Independent officer findings following damning report of Thanet council failures to be discussed in private

Thanet council

A report by an independent monitoring officer appointed by Thanet council following a damning report into the “inadequate” governance arrangements around whistleblowing, grievances and disciplinary procedures at the authority will be discussed by councillors this week.

Quentin Baker, Director of Law and Governance for Hertfordshire County Council, was appointed to the position in December after the previous officer who took the role withdrew.

Last October external auditors Grant Thornton branded relationships between the authority’s top officers as in “serious breakdown” and listed a catalogue of failures within the council, including using disciplinary action against staff raising complaints; attempting to discredit criticism in independent reports; draining finances due to disciplinary and tribunal actions and causing significant reputational harm to those involved in prolonged grievance processes.

On November 2  Thanet District Council unanimously agreed to Grant Thornton’s four statutory recommendations – including bringing in the independent Monitoring Officer from a large local authority to carry out a risk assessment of the current employment tribunal claims and proposed actions including a detailed financial analysis of the options available to the council.

The independent officer has carried out an assessment of the status of all outstanding grievances, whistleblowing complaints and any continuing suspensions and proposed a plan of action to address them.

The council must re-examine financial plans and identify additional savings to deal with costs created in resolving grievances and whistleblowing complaints.

Since the Grant Thornton report was published two of Thanet council’s top officers have left the authority.

The departure of Tim Willis, who oversaw the Housing and Planning service, Communications and Digital, Finance and Procurement and led digital transformation across the council’s services, came in October.

Mr Willis has been with the authority since 2015. In August 2019 he was subject to a shock suspension from his role. No reason was publicly given for the suspension and it provoked an outcry from many councillors.

Mr Willis was reinstated a month later and cleared of all gross misconduct allegations. A grievance had been lodged by Mr Willis about his treatment at the council. He left with  £280,000 severance pay and a public apology by council leader Ash Ashbee over the suspension, saying: “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.”

Last month monitoring officer Tim Howes was dismissed from his role with immediate effect following a ‘behind closed doors’ extraordinary council meeting.

Mr Howes had been absent from the authority since the end of 2020 although a reason for his suspension was not made public.

In January 2021 a meeting of the General Purposes Investigations & Disciplinary Sub-Committee was held. The function of this committee is to “ consider allegations/issues regarding disciplinary matters” and “suspensions” that may relate to top tier management. A letter sent to council staff in February 2021 confirmed the suspension.

It is understood the issue was connected to an ‘unsubstantiated’ report made to Kent Police. The MJ publication reported that Mr Howes had made what were considered to be ‘’vexatious and malicious’ allegations about Mr Willis to the police. Police concluded no crime had been committed.

The report by auditors Grant Thornton said there had 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 by Independent Monitoring Officer Quentin Baker will be discussed by councillors on Thursday (May 19), The meeting will, once again, be held in private although Mr Baker’s recommendations are expected to be published.

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

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


  1. So the long and short of it is that due to the toxic nature of TDC, Mr Howes made up a story and told it to the police about Mr Willis, because of that and the police having to conduct an inquiry the council had to suspend Mr Willis, then it came to light that Mr Howes had made it up and the end result is it cost the council tax payers of Thanet £280,000.

    So therefore should Mr Howes not have to publicly apologise and also cover the costs caused the council tax payers? Should he also not be prosecuted for libel or slander?

    It is shocking that the council tried to brush all this under the carpet! We pay them to serve us. Time and time again it has been said, the whole lot of them need removing and emergency measures put in place while a new council is created.

    The money used to pay Mr Willis off should have been used for the council tax payers of Thanet. Mr Howes should be sued for that amount + costs.

    • Local government is a club of officers that circulate from district to borough etc, they run it pretty much in their own best interests using the effectively bottomless pit of council tax payers money.
      It rather looks as though Homer will eventually achieve the same as Mcgonigall and Samuels both of who wandered off into the sunset with a bag of TDC cash. As part owners of EKH tdc effectively helped employ a builsding safety officer who was involved in the works at grenfell ( he left double quick when this was revealed) the current tdc leasehold team comprises largely of ex ekh staff , many of the ekh staff moved to the 4 councils independent housing teams. A frank talk with someone at ekh said this was to prevent any whistle blowing from ekh staff, apparently the lelvels of “beneficial arrangements “ at council level in respect of works contracts for the various councils housing stock was common place. Having seen some of the work that the councils have paid for it’d be hard to disagree.
      The whole system is a self serving basket case.

  2. Oh yes keep it all behind closed doors we joe public who pay for these public’s servants do not want to know whats been going on in case it’s a bit dodgy and we might not agree with it.

    • I agree with you Bill, who knows we (Jo Bloggs) might stand up and say ‘we want you gone now’ so yes better to keep it private. One day we might just get shot of the lot of them and put in completely new faces.

  3. Nothing suprises me with TDC.I have lived pretty much all over the South East and London and Thanet is the most neglected run down area I have ever lived.Lack of common sense seems to be applied to everything they do.Have they realised the area is covered in litter,detritus in all the kerbs,weeds on an industrial scale and and grass turfs growing in the roads.
    The only asset we have is our coastline and the council make the area look Third World.That will really encourage tourist to return.

    • Kerbs and roads are KCC responsibility NOT TDC, yet another intellectually challenged comment. Nothing to do with the Government reducing funding to Councils NATIONALLY to ZERO?

    • Yes, and when some funding is realized it is all eaten up by local business chums of those in power. Hardly any is spent on the town to bring the standards up a notch or two, which is what it is meant for. Too many crooks involved but that’s what you get here in the grotty corner of Kent.
      I hope this monitoring officer from Hertfordshire makes a difference. Recommending replacing the whole lot with the purse strings would be a start.

  4. A certain human being works at a council office any council office they could never get a job anywhere else very insula people believing to be superior to everyone else and hide behind buricracy… doing very little during the day but blocking everything with rules and regulations saying no is common place .. they say no because they don’t understand… they literally don’t care tax payers pay their wages as they are so superior to us all .. in their small world of self importance… 🙂 x

  5. How do we stop these behind doors meetings. It is just not acceptable that there is no transparency in any of the dealiñgs of TDC. Our elected represenatives are a total failure when it comes to protecting our interests, which ever party is in power.
    Why are we not getting our £280000 back? Are they all waiting for their payout?

  6. I think it’s a given that other Senior Officers are being to account over the continuing failures and misdeeds within the culture of TDC …
    We can only hope that the Elected Councillors have the will and strength to do what is obvious and necessary, to cure the putrescence within the “professional “ management team., That is the only way to regain the respect of those who elected them .
    The meeting may be held “in camera” , that is acceptable, but only if the conclusions are made public ….

  7. I keep rattling on about this. I believe all Managers Officers and Councillors should have their own Public Liability Insurance not paid for by central government, KCC, a union, party political group or from residents payments to the council by way of property taxes.
    TDC and KCC have their own liability insurance for negligence for which we the public pay for.
    Why should the public pay for mistakes servants of Councils make.

  8. Well there we are! We are all in agreement TDC is s***! So why does it still exist?
    Surely in the Department of Up yours and confusion, someone would have thought maybe it is past time for the poor old thing to be dragged out and put to sleep?
    Of course doing that would mean paying off M.Homer and the rest of the Thanet hasn’t got Talent brigade (names on a very large postcard please) and that might cause outrage.
    Just when you think TDC could sink no further, someone finds the path plug, and we are on a trip to the bottom of the sewage farm.
    I don’t really know what to say, that could provide solace and comfort to a sorely afflicted part of East Kent.There are people at TDC who do try hard, and do their best,but the leadership encourages the worst element who are useless, preening incompetents, to wreak havoc.

  9. I’ve said it before, and I’ll SHOUT it again.
    CEO MH, and other Top Officer(s), must go. Leave, resign, sacked whichever.
    This damage was 1 step too far and they have crossed the line of decency, and shown us their vivid sense of incapability!

    • They will not go quietly without a huge payoff so they should be found guilty of running the council into the ground and sacked for incompetence. This non transparent authority is being bled dry by people in the know who are scared the truth will come out. If they really had nothing to hide then why is this officers finding being discussed behind closed doors? The contemptuous behaviour just continues like all the wrong doings within those walls!

  10. Do we at present have an obstructive council and officials.
    My suggestion would be to ask the owner of the “Old Cottage Pub” in Margate.
    He was taken to court and found not guilty.
    TDC (The residents of Thanet) must pay TDC’s costs which include Barristers fee’s leaving the owner of the building to pay his own costs.
    He has applied to put (replace) lights in the alleyway that the general public use.
    He has applied to replace a hanging sign.
    TDC planning Officers and potentially above and Chair of Committee in their wisdom have procrastinated over giving their approval for well in excess of 9 months.
    Why ?
    Is this because the owner dared to stand up to TDC plus others and their unreasonableness. ?

  11. The private nature of the meeting proves they have learnt nothing and the culture is the same.

    We fund you and your behaviour should be answerable to us!!!!

  12. Madeline Homer, Thanet District Council chief executive is apparently negotiating her departure. Money to leave to compensate her leaving her job.
    Bad toxic management at TDC always get rewarded with huge amounts of money.
    She must be held to account and sacked, no financial golden goodbye.
    If you look at her Linkedin profile, you could not make it up, what she has put on there.
    We need strong proven senior management at TDC to sort the Isles problems and serious issues. Unfortunately to get the best top senior managers you have to pay the big bucks, which TDC are not prepared to pay.

    • I think the TDC salaries for Directors and the Chief Executive is perfectly in line with what other Councils offer.

      The difference is that most other Councils have senior officers who are competent and able to do their job without dragging the Council and area in general into the gutter.

      The biggest problem the CEO faces is that she was simply promoted to a job which was too big for her. It was only a few years ago that she was a fairly middle level manager.

  13. That team should be sacked without compensation. They are guilty of gross negligence in Public Office. Thanet taxpayers need compensation from them rather than the other way round. The whole concept of TDC is corrupted for years and should be replaced with another management model.

  14. Who the hell is protecting this CEO and why has it taken so long to remove this rotten apple? In any other walk of life this reprehensible woman would have have been given her cards long ago. It’s not as if she is the LAST person who can do the job! What a fiasco….draining the public purse, personally responsible for the toxic bullying culture which has made people ill, ruined their lives and we have to pay her off? The culture of rewarding obscene behaviour has to STOP!MH should be thrown out and sacked. She must be held accountable and punished.

    • I think those managing this have done the sums …. MH is very litigious. There is absolutely no way she would go quietly, she would take it to tribunal, in the meantime suspended on full pay with the Council unable to move forward. This way tastes horrible, I know, but I think it will be cheaper, easier and more effective in the long run. Her pay off will pale into insignificance compared to the money about to be wasted on berths 4/5, if those in favour of throwing public money at a a private company have their way.

  15. The report WILL be published. Replacing “rotten apples” Councillors have very little powers over Civil Servants. Ash Ashby you may have seen naïvely asking Gove for help. He said no in the nicest possible way. Remove the rotten apples (Councillors)? in some Wards once selected dependent on the colour of your flag, you have a job for life. For the remaining Councillors ? have you seen the abuse levelled at them, mostly totally unjustified & you wonder why so few come forward.

  16. I understand from the rumour mill that the report names ordinary staff caught up in this, and the report cannot be discussed publicly in its present form because of that.

  17. I’ve heard the same rumour. And in terms of a payoff, it’s probably much cheaper to bung some money to the officers concerned and get rid of them quickly than to go through a year or more of disciplinary investigation on full pay and large barristers costs.

  18. It has been known for years that Homer created a toxic Work environment and dysfunctional council, which successive political administrations colluded. At long last it looks like this calamitous situation may be drawing to a close, regrettably not before many of TDC’s assets have been squandered benefiting off shore companies, property speculators and unaccountable outsiders to the detriment of Thanet residents.
    It is however not only the senior officers at fault here but our elected councillors who I believe should all stand down and offer themselves for reelection as most are implicated in one way way or another with the bad practices at play at TDC .

    All we can now do is await for information following the pending closed council meeting.

  19. In a normal world an investigation into alleged gross misconduct or performance could be completed in a month. Dismissal may follow, without years of salary and suspension. TDC seem to still have delegated these crucial HR matters to their committee structure, a tradition changed decades ago by competent, modern councils and leading to glacial and often inept delivery of these performance matters, with decisions and risks taken by councillors often routinely unqualified in employment matters. The governance structure at TDC need urgent overhaul.

    In the meantime it matters not a fig a person is litigious. Lodging a case doesn’t mean winning a case and the awards if successful are small fry compared to the vast sums of our tax money that TDC has squandered on avoidable employment costs. The salaries are in keeping, the exit awards seem monstrously high. Monstrous.

    Undoubtedly this is a closed meeting because performance will be discussed. Everyone is entitled to their dignity, this is a universal feature of a civil society we should all preserve. What stops this being recognised is the legitimate clarion call of thousands of people over the years for real change to happen at TDC. We have witnessed our Isle be led over the cliff, assets flogged, filthy streets, dodgy deals at Ramsgate port, rabid support for a failed aviator, land banking, dereliction, losing our thestres, failing to innovate, failing to steward hard fought funding pots in the right direction or even getting them moving at all, the list is literally endless.

    When nothing changes and everything gets worse, folks get rightfully frustrated. What seems bizarre to me is the unstinting support for the CEO from some sections of the local Labour Party. Real change at TDC cannot involve just the usual red blue bounce. It is getting us nowhere.

    Thanet deserves better than this.

    Hurry up and publish the outcomes and put us all out of our misery. There is a difference between dignity and transparency and we are entitled to know the key issues and the key outcomes.

  20. The CEO Behavior would not be allowed in the business world.If staff carried on like she has done allegedly they would be sacked immediately no hanging around for a massive payoff..Wonder why Senior Council Leadrs / Members have allowed her to carry on as she has done for a long time.

    • Because within the Civil Service particularly the senior staff they are almost fireproof. They can be “sacked” from one area and walk into another as has happened in Thanet.

  21. Three points :
    1) All local authorities have, suffered year-on-year cuts from central government, who now give cash like pocket money to naughty kids. Councils now need to be able to keep all the monies from council tax, rents and charges.
    2) Thanet is too small to run a lot of services and 80% of its council tax goes up to Maidstone, never to return! The case for a unitary authority – probably Thanet & Dover – is now unanswerable.
    3) We now have the weird suggestion that the Chief Executive requires “training”! This, in most authorities, is a correct procedure for very junior or inexperienced staff. If we have a person on mega salary responsible for all the employees who is that deficient, time to despair.

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