Council leader issues apology over top officer suspension and chief exec says investigation leads to ‘no action’ recommended against her

Statements have been issued

Thanet council chief executive Madeline Homer has issued a statement to say no action against her has been recommended following an investigation.

The statement comes on the heels of a damning report by auditors Grant Thornton which brands Thanet council’s governance  around whistleblowing, grievances and disciplinary procedures as “inadequate” and highlights the ‘serious breakdown’ of  relationships between the authority’s top four officers as well as listing failures within the council including using disciplinary action against staff who have made complaints.

Complaints and counter complaints involving all four of the top management team – CEO Madeline Homer, Gavin Waite, Tim Willis and monitoring officer Tim Howes – have seen Tim Howes suspended since last December and Tim Willis exit the authority on October 15 with a £280,000 ‘retirement’ package.

Mr Willis’s departure comes after he was subject to a suspension in 2019 but subsequently cleared of all gross misconduct allegations and reinstated a month later.

Mr Willis, 61, is understood to have been carrying out his role away from Thanet council offices, working from Dover council when necessary.

His exit follows mediated talks with Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee.

Cllr Ashbee issued a statement yesterday (October 18) apologising to Mr Willis for the suspension, saying: ““Tim Willis was suspended by the Council in August 2019. This should not have happened and on behalf of Thanet District Council, I apologise to him for that.

“The council’s General Purposes Committee subsequently unanimously dismissed all allegations against Tim Willis. He leaves the employment of the council with a spotless employment record, and I would like to thank him for his service.”

The report by auditors Grant Thornton says there have been “a number of interlinked instances of whistleblowing, lodging of formal grievances and disciplinary action including examples of serious allegations made by senior officers without adequate, or in some cases any, supporting evidence.”

The report added: “that people raising grievances and whistleblowing complaints with merit have been “subject to disciplinary action prior to the substance of their complaints being formally considered,” and that “Senior officers’ behaviour was found to fall below the standard expected on a number of occasions.”

Thanet council CEO Madeline Homer said: “The council takes all allegations seriously and investigates them properly in accordance with both the council’s procedures and the duty we have to all staff under employment law.

“Quite rightly those procedures are not under my control and have been looked at independently. Due to the complicated nature of these issues the process has taken some time, however I can confirm that following a thorough investigation there were no actions recommended against me.

“During this time I have successfully led the organisation through the Pandemic, have the support of staff and members and continue to oversee a Council that is delivering a good level of service to the residents of Thanet. Contrary to some of the public commentary, our staff, including the management team, work very well together and are incredibly supportive of each other.

“In respect of the External Auditor’s report, I fully respect the role they carry out and entirely support the four recommendations they have made, but it will be for council to consider and decide on the recommendations on November 2. Like any organisation there will be lessons for us to learn and we want to move forward on that basis and be stronger for it.”

The meeting will take place at the council offices at 7pm. A public protest  calling for the CEO’s resignation has been organised and will take place outside the offices from 6pm.

Damning report lists failures, “bullying,” “allegations without evidence,” and use of disciplinary action against staff raising grievances at Thanet council


  1. The Leader of the Council in August 2019 was the Conservative leader Bob Bayford. The Conservatives had a majority in the Council at that time. It looks like the actions taken by the Council have cost us all at least £280,000 – is that right?

  2. Something stinks here !

    A damming report by Grant Thornton into the running of TDC yet the TDC CEO releases a statement saying nothing to do with me !. I would say 100% it has everything to do with the CEO as you are in charge of TDC. You set the standards of TDC. You are responsible for the damming report. You over see everything TDC do.

    To come out and say that no action is recommended against me, perhaps the thought was you would do the decent thing and quit.

    I wouldnt want to work for a CEO who behaves like this, lets everyone else take the blame for her running of the council. Its unbelievable and shows an arrogance of head in the sand management. Unbelievable statement

  3. As CEO the buck stops with Madeline Homer, whether directly or indirectly part of this enormously incompetent period. For a CEO to suggest they knew nothing about the suspension of the Deputy is astonishing. Ordinarily, a CEO would want to assure themselves wholeheartedly of the sound evidence base underpinning the enormity of suspending the Deputy. If not, who DID authorise the suspension? A junior? Appalling governance and risk management if so.

    This aside, if other complaints are also made at Madeline which are yet to be investigated, how can this same person be responsible for assessing the outstanding cases with the expert 3rd party, as recommended by Grant Thornton. It is a huge conflict of interest to be involved in assessing casework that you are also the subject of.

    This is a “weren’t me guv” statement that fails to take any responsibility whatsoever and provides zero assurance that anything will change for the better. A defensive response to the apology put out by the Leader.

  4. What an astonishing statement by the CEO. As a CEO all policies and procedures are ultimately under her control and, if found to be grossly inadequate, the accountability rests with her.

  5. She may deny any knowledge, but nobody believes that..
    She has presided over the continual failures , financial disasters, and a cult of well documented bullying….The evidence is readily available, there is no conceivable way the CEO can wash her hands of responsibility…
    Gross misconduct is patently obvious, that is a sackable offence ..
    The charges need to be laid , and the outcome should be dismissal without any payoff…

  6. The Grant Thornton report is then a waste of time and effort.
    How can M Homer make that statement, get your head out of the sand woman.

  7. Major institutional faults found and CEO says nothing to do with me. That should be enough to get sacked. If it’s not to do with you who else? It’s your ship. Ridiculous. That attitude is exactly why TDC has issues

  8. When the saints go marching in they will, without doubt, be led by Saint Madeline of Homer, riding her trusty nags Sir Gavin and Sir Tim, and followed by her adoring and joyous staff!

    ring public.

  9. Kathy – would it be possible for you to run a piece on how decisions are made by Thanet District Council. What are the responsibilities of the Leader of the Council, the Councillors, the Cabinet, the officers and the CEO? I for one would be very grateful.

    • Samara

      The job description for the CEO and other senior officers and the grievance, disciplinary and whistleblowing policies would have to be made available if there is a freedom of information request.

  10. “continue to oversee a Council that is delivering a good level of service to the residents of Thanet.”

    Maybe get out your ivory tower and see the complete mess that Thanet has become before issuing such ludicrous statements. Services are absolutely appalling.

    It’s unbelievable that an officer has the temerity to challenge a democratically elected Leader of the Council so publicly.

  11. Oh dear the armchair judges a jury’s on here are making out they know what they are talking about which of course they don’t. Social media at its worst antisocial media more like. If you don’t know what you are taking about then best say nothing. That includes you Mr driver using another name.

    • Bill

      So are you saying its normal for CEO not to have a clue as to what her staff are up to ?

      CEO gets paid big bucks because the buck stops with them. This CEO seems to want to throw anyone under the bus to save themselves.

    • Bill. Some of us have been CEOs in the Public Sector so do know very well what we are talking about. As ‘Accountable Officer’ one of the prime responsibilities of a Chief Executive is to ensure that policies and procedures are put in place to ensure good corporate governance; that those policies and procedures are reviewed regularly to ensure they keep pace with any new national requirements on governance eg. the protection of genuine whistleblowers and to ensure that middle and senior managers follow those policies and procedures. The general theme of the Auditors’ report is an indictment of the CEOs leadership.

      • AJ

        Totally agree

        Its is a ridiculous statement to make the CEO is 100% for all the failings of this council. If the CEO doesnt know what her staff are up than she isnt doing her job and should be sacked. To come out and say the investigation says I dont need investing is just bizarre and embarrassing.

        Any good CEO would resign.

  12. Oh well, its known that in some occupations where mistake’ (s) Have been made.

    Offering an apology may be mentioned in their contract (standard operating procedure).

    So an apology has been delivered.

  13. Look TDC is a failed organisation, it has been from the start. The outfits that it supplanted were themselves dreadful entities, who would have made T.Dan.Smith blush with shame (and at least he did some good, where as the succession of rogues and nincompoops that led TDC were nothing if not self serving).
    If you promote a jumped up housing officer, far above her pay grade, this is what you get. She is not particularly bright, or active, or innovative, she is the wrong person, for the wrong job, in the wrong place.
    She is not especially well paid in the strata of CEO’s, but she has created a toxic work culture, where the moderately good are driven out by self serving incompetents, who cleave to her like mad.
    You can now expect a long drawn out process, where the politicians try to winkle her out, for as little as they can get away with, and end up enraging the residents, when someone discloses the leaving payment.
    The trouble is who would want to take over and how much would they want to be paid? I think we are talking at least £200k or more, that’s the real damage she has wrought. Thanks to her, TDC is a byword for awfulness in local govt, and TDC’s infamy is well known, far and wide.
    I hope Piper and Ashbee really enjoy their time in office, it could not happen to more suitable candidates.

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