Former Pembrokeshire County Council leader admits mistakes over chief exec's pension scandal

Western Telegraph: Cllr John Davies, former leader of Pembrokeshire County Council. Cllr John Davies, former leader of Pembrokeshire County Council.

The man in charge of Pembrokeshire County Council when the decision was taken to allow what are now known to be unlawful payments to senior council officers, has admitted that mistakes have been made.

Former Pembrokeshire County Council leader Cllr John Davies was the chairman of the Senior Staff Committee in 2011 that allowed the controversial pension opt-out scheme.

The Wales Audit Office last week said the arrangement was contrary to law.

By March, council chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones and another unnamed senior officer will have received more than £50,000 in unlawful payments, Auditor Anthony Barrett said.

Dyfed-Powys Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are now liaising over the issue.

During last night’s (Thursday) Question Time-style ‘Pawb a’i Farn’ programme on S4C, filmed in Crymych, Cllr Davies was asked about the payments.

He said if he was still council leader he would set up a ‘completely independent’ investigation.

Cllr Davies said he also welcomed any CPS probe into the matter.

Referring to the Senior Staff Commitee, Cllr Davies said: “It was a unanimous decision by the committee, there were Conservatives, Labour group members and the Independent Group represented at that meeting. We decided to allow it on the terms that there was no extra cost. The auditor has suggested, in his opinion, that there was an extra, long-term cost.”

Presenter Dewi Llwyd interrupted: “Well he suggests it’s illegal.”

Cllr Davies replied: “Yes, he also suggests that, but the fact is there’s legal advice from both counties that says something else. Therefore I would suggest, if I was still the leader, there’s a need to have an investigation into this that is completely independent.

“The CPS is looking at it and I would welcome that investigation because it will be unbiased, it would deal with the facts and there will be an opportunity for us as two councils to learn from this.”

Mr Llwyd added: “It’s possible you accept that a big mistake has been made here?”

Cllr Davies answered: “Of course, there’s been a mistake, we have to learn, no one is perfect and we accept that. It was not one of the best decisions after a period of two-and-a-half years.”

Fellow panel member, the former Plaid president Dafydd Iwan, said: “A big mistake has been made. It was a way to avoid paying tax and did you know there are seven chief executives of local authorities in Wales who are paid more than the Prime Minister and they have so much greed they want to have more money and not pay tax on it.”

As a senior member of the ruling Independent Plus Group, Cllr Davies’ comments that mistakes were made will heap extra pressure on the County Council ahead of a meeting to discuss the pensions scandal.

Meanwhile, another senior Independent Plus Group member said he would, if necessary, back calls for the chief executive to be suspended while investigations were carried out.

Planning Committee Chairman Myles Pepper told the Western Telegraph: “Clearly, wrongs have been committed and it may be that more than one person party to the decision(s) has also committed wrongs.”

Cllr Pepper added: “My view is that we have to hold an extraordinary meeting dedicated solely to the report and all related matters that have led to the same and this should be undertaken as soon as members are in a position so to do, i.e with the greatest of urgency and certainly before our next Full Council.

“If this means that the Chief Executive and any other persons implicated have to be suspended whilst these investigations are undertaken then, subject to legal advice, this would be the course of action I would be recommending.

“I re-iterate the matter requires most urgent investigations and furthermore that members be advised of the legally correct procedure throughout their deliberations up to the point of when matters are put to the vote.”

Pembrokeshire County Council must meet within 30 days of the report’s publication to discuss the issue.

Comments (21)

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2:20pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Andrew Lye says...

Looks like the cracks are starting to appear within the IPPG....
Looks like the cracks are starting to appear within the IPPG.... Andrew Lye
  • Score: 9

2:36pm Fri 7 Feb 14

PembrokeshireMan says...

If I were to get caught robbing a bank I'm sure the judge would let me off with a caution if I told him it was just a mistake.

I guess it's only mistake if I get caught.
If I were to get caught robbing a bank I'm sure the judge would let me off with a caution if I told him it was just a mistake. I guess it's only mistake if I get caught. PembrokeshireMan
  • Score: 16

4:18pm Fri 7 Feb 14

chizy says...

If it is one big tax avoidance scheme then surely HMRC should be involved?
All very well the Old Bill and the CPS having a look at this scandal but robbing the Treasury of what it's owed is really,really serious.

This is what Revenue and Customs say on their website about tax avoidance:

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is very successful at tackling tax avoidance and employs teams of tax, legal and accountancy experts to challenge those who try to get out of paying their tax. Anyone tempted to use a tax avoidance scheme should think very carefully about the costs, the disruption caused by having to deal with HMRC enquiries and potentially lengthy litigation, and uncertainty over the outcome they may face as a result.

As I've said before, what a kerfuffle.
If it is one big tax avoidance scheme then surely HMRC should be involved? All very well the Old Bill and the CPS having a look at this scandal but robbing the Treasury of what it's owed is really,really serious. This is what Revenue and Customs say on their website about tax avoidance: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is very successful at tackling tax avoidance and employs teams of tax, legal and accountancy experts to challenge those who try to get out of paying their tax. Anyone tempted to use a tax avoidance scheme should think very carefully about the costs, the disruption caused by having to deal with HMRC enquiries and potentially lengthy litigation, and uncertainty over the outcome they may face as a result. As I've said before, what a kerfuffle. chizy
  • Score: 11

5:24pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Indeview J Hudson says...

I wonder if the former Leader remembers what advice he gave to the committee, as has been claimed by the present Leader?
Unfortunately it is not reported or minuted in the public record of this Council Committee Meeting, but he could tell us at the special Council meeting.

OH dear, is the law of the land at last catching up with the Independent State of Pembrokeshire County Council?
I wonder if the former Leader remembers what advice he gave to the committee, as has been claimed by the present Leader? Unfortunately it is not reported or minuted in the public record of this Council Committee Meeting, but he could tell us at the special Council meeting. OH dear, is the law of the land at last catching up with the Independent State of Pembrokeshire County Council? Indeview J Hudson
  • Score: 10

6:17pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Welshman23 says...

Councillor Davies well done for putting your head above the parapitt , let's flush out the other members who voted and the other person who benefited from this decision.
Councillor Davies well done for putting your head above the parapitt , let's flush out the other members who voted and the other person who benefited from this decision. Welshman23
  • Score: 9

6:19pm Fri 7 Feb 14

malcolm calver says...

So now Cllr Davies suggests setting up an independent investigation at which I presume he will give some insight into the goings on.

Surely Cllr Davies, as Leader, had the gumption to work out that Mr Parry Jones and the other officer likely to benefit from the proposal, should not have been present at the meeting. I suppose he could have sought advice from Laurence Harding,. for whatever that is worth. I presume as chair of the meeting, he was privy to the location of the proposed meeting.
I do not know what present position Mr Davies holds but at the time of the meetings I believe he was considering running for the position of Police Commissioner.

I do believe that at a corporate governance meeting, Cllr Adams told those present Cllr Davies had advised them that "he had experienced deals such as this at other meetings at which he was present". I would suggest that the press and the investigation committee challenge Cllr Davies on this and especially which organizations were involved and if
he was aware if anyone benefited from such a scheme.
So now Cllr Davies suggests setting up an independent investigation at which I presume he will give some insight into the goings on. Surely Cllr Davies, as Leader, had the gumption to work out that Mr Parry Jones and the other officer likely to benefit from the proposal, should not have been present at the meeting. I suppose he could have sought advice from Laurence Harding,. for whatever that is worth. I presume as chair of the meeting, he was privy to the location of the proposed meeting. I do not know what present position Mr Davies holds but at the time of the meetings I believe he was considering running for the position of Police Commissioner. I do believe that at a corporate governance meeting, Cllr Adams told those present Cllr Davies had advised them that "he had experienced deals such as this at other meetings at which he was present". I would suggest that the press and the investigation committee challenge Cllr Davies on this and especially which organizations were involved and if he was aware if anyone benefited from such a scheme. malcolm calver
  • Score: 11

6:20pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Welshman23 says...

PembrokeshireMan wrote:
If I were to get caught robbing a bank I'm sure the judge would let me off with a caution if I told him it was just a mistake.

I guess it's only mistake if I get caught.
Get BPJ to defend you he gets away with anything.
[quote][p][bold]PembrokeshireMan[/bold] wrote: If I were to get caught robbing a bank I'm sure the judge would let me off with a caution if I told him it was just a mistake. I guess it's only mistake if I get caught.[/p][/quote]Get BPJ to defend you he gets away with anything. Welshman23
  • Score: 4

6:24pm Fri 7 Feb 14

malcolm calver says...

Perhaps we could be informed which Conservative and Labour councillors took part in the meeting.
I wonder have they been promoted i.e received a special responsibility allowance?
Perhaps we could be informed which Conservative and Labour councillors took part in the meeting. I wonder have they been promoted i.e received a special responsibility allowance? malcolm calver
  • Score: 7

6:31pm Fri 7 Feb 14

teifion says...

sorry, just assume I've just walked in on this conversation - does every councillor that supports (or should I say supported) Bryn Jones get a "special responsibility allowance" - In my opinion IF that is the case then that fact should be investigated by the Police as it looks "smelly" to me
sorry, just assume I've just walked in on this conversation - does every councillor that supports (or should I say supported) Bryn Jones get a "special responsibility allowance" - In my opinion IF that is the case then that fact should be investigated by the Police as it looks "smelly" to me teifion
  • Score: 1

7:05pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Dave Edwards says...

the members present were J T Davies , J Adams, J S Allen Mirehouse and D Wildman (all IPG) S Hudson (Con) S Perkins (Labour)
the members present were J T Davies , J Adams, J S Allen Mirehouse and D Wildman (all IPG) S Hudson (Con) S Perkins (Labour) Dave Edwards
  • Score: 6

10:35pm Fri 7 Feb 14

pembrokedock123 says...

Cllr Pepper added: “My view is that we have to hold an extraordinary meeting dedicated solely to the report and all related matters that have led to the same and this should be undertaken as soon as members are in a position so to do, i.e with the greatest of urgency and certainly before our next Full Council. "

At last someone in PCC talking sense. Of course Bryn Parry Jones should be suspended.. But what is the need for an "investigation" ? The Wales Audit Office is not just some individual person with their own opinion, they are the law. If they say there were "unlawful cash payments" then there were. Those who received them and also approved them should all be suspended straightaway - no brainer. That none of them have had the grace to resign yet is a disgrace and makes it worse for them as they have not only broken the law but are trying to defy the law now as well.
Cllr Pepper added: “My view is that we have to hold an extraordinary meeting dedicated solely to the report and all related matters that have led to the same and this should be undertaken as soon as members are in a position so to do, i.e with the greatest of urgency and certainly before our next Full Council. " At last someone in PCC talking sense. Of course Bryn Parry Jones should be suspended.. But what is the need for an "investigation" ? The Wales Audit Office is not just some individual person with their own opinion, they are the law. If they say there were "unlawful cash payments" then there were. Those who received them and also approved them should all be suspended straightaway - no brainer. That none of them have had the grace to resign yet is a disgrace and makes it worse for them as they have not only broken the law but are trying to defy the law now as well. pembrokedock123
  • Score: 8

10:40pm Fri 7 Feb 14

pembrokedock123 says...

Dave Edwards says "the members present were J T Davies , J Adams, J S Allen Mirehouse and D Wildman (all IPG) S Hudson (Con) S Perkins (Labour)"

a right lot - they should all resign from public office straightaway unless they can show they were forced against their will to vote for the unlawful payments. Thanks Dave Edwards for the public service you have done in revealing the names. Will we see this in print in the Western Telegraph now too? Do you know who the unnamed "other officer" is at the moment?
Dave Edwards says "the members present were J T Davies , J Adams, J S Allen Mirehouse and D Wildman (all IPG) S Hudson (Con) S Perkins (Labour)" a right lot - they should all resign from public office straightaway unless they can show they were forced against their will to vote for the unlawful payments. Thanks Dave Edwards for the public service you have done in revealing the names. Will we see this in print in the Western Telegraph now too? Do you know who the unnamed "other officer" is at the moment? pembrokedock123
  • Score: 12

12:15am Sat 8 Feb 14

Welshman23 says...

Dave Edwards wrote:
the members present were J T Davies , J Adams, J S Allen Mirehouse and D Wildman (all IPG) S Hudson (Con) S Perkins (Labour)
Thank you David, you would have thought the WT would have been on the case. These people should be investigated by the police.
[quote][p][bold]Dave Edwards[/bold] wrote: the members present were J T Davies , J Adams, J S Allen Mirehouse and D Wildman (all IPG) S Hudson (Con) S Perkins (Labour)[/p][/quote]Thank you David, you would have thought the WT would have been on the case. These people should be investigated by the police. Welshman23
  • Score: 8

4:01am Sat 8 Feb 14

KeanJo says...

At last, a glimmer of common sense
At last, a glimmer of common sense KeanJo
  • Score: 4

7:51am Sat 8 Feb 14

malcolm calver says...

Please do not be too harsh on five of the glorious six. You must remember that Leader Cllr John Davies advised them that he had come across this before and therefore they must have felt it was OK. I would still like to be informed where he had come across this before, as surely they had the intelligence to ask him the question and it is recorded in the minutes.
I am probably expecting too much from them, as they did not have the intelligence to work out that someone likely to benefit from any new pension arrangement, should not be sitting in on the discussions
Please do not be too harsh on five of the glorious six. You must remember that Leader Cllr John Davies advised them that he had come across this before and therefore they must have felt it was OK. I would still like to be informed where he had come across this before, as surely they had the intelligence to ask him the question and it is recorded in the minutes. I am probably expecting too much from them, as they did not have the intelligence to work out that someone likely to benefit from any new pension arrangement, should not be sitting in on the discussions malcolm calver
  • Score: 6

8:04am Sat 8 Feb 14

Welshman23 says...

malcolm calver wrote:
Please do not be too harsh on five of the glorious six. You must remember that Leader Cllr John Davies advised them that he had come across this before and therefore they must have felt it was OK. I would still like to be informed where he had come across this before, as surely they had the intelligence to ask him the question and it is recorded in the minutes.
I am probably expecting too much from them, as they did not have the intelligence to work out that someone likely to benefit from any new pension arrangement, should not be sitting in on the discussions
Totally agree but surely these people taking part of the process with one of the benefactors present were pressurised into making this decision. Common sense if they had any would suggest any scheme were there was an avoidance of paying income tax would be illegal, if not we would all be using this loophole. All present should be made to pay the legal costs out of there own pockets.
[quote][p][bold]malcolm calver[/bold] wrote: Please do not be too harsh on five of the glorious six. You must remember that Leader Cllr John Davies advised them that he had come across this before and therefore they must have felt it was OK. I would still like to be informed where he had come across this before, as surely they had the intelligence to ask him the question and it is recorded in the minutes. I am probably expecting too much from them, as they did not have the intelligence to work out that someone likely to benefit from any new pension arrangement, should not be sitting in on the discussions[/p][/quote]Totally agree but surely these people taking part of the process with one of the benefactors present were pressurised into making this decision. Common sense if they had any would suggest any scheme were there was an avoidance of paying income tax would be illegal, if not we would all be using this loophole. All present should be made to pay the legal costs out of there own pockets. Welshman23
  • Score: 2

9:28am Sat 8 Feb 14

Indeview J Hudson says...

Political group leaders are legally permitted special allowances as prescribed by the Independent Remuneration Panel. It is not a local discretion exercised by any one in the Council.
Pity lay councillors who are not properly informed or ill informed by professional officers of the Council.
This was found to be the case the Judicial review about Home Care Fees, where it was also highlighted that formal meeting records decision recording also left a lot to be desired.
Did any senior professional officer take up these points with a view to improving the Council's corporate Governance arrangements? NO.
Did any councillor pick these points up and challenge officers? NO
Rather the Older Persons Scrutiny Committee were advised and prevented from consideration of the Judicial Review report, because of an impending second Judicial Review.
It was only after the External Investigation reports that senior professional officers and councillors were forced into reviewing the Council's Corporate Governance arrangements. This pathway to "improvement" and "openness and transparency" is still limping along, with the same senior officers advising councillors.
Political group leaders are legally permitted special allowances as prescribed by the Independent Remuneration Panel. It is not a local discretion exercised by any one in the Council. Pity lay councillors who are not properly informed or ill informed by professional officers of the Council. This was found to be the case the Judicial review about Home Care Fees, where it was also highlighted that formal meeting records decision recording also left a lot to be desired. Did any senior professional officer take up these points with a view to improving the Council's corporate Governance arrangements? NO. Did any councillor pick these points up and challenge officers? NO Rather the Older Persons Scrutiny Committee were advised and prevented from consideration of the Judicial Review report, because of an impending second Judicial Review. It was only after the External Investigation reports that senior professional officers and councillors were forced into reviewing the Council's Corporate Governance arrangements. This pathway to "improvement" and "openness and transparency" is still limping along, with the same senior officers advising councillors. Indeview J Hudson
  • Score: 5

9:30am Sat 8 Feb 14

teifion says...

As the Police will be investigating Pembs CC , I wonder what Davies would have done or whether his presence would have affected the investigations If he'd got the Police Commissioners job?
As the Police will be investigating Pembs CC , I wonder what Davies would have done or whether his presence would have affected the investigations If he'd got the Police Commissioners job? teifion
  • Score: 2

11:25am Sat 8 Feb 14

pembrokedock123 says...

malcolm calver says...

Please do not be too harsh on five of the glorious six.

Why not? We keep being told what a special place Pembrokeshire is and how nobody "out of county" understands us. So we special people in this special place deserve the best of public service from our municipal leaders and we are clearly not getting it. Pembrokeshire is more than the current Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire deserves better than the current Pembrokeshire County Council, members and officers.
malcolm calver says... Please do not be too harsh on five of the glorious six. Why not? We keep being told what a special place Pembrokeshire is and how nobody "out of county" understands us. So we special people in this special place deserve the best of public service from our municipal leaders and we are clearly not getting it. Pembrokeshire is more than the current Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire deserves better than the current Pembrokeshire County Council, members and officers. pembrokedock123
  • Score: 5

8:45pm Mon 17 Feb 14

seaveiw says...

I agree everyone to whom I speak are fed up with this corrupt undemocratic council RESIGN now and lets have a democratic vote, if we can bothered to doso
I agree everyone to whom I speak are fed up with this corrupt undemocratic council RESIGN now and lets have a democratic vote, if we can bothered to doso seaveiw
  • Score: 1

9:32pm Wed 19 Feb 14

Seymour Clearly says...

Am I correct in thinking that the same former leader of pcc,successfully built a larger than permitted house for his herdsman for a herd that did not exist.
Was that a mistake and did he knock it down when the discovery was made.
Can somebody enlighten me please?
Am I correct in thinking that the same former leader of pcc,successfully built a larger than permitted house for his herdsman for a herd that did not exist. Was that a mistake and did he knock it down when the discovery was made. Can somebody enlighten me please? Seymour Clearly
  • Score: 0

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