Croydon Council is being used as an object lesson to local authorities across the country. But not in a good way. Again.
An Employment Tribunal case successfully taken against Croydon Council by a former senior employee for unlawfully reducing her pay has prompted a national warning to all other local authorities.
The civic trade magazine The Municipal Journal is reporting today that the Joint Negotiating Committee for chief officers – the national organisation which settles pay claims for council execs – has “urged local authorities to check their policies and contracts to avoid falling foul of the same ruling”.
A judge found that Croydon acted unlawfully when it denied full pay to its director for localities, Hazel Simmonds, while she was suspended.
“The council argued she was entitled to ‘normal’ pay, meaning it could be reduced on the basis she was off sick,” the MJ reports.
“However, Ms Simmonds’ contract stated the council would follow guidance laid down in the JNC’s conditions of service handbook, which specifies suspended chief officers should receive ‘full’ pay.”
Simmonds was suspended by Croydon Council in February 2021, part of the “Kerswell kull” of senior officials. She remained employed, but under suspension, until she resigned in September 2022.
According to Croydon Council’s own figures, at the time of her suspension, Simmonds full pay package was £173,777 per year, including £36,077 in pension contributions.
The JNC has sent a letter to all council chief executives this week: “Any council that simply incorporates the JNC for chief officers’ handbook into chief officers’ contracts would appear vulnerable to losing any similar case,” they said.
Or they could have advised council HR departments to actually read their staff’s contracts…
The JNC says it is looking at amending its handbook, but warns that this “could take some time”.
Simmonds was one of five senior executives who were either suspended or took long-term sick leave in February 2021, soon after the council’s financial collapse. No disciplinary action was ever taken against any of the individuals.
In her case, Simmonds later resigned from the council, and she is still pursuing further Employment Tribunal claims, against both the authority and its chief executive, Katherine Kerswell, in which she alleges racism. That case is due to be heard later this year.
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