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Audit Wales investigating departure and pay off of former Pembrokeshire CEO

AUDIT Wales is investigated circumstances around the departure – and pay off – of Pembrokeshire County Council’s former chief executive.

Ian Westley left the authority in November last year with a payment of £95,000 agreed by the council’s leader Cllr David Simpson.

Cllr Jamie Adams had put forward a Notice of Motion calling for an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure and whether it was linked to a peer challenge conclusion that there was a “deterioration of relationships” between the cabinet and corporate management.

At corporate overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (January 28) Cllr Adams asked that his motion be deferred until the outcome of Audit Wales’ review had been published as it would “inform” the process he has requested, while not answering all his questions.

Cllr Adams added: “The decision of that payment should have been a democratic decision at the council, I would seek to understand why that was not the case.”

A report to the committee, prepared by interim chief executive Richard Brown, indicates that the Audit Wales work will conclude shortly and will be reported to the council, adding “at this stage, it is believed to be unlikely that any internal investigation could offer any further insight.”

Work to address issues raised by the corporate peer challenge in February 2020 had been previously started and “relationships already feel greatly improved,” said Cllr Simpson.

Questions were raised at committee about a “gagging clause” which meant people could not talk about the reasons for Mr Westley’s departure and payment but “Audit Wales has sweeping powers to get to the bottom of something, far more than we could as a council,” said Cllr Jacob Williams.

Cllr Michael Williams wondered why the departure of Mr Westley was of interest to Audit Wales when other senior officers leaving had not prompted any investigation, adding that councillors had “short memories about what happened in previous regimes” which he added had a “vindictive nature.”

The recommendation to defer the matter, back for full council consideration on the next steps following the Audit Wales report, was agreed by the committee.

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