlement had been agreed by the Leader and the chief executive, once it had been approved by full council, it would come into effect on the specified date.

    So, as you say, nobody had authority to agree this revised settlement without reference to full council. Indeed the original resolution at the extraordinary meeting of council meeting on 12 September only gave the Leader authority to “explore” a settlement with the chief executive.

    As you know, the matter was not referred to full council, and, unless the Monitoring Officer, WAO or Welsh Government step in, it is difficult to see what can be done about it.

  • Timetraveller

    Whilst most members are in my view “gentlemen” in the sense they have scruples and are basically honest, this can’t apply to council affairs.

    Despite the integrity of most members, it has been grist to the mill how some officers and members have abused this concept. They actually get away with much because “gentlemen” will not normally consider them so low.

    Therefore whenever the word is used by senior officers and members, it should be challenged in council and the media as the ruse that it is to deceive by not abiding by due process or to keep proper records.

  • Welshman 23

    Do you remember making these comments Cllr George??!!

  • The Rock

    Thanks Mike. Basically then it looks like you were misled again. One has to wonder about the 29 IPPG supporters who voted for this course of action. Many of them trotted out a party line that the advice given made them vote that way. It appears the advice was both insufficient and highly suspect.

    Now any normal person representing their constituents would be up in arms having been duped in this way. The silence from the ranks of the IPPG only goes to expose the disrespect and disregard they show to those they are supposed to represent.

  • The Radical

    Will Bryn’s replacement be paid the same as Bryn – and get the same pension?

  • The acting head of paid service (Ian Westley, the director of transportation, housing and environment) received a pay rise to £145,000 for taking on the statutory duties following the chief executive’s termination of employment.

    It remains to be seen what the longer term plan is, i.e. whether the council will resurrect the post of chief executive or will permanently designate an officer as the head of paid service. For either option (or others that may exist) the council isn’t limited to existing officers and could employ a person to the job who is new to the authority.

  • The Rock, you have put your finger on the problem. Unfortunately, they come to see themselves as representing the council rather than the people who elected them.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Jacob, have I missed something along the way, who appointed Mr Ian Westley as acting head of paid service? You state his salary has increased to £145,000 but from what. How on earth can an employee with such a high position and therefore I presume a high workload, find time to cope with any extra work?

    Why did Mr Pykett the deputy chief executive not take on the role as I presume his salary would cover this or was that position just in name only.

    Now that Bryn Parry-Jones has ceased being an employee what meetings have been arranged so that all councillors can take part in an open discussion on the way forward and crucially what salaries should be offered for the position.

  • Keanjo

    If the Director of Transportation can do both jobs, either he or the Chief Executive must have been grossly underemployed. We, the people who pay the bills, really have to question whether this small Local Authority can afford these highly paid Chief Officers.

    Ceredigion seems to get by with smaller salaries but functions more efficiently. I think Shropshire advertised their senior posts at a lower salary and invited applications. Did anyone leave?

  • Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has just sent commissioners in to run Tower Hamlets council. Justifying the decision to the House of Commons, he described the situation in the London borough thus:

    “It paints a deeply concerning picture of obfuscation, denial, secrecy, the breakdown of democratic scrutiny and accountability, a culture of cronyism risking the corrupt spending of public funds”.

    Sound familiar?

  • Patrick

    All roads appear to lead to the Monitoring Officer?

  • John Hudson

    The 2013/14 accounts reveal that the Director of Transportation, Housing and Environment was paid a salary of £114,135 in 2012/13 and 2013/14. To assist him with these responsibilities the Director has three Heads of Department.

    The Assistant/Deputy Chief Executive is shown with a salary of £88,260 (from August 2012) in 2012/13 and £96,303 in 2013/14. With direct responsibility for policy, customer service and communications, and two Heads of Department, responsible for revenues/assurance and procurement. I think that the Deputy Chief Executive has since been made directly responsible for the 21st Century Schools programme, previously the responsibility of the Head of Education. There is a management structure chart included as part 7 of the council’s constitution.

    So the new acting Head of Paid Service will cost an increase of £31,000 p.a. plus of course the employer’s pension contribution and any additional “benefits in kind”.

    Whether any of the 2nd tier officers have been awarded allowances in recognition of their increased duties while the Director of Transportation, Housing and Environment is away fulfilling his now wider remit as acting Head of Paid Service, has not been disclosed, as far as I am aware.

    The former Chief Executive/designated Head of Paid Service was responsible for the Chief Officer’s Management Board now renamed, and had six Heads of Department working directly under him, including the Chief Finance Officer and Monitoring Officer, both Statutory required officer appointments.

    The Chief Executive/Head of Paid service was also appointed as the Returning Officer by the Council. No Deputy Returning Officer appointment was made. Have we got one now? Surely such an important post requires a formal Council resolution, and I expect a certain degree of relevant election law/rules knowledge. This position will of course be paid, on a personal basis for the costs of running elections, by the Home Office.

  • Goldingsboy

    Well, up to a point Mike, the lack of official action here in Pembrokeshire has been demonstrably pathetic so far.

  • In response to some queries, following the vote on the 16th during which the majority of councillors approved the chief executive’s pay-off, council took a further vote, in private, to approve the arrangement I mentioned above, along with the salary increase.

    Having looked back over the paperwork councillors were issued, there is nothing in the resolution to say how long Mr. Westley’s temporary role will last, only that it is ‘acting.’

  • Tim

    So what is the latest in County Hall? Do we still have a Chief Exec as staff have not been informed otherwise (which is no surprise). What are the next steps for the council?

  • Indepedant

    Luckily (for PCC only) the news from Murco has overshadowed County Hall this week…a ‘good week to bury bad news’ to quote somebody or other. I expect a deafening silence about their own affairs in the Kremlin.

  • Flashbang

    Has anybody phoned Eric Pickles?

  • Timetraveller

    Eric put Tower Hamlets in special measures. The problems there make Pembs look well run and concern supposedly elected councillors running rough shod over the paid staff. It does illustrate that the Leader/Cabinet can run the authority as opposed to the paid staff.

    Post-Bryn, Pembs may have similar problems with its Leader and cronies, but that is a common problem in many bodies where there aren’t enough checks on the executive. In Pembrokeshire’s case the sanction of voting the Leader out is still there, despite the largesse he can hand out. Likewise Pembs can amend its constitution to limit this. In any case Leighton Andrews has the responsibility in Wales, not Mr Pickles.

  • Unfortunately, it’s a Welsh Government function so Mr Pickles has no say in the matter.

  • Ratcatcher

    What the hell do we need a chief executive for? Surely if a new CE is appointed it is just leaving the way open for the position to be abused by someone else. Who will decide who is going to be CE? Will it be the same idiots who appointed the last one, along with the vastly over inflated salary and other benefits?

    The money that this council seems to throw around with gay abandon belongs to us, the people of Pembrokeshire, so shouldn’t we have a say as to how it is spent? I suppose the council will be advertising a Porsche for sale soon, or was that one of BPJ’s perks?

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