Disappointed council admits systematic weaknesses

WORTHING Borough Council admitted ‘systematic weaknesses’ which contributed to its handling of Mr Harrison’s dismissal.

WH 030614 Worthing Lib Dem leader Keith Sunderland. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140306-115258001
WH 030614 Worthing Lib Dem leader Keith Sunderland. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140306-115258001

Improved checks when signing contracts have been introduced and a new team of directors are now in post.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “The council is disappointed by the ruling but does accept that there were systematic weaknesses on its part six years ago when this episode began, and that those weaknesses contributed to the way in which the matter was handled.

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“The council acknowledges the mistakes of its past, has improved internal policies, processes and procedures over the intervening six years and is looking forward to concluding this matter.”

Jim Deen

In reaction to the judgement, Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Worthing West, Jim Deen, called for an independent inquiry into the handling of the issue.

He said: “The tribunal judge agrees that Harrison’s conduct and negligence contributed to an extent to his dismissal, but in agreeing that he was unfairly dismissed and awarding him 50 per cent of his claim, the judge clearly makes the point that Harrison was not solely responsible.

“There were others – particularly senior council officers – ­ who should take their share of responsibility, and face the consequences of their actions.”

When news of the settlement with NCP broke, veteran councillor Tom Wye resigned in protest over a gagging order, which prevented the figure being made public.

He said: “I hope and prey the totally innocent party, the council tax payer, is allowed to know exactly how much the bill is that they are being forced to pay.

“The council had a barrister and all the time officers spent on it, I dread when it is all done whether Worthing gets any change out of one million pounds, including the NCP settlement.”

Worthing Liberal Democrat leader Keith Sunderland was one of the members who heard Mr Harrison’s appeal – a private meeting which he said lasted for more than ten hours.

“I do feel it is unfair for one person to be blamed for the whole lot and it looks like that’s what the tribunal judge decided as well,” he said.

Mr Harrison said he was pleased with the outcome but declined to comment further until the matters were concluded.

A date for the remedy hearing has yet to be decided.