Former council boss was ‘unlawfully’ given a £95k payoff when he stepped down

A choice to grant a severance cost of £95,000 to a council chief govt was illegal, Wales’ spending watchdog has concluded.

In a public curiosity report, Auditor Normal Adrian Crompton stated the method adopted by Pembrokeshire County Council that resulted within the cost to Ian Westley in November 2020 amounted to a critical breakdown in governance.

The report states: “There was consensus that one of many elements that led to [his] departure was that relationships between him and a few members of the Council’s Cupboard had been, on the very least, strained.

“Some officers and the previous chief govt informed my auditors that his relationships with some cupboard members had irrevocably damaged down.

“Nevertheless, these interviewed expressed differing views as to the explanation for the connection issues. Some, together with the previous chief govt, informed my auditors that the difficulties had been brought on by poor member behaviour in direction of him over a sustained interval, amounting to bullying and intimidation.

“Others, together with the council chief Cllr David Simpson, preserve that whereas cupboard members had been sturdy in difficult and scrutinising the best way wherein the then chief govt was performing his function, he was not subjected to bullying.

“I be aware that the then chief govt raised considerations with the council chief relating to his remedy in 2019. Nevertheless, the previous chief govt didn’t increase his considerations below the council’s HR insurance policies or by making a criticism that members had breached the council’s Member Code of Conduct.

“The previous chief govt’s considerations had been subsequently by no means investigated. As a consequence, it was not decided whether or not or not his considerations had substance.”

The report highlights what’s described as “a failure to deal with and resolve relationship difficulties between members and officers, lack of readability on respective roles and tasks, examples of officers failing to correctly discharge their skilled duties, disregard of exterior authorized recommendation, failure to observe inner insurance policies and procedures, poor and untransparent determination making, failure to doc and report the explanations for choices, members of the council not being given the chance to assessment and scrutinise the proposal, and failure to adjust to legislative necessities”.

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Mr Crompton states: “For my part, the council has a lot work to do to fulfill itself that it has sturdy governance preparations in place and that these preparations are being complied with.

“My audit additionally recognized cultural and behavioural considerations referring to the best way wherein the previous chief govt’s departure was dealt with. The council must fulfill itself that these considerations are usually not symptomatic of a wider downside.”

The report units out an inventory of detailed conclusions:

  • The council’s chief and its then chief govt reached settlement that the chief govt would depart his employment with a cost of £95,000, however the foundation on which he was departing and the explanation he was to obtain a termination cost was not correctly recorded.
  • The council’s head of human sources instructed exterior authorized advisers to draft a settlement settlement in respect of the chief govt’s negotiated departure with a termination cost, however the directions weren’t based mostly on established details.
  • The council’s exterior authorized advisers suggested the council’s head of human sources to make clear and doc the idea on which the then chief govt was leaving his employment and the explanation why he was to obtain a termination cost of £95,000, however the head of human sources didn’t act on this recommendation.
  • The council’s exterior authorized advisors ready a draft settlement settlement based mostly upon the oral directions of the pinnacle of human sources, however the wording was subsequently amended on the Chief’s directions ensuing within the Council being uncovered to a possible tax legal responsibility.
  • There was a basic lack of readability relating to who was advising who within the authorized negotiations across the settlement settlement, and this was compounded as a result of the pinnacle of human sources shared the council’s exterior authorized recommendation referring to the departure of the council’s then chief govt with him.
  • The choice to make a termination cost of £95,000 to the council’s former chief govt was incorrectly taken as an govt determination and, for my part, the cost was opposite to regulation.
  • The council’s head of authorized and democratic companies raised a priority with the council’s monitoring officer that the proposed cost to the council’s chief govt may not be compliant with the council’s statutory pay coverage assertion. However this concern was not addressed and the council seems to have deviated from its pay coverage assertion with out having the ability to display good purpose for doing so.
  • The council’s decision-making course of in respect of the departure of its chief govt with a termination cost was basically flawed and didn’t adjust to legislative necessities.
  • The previous chief govt acquired a termination cost of £95,000 prematurely of the agreed date of cost set out within the settlement settlement.
  • Non-executive members of the council weren’t given the chance to assessment and determine whether or not the chief govt ought to obtain a termination cost.
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Responding to the report, a council spokesman stated: “Pembrokeshire County Council welcomes the detailed report by Audit Wales into the settlement settlement with its former chief govt, and we recognise the seriousness of its findings.

“Vital progress has already been made in most of the areas recognized within the Audit Wales assessment of occasions which befell over a yr in the past. The council recognises that there’s nonetheless extra to be accomplished.

“A complete enchancment programme was established final yr to deal with observations originating from exterior and inner evaluations commissioned by the council.

“The Auditor Normal’s report, different related experiences and an motion plan to deal with suggestions will probably be thought of by a gathering of the council on February 1.”

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