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Caerphilly Council’s £1.4m spend on senior officers criticised

Caerphilly County Borough Council offices

OPPOSITION councillors have criticised Caerphilly Council’s £1.4 million spend on senior officers.

Caerphilly’s Plaid Cymru group said the council’s spend on senior officers, such as the chief executive and head of departments, has increased by 83% in the past two years – this has been rejected by the Labour group.

In 2020/21, the council spent £739,286 on senior officers’ pay and pensions.

In 2021/22 the spend was £1,055,968. But, with the addition of two new roles, this sum rises to £1,352,968 in 2022/23.

In November 2022, the council agreed to appoint two additional senior officers at a cost of nearly £300,000 – which both Plaid Cymru and independent councillors have consistently criticised.

The new roles include a deputy chief executive and a deputy section 151 finance officer. Both would assist with work carried out by the current statutory roles and cover leave.

Plaid Cymru councillor Colin Mann said: “The Labour group really needs a dose of reality and look what’s happening in the community and see how people are finding it so difficult to feed their families and heat their homes.

“I remain totally unconvinced that the appointment of two more top officers at a cost of almost £300,000 can be justified. This money should be going on frontline employees such as care workers, refuse workers and community safety wardens – not empire building.”

Cllr Colin Mann

A Labour group spokesperson said the opposition party is “trying to twist factual information” to “score cheap political points”.

Labour said the reason for the higher figure of £1,055,968 in 2021/22 is due to the council’s requirement to disclose the salaries and pension contributions for three heads of service, who had additional responsibilities whilst the director of social services and housing was acting up in the role of chief executive.

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The spokesperson added: “If they understood local government financial accounts, they would know that the 83% increase they have quoted is completely inaccurate. The real term increase is more like 4%, but it seems that they are unable or unwilling to get their calculations right.

“The previous leader of the Plaid group, Cllr Colin Mann, also seems to have conveniently forgotten that he recently called on the Labour group to appoint a deputy chief executive.”

Whilst discussing temporary appointments to the corporate management team in a meeting on October 5, 2021, Cllr Mann said “it is very good practice to have a designated deputy”. This was brought up by deputy leader Jamie Pritchard at a full council meeting in December 2022.

Since then, Cllr Mann said he supports the appointment of a deputy chief executive, but not at a cost of £189,000.

Cllr Mann said: “I’ve said before that we could appoint a deputy chief executive from within the council structure to fill in when the chief executive is absent from work, ill or on holiday, for a very modest amount.”

A council spokesperson said: “Caerphilly is one of the largest councils in Wales, but our corporate management team is smaller than most other Welsh local authorities.

“We deliver a huge and complex range of services to our community and, in order to ensure we remain fit-for-purpose during these challenging times, we need the appropriate resources and capacity within our senior leadership team.

“Now, more than ever, effective strategic leadership is required at the top of the organisation to meet the significant challenges and pressures that lie ahead.”

Earlier this month, the council shortlisted candidates for the two new roles at a closed meeting.