What Carmarthenshire county council says...
6:00am Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in Ammanford news
'We acknowledge the views of the Wales Audit Office and are continuing our discussions with them regarding these matters.
'We have sought independent legal advice from a leading QC on both issues and remain firmly of the view that we have followed the correct course of action.
'Regarding the issue of the indemnity to an officer of the council to take action for libel, we would like to make it clear that we consulted the Wales Audit Office prior to the decision being taken in January 2012 and that it has taken almost two years for these concerns to have been expressed.
'We have discussed the matter with them on several occasions and in August of 2012 they indicated, in response to questions from a third party, that they agreed that the council had the legal powers to grant the indemnity.
'It is disappointing that they have now expressed a different view so late in the day, and too late for the council to act upon it. Our own independent legal advice still confirms our view that the council was fully entitled to grant the indemnity, and the outcome of the court case and the comments of the judge in that case further reinforce our opinion that we acted properly.
'The council has a duty of care to protect it’s employees from unfair harassment and libel and the court judgement reinforced that opinion.
'We would confirm that the chief Executive of the council, who was the officer involved in the libel action, was not the author of the report to councillors on the matter, and did not participate or offer any advice during the process.
'As a result of the order for costs and damages awarded by the judge in the case we fully expect to recover our costs and that there will ultimately be no cost to the council.
'So far as the payment in lieu of employer’s pension contributions is concerned, this has not incurred any additional cost to the council or the local taxpayer. Instead of paying into the employee’s pension scheme we have agreed simply to make a payment directly to them of an equivalent amount, and it is then for them to make their own arrangements as they see fit.
'This situation has been brought about by changes in tax rules which make it difficult for people earning above a certain level to remain in the occupational pension scheme.
'We believe there are numerous other employers including local authorities, universities and housing associations who have adopted the same practice. The decision was made having obtained expert advice from independent consultants. We have also sought independent legal advice, and we do not agree that the council does not have the power to adopt this practice.
'This policy could apply to any member of staff so affected and is not restricted to or designed for any individual member of staff.
'We would also confirm that the Chief Executive was not present in the meeting in which this decision was reached and did not offer any advice to the councillors making the decision.'
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