THE PACE of change at Caerphilly council after its current chief executive took over in 2010 inevitably led to failures in how the authority was governed.

That’s according to yet another auditor’s report on the authority, released today, which says while the council is improving it is too early to say whether this can be sustained.

The Wales Audit Office’s report on a special inspection of the council which was called after it found the way huge pay rises were made for Caerphilly senior officers was unlawful.

Auditors came to the same conclusion about payments for staff losing allowances.

Both matters have been referred to police, and chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan and deputy chief executive Nigel Barnett remain on police bail. The men are suspended and the council is being run by interim chief executive Stuart Rosser.

The special inspection, which focused on the way decisions are taken and the council is governed, found that the tone of the organisation changed when Mr O’Sullivan was appointed to be chief executive in 2010.

Auditors wrote that he had a different leadership style to his predecessors, perceived by some to be more assertive, and there was a greater appetite for risk.

A number of issues were tackled well under the chief executive, auditors argue, but key governance arrangements were not reviewed or changed to reflect the change in tone at the top and the increased pace of operation.

“The pace of change and a combination of a number of weaknesses inevitably led to governance failings,” the report said. However the council’s improving governance programme board is successfully driving the council’s action plan to improve its governance arrangements, auditors said.

“It is uncertain whether the improved governance arrangements can be sustained during a period of further change,” the report argues. “Whilst the police investigation and the possibility of legal action remain undetermined, an air of uncertainty will continue, which can only be concluded once these matters are resolved,” the report says. It makes eight recommendations for improvement and calls for the decision making role of the cabinet and chief executive to be clarified.

Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas said: “Caerphilly Council is already taking steps to address fundamental weaknesses in governance. It now needs to continue this road to recovery and apply the same levels of energy to improving other aspects of its corporate services.”

Council leader Cllr Harry Andrews welcomed the report and was pleased that the WAO said improvements were already made: “We also recognise that there is still much work to do and we will act on the recommendations contained within the report and continue to build on our positive progress to date.”