Fringe Box



Opinion: What Has Happened to Mr Mistry, Second in Command at GBC?

Published on: 15 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2016

By Martin Giles

Nature abhors a vacuum and this is as true with news as anything else, perhaps more so. Where facts are missing rumour steps in.


Satish Mistry (centre), in his role as returning officer

A week or so ago reports started to emerge that Satish Mistry, the lawyer who was the deputy managing director, who headed up Corporate Services and was also the monitoring officer charged with making sure the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) operated in accordance with the law, protocols and codes of practice, had left.

Ordinarily, despite his seniority and the importance of his role, this might be no big deal but his contract was due to run until the middle of next year (2017) and, in the absence of any official statement, speculation became rife.

Some were saying that he was on “gardening leave” until May and still receiving full pay, a rate of pay (according to some, in excess of £100,000 per annum). Surely this could not be true, unless he had been effectively suspended.

So we asked the council what was happening. This is what we wrote:

Opinion Logo 2“Satish Mistry appears to have left the council. Many rumours are circulating.

“Can you say please: When he left? How long did his contract have to run? Is it true he is on “gardening leave”?

“What is the value of any severance package? What is the reason for his departure?”

And this is the statement that was sent by a GBC spokesperson in response:

“Satish Mistry, the council’s director of corporate services and deputy managing director is leaving the council after a period of over four years with us.

“During this period, Satish has made a significant contribution to how the council operates, both in terms of corporate governance and organisational culture.

“Satish has successfully managed to operate from two homes in Guildford and London, however recently his daughter has returned from university and she has a job nearer the home in London. He therefore wishes to refocus back there for the next stage of his career.

“We wish him well for the future and thank him for the work he has done.”

So taken on face value he had not left under a cloud but because of family reasons. Fair enough. But, given the difference between earlier council statements relating to surprising departures and what eventually emerged, some healthy scepticism was due.

In any case, only the last of our questions had been answered and there was nothing said about the financial terms of his departure.

Obviously in such circumstances, if an employee leaves of his own volition, he should be paid up until the time he left, given a farewell party, and that should be that. Shouldn’t it?

But reports from trustworthy sources, say that, in fact, he is still being paid until May but that this arrangement was regarded as a money saving settlement because, under his contract, GBC could have otherwise have been left with substantial pension liabilities that accrued from previous periods of employment.

So Mistry’s contract sounds like a sweet deal, the kind we would all like to have. Didn’t the council understand the financial implications of the contract they agreed?

Some might (and no doubt the council will) say, a person’s pay package is confidential. But salaries in the public sector are usually published.

If Satish Mistry is to continue to be paid why was he not allowed to work out his contract, unless they were so pleased to see him go they felt it a price worth paying? Why would that be?

Although some councillors have told us of the gratitude and respect they feel for the advice and guidance given, often on a one-to-one basis, practically everyone in senior positions makes enemies, somewhere along the line, and Mistry, in a position of some power and influence, part of whose role was to discipline errant councillors, must have made a few.

Anyway, he was, and it seems, still is, being paid with our money. Doesn’t this give us a right to know what’s gone on? Why shouldn’t we? Especially when there seems to be so many question marks.

Aren’t facts better than rumours?

But don’t expect the council to come clean anytime soon. Regular GBC watchers will know that the, “never explain, never apologise” culture runs deep within the powers that be in the Millmead bunker.

Perhaps the council feels vindicated by those who say we are in the “post truth” political era?

It should not. GBC claims to be open and transparent. But too often the opposite seems closer to the truth. We deserve better.

Of course, there are times when confidentiality is required, for employee sickness records or during negotiations and competitive tendering processes, for instance. That is why the council have, and need, the right to exclude members of the public and the press from some of their deliberations.

But secrecy should not be employed just to avoid embarrassment, as might partly have been the reason in this instance. That is precisely when secrecy and any cover ups should be resisted, otherwise there is far less motivation to learn from mistakes?

If someone at GBC made a poor job of checking Satish Mistry’s contract then it should be exposed and questions asked as to why it happened. If there is some other reason for his departure we should know that too. If everything is truly up to scratch there is nothing to hide and nothing for the council to be embarrassed about.

See also – Satish Mistry: His GBC Career Summarised

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Responses to Opinion: What Has Happened to Mr Mistry, Second in Command at GBC?

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 15, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Mr Mistry probably knows where some of the bodies were buried. Perhaps he was the grave digger?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    November 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I doubt Satish Mistry made too many enemies, amongst councillors, as the level of censure they suffered under his administration was akin to ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’.

    Given his record of ‘investigations’ he will not be missed by the public.

    As to pension obligations, if this is much more than nowt, then GBC has failed us, considering his short tenure as an employee.

  3. Monica Jones Reply

    November 16, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    This situation needs clarification. The public are entitled to know how their money is spent.

    The council statement says he operates from two homes. Bearing in mind the close proximity to London am I to understand that we were providing a ‘second’ home?

  4. David Roberts Reply

    November 17, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Lucky Mr Mistry. On a senior public servant’s salary for over 33 years, I was never able to afford a second home. My pay and benefits were always published in full. His should be too.

    He appears to be leaving early for some reason. Did he do something wrong? He oversaw the hash that was supposed to be an investigation into Juneja and was never sanctioned.

    Like his boss Sue Sturgeon, who (who won’t be leaving until next May) he appeared to be far too close to the Mansbridge/Juneja regime and, in my view, both have sometimes seemed to stray from a course of strict civil service neutrality.

    Wearing so many hats (Director of Corporate Services, Deputy Managing Director, Monitoring Officer, Returning Officer…) Mr Mistry’s influence has been hard to escape. The job should be split up.

    If I remember correctly, he was employed until last year as a private contractor on some sort of “interim” basis. If his salary was paid into a private company it may have allowed him to pay only 20% corporation tax rather than 40% income tax.

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