An Independent Councillor has called for for the Welsh Government to take over the running of Caerphilly council following the arrest of its two top officials on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office.
Chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan, who was suspended on full pay in March, and his acting successor Nigel Barnett were released from police custody late on Tuesday after being in custody for most of the day at an undisclosed location. They have been bailed by Avon & Somerset Police to a later date.
The arrests come as part of an investigation being undertaken by Avon & Somerset Police into huge secret pay rises awarded to 21 senior officers of the council last year.
The rises followed recommendations made in a report written by Mr O’Sullivan. Subsequently, his own salary rose from £132,000 to £158,000 after the increases were approved by a committee of one Plaid Cymru and four Labour councillors.
A further 20 senior managers including Mr Barnett also received a substantial pay rise, but the bulk of the council’s staff were on the third year of a pay freeze.
The council said its director of education, Sandra Aspinall, would take charge of its administration. She has been acting as its deputy chief executive since Mr O’Sullivan was suspended.
Now But Independent councillor Anne Blackman have called for the Welsh Assembly Government to take action.
“I have every admiration for Sandra Aspinall, but don’t think she should have to bear the responsibility of running the council.Certainly not from the Councils webpage
“Our two top officials have been arrested and I believe the Welsh Government should put the authority in special measures, sending in commissioners to run it, as they did with Anglesey Council. I’ve e-mailed [First Minister] Carwyn Jones, telling him that’s what should happen.
“We’re being told nothing. I find it quite bizarre that we haven’t even been informed officially that Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Barnett have been arrested, and only know thanks to the Western Mail
To paraphrase Lady Bracknell who may have admonished Labour leader Harry Andrews ....
"To have one Chief Executive arrested , Mr Andrews may be regarded as a misfortune; to have both looks like that your council is in serious trouble"It may be that it is to early for the Welsh Government to send in Commissioners to run the council indeed it might be interesting to see if the second acting chief executive Sandra Aspinal fairs and No one has been found guilty of anything
It might well be that she copes with the situation which may beg the question does the Council need that many highly paid executives.
But lets be clear if this had happened to any council than a Labour led one the Welsh Government would be considering appropriate measures .
If this case ends up being prolonged in the courts then the Welsh Government is going but to have to consider its responsibility over the running of the council