South East Wales

Police review Caerphilly council chief's unlawful rise

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Media captionCaerphilly is planning to make cuts of more than £5m this year while staff are on a three-year pay freeze

The way a council unlawfully awarded its chief executive a £27,000 pay rise is to be reviewed by police.

Avon and Somerset Police confirmed that they have been asked by Gwent Police to look at the Wales Audit Office (WAO) findings on Caerphilly council.

It emerged hours after the release of the report which said the council's actions over Anthony O'Sullivan had been "unlawful on a number of grounds".

A council spokesman said earlier in the day that it was considering the report.

In a statement, the Avon and Somerset force said it would be liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

A Welsh government minister will assess what action Caerphilly will now take.

The WAO investigators concluded that the local authority did not advertise a special meeting in September 2012 to decide the salary of Mr O'Sullivan and other senior officers.

There was also no adequate record because the meeting's minutes were very brief, they said.

Trade union Unison supported the findings and called for a review of all chief officers' pay in the public sector.

Mr O'Sullivan's pay grade was initially increased from a maximum of £131,000 to £158,000.

It led to protests by staff and trade unions, and an apology by Labour councillors on the authority.

Caerphilly is planning to make cuts of more than £5m this year while staff are on a three-year pay freeze.

The council reversed the decision in January and cut Mr O'Sullivan's pay rise from £27,000 to £5,000. As a result, the WAO said it had decided not to seek a court ruling.

'Human error'

However, it said there were a number of lessons for the council to learn and recommended a review of its procedure for advertising meetings. The council blamed the failure to advertise the pay scales meeting on human error.

A council spokesman said earlier: "It is important to stress that the decision of the senior remuneration committee was rescinded at a meeting of full council on 17 January, where independent external legal advice was received and a new decision was reached.

Image caption Caerphilly chief executive Anthony O'Sullivan's original £27,000 pay rise was later cut to £5,000

"The Wales Audit Office report will be considered at a meeting of full council in due course, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Gwent Police said: "Having considered the Wales Audit Office report and having received advice from our legal services department, we have decided that it is a matter that should be investigated by the police to ensure complete transparency and independence.

"However in light of our close proximity and working relationship with Caerphilly County Borough Council, it's not appropriate for it to be investigated by the Gwent force, and as such the investigation has been referred to Avon and Somerset Police."

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