ALMOST £200,000 more will be put aside to meet the costs associated to the internal investigation of a senior officer at the centre of a long-running council pay dispute.

Caerphilly County Borough Council councillors have agreed to an additional financial provision of £193,000, consisting mostly of legal costs, regarding the matter.

The council’s chief executive, Anthony O’Sullivan, was suspended on full pay in March 2013, following allegations of misconduct, along with deputy chief executive Nigel Barnett, and head of legal services Daniel Perkins.

The charges against the three officers were dismissed before trial, with the council agreeing to pay-outs of £171,000 and £127,000 for Mr Barnett and Mr Perkins respectively, last year.

But the council has not yet been able to reach an agreement with Mr O’Sullivan, and the matter has been referred to a Welsh Government-appointed official – a designated independent person (DIP).

The DIP has indicated it is hoped the investigation will be concluded by the end of the calendar year, the meeting was told.

But Cllr Colin Mann, the leader of the opposition and member for Llanbradach, said he was sceptical whether this would be the case.

“There is no end in sight,” said the Plaid Cymru councillor, “I have no confidence this will be the last time.”

Cllr Mann told the meeting that he estimated the cost to the Caerphilly taxpayer, in the five years since the suspension first occurred, to be around £80 per household.

Stephen Harris, the council’s interim head of corporate finance, said: “We are working on the basis that matters will be completed by December

“The figure was revised after the process was reduced to just one senior officer.”

The breakdown of the £193,000 agreed by the council was £99,000 for legal costs and £94,000 for a senior officer salary between for a period between July 1 and December 31.

The additional funding decision was made as members also agreed to extend the contract of the current interim chief executive, Christina Harrhy, until June 2019. This will allow for the continuity of significant financial projects and meet legal requirements, the meeting heard.

After agreeing to the extension, the council will be spending £280,949 on chief executive contracts – £137,000 on the suspended chief executive, and £143,949 on the interim – in line with its pay policy.

Cllr Colin Gordon, the cabinet member for corporate services and the Pontllanfaith member, told the meeting that the law states the authority must have a paid head of service.

“This is out of our hands. This is something we must do,” said the Labour councillor, referring to the extension of Mrs Harrhy’s contract.