Council ordered to give £15,000 back-pay to ex-boss Simmonds

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The council has incurred another costly legal defeat, after one of those execs axed in the ‘Kerswell kull’ two years ago wins her Employment Tribunal case

Croydon Council and its chief executive, Katherine Kerswell, have been dealt another hugely embarrassing defeat in the courts as an Employment Tribunal has ruled in favour of Hazel Simmonds, one of the executive directors who were suspended two years ago by the CEO in the aftermath of the council’s financial collapse.

‘Clear and unambiguous’: the council acted unlawfully when it docked Hazel Simmonds’ salary while she was on suspension

Croydon has been ordered to pay Simmonds nearly £15,000 in “arrears” of withheld salary payments from the period of her suspension, from February 2021 to September 2022.

Simmonds, the former £158,952 per year “executive director of localities”, was the last of the directors suspended in the “Kerswell kull” to quit the council.

The prolonged disciplinary process brought against Simmonds had been used by Kerswell as an excuse for failing to action the findings of the Penn Report.

Simmonds’ case is just the first that she is bringing against her former employers,  and against Kerswell herself. Her main case claims unfair dismissal, race discrimination and victimisation, and has been scheduled to run for three weeks in December.

Simmonds, together with Guy Van Dichele, the council’s exec director of health, wellbeing and adults, the finance director Lisa Taylor, and Shifa Mustafa, the “executive director of place”, were all summarily suspended by Kerswell in February 2021. Van Dichele, Taylor and Mustafa all quit in the weeks following.

Unfair dismissal: former council boss Hazel Simmonds

Van Dichele brought his own Employment Tribunal case against the council that included claims of unfair dismissal, breach of contract and “failure of employer to pay wages or unauthorised deductions from wages”. Van Dichele was forced to abandon his case on a legal technicality.

Jacqueline Harris-Baker, the sometime Borough Solicitor, was on long-term sick leave at the time of the suspensions, and never returned to her job.

Trade magazine The Municipal Journal is reporting today that the tribunal judge ruled that Croydon “acted unlawfully” by reducing Simmonds’  pay on the basis that she was off work, sick.

Employment Judge Eoin Fowell ruled the council must pay Simmonds nearly £15,000 of arrears.

Simmonds’ lawyer, Mark Greenburgh, said, “The law on maintaining full pay during periods of suspension is clear and unambiguous.” Somehow, though, Kerswell’s Croydon Council managed to get it wrong…

A spokesperson for Croydon Council told the MJ that the ruling “sets a worrying precedent”, and that they will now be speaking to the Local Government Association. There was no mention of any appeal against the decision.

Croydon Council failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s questions about the Simmonds case.

Read more: Former council exec drops employment case on technicality

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11 Responses to Council ordered to give £15,000 back-pay to ex-boss Simmonds

  1. Sally says:

    Sack Kerswell

    • For what reason?

      • You want the complete list?

        • Yes, please.

          In my opinion it would be all too easy to scapegoat the Chief Executive for the sins and omissions of those who appointed her and since then have managed her, whether that be Newman, Ali or Perry.

          The calamitous clusterfuck that is Croydon council can not be attributed to the failings of one single individual. This has been a group effort

          • Ian Kierans says:

            I 100% agree – it is not one person and much is from the last two regimes. Interestingly Perry was there through it all.
            But she has done little to stop it continuing. She is the CEO and tasked with stopping the rot. So in that she is completely failing residents in all those areas that have been reported to her.
            Ergo there needs to be a new person with the ability to do so.
            Sadly not a role anyone with merit would even consider as there is no authority or ability to do anything without Gove’s say so and a reduction of the debt.
            So the dead duck stays.

          • No, of course there’s no single culprit for the calamity at Croydon. And yes, she inherited a godawful mess when she arrived (“The most delinquent local authority in the country,” according to Piss-poor Perry last night).

            Yet as well as making hundreds of front-line staff redundant, while increasing the number of higher-paid managers in some blatant empire-building, Kerswell has managed to make a bad situation worse.

            Three S114s on her watch.

            Millions spent on legal advice that is proved to be unreliable time after time.

            Poor senior appointments.

            And now the Simmonds case.

            Kerswell goes into the December ET hearings accused of wrongful dismissal and racial discrimination.

            Instead of resigning, she has the Council Tax-payers of this borough paying for her legal case.

          • Susan says:

            No, Kerswell is not up to the demands of the Job. She makes bad decisions, stalls, hesitates and tries to conceal her own inadequacies. You may want to be an apologist for her but I think Croydon deserves so much better. We’ve had two previous crap CE’s – why do you think we should put up with another. Kerswell also came in through the back door. Focus, Arthur!

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Technically an ET ruling does not set any precedent. An appeal, Higher courts or Supreme could set precedent or even depart from precedent (being generalistic so practicing lawyers feel free to detail on persuasive, judicial or binding)

    I am regularly amazed at actions particular bodies take, and more so as I get older.

    Why would anyone feel that there was a lawfull process to do what was done to Ms Simmonds in line with our current unlawfull deductions legislation?

    This sounded like some weak advisor or Ms Kerswell herself concocted a punitive construct that they felt would meet a momentary need and that has blown up in her face big time.

    But I am seriously amused by the Council spokesperson comment ”The judge’s ruling sets a worrying precedent for the payment of senior staff who are sick while suspended.”

    That spokesperson really should have said ”no comment”. Perhaps it was an aberrant slip and unintentional…..


    If this Council believes that this ruling set a precedent that itself is worrying.

    Here I am LMAO!! (cue emoji’s)

    As what is really worrying, is that the spokesperson’s admission could signify that Ms Simmonds was not an isolated out of the ordinary decision. That is worrying and costly!

    So if this is a systemic rule applied generically to all such situations (Trades unions and employment lawyers hark ye) and not just in Croydon either, then that is a gravy train to Employment Lawyers and a big bill for the taxpaying residents of Boroughs like Croydon that employ those who take such actions and decisions.

    I also note the word senior. Is this spokesperson directly stating that employees are discriminated against on seniority or just because of her ethnicity as Ms Simmonds believes – clearly from the inferrence of senior we can now rule out not at all.

    Do only senior staff get penalised if suspended?

    What happened to a proper investigatory and disciplinary process?

    Is this done in the way Townsend and co manage planning conditions and accept statements from one side (Devloper) patently untrue, and ignore documentary and photgraphic evidence from the other side (Residents and witnesses) what shows those statements to be untrue?

    Is that the indication of Croydon Councils Culture under Kerswell?

    Does one get penalised for suffering health issues if they have been (or believe they have been) treated unfairly, unlawfully or discriminated against?

    I am unaware of employment contracts that give full sick pay but then deduct that if sick whilst suspended. But then some of the stuff this Council does, beggers belief so one should not be surprised.
    Still that should be worrying to residents should it not?

    Take maternity

    Can you imagine a person telling their employer they are pregnant. And the next week being suspended for performance issues. They later deduct salary as she had the temerity to actually deliver the baby and go on maternity leave?

    Right. not a chance in hell any judge would allow that. But again I am continually amazed by some bodies decisions.

    Maybe Croydon Council have grounds to set a new precedent. Maybe they feel that there is a true case where justice and truth and the right way of doing something should be aired and a precedent set to prevent some misuse of public funds by people employed? Hmmmm ok that might create a whole different set of precedents here.

    Employers do not take appeals lightly as they carry a big risk. But they do when there is a principle involved that has a greater impact on operations or conflicts of law that require interpretation rulings for greater clarity going forward( there are other valid reasons also not just the merits of the case itself)

    So losing one ET is costly for that one inciden. Having a ruling that sets a precedent is extremely expensive when applied to everyone that was wronged(not quite on the scale of the pensions miss-selling but along those lines of compensation. It canalso affects every employer in the Country. Or in this case every Local Authority and the Senior executives. I am sure they will then welcome Ms Kerswell with open arms when that judgement comes through – or not!

    I seriously think we need an investigation into the actions of this Council over the last 15 years and a full TV program entitled how not to fund and run Municipal Authorities.

    This could a paper of the Century for a Masters degree – any takers?

    • Jess says:

      Kerswell has failed. Nicola Townsend and Heather Cheesborough have not upheld their roles and do not have the respect or confidence of residents. Both could have been dismissed on the very considerable amount of evidence available about planning. They should all go. We’ve had enough.

  3. Sarah Bird says:

    If this was the private sector heads would have rolled with immediate effect . How and why are they still employed? Where is the accountability of the CEO and Leader ?

  4. Nav says:

    Who pays for their compensations? We the residents have been subjected to a 15% hike in our council tax. Was this hike to pay for compensation or for services to our borough. This is a scam. Mayor Perry, get your act together and deal with the council before the residents of Croydon vote you out
    Croydon is a scam and people with self interest and personal gain are I power.

    Get rid of the lot and bring Croydon back to its former glory.

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