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How manager’s suspension led to fall-out between Norwich City Council and Norse

A staff member's suspension led to a row between city council and Norse bosses. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A staff member's suspension led to a row between city council and Norse bosses. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

A leaked email shows just how bad relationships between the city council and its biggest contractor had fallen, weeks before the council decided to end their multi-million pound partnership.

Norwich City Council chief executive Laura McGillivray has told Norse of the council's Norwich City Council chief executive Laura McGillivray has told Norse of the council's "strong intention" to take services back. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

We can reveal the suspension of a manager sparked a row between Norwich City Council chiefs and contractor Norse, owned by Norfolk County Council.

But today the council said this dispute played no role in its decision to bring back all services provided through Norse, including cleaning city streets, parks and maintaining thousands of council homes.

In April, a manager at a company jointly owned by Norwich City Council and a Norse firm, called NPS Norwich, was suspended after a complaint from a staff member.

But Norse’s HR department suspended the manager without consulting the city council first - to the anger of council chiefs. The council later employed the man.

Patricia Fuller, HR director of Norse Group, wrote to city council leader Alan Waters with her concerns about the behaviour of two council bosses in a disciplinary case. Picture: Norfolk ProHelpPatricia Fuller, HR director of Norse Group, wrote to city council leader Alan Waters with her concerns about the behaviour of two council bosses in a disciplinary case. Picture: Norfolk ProHelp

It led council chief executive Laura McGillivray and director of business Anton Bull to take up the manager’s disciplinary case with Norse.

In an email in May to city council leader Alan Waters, Norse HR director Patricia Fuller MBE wrote of her “concerns” about the behaviour of Ms McGillivray and Mr Bull in the case.

She accused Mr Bull of trying to “save” the manager.

“It is very perturbing that both these officers have felt the need to intervene to stop a legitimate process taking place,” she wrote.

Ms Fuller stated Mr Bull had described staff who made complaints against the manager as “troublemakers” and alleged Mr Bull had attempted to “thwart the process”.

The manager has now left NPS Norwich and been employed by the city council.

He was suspended after a complaint about his behaviour at a meeting by a staff member in January.

The staff member initially tried to get the matter dealt with in the office but that failed and he made a formal complaint in February.

By the end of March the HR department of NPS sought to resolve the complaint by having a meeting between the two men.

The manager apologised and the apology was accepted.

Days later, however, the staff member said he did not feel the matter was resolved.

Ms Fuller later wrote in the email to Mr Waters that the complaint had not been initially investigated thoroughly.

Norse’s HR department then investigated the complaint.

Other staff then told Norse’s investigator that the manager used inappropriate language.

He denied this, but the Norse investigation concluded he did use profane language “on the balance of probabilities”.

The city council, however, was unimpressed with the treatment of the manager and the Norse investigation.

The council said he could not be suspended without the approval of their directors at NPS Norwich – Anton Bull and councillor Paul Kendrick, as he was an employee of NPS Norwich rather than Norse.

To solve the deadlock solicitors were brought in. They advised there should be a disciplinary hearing. But that never took place.

The manager left NPS Norwich and was employed shortly afterwards by the city council through one its companies.

A Norwich City Council spokesman said the disciplinary case and subsequent row had nothing to do with its decision to end all its partnerships with Norse.

“The decision to bring these services back in-house relied on sound business judgement. It was a decision that was not taken lightly and was not arrived at quickly,” they said.

“We are taking this course of action for two main reasons: to have better control over the £23 million we spend on these commercial services and to make sure any surplus made goes directly into protecting and delivering Norwich City Council’s front line services.

The Labour-run council’s cabinet decided on June 13 to notify Norse that it wanted to end its partnerships with the companies it joint owns with them.

Norse declined to comment.

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