Thursday 17 July 2014

Blessed are the Council Chief Executives

Update 13.04

Pembrokeshire County Council went into closed session at its meeting today to discuss the chief executive's pension arrangements. All we know so far is that they voted not to pursue repayment of the money paid out unlawfully.

Aled Scourfield from the BBC was tweeting from the chamber prior to being asked to leave along with the rest of the press and the public. He reported that the council leader, Jamie Adams, told councillors that one member had broken the code of conduct by leaking the letter, and he apologised to the Chief Executive and his wife.

The Monitoring Officer will be asked to conduct an investigation.

It will be interesting to see what Old Grumpy and Jacob Williams make of this.


Carmarthenshire County Council has already begun its long summer nap, but down in Haverfordwest the final meeting of the full council before the summer recess promises to be a very long and rather fractious affair.

One point which will be of interest to Carmarthenshire residents is the saga of the chief executive's pension payments, although it seems this sensitive matter will be dealt with behind closed doors.

Unlike Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire's county councillors voted to ask the chief executive ever so nicely if he wouldn't mind paying back the payments which the Wales Audit Office deemed had been paid unlawfully in lieu of pension contributions.

Thanks to the Western Telegraph and what must be a very disgruntled council insider, we now know that Mr Bryn Parry Jones has no intention of paying the money back, and that he has taken the precaution of transferring the loot to his wife.

In a letter from that most exclusive of trade unions, the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, written on behalf of Mr Parry-Jones, there is even a hint that the council could find itself in court for its appalling treatment of Wales's highest paid chief executive (yes, Bryn earns slightly more than Mark James, although these matters are relative).

You can read the story for yourselves here, but it is worth reminding ourselves that Bryn Parry-Jones and Mark James were brothers in arms when it came to fighting off the Wales Audit Office earlier this year.

Although the arrangements were not supposed to cost the county councils a penny, they engaged the services of expensive consultants and the even more costly services of Mr Timothy Kerr-ching Kerr QC to defend payments which the WAO had decided were unlawful.

Carmarthenshire County Council remains adamant that the pension payments were lawful, and Mr James reminded staff recently in his latest sermon in Y Gair that the payments were made "on condition it did not cost the Council any money.  Many employers make similar arrangements and whilst of itself not intrinsically unlawful, there were some procedural deficiencies in how the decision was taken and the Council decided to withdraw this scheme for now." (my underlining).

Interestingly, the leaked letter says that Mr Parry-Jones has suffered "significant detriment" since he opted out of the local government pension scheme because he is no longer receiving employer pension contributions "as contractually required".

We do not know whether Mr Parry-Jones was given the option of re-joining the local authority pension fund and refused, or whether his opt-out was final and irreversible.

This raises the question of what has happened in the case of Mark James. Has he re-joined the pension scheme?  Has he been invited to re-join?

Also, when will the scheme be re-activated, as hinted in Mr James's Sermon on the Mount Jail Hill?

There is no likelihood that he will be asked to repay the unlawful payments because the logic of the line pursued by Labour's Kevin Madge is that the payments were not unlawful in the first place.

Amazing to think that Kev has ended up defending tax avoidance schemes for top earners, isn't it? 

As a footnote to this, readers who are not on Twitter or regular readers of the Pembrokeshire Herald may be surprised to learn that Pembrokeshire County Council is apparently paying the insurance on a Porsche Panamera sports saloon driven by Mr Parry-Jones's son but designated for use as a family vehicle.


Redhead said...

Don't forget, many CEOs, senior officers AND councillors are in the pension scheme. This option is being stopped for new councillors but it is quite possible that some more CEOs, senior officers and councillors in England and Wales have availed themselves of these tax-avoidance/pension boosting schemes.

A juicy research project for national and regional media perhaps.

Redhead said...

The monitoring officer - who depends for his or her job on the Chief Executive - right.

Anonymous said...

Hard pressed Pembrokeshire council tax-payers have paid for a Porsche Panamera for the Chief Executive, Bryn Parry-Jones, to drive. Which model is it? Porsche Panameras range from £64000 to £130000. Ridiculous ! Why are Ford Mondeos not good enough? Bryn is already being paid FAR more than the Prime Minister who earns £146,000. Of course refuse collecting in Pembroke is FAR more complex than wars in Gaza, Ukraine and Iraq !Back to the Panamera.....Bryn's SON who is about 22 has been driving that luxury council sports car to work in the Valero refinery for months. That is ILLEGAL because the son is not employed by the council. Furthermore, at about 22yrs, what is his insurance cost to drive such a car? £20K has been suggested ; yet the council tax-payers are paying that insurance ! These are CRIMINAL activities, surely? If not...they should be ! Tax-payers are being robbed by illegal activity. Who is responsible for this farce? Heads should roll!

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @9.45 My understanding is that the car is insured for family use by Pembrokeshire County Council rather than actually bought by the council.