Friday, February 17, 2012

Helen King fights back!

On the front page of News and Crier is the headline:
It doesn't say where the News and Crier obtained the letter that quoted in the paper. There are two choices. Either this letter has come from the Town Council or this letter came from Helen King. Reading the article I can only assume this is from Helen King. The Town Clerk strikes back.

In a blog back in 2009 I pointed out the Liberal Democrats were bad employers. And it seems it got worse. The Conservatives were elected in May 2011 and eventually took proper control in June 2011. The Conservatives had only been in power for one to two months before Helen went sick.

In contrast to the previous Liberal Democrat administration, the Conservatives appointed an Acting Town Clerk almost immediately. This decision I congratulated the Conservatives for.

As Helen King was Town Clerk to the Conservatives for at most two months then much of the Grievances set out in the letter happened within the Liberal Democrat term of office. So what is Helen King complaining about?

Helen says she was working unreasonable hours that were affecting her health and home life as she was acting as town clerk, manager of the Priory Centre and Eatons Community Centre at the same time and that Peter Edward, the finance officer who had been appointed to help her, had retired. (Peter Edwards – Responsible Finance Officer is still in post)

Whilst this was the case at certain points under the Liberal Democrats, this was not the case under the Conservatives. If Helen had come back to work she would have had a communities centre manager and the new post of Town Centre manager. Everything Helen was complaining about, above, has been corrected.

Her letter includes several extracts from meetings of the Personnel Committee from as far back as June, 2010, where she submitted her concerns over her workload.

Helen also claimed:
She was blocked from booking holidays - Depends when and why.
Was forced to cancel them for work purposes - Now that is bad.
At one point had to work 18 days in a row - Now that is wrong.

She also said her GP signed her off work for a month in July last year due to “stress, overwork and exhaustion”. What about the last 5 months?

She wrote in her letter: “The lack of respect that the town council has had for me, or shown me, as the town clerk has been detrimental to my health.” That maybe true. But that was under the Liberal Democrats. The time off is under the Conservative administration. This makes no sense.

The Conservatives hit back with:

Councillor Bob Farrer told the News & Crier Mrs King was paid a generous salary which was “far beyond what she should have expected” and had been granted 47 days holiday, including Bank Holidays. The holidays seems excessive. There were 8 Bank holidays in 2010. That leaves 39 days holiday. Helen would expect 6 weeks holiday or 30 days. This leaves 9 days which could be a carry over from the previous holiday year. As for "being paid far beyond what she should have expected" at £60k that is what a large Town council would expect to pay for a Town Clerk.

Cllr Farrer continued with:I’m not saying that she was not over-workedI think that she was. But if the public knew how much she was being paid and how much holiday she had they might be a little put out. She was being paid fairly for the hours she had to do.”

Well I'm not put out. According to the Town Councils 2011/12 Accounts (which were late) Helen King was paid £60k +.
Another Conservative dived into the fray:
Cllr Chapman (The Town Mayor) said: “It was a lot of nonsense that was withdrawn. There was one letter which was withdrawn because there were so many falsehoods in it that, had it been made public, it would have led to great legal difficulties.”

The Liberal Democrats were in charge when much of what Helen King complains about happened. Now the Conservatives are in control all that Helen King was complained about has gone. But instead of returning to work Helen stayed off sick. 


Julia said...

The 18-days-without-a-break allegation certainly did not happen under the LD council. Why do you assume it refers to that period and not the first 3 months of the new council?

Dave said...

It wasn't 3 months. It was 2 months. From the May elections to June there was nothing really to do. So under the Conservatives Helen didn't have much to do and had many staff at her disposal.

Under the Liberal Democrats Helen had a period where the RFO had retired and the post was vacant. The Priory Centre Manager had also gone and the position of Deputy Town Clerk wasn't filled. Also there were problems over the accounts plus the work that needed to put in for Quality Status.

Now if I had a choice between not much happening in two months or a lot of work under the Liberal Democrats, I feel the odds favour the 18 days refer to a period under the Liberal Democrats.

I personally feel that Helen didn't want to work under the Conservatives and was looking for a way out with money.