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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Unlawful payments received by Joe Anderson

I will start this post by reproducing an email I sent to Joe Anderson, copied to senior Council officers on 20th October.

The Employment Tribunal record shows me that Joe Anderson received unlawful payments in the financial year ending 5th April 2011.  I think this is a serious allegation.  It is also a serious matter if senior Council officers were aware of those payments and condoned them.  That is why I had given the Mayor, and officers, an opportunity to correct any errors rather than have a false allegation go forward and cause reputational damage.

I have sent a series of such emails to the Mayor and to the Chief Executive and City Solicitor.   I know these emails are arriving because I have had one acknowledgement from the CEX and one from the Mayor's office before both of those channels fell silent.  Also I copy each email to my ward councillor's email address so that I know they have all passed through the City Council's mail system.

Here is the text of my email on unlawful payments.

Dear Joe,
Further to my email below and in the absence of any reply disputing the accuracy of the ET report, I am writing now to ask about the receipt by you of remuneration from Sefton MBC in the financial year ending 5th April 2011.  You may be able to correct any facts before I make any public comment.

According to Section 10 of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act, it would have been "unlawful" for the authority (Sefton MBC) to have paid you for more than 208 hours for the purpose of performing your public duties as a councillor in that financial year.

Yet the Employment Tribunal record, paragraphs 29 to 33, shows that you would have received the following remuneration during that financial year:-

  • by implication, 4 hours per week paid time off for the month of April 2010 while still working at the school;
  • 36 hours per week paid, while no longer working at the school, for the months of May to September (full time); and
  • 8 hours per week paid time off while remaining away from the school for the months of October 2010 to March 2011.
I calculate that you would have received remuneration for approximately (4 + 36*5 + 8*6) * 52/12, i.e 1,005 hours during that financial year.
Have you been given any advice that it would have been unlawful for you to have been paid for some 800 excess hours during the financial year ending 5th April 2011?  Or, on the contrary, were you given advice that Section 10 did not apply to you and if so by whom?

Have you repaid the excess remuneration to Sefton MBC or do you intend to repay that money now?

I am copying this message to the City Solicitor and CEX.  I am also copying it to the former City Solicitor as it may appear that he should have been in a position to advise you about unlawful remuneration from Sefton and he may wish to clarify whether such advice was given or indeed whether he was aware of your continuing income coming through Chesterfield High School.

John Coyne
The relevant law - the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act - is here.  My calculations show that Joe Anderson received paid time off which was unlawful because, by some 800 hours, it would have exceeded the limit of 208 hours which a local government employer is allowed to grant in any one financial year.

Paragraph 30 of the Tribunal report contains the significant letter of 4 August 2010 from Sefton Borough Council to the new Leader of Liverpool City Council, Joe Anderson.   The letter refers to "considerable discussion" that had already taken place and had involved the former Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council.  It thus shows that at least one senior officer was already engaged in the cause of protecting the external pay of the Leader.

The letter makes clear the relatively simple legal position: "the school is bound to give no more than 208 hours of paid time in any one financial year."

However, having explained the law, it appears that Sefton Borough Council proceeded to misunderstand it.  They appear to have overlooked the paid time off already given in the first half of the financial year (April to September 2010) when they applied the 208 hours limit to the second half of the financial year (October 2010 to March 2011).

Attempting to break through the legal limit of paid time off

If the Leader had understood the legal position, he might have realised that he was already receiving over-generous treatment with his paid leave.  Instead of demanding more, he should have been repaying money already given in excess of 208 hours for that financial year.  Instead of that he deployed two arguments to try to break through the principle of the 208-hour cap.  Paragraph 32 of the Tribunal report describes his letter of 8th September 2010.

Firstly, he claimed that other local authority leaders in Merseyside had been granted additional time off (notwithstanding what the law says) so the local precedent should apply to him in all reasonableness, fairness and consistency.  I have to express an opinion here: that seems to be a completely brazen disregard of the law; if other leaders have received unlawful payments the remedy is to ask for them to repay those sums, not to copy them!

Secondly, he claimed that, as Leader, his post was effectively Chairman of the Council.  Section 10(1)(b) of the Act exempts the "chairman of the council" from the 208 hour limit.  Of course, he is completely wrong.  In Liverpool it is the Lord Mayor who is the chair of the council and that post rotates each year. The Lord Mayors (or similar mayors or chairs for other authorities) have a demanding schedule of ceremonial and civic visits during their year of appointment.  The role of leader of the council is completely different.  It can also be a demanding role, but that is recognised by the Special Responsibility Allowance which is paid by the Council to the Leader.

Neither of his arguments prevailed, but paragraph 42 of the Tribunal report   describes his return to the attack with an email to the Chief Executive of Sefton on 11 May 2011.  He was "extremely disappointed" with his situation.  By implication (we don't have the full text) he continued to challenge the 208 hour legal limit.  He also is "shocked" not to be getting pension contributions from his employer based on his full time salary rather than his current eligible remuneration.  And he asks for voluntary redundancy from his job.

I will return to that letter in future posts.  His expectations for pension contributions are very interesting.  And his application for a redundancy pay off casts light on his subsequent self portrayal as a victim of a "sacking".  But the most significant point in that letter is the following sentence.  (My emphasis added.)
"I have now decided to ask LCC to go down the route of putting in a grievance or look at unfair dismissal on my behalf which they are willing to do..."
So here we have the evidence that the Leader is claiming to have "willing" City Council resources available to pursue a legal case for him against his employer.

I think that claim is very serious.  Senior officers should not have been willing to be used in that way.  Instead they should have been advising the Leader to moderate his demands so that they complied with the law.  They should have pointed out that he had already received unlawful payments in excess of the 208 hour limit for the financial year ending 5th April 2011.

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Audrey O'Keefe - excellent writing and research once again from John Coyne - pay back the 90k Mayor Anderson 'it's not your money'