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Watchdog lets chief exec settlement agreement go ahead after £52k cut in pay-off

Pembrokeshire County Council can now proceed with a severance agreement with its chief executive after the Wales Audit Office withdrew an advisory notice halting the move.

The Appointed Auditor, Anthony Barrett, issued the notice earlier in the week, saying that he had reason to believe that the authority’s decision to enter into the agreement (worth a reported £330,000) would incur unlawful expenditure. The WAO described its action as “unprecedented”.

However, a revised settlement agreement has now been agreed by all parties. This will see the overall amount of the settlement reduced by £52,760.

Barrett said: "I am pleased that Pembrokeshire Council has removed items of unlawful expenditure from its settlement agreement with the chief executive, Bryn Parry-Jones.

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“For this reason, I am withdrawing the Advisory Notice I served on Tuesday and the council is now free to proceed.”

In January 2014 the Appointed Auditor issued a report in the public interest into payments made to the chief executive by the council in lieu of pension contributions, which Barrett said were unlawful.

The council subsequently rescinded the decision but not before more than £51,000 in payments had been made to the chief executive and another officer.

In the Statement of Reasons for issuing the advisory notice, Barrett said that on advice he took the view that “to the extent that the financial terms of any settlement agreement with the chief executive relies on and/or gives effect to the (unlawful) pay supplements, any decision to enter into a settlement agreement on those terms would itself be unlawful as:

(a) being beyond the powers of the council;

(b) involving the council misdirecting itself in law; and

(c) involving the council taking into account an irrelevant consideration.”

The council could not lawfully implement the settlement agreement while the advisory notice was in place.

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