Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: Openness & Transparency? It’s Time To Walk The Walk

Published on: 9 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 9 Jul, 2013

Dragon Roar Still 470The council says that, “as a matter of law and natural justice” it must preserve the rights of both parties involved in the case between David Hill and Judith Coslett, the council’s head of HR who, we can confirm, has initiated this grievance procedure.

The council’s grievance procedure states: “The grievance procedure will be carried out in confidence, unless otherwise agreed with the parties involved, and will not prejudice the aggrieved employee’s current employment or future prospects.” And it is understandable that confidentiality is preferred in cases where middle or junior ranking officers are facing relatively minor, non criminal complaints.

Opinion Logo 2But when it comes to senior grades, those who are responsible for shaping, leading and managing the council’s administration and creating the staff culture, it is imperative that justice is seen to be done. With greater authority always comes greater accountability.

Mr Hill, as chief executive, had the ultimate authority over council staff in their day-to-day work and their role is important. It affects the lives of all of us who live or work in the borough more than most decisions taken in parliament.

We need to know that the council is managing its employees properly. Council officers are, after all, public servants and we all have a responsibility to ensure they are employed and treated fairly on our behalf.

Natural law does indeed dictate that Mr Hill deserves a fair and unbiased hearing but a simple statement outlining the nature of the complaint against him need not prejudice that any more than it does in other hearings where individuals are accused of wrongdoing.

Indeed, knowledge of the accusations could help the assessor’s investigation by allowing those with relevant evidence, for or against Mr Hill, to come forward. It could also prevent some of the wilder speculation that inevitably circulates in the absence of facts.

So, if it is the council’s own grievance policy that is preventing this necessary openness and transparency, that policy needs to be changed, and quickly.

We can have little confidence in a council that cannot recognise the need to keep council taxpayers informed on subjects of genuine and justifiable public interest. Senior officers must not, in future, be allowed to disappear with a pay-off, from our money, and no public explanation of what has happened.

That would not be right, not be just and it would give no reassurance to council officers that any wrongdoing would, in future, be properly dealt with.

The council continues to claim that it is living up to its ‘core value’ of openness and transparency. But in the  words of a current idiom, it is easy to ‘talk the talk’; it now has to ‘walk the walk’. Actions will always speak louder than words.

Don’t forget to register your view by voting in the Dragon Poll to the right of this article.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Openness & Transparency? It’s Time To Walk The Walk

  1. Marcia Kent Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 7:46 am

    This is starting to sound like a manic rant against the council in general and Mr Hill in particular. Some things have to remain confidential.

    When the investigation reaches a verdict the press will no doubt report it widely. Let our council, that we residents pay for, get on with their job with the support of the residents who vote for the councillors and pay for it with taxes – not having to deal with constant harassing of negative reporting.

    Back off Dragon and let an investigation take place. Spare a thought for the complainant who may not welcome press intervention either!

  2. Pete Brayne Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Tough one this! Whilst every publicly funded body has a responsibility to be open and transparent, they must also protect the employment rights of their employees and not open themselves up to possible claims of constructive dismissal.

    I think this is about timing and in this instance the process should be completed as quickly as possible. The appointment of an independent professional investigator is a good move and will hopefully allow the council to come to a quick decision. However, if that is to take no further action, we will probably never know what all the fuss is about!

  3. Gordon Bridger Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    To describe the Guildford Dragon NEWS as “ranting” about issues relating to the management of council activities is a travesty of the excellent, responsible reporting that the Dragon carries out.

    I have been associated, in one way or another, with GBC for some 40 years and have never come across such a demoralised spirit amongst staff.

    This is why seven of us Hon Aldermen took the unprecedented step last year of asking the council Executive to carry out an independent investigation of the situation.

    With a new Executive there it looks as if there is a good chance to ensure we shall get motivated staff and a more transparent system

    Well done the Guildford Dragon!

  4. Kevin Lorimer Reply

    July 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

    This is an HR issue and as such should remain confidential. If nothing comes of it then the gossip in due time will die down. If it is serious then no doubt a “confidentiality agreement” will be drawn up between both parties and we will never know the detail.

    Whatever Guildford Borough Council should deal with this quickly and not let it become drawn out.

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