Auditor finds 'governance breakdown' over chief's payoff

By Dan Peters | 13 January 2022

Pembrokeshire CC must ‘regain public trust’ after Wales’ auditor general detailed a ‘serious breakdown in governance’ over the payoff to former chief executive Ian Westley.

Auditor general Adrian Crompton’s report in the public interest found a ‘failure to address and resolve relationship difficulties between members and officers, disregard of external legal advice, failure to comply with legal requirements, and poor and untransparent decision-making’.

Mr Crompton also found officers failed to ‘properly discharge their professional duties’ and councillors were not given the opportunity to ‘review and scrutinise’ the proposal to hand Mr Westley £95,000, a payment the auditor said was ‘contrary to law’.

His report suggested the decision by council leader David Simpson to issue a payout was ‘unlawful’ because he ‘did not have the necessary authority’.

The report read: ‘In my view, it was inappropriate for a decision relating to the departure of the former chief executive with a termination payment, a decision which would have significant implications for the council as a whole, to be taken as an individual cabinet member decision.

‘The council’s decision-making process in respect of the departure of its chief executive with a termination payment was fundamentally flawed and did not comply with legislative requirements.’

The report stressed that ‘significant and/or controversial decisions should not be taken by officers using delegated powers’.

Mr Crompton called for the council to ‘provide the public with confidence that its governance arrangements are sufficiently robust to prevent similar failings occurring in the future’.

He said: ‘Pembrokeshire CC has work to do to ensure that its governance arrangements are sufficiently robust and to regain public trust.’

Mr Crompton’s report revealed that relationships between the chief executive and some unspecified senior councillors had become ‘strained,’ with Mr Westley claiming that ‘difficulties were caused by poor member behaviour towards him over a sustained period, amounting to bullying and intimidation’.

The chief executive had privately spoken of an ‘irrevocable breakdown in relations with some members’.

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