Wales politics

Caerphilly council £1m criminal probe cost claim rejected

Chief executive Anthony O'Sullivan, his deputy Nigel Barnett, and head of legal services Daniel Perkins
Image caption Anthony O'Sullivan, Nigel Barnett, and Daniel Perkins had all charges against them dropped

The UK government will not compensate Caerphilly council for costs of over £1m following a criminal investigation into three of its officers.

Misconduct charges against the three were dropped in October 2015, two years after they were first arrested.

Caerphilly MP Wayne David said the council should be reimbursed for their salaries paid while suspended.

Rejecting the call, minister Shailesh Vara said the case was concluded within the average time for such matters.

Chief executive Anthony O'Sullivan, his deputy Nigel Barnett and head of legal services Daniel Perkins have been suspended from Caerphilly council on full pay for around three years.

Public spending watchdog the Wales Audit Office (WAO) had said they were involved in the process that awarded them pay rises of up to 20%.

The WAO said it was unlawful - a clear conflict of interest - and the police investigated.

By the time the case against the three men was dropped, their salary costs while suspended had reached more than £1m.

Image caption Wayne David says people in Caerphilly should not be 'unfairly penalised'

During a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, Mr David said the length of the legal proceedings was not the fault of Caerphilly council, or local taxpayers.

He asked ministers to "give careful and serious consideration" to reimbursing the council for the salaries.

"The buck, let it be said, stops, if it stops anywhere, with the government and the Ministry of Justice, who are responsible for our legal system," he said

Minister for the courts and legal aid Shailesh Vara said he understood the concerns of people in Caerphilly about the cost of the case, but he said the obligation of the justice system to investigate cases must continue.

He said it was not for Parliament to challenge the investigation by the WAO and that the case had been concluded well within the average time for cases of this nature, around 25 months.

Caerphilly council is awaiting an independent report before deciding what, if any, disciplinary action to take against the three executives.

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