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Suspended staff cost City of York Council £210,000
YORK council bosses have paid nearly £210,000 in three years to staff suspended for gross misconduct allegations, including violence, drink-driving, turning up for work drunk, and inappropriate sexual conduct.
City of York Council paid £170,000 to suspended staff and an additional £40,000 in enhanced pay-offs for some employees dismissed for gross misconduct, The Press can reveal.
Since 2010, 29 council staff have been suspended for gross misconduct, with most investigations lasting several months, which goes against national guidance. Time off totalled 3,000 working days.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show one employee was paid £38,581.46, including an £11,023 pay-off, after “mismanagement leading to distrust”. Another received £27,148 while suspended for 15 months, accused of “serious violation of electronic communication policy.”
Another was given £4,518 while suspended for allegedly drink-driving, while another was paid £10,584 for allegedly not declaring “vital documents, relevant to work place.” Both have now been dismissed.
In total more than £20,000 was paid to those suspended for violence, aggressive and abusive behaviour allegations, while two staff suspected of theft were paid thousands.
An individual who was suspended for “negligence and inappropriate sexual conduct” was paid £5,007 while suspended and received another £5,000 as a result of a compromise agreement.
Most of the staff concerned have now left the council while six are still suspended, including one since September last year who has already received £21,535.
The council has an obligation to pay suspended staff, but has failed to meet guidelines from the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).
The LGO said: “Suspension should be for as short a period as possible. If an employee is suspended pending an investigation, the investigation should be carried out within ten working days where at all practicable and the suspension period should not exceed four weeks.”
Compromise agreements signed by some employees have been called “gagging orders” in recent months, and often give the departing employee an enhanced pay-out.
Ian Gillies, leader of the Conservatives said he accepted some of the costs would cover salaries while under suspension, and suspension lengths could be influenced by external investigations, but said the cost incurred seemed excessive.
He said he supported the LGO advice and said: “City of York Council should make every effort to follow these guidelines.”
A council spokesperson said: “If there are potential allegations of gross misconduct against a staff member, the circumstances will be investigated under the council’s disciplinary procedure.”
When asked about the timescale, the spokespeson said: “Dependent upon the nature of the allegation, the council will endeavour to investigate as quickly as possible ensuring a fair and detailed process is undertaken.
“There are no specific timescales as this is very much dependent upon the complexity of the circumstances and number of people required to be interviewed.
“The council would endeavour to carry out the investigation and hearing in a timely manner and would only suspend staff when it was deemed inappropriate for the employee to remain at work.”