Another children’s services boss sacked for “gross misconduct”

In a case bearing a remarkable similarity to that of Sharon Shoesmith, Salford City Council has dismissed its director of children’s services without compensation or pay in lieu of notice. Salford’s social services department failed to prevent the murder of two-year-old Demi Leigh Mahon, who was beaten to death by her babysitter in July 2008. Following a critical Ofsted report in September, the council sacked children’s services head Jill Baker for gross misconduct.

The chair of the panel which dismissed Mrs Baker, councillor Bill Hinds, said:

The panel was told there had been a loss of trust and confidence by the chief executive Barbara Spicer, council leader councillor John Merry, and lead member councillor John Warmisham, in Mrs Baker’s ability to lead and manage the Children’s Services directorate.

This meant she was unable to honour the terms of her contract, which is a fundamental breach of contract and therefore gross misconduct.

Eh?!!

So all you have to do now to prove that I’m guilty of gross misconduct is to say that you’ve lost trust me?  Then ‘bingo’ you can fire me without compensation?

I don’t know who is advising councillor Hinds but their interpretation of employment law is, erm, novel to say the least.

It may not surprise you to learn that Jill Baker does not intend to let matters rest there. She has said that she will go to an employment tribunal if her dismissal is upheld after appeal.

And, if she does, I reckon she’s in with a good chance.

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4 Responses to Another children’s services boss sacked for “gross misconduct”

  1. TheHRD says:

    There should be a new “fair” reason for dismissal added to the legislation – “avoiding a political shitstorm”! I am growing sick and tired of these cases. The individuals involved are employed by the Councillors, so ultimately who is to blame? Rather than lose their seats and the expenses and perks that come with it, let’s sack the poor bastard who we put in charge of the fucked up system in the first place.

    My personal favourite was when the Governor of Parkhurst Prison, John Marriot was sacked by then Home Secretary Michael Howard, who denied that he had been involved at all. If I remember rightly he was asked 12 times whether he had intervened and failed to answer the question. The clip is still on the internet…..classic stuff!

    • Well of course dismissing someone to avoid a damaging political row could well amount to ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ for dismissal. If you are a senior and well paid official you could argue that losing your job if you lose the confidence of your political masters just goes with the territory – and the pay packet.

      The breach of contract idea is of course just woolly legal thinking. There is a difference in acting in such a way as to undermine trust and confidence – which is a breach of contract – and simply losing confidence in someone which does not imply any breach of contract at all.

  2. Bina says:

    Hmm, doesn’t sound the same to me. If both the chief official (the Chief Executive) and the chief local politician (Leader of the Council), have jointly failed to get the head of Children’s services to act in a way that would give them confidence in the service provided, what are they to do if not sack/replace that individual? Leave the service without a head whilst they do remedial training/managment work with the person who should have been capable in the first place? No no no. It’s bad for the children of the borough, it’s bad for the staff within the childrens services, it’s bad for the local politicians who will take some of the rap in surgeries/meetings/elections. Go on, advocate employing incompetent staff if you must – there is a difference between a political scapegoat (Shoesmith) and the inappropriate appointee. Now which one is it?

  3. jameshigham says:

    There seems a quite cavalier approach to interpretation of the regulations.

    Merry Christmas, Rick.

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