PEMBROKESHIRE County Councillors will discuss whether to suspend chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones on Friday as the fall-out over the ‘unlawful’ pension payments scandal continues.
Among the agenda items for the extraordinary meeting of the council is a notice of motion laid down by Labour group leader Cllr Paul Miller and signed by nine members.
It calls for Mr Parry-Jones to be immediately suspended, the controversial pay supplement revoked and further investigations to continue.
The meeting is a requirement of the damning Wales Audit Office report which labelled a scheme whereby Mr Parry-Jones and another officer opted out of the Local government Pension Scheme but received the employers’ pension contributions in direct payments, to be unlawful.
Dyfed-Powys Police has already said it is liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service over the matter.
But the agenda papers show that Pembrokeshire County Council steadfastly refutes the Auditor’s opinion that the scheme is unlawful.
An eight page report by the Monitoring Officer works its way through the Auditor’s concerns and bats them off - with the exception of the council failing to pay due regard to public sector equality which is described as “an oversight that is regretted.”
The council maintains that:
- the Senior Staff Committee that took the decision to allow the scheme did have the power to do so;
- the decision was taken to aid senior staff recruitment and was “a policy decision rather than a decision favouring one employee”;
- that there is no requirement for officers to declare an interest in an item, even if they have a direct interest;
- that the payment did comply with the Senior Staff Committee’s decision that the scheme should not cost the council additional money.
Councillors will receive detailed legal advice to support the council’s position, a spokesman said.
He added: “In that advice the Auditor clearly states that he is not suggesting that “a pay supplement of this type is intrinsically and necessarily unlawful.
“Further independent expert advice will be shared with Council demonstrating that the pensions facility offered to County Council staff is used in other public sector organisations in the health and university sectors.”
Council Leader Jamie Adams said: “It is important that Councillors have the opportunity to consider all the relevant evidence before deciding how best to respond to the Auditor’s recommendations.
“For example, one of the misunderstandings that has developed is that, as a result of this arrangement, two senior officers of the council are receiving tax free pay supplements.
“That is simply not true. For officers who chose to remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme, employee and employer pension contributions are tax free.
“However, in electing to leave the scheme and make their own arrangements for retirement, the officers concerned are paying considerably more tax on a monthly basis than would otherwise be the case.”
“Another misunderstanding that has arisen is that a criminal act has been committed. I understand that at a recent meeting with the Authority, the Auditor confirmed that he was not suggesting this was the case.”
Councillor Adams continued: “I am looking forward to the debate.
“It is of the utmost importance that Members do not allow a perception to arise that they had predetermined their position on these matters before seeing all the evidence that will be presented to Council.”
The meeting takes place at County Hall on Friday, February 14 at 10am. The meeting is open to the public and will also be broadcast via the web at www.pembrokeshire.public-i.tv/core/