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First minister promises rules review after Caerphilly council’s six-year £4m pay row

A six-year pay dispute between councillors at Caerphilly County Borough Council at a cost of £4m will mean the rules around senior council officers’ pay in Wales will be changed, first minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Drakeford has promised a review into the long-running and costly Caerphilly pay row after an investigation into the ordeal concluded.

The council’s former chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan was suspended in 2013 following allegations of misconduct around pay rises given to senior council officers, including a £35,000 recommended pay rise for himself.

His deputy Nigel Barnett and head of legal services Daniel Parkins were also later suspended and all charged with misconduct, but the charges were thrown out in October 2015 because of a lack of evidence.

Whilst the others have since been given pay-outs of over £100,000 each, O’Sullivan is yet to reach an agreement with council.

His suspension was lifted in 2016, and he was granted “special paid leave” until the investigation was concluded which has so far cost taxpayers an estimated £4.1m.

Speaking in the Assembly last week, UKIP Wales leader Gareth Bennett called the situation “nonsense,” and said: “We have a chief executive there who hasn't come into work for six years, and he's being paid £130,000 a year to do precisely nothing.”

Addressing the first minister, Bennett stated: “The Caerphilly situation has been dragging on since 2012, so I think it now warrants some public comment from you, bearing in mind as well that one of your previous roles was as local government minister.

“So, this ongoing fiasco has certainly been on your watch.”

Mark Drakeford, the former local government secretary and current first minister, responded by saying that there were legal procedures that have to be followed, but that the situation was “not satisfactory to anybody.”

He stated that the Welsh Government had appointed an independent person to investigate O’Sullivan’s case, adding: “as soon as the current system has worked its way through, we will institute a review of it.

“It is not satisfactory. It does not work.”

Hefin David, Caerphilly Labour AM, said he had been calling for changes to the procedure since he was elected.

He said: “As soon as the Caerphilly investigation is complete, I anticipate that we will see changes to prevent this situation from ever happening again in Wales.”

Image credit - Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images


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