Council Chief gets £20,000 cash advance
Wed. January 30, 2013
Low paid workers continue to be denied a Living Wage
Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive received a £20,000 cash advance last year Plaid Cymru has revealed.
Some local authority Chief Executives are paid additional fees and expenses for activities they undertake as a Returning Officer for elections. For local elections (county council and community councils) fees are paid to the Returning Officer by the respective councils. The number of electoral wards contested is a factor which determines the amount of fees paid.
Information obtained by Carmarthenshire MP Jonathan Edwards and AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas shows that the £190,000-a-year Chief Executive was paid an additional £20,000 for election activities a minimum of 5 weeks before the election took place, in a different financial year and before the number of candidates was even known.
Plaid Cymru is the largest political party on the county council with 28 councillors. However the authority has been led by a Labour and Independent coalition since 2004. For the best part of a year the Plaid Cymru opposition has lead the campaign for the authority to introduce a Living Wage for its low-paid workers.
E-mail correspondence from the Chief Executive and the Director of Resources states the payment was made in advance of the election actually taking place and because “funds were available”.
Mr Edwards said the cash advance would leave county residents asking a number of questions about the priorities of the Council’s Executive, especially how “funds were available” for a cash advance whilst services were facing unprecedented cuts. Constituency colleague Mr Thomas said the decision resembled the scandal at the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA) in which the Chief Executive awarded himself a cash advance on his expenses. Mr Thomas also expressed concern that the same people who approved this cash advance continue to sit on Council’s Executive Board.
The MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards said:
“I’m sure the residents of Carmarthenshire will be asking serious questions as to how funds were available to pay the £190,000-a-year Chief Executive a cash advance of £20,000 at a time when services were facing, and continue to face unprecedented cuts.
“More questions will inevitably follow as to how that £20,000 figure was calculated before the election took place and before knowing how many council wards were going to be contested.
“Both the Leader and Deputy Leader of the council who would have approved this cash advance continue to lead the local authority on its Executive Board. This is the same leadership which continues to deny its low-paid employees a Living Wage.
“This revelation will be a slap in the face to those hard-working low-paid employees and speaks volumes about the priorities of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive.”
The AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Rhodri Glyn Thomas added:
“Many county residents will be shocked to learn the £190,000-a-year Chief Executive pocketed an additional £20,000 before the close of nominations, let alone before the election itself.
“The whole affair seems remarkably similar to the scandal at AWEMA in which the Chief Executive awarded himself a £9,000 advance on expenses he claimed he would have earned at a later date.
“The only difference I can see in this case is that the council’s Executive Board – the then Leader and Deputy Leader of which continue to run the council today – would surely have approved the cash advance. We have now written to the Council Leader asking for a full justification of the decision
“When so many people are relying on pay-day loans to get them to the end of the month, to learn that such a highly paid officer received an extra £20,000 weeks in advance will be a bitter pill to swallow for those struggling to make ends meet.
“There is a need to look more widely at Chief Executives receiving these substantial sums of money for election activities on top of their already large salaries when we consider that much of the work is actually carried out during normal working hours.
“I believe the role of Returning Officer should be incorporated into the existing duties of a Chief Executive and constitute part of their job description to put an end to these hefty elections fees which are paid almost every year.
“As such, I will be presenting amendments to the Local Government Democracy Bill which is currently under consideration in the National Assembly.”
** The total remuneration of the Chief Executive, including pension contributions, was £189,178 in 2010/11 and £209,498 in 2011/12**
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