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Council staff suspended on full pay got £330,000 over three years

PUBLISHED: 10:47 16 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:09 17 August 2020

Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich / UNISON branch secretary Jonathan Dunning. Pics: Neil Perry / Steve Adams.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich / UNISON branch secretary Jonathan Dunning. Pics: Neil Perry / Steve Adams.

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More than £330,000 was paid to dozens of Norfolk council staff suspended on full pay over the past three years, new figure have revealed.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

The workers, suspended while investigations into conduct were carried out, were paid as they missed 2,904 days - the equivalent of just under eight years.

However, council bosses said such suspensions were a last resort and necessary when the employee’s presence at work could hinder investigations.

Figures obtained by the TaxPayers’ Alliance using the Freedom Of Information Act, showed between 2017 and 2020, 62 staff were suspended on full pay from Norfolk councils at a cost of almost £333,000.

Norfolk County Council suspended 30 workers for a combined total of 1,886 days and just over £188,000.

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk branch secretary of UNISON. Photo : Steve AdamsJonathan Dunning, Norfolk branch secretary of UNISON. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich City Council suspended six at a total of more than £100,000 and 541 days. The bulk came in 2019/20, when three suspended staff were off for 423 days at a cost of £82,140.39.

Sixteen staff at South Norfolk Council were suspended on full pay, for a combined cost of £25,880 and 226 days.

Darwin Friend, policy analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Sometimes paid suspensions will be unavoidable, but the over-taxed people of Norfolk will not expect to have to pay hundreds of thousands for staff to do nothing. Norfolk councils’ top mandarins need to make sure they are overseeing a steady enough ship that the number and cost of such cases are kept to a minimum.”

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “As the Taxpayers’ Alliance recognise, sometimes suspensions are unavoidable. They only occur where an allegation has been made involving gross misconduct and the employee’s presence at work may hinder the investigation.

“The employee remains on full pay while the investigation is completed, which we work to carry out as swiftly as possible in line with ACAS guidance.

“We work hard to keep any such suspensions to a minimum, with only seven occurring last year out of over 7,000 employees.”

A city council spokesman said: “Suspension is a last resort and any decision to suspend is considered very carefully. An assessment is carried out in each case to establish whether the circumstances of the case justify it and suspension is necessary.

“Suspension is a neutral act to enable a thorough and fair investigation to take place. The length of suspension is dependent on the complexity of the case being investigated and may be impacted by any unexpected delays or additional issues that can arise during the investigation. Suspension is kept under review throughout an investigation and is lifted at the earliest opportunity.”

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Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON, said: “In my opinion, most suspensions are short term and are only done to protect the council’s position, which, if the TaxPayers’ Alliance knew the details, would be seen as in the public interest.”

He said longer suspensions were usually because the police were involved and the council asked not to pursue the disciplinary process until the criminal investigation was complete.

What did your council pay?

This is how many staff were suspended on full pay by each council, what it cost and the combined length of the suspensions:

Norfolk County Council: 30 staff. £188,382 over 1,886 days.

Norwich City Council: Six staff. £100,594 over 541 days.

South Norfolk Council: 16 staff. £25,580 over 226 days.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council: Three staff. £8,346 over 93 days.

West Norfolk Council: Two staff. £4,529 over 50 days.

North Norfolk Council: Two staff. £5,480 over 53 days.

Breckland Council: Three staff over 77 days, The cost was not given.

Broadland District Council suspended no staff on full pay.


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