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Camden New Journal - By RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 27 March 2008

Council officers seem to flaunt established rules, says Joe Laidler
Finance chief’s big settlement

Unfair dismissal payout, but no apology

A COUNCIL finance chief has been paid tens of thousands of pounds in compensation after being unfairly sacked.
Joe Laidler, 59, was forced to clear his desk at the Town Hall despite 31 years of what his own bosses at Camden described as “exemplary service” – most recently in the role of assistant finance director and in charge of sensitive fraud investigations.
He was caught up in a cost-cutting drive which saw scores of employees made redundant at the end of 2006; but an employment tribunal ruled the process in which he was picked for the sack was unfair.
There was no apology from Camden this week as around £58,000 was transferred to Mr Laidler, a popular member of staff among long-servers and whose leaving do is understood to have attracted hundreds of colleagues.
Instead, a council spokeswoman said: “While we remain disappointed with the ruling, we have decided not to take this matter further. After careful consideration we believe that this would not be a worthwhile use of public money.
It is understood that senior figures at the Town Hall were keen to see the case go to an appeal before they received legal advice that the chances of getting the verdict overturned were remote.
Mr Laidler said: “I still can’t believe that the council went through the process that time – severance pay, compensation and no doubt high legal costs – to get rid of me just because my face no longer fitted.
“I hope my action has ensured that this form of unfair dismissal against any other individual will not be repeated.”
He was considered among the top 30 council officers at the Town Hall and is the most senior civil servant in Camden to bring an employment tribunal in more than 10 years.
The case revealed how statutory duties surrounding redundancies were not kept to after an order came down from the Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition that employment costs had to be slashed. It also revealed “a clash of personalities” be­tween some of the finance department’s highest-ranked staff as friction grew over job cuts.
Mr Laidler said: “They effectively ended my career after 31 years’ exemplary service.
“If failings of this nature were made by junior staff it would in my opinion have resulted in almost certain disciplinary action.The current climate in Camden is that certain officers seem to flaunt established rules and procedures in the knowledge that they can get away with it and no one will question their actions.
“In a supposed excellent council this is really disturbing.”
His payout was capped by employment law but the panel ruled there were so many breaches that compensation would otherwise have been totted up to a larger amount.
Mr Laidler said he would now “draw a line under a matter”.
Finance director Mike O’Donnell told the tribunal he was under the impression that Mr Laidler was ready to leave Camden.
He said: “I was hoping it could be a relatively small exit and at the end of the day one that Mr Laidler would be happy with.”

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