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Thursday, 15 December 2016
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Updated: Friday, 16 December 2016
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Ruth Bagley OBE goes in last-minute "cheap" pay-off

To be approved at secret council meeting Thursday 22 December

Reporter: Paul Janik

As the Slough Times exclusively revealed on Friday, 2 December, Slough Unitary Authority's chief executive Ruth Bagley OBE is leaving her employer after being suspended for 5 months for gross misconduct.

Some councillors are furious about the proposed pay-off but informed sources rationally state it is the quickest and cheapest option for the council.

The "secret" council meeting

On Wednesday 14 December, after most council staff had gone home, councillors were sent:

The agenda for Council - Extraordinary,
Thursday, 22nd December, 2016, 7.00 pm

The unexpected emergency council meeting surprised many councillors. 6 days later, on Friday 20 December, the secret meeting is still missing from the council's web site
slough.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=168&Year=0


The meeting's agenda's first page states:


On the next page is:

  1. Exclusion of the Press and Public

    It is recommended that the Press and Public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the item in Part 2 of the Agenda, as it involves information relating to an individual, the likely disclosure of exempt information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the Authority holding the information) and information relating to any consultations or negotiations, in connection with any labour relations, matters arising between the Authority or a Minister of the Crown and employees of, or office holders under the Authority as defined in Paragraphs 1,3 and 4 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (amended).
  2. PART II

  3. Severance Payment to Chief Executive

The reason for the deal

If Mrs Bagley fought her sacking at an Employment Tribunal, the council would incur the costs of solicitors and barristers. Despite having excellent lawful reasons to dismiss Mrs Bagley, the council failed to have proper and robust procedures for making top staff accountable for their behaviour.

Independent legal experts have declared the council's rules and procedures, collectively called 'The Constitution', are seriously defective and in some respects unlawful. Angry critics put the blame on both the previous council leader (until 6 June 2016) Cllr Rob Anderson and the departing chief executive Mrs Bagley (appointed in March 2007).

Another council failure, attributed to the personal fault of Cllr Rob Anderson, is the astonishing absence of a verifiable audit trail of Cllr Anderson properly supervising Mrs Bagley, setting Mrs Bagley performance targets and regularly appraising Mrs Bagley's work.

Embarrassingly Cllr Anderson is claiming he instructed Mrs Bagley to do certain things whilst Mrs Bagley claims she received no instruction. Effectively each is blaming the other. Without evidence provable in court, it is impossible for the council to accurately and fairly determine the truth. It would be unfair to blame Mrs Bagley for Cllr Anderson's demonstrable management failure.

Former council leader Richard Stokes, a much respected local resident, reveals that Cllr Anderson once said he runs the council by popping-in twice a week for a half-an-hour to sign the paperwork. Ex-Cllr Stokes says, during his incumbency as council leader, he spent an average of 40 to 50 hours each week on council business. Council staff told the Slough Times they have seen the new council leadership of Cllr Sohail Munawar and Cllr Sabia Hussain working on council business sometimes more than 12 hours in a single day.

Government cuts, combined with rising costs caused by the British Exit from the European Union, have depleted the council's finances. The deal is likely to cost the council less than 6 months of Mrs Bagley's annual salary package of circa £186,000 and will include pension contributions. The total pay-out is expected to be less than £75,000.

Added 20 January 2017:
Plus unspecified pension contributions.
The total sum is believed to exceed £320,000.

The alternative is potentially more costly. If Mrs Bagley appealed to an employment tribunal whilst continuing to be a fully paid member of council staff on extended "sick leave" for "stress" and her case was not heard within 6 months her salary costs would exceed the negotiated settlement deal.

With every aspect fully considered and realistically costed the proposed deal is certainly in the best interests of Slough's Council Tax payers.

If approved by a majority of councillors, the deal will signify a new and potentially exciting chapter in the history of our borough.

The scandal will quickly be forgotten. The external investigator's damning report will be withheld from elected councillors. The public will also be denied details of the grave crisis that shocked the council.

More and different challenges will inevitably pop-up all the time - never a dull moment in the long history of Slough - a tiny parish that dramatically expanded only because the railway station was built here.