Thanet councillors will meet tomorrow (June 8) and are expected to discuss the next steps following recommendations of an independent report into failings at the authority, which include ‘serious breakdown’ in relationships of the top management team and the use of disciplinary action against staff trying to raise complaints.
Eight recommendations were agreed at a meeting of the council on May 19 and next steps are understood to have been discussed by the council’s General Purposes committee on June 1.
The recommendations included a restructure of the corporate management team to create a role responsible for HR (human resources) and the requirement for chief executive Madeline Homer to enter into a formal coaching/mentoring arrangement.
However, it is understood that severance arrangements in regards to the CEO post may also be discussed at the meeting. This follows a General Purposes meeting on June 1 into ‘staffing matters’ which was related to the independent report.
Last year external auditors Grant Thornton issued a report branding relationships between the authority’s top officers as in “serious breakdown” and listing a catalogue of failures within the council, including 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.
Thanet District Council unanimously agreed to Grant Thornton’s four statutory recommendations – including bringing in an independent Monitoring Officer 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.
A summary version of the report by that Independent Monitoring Officer, Quentin Baker, was published last month and highlighted concerns such as the personal relationship between chief exec Madeline Homer and Director of Communities Gavin Waite; the hostile relationship between the top four senior officers which has seen one dismissed and the other exit with severance pay after a wrongful suspension and lodging of a bullying complaint and the pay out of more than £1.5m for redundancy or employment tribunal deals between 2015-2021.
In the summary Mr Baker looks at the failures and the emergence in 2019 of a serious break-down in the relationships between the four officers comprising the then- Corporate Management Team (CMT) – Madeline Homer CEO, Tim Willis Dep Chief Executive, Gavin Waite Corporate Director of Communities and Tim Howes Corporate Director of Governance & Monitoring Officer.
On two occasions disciplinary proceedings were launched against members of the CMT -one of which resulted in a serious disciplinary sanction against Monitoring Officer Tim Howes, leading to his dismissal in April of this year and the other ending with a public apology and £280k severance deal for deputy chief Tim Willis who left the council last October.
Mr Baker’s report said among the aggravating causes of the failings was “the emergence of the close personal relationship between Madeline Homer and Gavin Waite which was for some time during 2018-19 the source of much gossip and speculation both amongst staff within the authority and more widely on the internet, which is likely to have impacted upon the dynamic of the small CMT.
“Although there is no prohibition on such relationships it is widely acknowledged that robust and transparent arrangements must be put in place so as to mitigate the risk that others will perceive favouritism. The steps taken were insufficient.”
Mr Baker also noted that the relationship between the chief executive and the elected council leader: “is best characterised as lacking trust and mutual respect.”
Madeline Homer has been in the chief exec post for eight years following the exit of Sue McGonigal.
Dr McGonigal was absent from her post for six months while an investigation related to a planning application was carried out., She was cleared of any wrongdoing but resigned in 2015. She received an £82,500 “loss of office” pay off. The compensation was not agreed and paid until the 2016 financial year.
Prior to Dr McGonigal, former chief exec Richard Samuels received a ‘golden handshake’ payment of £92,000 and £81,000 into his pensions pot.
In 2017 the director of communities, Rob Kenyon, was made redundant and received a loss of office payment of £39,533
Most recently former deputy chief exec Tim Willis was paid £280k after the wrongful suspension and the submission of his grievance claiming to have been subjected to systematic bullying, intimidation and victimisation.
A significant sum of £1,590,151 has been spent on settlements due to redundancy or employment tribunals between the financial years 2015/16 to 2020/21 and costs are expected to rise further as a number of matters remain extant and unresolved.
The ‘staffing matter’ being discussed at tomorrow’s council meeting will not be held in public as “Information relating to any individual” is considered exempt.
Any severance agreement amount would need to be compared to the possible costs of prolonged sick pay or disciplinary or tribunal costs.
Sounds like they will be raiding the already depleted reserves to pay Homer off shortly.
Meanwhile, Thanet DC has been named as the Council offering the worst value for money in Kent.
It’s a very sad state of affairs.
If someone is found not to be doing their job to the required standards why would they be paid off ?
Just go through the correct procedure.
Than the failure doesnt get an underserved pay off. Plus us rate payers dont fork out for it.
1.5 million spent on pay off and fighting bullying claims. Ridicules.
She isnt a football manager who gets a pay off for being crap.
As a county councillor i find my officers in kent county council in the main very professional. Until senior officers are changed thanet council will remain the worst district council in kent
I read somewhere recently it is performing in the bottom 2% of all England’s local councils.
Amazed it does that well.
It’s odd as the IMO report makes very clear that the behaviour of the CEO, as the “controlling mind” and person with ultimate responsibility for TDC has been extremely poor. The report also seems to set out tht individual actions by Homer have been very poor.
In any employment situation when trust has broken down between the employer and employee it is just cause for dismissal.
Why are Cllr’s (the employers) not suspending Homer (their employee) immediately while a disciplinary panel considers the evidence (already overt) and sacks her?
Yes Homer could bring a case of unfair dismissal but with all the evidence, so much of it independent, her only case could be bad process.
Get the process correct and sack her!
Jenny – to answer your question : Because insufficient elected members can decide on a course of action. 50% are running scared of her and the other 50% are clueless.
Because of the political in-fighting and toxicity, Homer continues to rule the roost.
Prior to the resignation of Dr Sue McGonigal I believe Madeline Homer was the deputy CEO.
Following the resignation of Dr Sue McGonigal, Madaline Homer was made the CEO by the then Labour Leader Iris Johnston (IJ) (Mrs 24 years) and 2nd by the leader of the conservative group Cllr Bob Bayford (BB).
Regretfully for some, when UKIP under the leadership of Chris Wells (CW) took power of the council Madeline Homer retained her position. As she did with Bob Bayford (Conservative) and then again under the leadership of Rick Everitt (Labour).
Following on from Iris Johnston I suspect all leaders of TDC were unwilling to show their authority and take control of the disturbing situations. Were these leaders being bullied into submission also. ?
My understanding is that it was orchestrated either for McGonigal or Homer ( can’t remeber which) by combining roles within the council that effectively meant there was only 1 possible applicant from within the council and so ensure the dynasty of the time continued.
Also whilst Mcgonigal may have been cleared of any wrong doing something was not quite right as Clive Hart disapeared at the same time. Does anyone have a link to a report on the planning matter in question?
It was the East Kent Opportunities (EKO) LLP joint venture established by Kent County Council and Thanet District Council with a specific focus on the development of a number of sites at Manston Business Park and Eurokent.
Well good luck with this ladies and gentlemen.
We can expect more from this story, much more.
Ridiculous situation. She is incompetent and been proven so. Yet she is being treated like she is a low level employee that just needs training and allowances made and talk of a pay off???
If she had any ability, self worth or pride in herself she would walk away.
Instead she clings on to power.
Having no ability to do the job, being a liar and a bully and clinging on to power is all the rage though isn’t it. She see it at the very highest level and is simply copying the new way to govern.
Driver has said on his somewhat controversial blog they will vote (in secret) to pay her £300K to leave and get another job in another council
Revolving door any one
Why does this happen in top manager ?
It seems this country just gets the same old same old. As any top manager who is crap gets a nice pay off and a decent CV. Than moves to the next job and it happens again. It bonkers
All a result employment law and procedures that should be followed, if procedures have not been followed to the letter over the years then the council can’t just lay someone off without expecting to be taken to a tribunal after, so the only way of getting someone out reasonably quickly is to come to a mutual agreement on the severance package. Plus we don’t know what promises and agreements have existed between the senior management and the various council leaders over the period they’ve been in office. All very murky.
Either trigger a performance and conduct investigation or explore an exit. Any other option or a continuation of the status quo is simply not acceptable.
This is our tax and we deserve a suitably performing Council.
Madeline Homer should do the decent thing and resign immediately without any severance pay offered, or be sacked. Why should TDC staff be bullied in their workplace? It is against code of conduct and standards within any public sector body. The management needs to be responsible for their staffing issues. They are paid higher than ordinary staff because they are supposed to be fair, approachable and reliable among other qualities. The CEO seems to have none of these qualities so the question must be asked, how on earth did she get the top job in Thanet Council 8 years ago? Has she been previously let go by employers for any reason? Since she took over from Sue McGonigal things have only got steadily worse within the council offices. Bad Planning consents are still ongoing left, right and centre with all objectional public opinion being ignored. This is untenable and must be stopped now before total collapse of the authority in it’s present form. The local tax payers should not be expected to reward her with a pay-off for the poor bullying leadership over her staff. It would not be fair on us, and neither on any other public organisation that would be unaware of this employment situation if and when she applies to join them in the future.
If this was a private company there would have been performance reviews and people would have been removed from positions. However it seems to me you can do what you and still get away with it.
These people should be forced to resign with out severance pay or whatever they feel they are entitled too. I’ve no been living in thanet for 7 years and gobsmacked at the level of public service.
It’s not the work of TDC that’s made the town what it is now it’s small businesses people investing in buying flats and houses and renovating.
It’s a disgrace.
The recent leak of confidential information onto social media on matters relating to the person in question has opened the litigation door wide open. A handshake has just potentially turned golden.
I agree the leaks are really unwelcome but I’m not convinced it makes any exit more feathered, especially given the huge amount of damning content already in the public domain containing some very serious concerns. The Grant Thornton report being the current one, and it is public.
Relations seem utterly broken down. Utterly. What a total mess. They could focus on catching the leaker but one might argue this is justified under whistleblowing and in the public interest. Perhaps. I am no expert.
There are some very toxic social media postings about a number of people in office locally, these are undignified and they give politics a bad name.
I wonder if Madeline Homer leaves, after an nice 6 months to a year gardening leave. After all it is all this will very stressful for her. Then a big pay out package. Who will be the interim CEO? Will it be Gavin Waite. At least they will have something to talk about over dinner when he gets in.
Staff can do nothing but put up and shut up, I’ve been bullied and punished for whistle blowing. We have been waiting for Maddy and Gavin to be sacked or gone for about 3-4 years. Maddy is competent but rules with an iron fist, it’s her way or she shouts at you. Tim Willis went throught the correct process as advised and was suspended and punished, bullied. Tell your elective councillors to do something. Head of HR tried, the head of audit tried, the s151, everyone has tried, everyone is just too scared to speak up. HR literally ignore information because otherwise if they take action Maddy shoots the messenger.
TDC constitution was amended years ago to give the executive more authority than our elected councillors. As the IMO recommended, that must be fixed first, with the executive required to perform as directed by our councillors. There is then a real possibility of us then getting value for money, whilst a knee jerk pay-off rewards failure and achieves so much less than is needed.
We now have a document from the IMO, containing valuable recommendations, which do not include a pay-off and NDA!! Councillors, fix the constitution first, then manage the executives performance as you were elected to.