CARMARTHENSHIRE county council chief executive Mark James will continue to pocket his £15,000-a-month pay despite agreeing to “no longer undertake his duties”

for the duration of the police probe into “unlawful” payments made by the authority, a council spokesman has confirmed.

Mr James, 53, stood down as head of the authority on Friday evening “by mutual agreement” with council leader Kevin Madge while Gloucestershire Police – as an external, independent Force – examines two issues identified by the Wales Audit Office (WAO).

Mr James, who earns more than £180,000 annually, had faced the possibility of suspension during the police probe into a £28,750 “pay supplement” given in lieu of employer pension contributions, which, the WAO claimed, was primarily arranged to “avoid or mitigate” recent changes to pension tax legislation.

The arrangement was deemed “unlawful” by the WAO.

The auditor also said a council funded indemnity granted to Mr James for his libel counter claim against blogger Jacqui Thompson was “unlawful”. The deal would have seen Mr James’ legal costs paid by taxpayers had he lost. In fact he won the case.

Had Mr James been suspended, he would, like any staff member, have expected to remain on full salary pending completion of the police investigation. However, his decision to stand down during the probe – which could last many months – had left many expecting the authority would withhold his pay, as with any employee who chose to “no longer undertake his duties”.

In Friday’s statement – issued on behalf of Cllr Madge – Mr James stated he was “absolutely certain that neither he nor any of his officers had done anything wrong” but that it was “only right and proper” he should remove himself while the police concluded their enquiries.

“This would avoid any perception of undue in - fluence being brought to bear,” the statement said