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Police launch investigation into Caerphilly Council pay rises

Published in News on Wednesday March 6th, 2013. Last updated at 17:04


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.”

The decision to award the pay rises running into thousands of pounds was “unlawful”, according to a report published by the Wales Audit Office.

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.”

More on this story

  • Caerphilly Council bosses under fire over pay increase
  • Caerphilly Council staff voice anger at managers’ pay increase
  • Plaid Cymru want Caerphilly Council bosses’ pay hike reversed
  • Caerphilly Council managers’ pay rises to be investigated, Labour promises
  • Caerphilly Labour councillor reported to Public Services Ombudsman
  • Transparency needed, says First Minister, after Caerphilly Council pay row
  • Plaid Cymru councillor reported to Public Services Ombudsman in pay row
  • Labour councillor cleared by Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

  • ‘Compromise’ voted for in Caerphilly Council pay row
  • Fresh war of words over Caerphilly Council pay deal
  • Decision to give Caerphilly Council bosses huge pay rises deemed “unlawful” by Wales Audit Office
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    • Jeff

      GWENT POLICE SAY:-“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.

      In order to maintain the same transparency and to ensure independence and complete impartiality during the investigation of the events and of those who`s action is being investigated, can we assume that the Chief Executive and the council`s senior Solicitor will be suspended from duty, if, for no other reason, than that they are not able to influence where the investigating officers go with their enquiries within the council offices, and, so that staff do not feel intimidated by these senior officers implicated in the investigation.

      There are many other honest and trustworthy officers who have much experience of governance by the Authority to run it in their absence.

      Nothing less than suspension of these men will suffice to give the public confidence in this police investigation.

    • Cllr. Richard Willia

      I predicted some time ago, in the 'Caerphilly Observer', that this pay scandal would continue to be in the news. Following the announcement that the Avon and Somerset police are to investigate those senior council officers that have been deemed to have acted unlawfully I sincerely hope that the council have taken swift action.

      This action should start with the immediate suspension of the chief executive and the others involved and their being escorted from the premises without being permitted to remove documents, computer disks or laptops. Their security clearance to enter council buildings should be rescinded at the same time.

      I am not pre-judging the findings of the Avon and Somerset police but these decisive actions need to be taken to protect the integrity of the investigation.

    • Trefor Bond

      When Councillors perform their public duty, as in this case, they are, at all times guided and advised by senior officers of the council, in this case the Chief Executive and the Council`s Senior lawyer.

      It is Council staff, in this case both the Chief Executive and the Lawyer, who prepare reports for submission to the various committees and who actually `Call` the Councillors to a meeting by way of giving them official notice to do so. In addition, it is the `duty` of the senior officers to ensure that all other legal requirements of the process are conducted in accordance with the law, Councillors have no role to play in that process, so they cannot be held responsible for the unlawful failures in the Auditors report.

      Neither can the elected members be held responsible for what the Chief Executive and the Lawyer writes in reports, or, the way those matters contained in the reports are promoted by way of the process for bringing them to the attention of elected members.

      Councillors cannot be held responsible for the actions, before the meeting, and the way the Chief Executive and the Lawyer acted at the meeting so far as those officers failure to conform to convention in remaining at the meeting table when the contents of the report promoting huge obscene hikes in their pay packets was considered by Councillors, short of being `ordered` to leave, and perhaps they should have done that.

      Councillors cannot be held responsible for information and advice, particularly legally based advice, and acting upon it, could it be that these Councillors, at this meeting, were convinced by misleading advice, incorrect information as to the elected members rights to reject the Chief Officers report, and by the report author being present, not forgetting that these are the two most senior officers of the executive of Caerphilly County Council, with the presupposed impression that what they said, what they advised and what they promoted was at all times the best available to elected members, trust. honesty and confidence in these officers would also have played a large part in the eventual outcome.

      We all know this was a seriously flawed process. But the elected members cannot be blamed for this huge public debacle and its embarrassing consequences.

      Now that a Police investigation is underway the public need to know what is being investigated, who is under investigation, and most importantly, that those who are being investigated for this serious breach in public confidence are removed from office in the meantime, so that a truly impartial inquiry can be carried out.

    • Jan

      This has to be very open and transparent and the general public need to know if these officers of caerphilly cbc had the relevant qualifications in the first instance for the posts they hold aswell. Are they all educated to degree level?

    • Trefor Bond

      If any other officers or employees of Caerphilly Council were accused of unlawful activity, in their jobs, both the Chief Executive and the Council`s Solicitor would have ensured that any evidence trail would have to remain untainted, and, in order to ensure that, the officer or employee would be suspended from duty and excluded from contacting potential witnesses etc,. Why do different rules apply to these individuals??? will there be shredding of documents, will there be intimidation of less senior staff to protect the guilty, if that is what they are proven to be, and who will ensure that the Police are pointed to all relevent evidence, would that be the Chief Executive and the Council`s Solicitor? Transparency? Independence? a proper inquiry that will be seen to properly clear these people of any wrong doing? we`ll see.

      These Staff should be removed in the short term to ensure that the transparency which has been promised becomes a reality. They should let the Police Clear their stained reputations, particularly if the Auditor for Wales is proved to be wrong, What then?

    • Dave

      If they are guilty I think they should be sacked,why should they be allowed to get away with it?

      I also feel that they should investigate their grant system,they have been getting away with a lot of things it's about time they are stopped.

      I know of one incident when a grant was given for the builders mother to have a new roof,who did the work? The same builder who does the grant work for the council yet not one other person has been able to get a grant for a new roof in the same street even years later when the roofs have clearly deteriorated ,enough is enough its about time they are stopped doing things hush hush to say the least.