Letchworth councillor ‘considering future’

PUBLISHED: 17:32 07 December 2011

A COUNCILLOR is considering her future as a result of the actions of a council over an employment tribunal.

Letchworth Garden City Council Cllr Sue Johnson, one of two Town Council Supporters Party on the Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish council-led (HELP) body, read out a statement at full council on Monday in which she said “I am currently feeling compelled to consider my future”.

Cllr Johnson criticised the council for not heeding a warning that the employment tribunal - in which six former staff won their case over a breach of contract - could not have had a different outcome due to an English law doctrine called estoppel.

This point of law meant that although the contracts were created by the previous council, they must be honoured by the current administration as it is still considered to be the same body.

“In January of this year, when we were informed that legal costs were still limited to less than £11,000, the tribunal judge, in his case management orders, warned that it may be the case that it would not be possible to overturn the staff contracts – even if they should prove to be irrationally generous,” she said.

“Which of course the tribunal states they were not. Eight months and many thousands of pounds of public money later this warning proved to be valid when estoppel was one of the grounds on which the council lost the case.

“Despite this, in Cllr George Ritchie’s report of this case management hearing - on which it is minuted the Policy and Resources Committee based their decision to vote to continue to defend the staff claim - there is absolutely no mention of the judge having expressed this opinion.”

Cllr Johnson also spoke of the “misleading information” currently displayed on the council’s website and the “unpleasant circumstances” faced by former staff which “makes for very unattractive reading”.

She concluded: “In light of all of this, and of course the depth of public feeling I have experienced, I am having to ask myself whether I want to continue to sit as a member of this council, and my question to the HELP members is: is this a group you want to continue to support?”

Chairman of the council Frank Lovett declined to comment further on the matter after releasing previous statements regarding the tribunal on www.letchworth-tc.gov.uk

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