Former council exec drops employment case on technicality

Case dropped: former Croydon exec director Guy van Dichele

Guy van Dichele, the former council exec director who was suspended in February 2021 as part of the “Kerswell Kull” of senior staffers who had run the borough in the lead-up to its financial collapse, has dropped his Employment Tribunal case.

But Katherine Kerswell, the council chief executive, and her legal advisers are still waiting on the outcome of two other Employment Tribunal cases brought against Croydon, including one from another senior executive which alleges that racism was a factor in their dismissal.

Inside Croydon understands that the van Dichele case ended when lawyers acting for the council used a technicality. Although van Dichele had been in charge of Croydon’s health, wellbeing and adults directorate for four years, only two of those had been on the staff as executive director – too short a period of time for him to bring a case under employment law for constructive dismissal.

Van Dichele, the finance director Lisa Taylor, Hazel Simmonds, the “executive director of localities”, and Shifa Mustafa, the “executive director of place”, were all summarily suspended by Kerswell in February 2021, while the some time Borough Solicitor, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, was said to be on long-term sick leave.

All but Simmonds quit their council positions in 2021. Simmonds eventually resigned earlier this month, shortly before confirming that she would be bringing an ET case of her own.

Van Dichele now works in a senior position at Sutton Council.

The end of the van Dichele case avoids the need for the possibility of another costly pay-off for the Town Hall – although the legal costs incurred over the past 18 months by the cash-strapped council are understood to have been considerable.

Part-time Mayor Jason Perry was a member of the council committee that agreed to hand a £437,000 pay-off to the then council chief exec, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, in August 2020.

Waiting: CEO Katherine Kerswell has two more ETs outstanding

The Labour majority on that appointments committee, chaired by Tony Newman, waved through the massive payment for Negreedy, wrapped up in all kinds of non-disclosure agreements intended to buy the civic executive’s silence over her calamitous time in charge of the council ahead of its financial collapse.

Perry was one of two Conservative councillors serving on the committee then, and is assumed to have voted against (the official record of the meeting is a little vague on the detail).

Hazel Simmonds’ case was due to be heard at the Tribunal on London Road this week. As well as constructive dismissal and reduction of wages, Simmonds had also made a claim of racism against the council and against Kerswell personally.

And like van Dichele’s case, Simmonds’, too, was changed at the last-minute to a “case management discussion”, conveniently avoiding the council’s dirty laundry being aired in open court. The outcome is awaited.

A third ET case, brought by Kai Pokawa, a union official working at the council, was heard last week and the Tribunal is considering its judgement.

The suspensions of Simmonds, van Dichele and others came 18 months ago, shortly after Kerswell received the Penn Report, which followed an investigation of the causes of the council’s financial collapse conducted by Local Government Association consultant Richard Penn.

Kerswell has never published that report.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Croydon Council, Guy van Dichele, Hazel Simmonds, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Shifa Mustafa, The Penn Report and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Former council exec drops employment case on technicality

  1. Susan Williams says:

    Is the supremely useless Katherine Kerswell still employed by Croydon Council? Is she still the borough returning officer? The new Mayor needs to sort this or he will lose support.

  2. Ralph Fretton says:

    What is it with all these little scheming ex council employees looking for a bit of compo at the first opportunity. I don’t question if Guy Van Dick was treated fairly, I ask how the fuck did he get the job in the first place ??

    • You’d be out-of-step with most at Fisher’s Folly, who took the view that Guy van Dichele was among the more competent executive directors under Negrini – admittedly a very low bar – and that it was his department’s work that did much to drag the borough through the covid lockdowns in reasonable order.

      On the matter of compensation: just suppose he was suspended unjustly, without good cause and proper reason. Let’s suppose that Kerswell included him in her cull, based on the Penn Report (which she’s refused to publish). And yet van Dichele does not appear in Penn’s recommendations specifically as an individual… Wouldn’t you think you were entitled to fair treatment?

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