Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Compensation for loss of office - again

BBC Radio Cornwall led with this subject again this morning. I commented saying that I felt that there is a culture of secrecy surrounding the payments made to top officers when they leave their posts. Whilst the law has changed so that we now know what payments have been made, we are still caught up with confidentiality agreements so that we don't know why a person has left or on what basis a payment has been made. The recent example of Peter Lewis who received a payment of £78,750 despite apparently leaving of his own volition is typical.

Also interviewed on the radio was an employment expert from Coodes Solicitors. She described the payment to Mr Lewis as well above average but also made two other telling points:

  • The Council has made a statement to say that secret deals are a useful way of avoiding expensive and time consuming hearings by industrial tribunals. Yet these are only an entitlement for people who were employed for more than 12 months. Mr Lewis was only in post for nine months and so would have had no right to take the Council to an industrial tribunal.
  • Even where a case is taken to an industrial tribunal, the most that can be awarded to a person who has been unfairly dismissed is £50,000 - well below the amount given to Mr Lewis.

So the questions remain - why did Peter Lewis leave Cornwall Council? Did he jump or was he pushed? And why did the Council give such a huge payoff to a former employee who was only with the authority for a short period of time?

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