Police launch investigation into Caerphilly Council pay rises
The decision to award huge pay rises to top bosses at Caerphilly County Borough Council is being investigated by the police in the wake of a damning report by the Wales Audit Office.
A Gwent Police spokesman said: “Having considered the Wales Audit Office report and having received advice from our Legal Services Department, we have decided that it is a matter that should be investigated by the police to ensure complete transparency and independence.
“However in light of our close proximity and working relationship with Caerphilly County Borough Council it’s not appropriate for it to be investigated by the Gwent Force, and as such the investigation has been referred to Avon & Somerset Police.”
Pay rises of up to 30% for 21 senior council bosses were agreed by a secret committee of councillors in September 2012 in a move now deemed unlawful by Assistant Auditor General Anthony Barrett.
The pay rises caused huge anger among staff and the public and forced the council to vote through a compromise deal scrapping the original decision.
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: “We can confirm that Avon and Somerset Police has been asked to review a Wales Audit Office’s auditor’s report on Caerphilly County Borough Council. We will be liaising with the CPS on this matter.”
A spokesman for Caerphilly County Borough Council said the local authority would “co-operate fully with any investigation”.
Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Caerphilly Council, welcomed the police intervention.
He said: “Following today’s damning report from the Wales Audit Office, police involvement was inevitable.
“It is right and proper that the serious and unlawful events highlighted at Labour-run Caerphilly council should be investigated by Avon & Somerset Police.
“Throughout this period, it is important to keep in mind the difficult circumstances that hard-working employees of the council now find themselves in as a result of inept leadership. There are thousands of dedicated and loyal employees at the council and it is vital that they are not tarnished by this episode.”
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has demanded answers from the council in light of the Wales Audit Office report.
Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant said: “It is entirely right that the Wales Audit Office look into this matter in the public interest.
“Public bodies must justify and account for decisions to increase senior pay effectively and it is important that the proper procedures are followed in taking such decisions.
“The public should be able to see that decisions of this magnitude are taken in a transparent way and are subject to proper scrutiny. It is totally out of keeping with these principles for any such decisions to appear to be taken ‘behind closed doors’.
“I will be contacting the Leader of Caerphilly Council today to ask him what action the Council plans to take. I am seeking an assurance that the Council will take swift action to deal with the recommendations in the report and that this situation will not be repeated.
“I am very concerned that legal advice given within the local authority has been deemed unlawful. I expect a prompt response.”
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Labour councillor cleared by Public Services Ombudsman for Wales