External investigations into conduct of suspended officers to cost £160,000 this year

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Cheshire East Council is expecting to spend £160,000 on external investigations which are currently being undertaken in relation to suspended senior officers during the 2017/18 financial year.

Chief Executive Michael Suarez has been suspended since April 2017 and Chief Operating Officer Peter Bates was suspended in December 2017, following a meeting of Cheshire East Council's investigation and disciplinary committee.

Additionally, four other officers within the organisation are currently suspended, to enable an investigations into allegations in respect of their conduct to be undertaken.

Figures obtained as a result of a Freedom of Information Request also showed that so far this financial year, the cost of these investigations has been £110,000.

Cheshire East declined to confirm who the other four suspended officers are saying "As they are not executive officers, it is not appropriate to provide their names or job titles."

The Council didn't provide details of how much each of these suspended officers is being paid but did confirm that they are all receiving their full salary, stating "As suspension is a neutral act, the Council continues to pay officers who are suspended at their normal salary."

Adding "Formal arrangements are in place to cover the roles of Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer.

"The Council's Deputy Chief Executive is currently the Acting Chief Executive and there is an Interim Executive Director for Finance. They are in receipt of salary commensurate with these acting up arrangements."

One of our readers submitted a Freedom of Information Request towards the end of last year asking how much per month is being paid to CEC officers who have been suspended and who are under investigation for various reasons at this time.

As a result the Council confirmed that in November 2017 the figure was £35717 (gross salary) and £39525 (gross salary) in December 2017.

During the past three years 30 officers in total have been suspended from Cheshire East Council, of these 18 are no longer employed by Cheshire East Council.

Their reasons for leaving were : 8 resigned, 4 disciplinary, 1 had their contract terminated, 1 took normal retirement, 1 had a TUPE transfer, there was 1 mutual termination and 2 left as a result of gross misconduct.

A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council, said "We would not be able to provide confidential information in relation to financial payments made to those staff who no longer work for the organisation. However, the Council would pay salary up to and including the termination date as well as payment for any accrued outstanding annual leave entitlement. There were no other financial arrangements or severance payments made to this group of people."

They added "The investigations in relation to suspended colleagues were undertaken internally during 2015 and 2016 and therefore there was no additional financial cost. Records are not kept to identify the time spent by employees undertaking the investigations internally in relation to suspended staff so it is not possible to provide the cost based on a proportion of their salary."

The council's Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer, Bill Norman resigned in December 2017 with immediate effect. Mr Norman had been suspended since July - while an investigation into allegations relating to his conduct were undertaken.

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Cheshire East Council
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Toni Fox
Thursday 18th January 2018 at 4:18 pm
Lisa,

Following a question raised by an Independent councillor at the Full Council meeting held in December CEC members have susbequently been advised of the current costs associated with the work of the Investigation and Disciplinary Committee (IDC):

"The IDC is being supported by external investigators and temporary staffing arrangements which, up to November 2017, had cost £110,000.

In addition, as suspensions have occurred, it has been important to minimise the potential for these neutral acts to impact on service delivery and to ensure that the organisation also continues to meet its statutory responsibilities. As we have said before, suspension is a neutral act and we have a legal responsibility to continue to pay officers suspended while investigations are completed. Up to November 2017, the costs of acting up arrangements had therefore cost £346,000.

The total cost to the end of November is therefore £456,000.

The estimated costs to the end of 2017/18, which reflect the resignation of the Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer, are anticipated to be in the region of £720,000."

The financial cost to tax payers is far higher than has been suggested in this response from the Council.

Councillor Toni Fox - Independent
Dean Row Ward - Wilmslow
Nick Jones
Thursday 18th January 2018 at 5:15 pm
Thanks for the clarification Toni.... unfortunately the Pension contribution and potential severance arrangements once the neutral acts are found not to be quite so neutral will take these costs even higher !. Interesting that a previous FOI request from a contributor on this site indicated a much lower figure than the figure you recorded.
Roger Bagguley
Thursday 18th January 2018 at 5:23 pm
We must make sure next time round we elect many more independents like Toni Fox. Only by doing this will we get a true picture of costs and what is going on within our council. Toni does her own research not accepting without question information fed to councillors by their officers. No way in this age of extreme salaries did the published figures add up.

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