County Hall latest: Llanelli AM calls for chief executive's suspension
1:14pm Friday 7th February 2014 in Ammanford news
VETERAN Llanelli AM Keith Davies has called for the immediate suspension of Carmarthenshire County Council chief executive Mark James as the crisis enveloping County Hall deepens.
Speaking to the Guardian this morning, Mr Davies said he had decided to speak out after reading the audit reports and becoming convinced that members of the council's executive board had been misled by officers.
Amman Valley-born Mr Davies is the first Labour figure to publicly call for Mr James's suspension since the publication of the Wales Audit Office's public interest reports identifying two unlawful transactions on January 30.
Mr Davies said his main concern was the arrangements to enable Mr James to withdraw from the county council's standard pension scheme.
"We were told this has not incurred any additional cost to the council or the local taxpayer, but I don't agree with that," said Mr Davies.
"By opting out of this scheme the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council – and his opposite number in Pembrokeshire for that matter – have effectively withdrawn funds from the Dyfed Pension Fund, so reducing the actual pot.
"For this reason I feel that both chief executives should be immediately suspended pending an investigation. They have reduced the amount of money in that fund to suit themselves.
"The Dyfed Pension Fund's members are employees from all three authorities – in other words, thousands of people. These two chief executives have robbed that pension fund and I feel very strongly about this because people are suffering because of it."
"To be honest, I don't know whether this is unlawful or not – what I do know is that the Dyfed Pension Fund has been reduced because of their actions."
A county council spokeswoman said: "The chief executive took the personal decision to opt out of the pension scheme, a decision he, or any other individual who is in the scheme, is legally entitled to do.
"No contributions are due from any employee who is no longer a member of the fund."