Suspended officers costing council £700k

South Wales Argus: IN COURT:  Anthony O'Sullivan IN COURT: Anthony O'Sullivan

A GWENT council will pay around £700,000 in salaries to three suspended senior officers, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by opposition Plaid Cymru asked for the total amount of salaries that will have been paid to former Caerphilly council chief executive, Anthony O’Sullivan, and his deputy, Nigel Barnett, from their suspension last year until January 5, 2015.

It showed they will have received £333,795 and £263,453 respectively, while Daniel Perkins, head of legal services, will have received £95,601.

The council has to pay salaries in line with the contracts of employment while the officers are suspended.

The three men are each on bail charged with misconduct in public office between June 1, 2012, and October, 10, 2012.

A provisional date of January 5, 2015, has been set for a trial, if not-guilty pleas are entered.

The figures also showed the total cost paid up to May 1, 2014, for all other expenditure related to the unlawful payment of allowances in legal and audit fees, amounted to £92,735.

Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid group on Caerphilly council, said: “These latest figures show the alarming cost to council tax-payers of the senior officers’ pay debacle.

“The three suspended top officers will have received £700,000 in pay by the time the matter comes to court while the overall total of salaries paid and fees for legal and audit costs will be a staggering £900,000. That does not include the salary of the new proposed interim chief executive.

“On top of that around £1.5 million extra will have been paid to 21 senior officers by the time of the next elections in 2017 as a result of the pay deal. What is even worse is that the Labour-run council has consistently refused to review the pay deals with a view to reducing the burden on the residents of the county borough.”

But a Caerphilly Labour spokesman said it was “typical mischief-making” on the part of Plaid, saying the council is legally obliged to pay the salaries of the three suspended senior officers.

He added: “It should be noted that in April 2013 [Plaid] unanimously supported our council’s pay policy, which included the current salaries paid to senior officers.

“Is Cllr Mann seriously suggesting that Caerphilly council should risk costly legal action by refusing to abide by its contractual obligations to the suspended officers?”

A council spokesman said: “The council has taken expert external legal advice and we cannot take any further action at this time whilst the criminal proceedings are ongoing.

“Unfortunately the legal proceedings are taking much longer than originally anticipated so it is understandable that there are concerns about the mounting costs, but we must allow the proper legal process to run its course.”

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