Council paid over £50,000 to ex-staff

Holbeach Parish Council has given out more than £55,000 in compensation payments in recent years.

A member of the council confronted colleagues about a ‘bullying culture’ she described as affecting her mental health at its meeting this week.
Following a Freedom Of Information request submitted by this paper, the authority has admitted it paid out a total of £55,745.02 to five former members of staff.
It also added that the ‘research was not complete’.
A similar request from local resident John Kinder revealed those payments have all been made since 2010 and that £50,745.02 of it was council tax payers’ money.
A spokesman for Holbeach Parish Council said: “This goes from the present, back many years, the current council or its officers have limited knowledge of the whys and wherefores of decisions taken years ago. There have been changes in the law (The Localism Act 2011 as one example) and changes to employment law.”
The comment followed an earlier Freedom Of Information request made by The Voice to ask why a £10,000 payment ex-gratia payment was made.
After an initial refusal, a spokesman confirmed it was a payment to an ex-member of staff who left by mutual consent and included £5,000 of tax payers’ money and £5,000 from the council’s insurance company.
“An ex-gratia payment is a termination payment paid to an employee by an employer in a situation where the employer is not obligated to do so,” the spokesman said. “Ex-gratia payments are, therefore, gestures of goodwill on behalf of the employer outside of your contract of employment.”
Holbeach Parish Council met on Monday night where Coun Sophie Hutchinson opened the meeting by speaking as a member of the public.
“More staff and councillors who have left due to stress that this council has caused are here,” she said. “You have no clue how to support health issues and quite frankly you don’t care about your staff or councillors.
“Like others, I’ve been bullied, harassed, subjected to derogatory, sexist and abusive comments, all in an attempt to force me out as you’ve done with anyone else who dares to question you.”
Coun Hutchinson said she had been investigated for a ‘data protection breach’ that saw the council take five weeks and use three legal advisors to find there was no personal data in the comments.
“Either you’re completely incompetent or this was yet another witch hunt,” she continued. “At the last meeting a councillor said if they knew someone was autistic, they wouldn’t employ them.
“Clearly as a young, autistic woman I’m not welcome here.
“It’s pushed me to crisis point and you were told not to contact me, but even though you know of my mental health history you decided it was a good idea to bombard me with letters and emails.
“This has pushed me to the brink but I know some of you wouldn’t care.
“Regardless of who is in charge, this council has always been incapable of managing its staff properly.”
Coun Hutchinson said ‘she wondered why the council has an obsession with hiding things’.
Addressing the chair of the parish council Rick Stevens, Coun Hutchinson said: “You joined the council because you were outraged over the missing £27,000 and promised the public you would never allow this to happen again.
“But you agreed to pay a former staff member and whack a non-disclosure agreement on to cover up where the money went.
“This council has gained a reputation for being disorderly, constant infighting and so incompetent it’s led to tens of thousands of pound of public money going missing to cover up mistakes.”
Coun Hutchinson claimed that the public had lost out from investments and opportunities as a result.
The parish clerk Jan Hearsey interrupted by claiming that Coun Hutchinson had ‘driven her to seek help’ and she had been on medication due to the ‘harassment, bullying and victimisation’ by Coun Hutchinson and her mum Isobel, who is also on the council.
Coun Hutchinson argued that the South Holland District Council’s monitoring officer had investigated that claim and not found any evidence of bullying.
The meeting was fraught throughout with councillors getting exasperated with Coun Hutchinson repeatedly challenging the majority of agenda items.
Most were voted through including a new policy that said councillors shouldn’t comment on social media.
At one point the council appeared ready to vote through a payment despite most councillors not knowing the amount of money being asked for and who was claiming it after a mistake in uploading documents.
Tensions came to a head when Coun Isobel Hutchinson didn’t get enough votes to be one of two council representatives on the Holbeach Farmer Education Foundation despite having been in the position for around ten years.
While most councillors abstained on voting without saying why, Coun Patrick Ward was voted to represent the council.
Coun Sophie Hutchinson, who was the other to be voted on after one more councillor voted for her rather than abstaining, responded by saying: “It’s quite obvious people aren’t voting in the best interests of the charity.”
Coun Sam Bailey responded by saying: “You caused us to have a long night.
“If I have no faith in you I’m not going to vote for you.
“I do not feel you bring goodness to this council which a lot of us try to do.
“You argue everything so I don’t think it’s a case we’re all against you.
“I’ve spoken highly of you and always been impressed but lately I feel you’ve let us down.”
Coun Sophie Hutchinson claimed it was because she’d had time off for her health.

Leave a Reply