Monday, May 27, 2024

Labour Probe Council’s “Million-Pound” Inquiry

WITH less than 48 hours before the polling stations open, Thurrock Labour group have called for an urgent inquiry into a disciplinary action, the consequences of which, they claim is running into millions of pounds.

Thurrock Council Labour Group is calling for in independent inquiry into the circumstances around disciplinary action taken against a member of staff.

The action, according to Labour, has “cost the council tax payers of Thurrock over half a million pounds, lasted almost two years and has resulted in the member of staff concerned returning to work”.

Labour Group Vice Chair, Marion Canavon, has now written to the Audit Commission asking them to investigate the circumstances surrounding this.

In her letter, cllr Canovan says.

“I am writing to request that you consider using your powers to scrutinise an event that has occurred at Thurrock Council, which appears to have caused an extraordinary expenditure far disproportionate to the circumstances.

“The event surrounds the actions of a Corporate Director Ms L. Payne a Chief Officer who instigated a disciplinary review of an employee’s conduct who was the Head of Housing. I do not think it right to involve the employee or the detail of the case, rather it is the process and management of the investigation and consequent additional cost to the Council that I consider to be highly questionable.

“The employee was suspended from work for a period exceeding a year from which it must be concluded that a charge of Gross Misconduct was made otherwise paid suspension from work would not have been appropriate. The main charges were obviously found to be ill-founded as the employee has been returned to work albeit in a different job as new appointments had been made in the interim.

The questions which I feel need to be reviewed are:-

“Was there proper consideration given to the action of suspending the employee, had professional HR advice been sought and if so was it followed? The additional cost of the external consultants brought in to replace the officer up to June 2009 was £300,000 and these appointments are still in place today at a cost understood to be £1,000 per day.

“Was the Council’s Management case at the outset properly assessed before a decision to proceed was taken? Outside investigators were appointed after the suspension took place and their fees up to 30 June 2009 were approaching £110,000. The investigators brief appears to have been a trawl to find evidence of gross misconduct to justify the management action, which they were clearly unable to do.

“The additional cost upon the Council of this Management action is now in excess of £500,000 and continues to grow. Was there proper authority for this additional expenditure and budgetary provision and if not is there an action of surcharging that can be brought against an officer or elected member who may have exceeded their authority?

“It may also be relevant to identify that the Housing Revenue Account expenditure on temporary staff for the year 2007/2008 (the year prior to the suspension) was £793,000. For the following year 2008/2009 the cost of temporary staff had exploded to £1.8 million. Similarly the outturn budget figures for the Housing maintenance budget for 2007/08 (the year prior to the suspension) showed an under spend of £295,000. For the following year 2008/9 there was a negative variance of 11%, an overspend of £1.3 million.

“If these facts were openly known by the Council Tax payers I consider that there would be a substantial loss of confidence in this area of the Council’s management and consequently also of the Council as a whole. I feel that such expenditure cannot represent value for money and ask you to consider whether such expenditure should be the matter of a full audit investigation and reported to a full meeting of the Council.”


  1. is it not time we involved the police. How can we trust a council who lies about everything?????

  2. I agree, something needs to be done as this tax payers money that is being used which could have been used for other things in the borough

  3. I doubt they lie about everything but point taken.
    Why has this only just come out now, has this information only just come to light or is it election week!

  4. This is a disgrace and exactly the type of conduct that gives Thurrock a bad name. This chief officer should not be able to bully staff or get away with this type of harrassment. lets be real the problem with Thurrock is that if your face dosent fit then your shown the door. What surprises me is that this chief officer is still in the job. Clearly if there was improvement at the Council she would have been removed and some type of disciplinary action taken. Which ever party gets in someone has to do something about this bully and anyone like her in the council.

  5. trickyone is also correct is it not about time the police got involved. Harrassment is a criminal offence and cant be disguised as management action!!!


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