Caerphilly Council has seen two of its senior employees arrested by Avon and Somerset Police following an investigation into a number of pay rises given to executives within the local authority.
Caerphilly Council Chief Executive, Anthony O’Sullivan and his deputy (and acting successor) Nigel Barnett are currently being questioned by Police. An investigation into secret pay rises was triggered when Mr O’Sullivan’s pay increased by £26,000, from £132,000 to £158,000 with increments of up to 30% being awarded to a total of 21 senior council staff.
The Wales Audit Office (WAO) contacted Gwent Police after a report concluded senior executives acted unlawfully. The case has been forwarded to Avon and Somerset Police, who are now investigating the WAO findings at the request of Gwent Police due to the close working partnership between the Local Authority and the Police. The WAO report claimed that,
The decision by the Senior Remuneration Committee on September 5, 2012 to approve the pay structure set out in the report of the chief executive was unlawful on a number of grounds.
The report added that the meeting wasn't properly advertised and the agendas for the meeting should have been made available for public inspection. In addition the report highlights that certain officers (including the Chief Executive) shouldn't have been present at the meeting, no declarations of interest were filed at the meeting, and senior officers didn't leave the meeting as the decision was being made.
The antics of Mr O’Sullivan, who is currently suspended from his position on full pay, led to several protests within the area especially as the increases were awarded at a time when frontline services were being cut. Following the outcry, Mr O’Sullivan has seen a modest - yet equally disgusting - £5,000 increase in his salary, and has with the support of Labour Councillors survived a vote of no confidence.
Times are hard, and Council Tax is one of the biggest bills we have to pay each month. We expect our money to spent wisely funding local services, not to be trousered by those who should know better. If found guilty, local taxpayers will expect Mr O’Sullivan and the other senior officers involved to face the full force of the law.