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£95,000 pay-off approved by Council leader, exceeding his authority

Pembrokeshire County Council’s leader exceeded his authority when he approved a £95,000 pay-off to the council’s former chief executive, a report by the authority's deputy monitoring officer has found.

The report was compiled for to an extraordinary council meeting due next week. It said leader David Simpson had negotiated the payment with Ian Westley before the latter left in November 2020.

A settlement agreement was concluded in August 2020 by Cllr Simpson, who was described in it as being duly authorised to sign for the authority.

But the report said such a decision was one for the full council and could not be delegated to the leader as an individual cabinet member.

“Responsibility for the appointment and dismissal of the authority’s staff is expressly made a non-executive function and, as concluding an agreed termination of employment is considered to be a matter incidental to appointment/dismissal, entering into such an agreement is a matter for council (or a committee or officer exercising powers delegated by it) to decide upon,” the report said.

It went on: “For these reasons, it is considered that under the relevant legislation the decision to enter into the settlement agreement with the former chief executive (and to make the associated payment) was not one which could properly be taken by the leader or any other individual councillor, and was one which needed to be taken by full council.

“Since this did not occur, there was no proper authority at the relevant time, either for the settlement agreement to be entered into on behalf of the authority, or for the payment to be made to the former chief executive.”

This is the second time that Pembrokeshire has encountered problems with a chief executive’s pay off.

In 2014 it was allowed by Audit Wales to proceed with a severance payment to then chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones, only after a reported £330,000 package was reduced by £52,760.

Mark Smulian