Letchworth council’s redundancy payments labelled ‘irrational’

THE chairman of a town council has claimed the previous administration’s decision on redundancy pay for staff was both “irrational” and “so generous as to be unlawful”.

Chairman of Letchworth Garden City Council Frank Lovett was speaking following an employment tribunal last month in which six former council employees made their case against the council, after it refused to honour redundancy contracts drawn up by the previous administration.

The staff were made redundant after a June 2009 election in which 22 of the 24 seats were won by HELP (Help Elimate Letchworth Parish Council) campaigners, who were voted in with the sole aim of abolishing the council.

The tribunal, held at Bedford Employment Tribunal on August 10, 11 and 12, heard that in March 2009, three months prior to the election, contracts were changed by the previous administration so staff would be entitled to 12 months notice of redundancy, instead of a statutory period, typically of three months.

Staff would also receive a minimum of 20 weeks severance pay if made redundant prior to December 31, 2011.

The council was advised, after taking legal advice, that the original decision to change the contracts had been unlawful and later attempts to negotiate a settlement with staff were rejected.

Speaking after the tribunal, Cllr Lovett, said: “The case put to the tribunal on behalf of the council was that while private employers can be as generous as they like with their own money, public employers have a duty to strike a balance between the interests of those who work for them and those who fund them.

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“We believe that not only was the old council’s decision so generous as to be unlawful but it was an irrational thing to do.”

Cllr Sue Johnson, one of two existing councillors who want to retain the council, declined to comment until after the result of the case.

The tribunal’s decision is expected later this month.

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