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£764k paid to suspended staff at Lincolnshire County Council

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: December 15, 2011

  • The Lincolnshire County Council offices in Newland, Lincoln

  • County council chief David O'Connor

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The county council has defended paying out more than £750,000 of taxpayers' cash in wages to staff suspended from work.

The authority has paid 39 employees a total of £764,343 since April 2009.

In one case a Lincolnshire County Council employee on an annual salary of £64,559 pocketed £90,000 following a suspension of 523 days. The individual was later dismissed for "gross misconduct" after an investigation was completed.

But the council has refused to reveal the details of the offence.

In the Midlands, the council is behind only Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council in the list of authorities which have spent most on wages to suspended staff.

The figures, collated by the Taxpayers' Alliance, also revealed the county council spent more than the authorities in Worcestershire, Northamptonshire, Herefordshire and South Derbyshire combined.

Its study shows that since April 2009, 7,640 working days have been lost through suspension. An average investigation takes 196 days to complete – the longest for all 78 Midlands councils.

Over the same period, the City of Lincoln Council spent £23,724 on wages for suspended staff. Of the ten most prolonged cases in Lincolnshire, three employees were eventually retained and four were dismissed. Three cases are still ongoing.

Bosses at the county council are now reviewing how to speed up investigations into its own staff.

David O'Connor, the county's executive director for performance and governance, said: "We only suspend staff when

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necessary. Such instances are rare. Staff remain innocent until proven guilty.

"There is an investigation and hearing that could be followed by appeals and perhaps an employment tribunal. It would be wrong for us to penalise staff while this is happening.

"We aim to complete cases as soon as possible and 90 per cent of investigations are resolved within a year, with 60 per cent taking less than six months.

"

Mr O'Connor said seven people were currently suspended out of 5,660 council employees. And he said the most extreme case – of the employee being suspended for 523 days – was because the individual suffered ill health and meetings had to be postponed.

But John O'Connell, research director at Taxpayers' Alliance said he was surprised by the high figure for Lincolnshire .

"You look behind these rocks sometimes and you find loads of little nasties like this," he said.

"You hear about these things and just think it's a one-off. But once you dig deeper, as we have done, this kind of spending of taxpayers' money seems to go on all over the place."

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  • Average_Wife  |  December 18 2011, 12:49PM

    One suspended employee was paid £90K and then dismissed for gross misconduct and the Council refuses to give details?! This is taxpayers money, what did we get in return for our £90K? This IS in the public interest, we should be told. I have no doubt all this came to light from journalists' enquiries and the Council would happily have never let the public know about this. So much for 'openness' eh Mr O'Connor?

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  • RocketScience  |  December 15 2011, 10:09PM

    virtuoso - If somebody made a malicious allegation against you, would you appreciate being sacked? Pittacus - If the Nuremberg trials really dealt with all the fallout from WW2 (Sorry, I couldn't be bothered reproducing all your errors), why are Nazis and sympathisers still being tried now? How much extra tax do you want to pay to get these suspensions dealt with quicker? Please tell.

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  • wilamina2  |  December 15 2011, 8:40PM

    JUST WHAT WE HAVE COME TO EXPECT FROM OUR DEAR CIVIL SERVICE, ITS ABOUT TIME WE HAD A MASSIVE SHAKE UP IN THERE AND PUT THEM ALL OUT TO PASTURE, THEN WE MIGHT GET SOME VALUE FOR MONEY

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  • Leaflet Distribution Lincolnshire  |  December 15 2011, 7:18PM

    Utterly disgusting. How can you be off for 523 days and still get paid ? they should be replaced. If i don't work, i don't get paid so why should those that i pay council tax to!!!

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  • yaaaaaawn  |  December 15 2011, 4:17PM

    Never heard of the Nuremburg trails, but I'm sure there are plenty of German ramblers who appreciate them.

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  • Pittacus  |  December 15 2011, 2:07PM

    The Nuremburg trails looking at all the attrocities of the second world war were completed in 11 months. If it takes 18months for a 'properly lead investigation team' to conclude an inquiry into one individuals behaviour, then it is no wonder public services are in such a state. The private sector cannot afford the luxury of have people on protracted gardening leave and the tax-payer should not have to bear the burden of costs bourne out of civic procrastination

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  • Sssssh  |  December 15 2011, 12:45PM

    Pittacus - this is why it's so great working in the public sector. Everyone is treated with fairness and equality and the allegations investigated by a properly lead investigation team. It's very different from your job as a shelf stacker, whereby Lidl can sack you at the drop of a hat for being too spotty. But hey - we all have choices.

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  • M_C_Donald  |  December 15 2011, 12:39PM

    The problem these figures nearly are always presented out of context. The jobs of many employees in Local Government bring them into contact with children, vulnerable adults and other service users. If an allegation is made against someone they are suspended to protect them and the complainant until an investigation upholds or dismisses the complaint. Many complaints are vexatious and the validity of the complaint needs looking at. It would be unfair to not to pay someone until the conclusion of an investigation. Although I would agree that these investigations take too long. I have had an allegation made against me that resulted in a police investigation. I was suspended from my position at a certain location, although I was redeployed elsewhere so I continued working. It took a year for the whole thing to come to an end, ironically it was the complainant who ended up being jailed and I was fully cleared of any wrong doing. Not everyone who is suspended has done anything wrong. It is would be unfair if innocent people lost pay. Investigations take too long deal with the wrong doers and to reinstate the others.

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  • LincolnBorn85  |  December 15 2011, 11:04AM

    And the West Lindsey planning staff who were suspended? What were they paid, and what happened to them? It all went very quiet, and then seemed to get hushed up.

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  • Pittacus  |  December 15 2011, 10:54AM

    523 days suspended on full pay and its pensionable too! Outrageous

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