Caerphilly council car allowance payments 'unlawful'
11:39am Friday 27th September 2013 in News
PAYMENTS made to compensate senior Caerphilly council officers for losing their car user allowances were unlawful, according to the authority’s appointed auditor.
It follows the suspension of the council’s chief executive Anthony O'Sullivan and his deputy Nigel Barnett who were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office after huge pay rises were awarded to 21 senior officials at the authority.
Minutes ahead of a special council meeting held on Wednesday night, the Wales Audit Office confirmed they consider one-off payments made to senior officers relating to the buyout of car allowances as being “unlawful expenditure”.
The expenditure amounted to a total of £218,563.
The investigation began after a report from Assistant Auditor General for Wales, Anthony Barrett, said the pay rises were unlawful.
A Caerphilly Council spokesman confirmed that the WAO stated the payments are unlawful “as these decisions were made by persons without appropriate authority to do so under the Council's constitution and Scheme of Delegation”.
He added: “A few months ago we voluntarily referred the matter to our external auditors and it is still being investigated. We are currently awaiting their view on the matter.”
Staff on lower grades also lost the allowance but did not receive compensatory payments.
The issue was first flagged up after former independent councillor Graham Simmonds submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in which he sought details of the car allowance payoff.
Mr Simmonds said he was “really, really angry” with the findings of his request.
The former Cefn Fforest councillor said: “Caerphilly is completely beyond political control. It is no longer a democratic organisation – it is absolutely out of control.
“You’ve got the same people down there for 30 or 40 years and they still don’t know what they’re doing.
“The question is, when do officers cease to be public servants? Until these people are held responsible under the law, I don’t think Caerphilly will ever improve.”
A special inspection into Caerphilly council will take place later this year following “significant failures in governance”, which were published in WAO’s Annual Improvement Report earlier this month.
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