South Scotland

Scottish Borders Council misconduct probe 'shameful'

Council HQ Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption A tribunal criticised the council's handling of misconduct allegations against Anthony Carson

A council investigation into misconduct allegations against a staff member was "woefully inadequate" and "utterly shameful", a tribunal has concluded.

It awarded Anthony Carson £56,581 and ruled he was unfairly dismissed by the Scottish Borders local authority.

Unison regional organiser Janet Stewart said she had never seen such a "seriously damning verdict".

The council said it was reviewing the judgement and would consider whether or not to submit an appeal.

Mr Carson worked as a regulatory services manager and prior to his dismissal had a "totally clear disciplinary record".

However, in early 2016 he was told of a number of allegations against him concerning his management style.

He was subsequently put on paid leave and, following a council investigation and disciplinary hearing, dismissed in December that year.

Image copyright Jim Barton
Image caption Mr Carson had a clear disciplinary record with the council prior to the probe

His union, Unison, took the case to an employment tribunal which found in his favour and delivered a critical judgement of the local authority probe.

The council argued his dismissal had been "procedurally and substantively fair" but the judge found there was a "complete failure" to provide Mr Carson with "any procedural fairness at all".

'Wake-up call'

"In my view, the way the respondents dealt with this matter entirely failed to comply with the tenets of natural justice," the tribunal judgement said.

Union representative Ms Stewart described it as a "serious case" with lessons for the local authority to learn.

"Scottish Borders Council conduct disciplinary procedures in a superficial manner," she said.

"This must change. They do not give their employees the respect of a proper robust process.

"This case reminds them they are not above the law and it must act as a wake-up call."

Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Mr Carson, said it was "one of the most scathing judgements" they had seen from an employment tribunal.

'Lot of stress'

"The judge finds that SBC have failed in almost every regard in terms of the investigation, the disciplinary decision, the process and lack of natural justice," they said in a statement.

"They agreed with every criticism we made in this case."

Mr Carson said the process had been "very stressful".

"I am pleased that the tribunal agreed with me but it's difficult to take pleasure from this decision as I lost my job, it has ruined my career, and they put me through a lot of stress," he said.

"This is another reminder how important it is, even for senior managers, to join a trade union."

'Fairly and thoroughly'

SBC chief executive Tracey Logan said the authority was content the dismissal decision was the "correct one for our organisation".

She acknowledged there were "lessons to be learned from the judgement" but said the council believed there were inaccuracies in it and the language used was "in many parts, unnecessarily personal and emotive".

"We are taking advice on the possibility of an appeal and will provide feedback to the employment tribunal service on the language used in the judgement," she said.

She added that the council prided itself on dealing with disciplinary matters "fairly and thoroughly" and said its record showed there was no "fundamental flaw" in its procedures.

Ms Logan said the authority would look at where improvements could be made and had already agreed to meet with Unison.

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