Audit report highlights £1m disciplinary and grievance spend by Thanet council – and top officer’s dismissal appeal

Thanet council Photo Frank Leppard

An annual audit of Thanet council’s finances for the 2020-21 year has highlighted a huge spend on legal matters for disciplinary and grievance proceedings.

For the 2020-21 financial year Thanet council made provision for £612k but the auditor notes that by April this year the costs had risen to a huge £1.076million.

Auditors say: “Management in setting the overall provision did not consider potential costs associated in relation to settlement payments or the potential loss of such cases.”

Rising legal costs

A legal firm was hired in March 2020 to provide governance support and costs were estimated to run to £40,000, By July 2020 this estimate was revised to £50,000 but by the following year the then-Director of Finance was reporting costs incurred to the end of May 2021 relating to the on-going disciplinary and grievance proceedings as £247,000. Of this sum, £141,515 relates specifically to 2020-21. Future potential costs were estimated to range between £450,000 to £486,000, resulting in total legal costs forecast at between £697,000 and £733,000.

Damning report

In 2021 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.

A summary version of the report by Independent Monitoring Officer, Quentin Baker, was published in May 2022 and highlighted concerns such as the personal relationship between then-chief exec Madeline Homer and then- Director of Operational Services Gavin Waite; the hostile relationship between the top four senior officers and the pay out of more than £1.5m for redundancy or employment tribunal deals between 2015-2021.

Top team exit

On two occasions disciplinary proceedings were launched against members of the top management team -one of which resulted in a serious disciplinary sanction against Monitoring Officer Tim Howes, leading to his dismissal in April 2022 and the other ending with a public apology and £280k severance deal for deputy chief Tim Willis who left the council in October 2021. A leaked document showed Mr Willis had lodged a grievance against Madeline Homer with accusations of systematic bullying, intimidation and victimisation..

Former chief exec Madeline Homer left her post in June 2022 with  an understood £327,000 severance payment.

Gavin Waite then followed in November 2022 although he had been suspended since June of that year. The audit report reveals that he too was paid a severance package although the amount is not cited.

The audit report also reveals that Tim Howes is appealing his dismissal, which was understood to be connected to an ‘unsubstantiated’ report made to Kent Police.

The Audit report says: “All four of the key CMT officers have since left the council’s employment. The then s151 officer (Tim Willis ) left with a severance package and an apology by the leader of the council regarding their treatment.

“The then Monitoring Officer (Tim Howes) was dismissed and this is subject to appeal. The then Chief Executive (Madeline Homer) left with a severance package as did the then-Director of Operational Services (Gavin Waite).”

Thanet council now has new officers in place including interim Chief Executive Colin Carmichael who had previously been head of Canterbury council.

A separate governance report says a number of employment matters outstanding during the year 2021-22 were all concluded but two which will be ongoing in 2022-23 and 2024.

The audit report will be discussed by councillors at a meeting tonight (July 26).

Senior officer ‘dismissed’ from Thanet council with ‘immediate effect’

Exit of Thanet council chief executive Madeline Homer confirmed

Thanet council director Gavin Waite leaves post after being suspended since June

Thanet’s council’s deputy chief executive Tim Willis leaves authority today

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

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  1. Does this mean another 10 years of my road not being swept,industrial levels of grass turf growing in the kerb and silted up drains.

  2. These costs are eye watering and a gross waste of our taxes. Money that Thanet desperately needs.

    It is shocking. And deeply depressing.

    Proper, competent employee leadership is needed and an end to member led employment matters or committees or appeals. Governance overhaul is needed to stop these archaic ways of working.

    Invest in decent senior HR leadership. And take their advice. Rather than ignoring it. And stop being afraid of tackling poor performance.

    It really is that simple.

    • They did invest in decent HR leadership. But then when Homer et al didn’t like the advice they were given they ignored it and did their own thing. They then pushed for HR to be brought back in house which cost more than the shared service it replaced. It’s mind blowing.

      Successive Labour and Tory leaders should hang their heads in shame. Only Ashbee dealt with it properly but was handed a hospital pass as the process was so awful up to that point so she had no choice but to pay them off. We will remember your lack of action Bayford and Everitt.

  3. That would of brought a big team of road sweepers to keep thanet clean . Sometimes being crap at one’s job can pay very well

  4. Worst run authority with the most suspicious dealings over the last 3 decades. #buildonbrownfieldbuildonmanston

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