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.
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.
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.
- Inside Croydon – as seen on TV! – has been delivering local community news since 2010. 3million page views per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
- If you want real journalism, actually based in the borough, you should consider paying for it. Please sign up today. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- As featured on Google News Showcase
- We offer FREE ads to community groups when they have members who are paid subscribers to Inside Croydon
- Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine