South West Wales

No confidence vote against Pembs council chief passed

Bryn Parry-Jones
Image caption The council passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Bryn Parry-Jones

A vote of no confidence has been passed against the chief executive of Pembrokeshire council in a row over unlawful payments to senior officers.

Councillors agreed he should face disciplinary committee on the matter.

The vote followed a dispute over cash he received in lieu of pension contributions which the Wales Audit Office ruled as unlawful.

Council leader Jamie Adams survived an earlier vote of no confidence at the same extraordinary general meeting.

The vote on Mr Bryn Parry-Jones saw 46 councillors support the no-confidence motion with three supporting him and three abstentions.

After surviving his no-confidence vote, Mr Adams then led the charge against the chief executive at the meeting on Friday.

Twenty nine councillors had supported Mr Adams, with 20 voting against and one abstention.

Action considered

Mr Adams surprised councillors at the meeting when he said he had no confidence in Mr Parry-Jones.

"There are elements of confidence I have in the chief executive and some concerns," he said.

"No individual can operate within this particular environment."

The public were then asked to leave while councillors discussed a motion about possible disciplinary action against Mr Parry-Jones.

They rejected a call to immediately suspend him by 26 votes to 22, before considering whether to set up a committee to consider the allegations against him.

The meeting voted to establish a 15-person committee to investigate issues relating to Mr Parry-Jones's conduct.

The disciplinary and investigations committee is likely to meet next week and will have the power to suspend the chief executive if it believes there are sufficient grounds.

The chair will also have the power to suspend the chief executive in an "emergency".

Mr Parry-Jones currently remains in post.

Earlier on Friday, Pembrokeshire council said there was nothing in its standing orders requiring a chief executive to resign if a no confidence motion being passed.

Local government expert Jeff Jones described the vote of no confidence as "symbolic".

He said that while the chief executive would be expected to consider his position, the role would have been designed so that he could not be forced to resign by councillors.

In a statement, the union Unison said: "It is a shame the councillors have taken so long. But at last, our members having taken the lead, they have acted appropriately. Long may this continue."


Payment inquiry

The matter revolves around an investigation by the Wales Audit Office which ruled Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire councils acted unlawfully by letting Mr Parry-Jones, another senior Pembrokeshire officer, and Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James opt out of a pension scheme and receive cash payments instead to avoid potential tax payments.

An investigation by Gloucestershire Constabulary found no evidence to suggest any criminal offences, but another police inquiry has since been launched following the discovery of new information.

In July, Pembrokeshire council said it would take no further action to reclaim the money against Mr Parry-Jones and another unnamed senior officer involved.

Some staff have previously walked out in protest at Mr Parry-Jones remaining in post.

On 15 August, Mr Adams said the chief executive would take a "period of absence" in the "best interests of the authority".

It was revealed on Tuesday that Mr Parry-Jones was back on duty, but working from home.

Labour group leader Paul Miller has said he was unhappy with the way the matter was being handled, and has called for a formal suspension and disciplinary process for the chief executive.

Pembrokeshire council webcast Friday's meeting.

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