CARMARTHENSHIRE county council's executive board have unanimously agreed to reverse a decision to grant chief executive Mark James the sum of £16, 353 paid in lieu of pension contributions.

The dramatic u-turn comes after the Wales Audit Office ruled that the transaction – along with the granting of a £23,217 indemnity to pay Mr James's costs in his libel case and counter claim against blogger Jacqui Thompson – was unlawful.

Minutes of Wednesday's meeting state that the authority's Cabinet resolved that "without conceding that it is intrinsically unlawful, that the pay supplement policy be withdrawn on procedural grounds".

Back in September, members of the local authority's audit committee voiced concern at Mr James's pension arrangements.

Cllr Bill Thomas asked: "If this is a tax dodge, did we pay for a consultant's opinion?

"If so, that could also be considered unlawful along with any expenditure relating to officers and the time they spent on this matter.

"It's not just the money that has been spent – it's the time. A public officer is paid from the public purse."

Cllr Alun Lenny observed that the sum of £16,353 was more than many poorly-paid council employees got paid in a year.

In a joint statement this afternoon, MP Jonathan Edwards and AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas said they welcomed the change of heart.

"The decision does, however, raise more questions than it answers:  for example Carmarthenshire taxpayers need answers as to how much this whole episode has cost them in legal fees.

"We also need to know who instigated the legal advice and the changes to pension arrangements.

"In the spirit of transparency and the need for full clarification only a full inquiry will get the answers Carmarthenshire ratepayers deserve.

"We therefore call upon the Council Leader to instigate this full inquiry."