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Judge backs South Ribble Borough Council over sacking chief executive

Posted on - 18th February, 2022 - 3:28pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston News, South Ribble News
South Ribble Borough Council chief executive Heather McManus
Former South Ribble Borough Council chief executive Heather McManus

An employment tribunal has backed a decision to sack a former South Ribble Borough Council chief executive.

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The tribunal vindicated South Ribble Borough Council’s decision to dismiss Heather McManus in July 2020, stating the council followed a ‘fair and reasonable approach’ in reaching its outcome.

An independent internal investigation found ‘significant errors of judgement’ and raised concerns over the treatment of staff.

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Councillor Paul Foster, Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, said: “I’m really pleased that the tribunal has backed our decision, but that is tainted by the fact that we had to devote time and resources to this over the last year when in my view it was wholly unnecessary.

“The independent investigation that looked into the actions of Ms McManus was overwhelming in its conclusions, and the findings were significant and serious, leading the council to decide to dismiss the former chief executive for serious misconduct.

“We can now put this episode behind us and concentrate on delivering the exciting projects for our residents that will benefit people right across the borough.”

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After the council’s reputation was left in tatters, it received praise for the progress it had made.

The employment tribunal saw Ms McManus bring claims against the council and its leader and deputy leader.

The judge cleared the councillors of any wrongdoing, dismissing any criticism of their actions to suspend Ms McManus and refuting any claims of a ‘witch hunt’ targeted at the former chief executive.

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The hearing took place over five days in October and examined evidence from all parties before reaching its decision, issued earlier this week (Tuesday 15 February).

But the judge concluded that Ms McManus was entitled to be dismissed within her contractual rights.

It meant the claimant should have been paid her remaining notice period instead of being sacked with immediate effect.

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Cllr Foster said: “The judgement vindicates what we did because the council was in a period of turmoil and needed strong leadership to put us back on the right track.

“Everyone agreed that dismissing Ms McManus was the right thing to do, and on balance, we felt it was appropriate to take that decision with immediate effect because of the seriousness of the issues identified.

“Since the dismissal, we have made fantastic progress in fixing the governance issues, and a recent Local Government Association (LGA) peer review spoke in glowing terms about the improvements we had made.

“Having to sack the chief executive is something that is not done lightly and shows we will make the tough decisions to do what is best for our residents.”

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