Protests outside troubled Caerphilly council’s meeting

9:58am Wednesday 29th January 2014

CAERPHILLY council’s interim chief executive said the authority will not become complacent after a special inspection showed improvements in governance.

Yesterday’s full council meeting was preceded by a protest from dozens of members of Unison who objected to a proposed reduction of the casual mileage rate for council staff.

In September, the Wales Audit Office announced its intention to conduct a special inspection into corporate governance arrangements at the council following the findings of the appointed auditor who issued a report in the public interest in March 2013.

The special inspection report, which cost the authority £130,000, said: “We found that there is a strong determination amongst members and officers to ensure the governance arrangements are working properly and to re-build the council’s credibility.”

It also added that “there has been a healthy focus in the council on getting on with providing services and dealing with normal business”.

In response to the report, Stuart Rosser said: “It was in all our interest to have (the report). We are well on our way to getting back to where we were but there is still a lot of work to do. It gives us some room for confidence but not complacency.”

Council leader Harry Andrews added: “It’s clear now that we’re a different authority to what we were 12 months ago. There’s still more work to do and we’ll continue to build on this positive progress.”

The issue of unlawful payments was also briefly discussed at the meeting. In April 2012, payments totalling £218,563 were paid to 51 senior staff (the Hay salary group) as a buy-out of essential user car allowances and annual leave.

The WAO published a report on December 19 confirming what members already knew, which was that these payments were unlawful. The council’s interim chief executive Stuart Rosser provided members with an interim report on November 19, in expectance of the official WAO report a month later, in which he gave background context to the WAO’s report.

Council chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan and his deputy Nigel Barnett have been arrested on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office.

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