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Updated 11 June 2017

Councillors condemn top lawyer's
forced 4 months "paid holiday"

Temporary chief executive, temporary Monitoring Officer and Council Leader criticised

Report: Paul Janik & Kinder Dhillon

Incredulity increases after the council's contentious decision to send much admired top council lawyer Amardip Healy on a paid holiday at the Council Tax payers' expense.

Friends of Mrs Healy told the Slough Times

Amardip knows the work is piling-up and would prefer to be back at her desk. She is as baffled as anyone why this has happened.

It is not a good way to run a council.

They urgently need a competent chief executive to sort-out the dreadful mess.

It was unfair to overburden Roger Parkin. It is not his cup-of-tea. He is struggling to cope.

The Slough Times has invited acting chief executive Roger Parkin to respond to these comments.

The paid holiday ordered by temporary chief executive Roger Parkin, known in council circles as Biscuit, and temporary solicitor Linda Walker, also known as Wally, is puzzling. Previously Council Leader Sohail Munawar proudly told the Slough Times that Amardip Healy, the council's Head of Legal for the last 5 years, was his right hand.

Four months after Mrs Healy's unexplained temporary absence from work there is absolute silence from council boss Roger Parkin and from chief councillor Sohail Munawar.

Councillors complain they do not know what is going-in in their own council but many seem scared of annoying top council officials by enquiring.

Council sources assert Mrs Healy was a serious, and immensely suitable, contender for the chief executive's job. They point to her organisation ability, her strict adherence to the principles of equality, fairness and respect for all and her desire to turn-around the local authority and radically improve the services provided to its captive customers.

Mrs Healy is seen as a moderniser and reformer. Conversely despite Mr Parkin desperately wanting that rôle, there are doubts about his ability and questions about his suitability.

Astonishingly, the chief executive's job advertisement remains unpublished despite the vacancy existing since November 2016, according to previous chief executive Ruth Bagley's Linked-In web page. Some attribute the delay to Mr Parkin although an anonymous council official publicly blamed councillors saying they never said they wanted the job advertised in any hurry.

Public concerns

Trevor Allen, a former hard-working Wexham Parish Council councillor, and for many years a senior Slough Labour Party official, told the Slough Times:

I have dealt with Amardip Healy on a number of occasions and found her to be extremely helpful.

It is appalling she is out of the scene and no one appears to know why. Whatever the situation is, it needs resolving urgently.

Slough Council can not continue having so many problems at senior level. It reflects badly on our town.

Mrs Healy made people feel at ease. She is a dyed-in-the-wool professional lawyer. She is a very nice person. We are getting less and less of that.

Sandra ('Sandy') Malik, a former Slough Councillor and a former Wexham Parish Councillor revealed to the Slough Times her worries about the status quo:

I have nothing but praise for Amardip Healy.

She always welcomed me in her office and always had time for me. She was totally fair and totally professional. She is 100% plus.

From outside the council, it looks like there is a power struggle within the council. It does reflect very badly on our town.

We are supposed to be an up-and-coming town, so we should be doing a lot better than that.

I wish Mrs Healy well and hope she will return to her job as quickly as possible. Everyone misses her.

Formidable ex-Council Leader Richard Stokes, 23 years a Slough councillor, said:

The matter is perplexing and damaging to the council's reputation.

Councillor Diana Coad, UKIP, St Mary's ward, Langley, said:-

It is utterly appalling.

In Amardip Healy we have a professional, knowledgeable, caring, imaginative, sound and dedicated officer.

But why is she not at her desk? That is the most worrying aspect of this.

I am deeply disappointed, yet again, with the behaviour of certain people at Slough Borough Council.

The French say it perfectly, La plus ça change, la plus c'est la même chose meaning the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Council staff comment

A long serving council insider, with considerable experience of Slough Council hanky-panky, exclusively told the Slough Times:

Talented and honest people are a threat to the corrupt and incompetent, of whom there are far too many in the council. It is not the rubbish that gets pushed out of the door...

To quote one jaded senior manager 'We strive for mediocrity and can't even achieve that'.

Mediocre staff are the most valued by the council.

Poor performers are tolerated.

Talented staff are bullied and pushed out, especially if they have aspirations to improve council services and performance; or, if they bring to light wrongdoing and posing a threat to the rubbish at the top. The top are terrified of bad publicity, although I cannot understand why when most of the local press (Slough Express and Slough Observer) is extremely lenient with them.

Amardip Healy is generally liked and respected. She is also seen as highly competent at her job.

Slough Council refuses to comment

Slough Unitary Authority, the official name for the council since 1998, is unwilling to comment. Consequently there is no explanation or justification for the actions of just three people at the top of the council, staff Roger Parkin and Linda Walker, and chief councillor, Sohail Munawar.

The Slough Times wonders how this example of June 2016's promised transparency and accountability is going to reassure the public and impress businesses who may wish to invest in our borough.

Throughout the council there are mutterings of racial discrimination and references to a 10 years ago event when a high performing, impressively competent and much respected senior Housing official was suspended for 1 year 11 months before being paid-off with a draconian gagging-clause. The person's skin was not pure white.

The Slough Times is aware some white council personnel were involved in an anti-Moslem campaign in May 2016 when the current council Leader and deputy (both moderate Moslems) were elected to represent the Labour group of councillors.

The Slough Times wonders if the Head Of Legal was targeted for not being a pure white even though she talks, dresses, acts and behaves like a normal white.