Here is the letter to Charlie Parker, Chief Executive, Westminster City Council, calling for an inquiry into the Council decision to suspend one of its employees for posting an article from the Evening Standard on the Unison website.
I cannot believe that the Council has suspended one of its employees for posting an article from the Evening Standard on the Unison website
According to the Standard report the Council says
“that Mr Shanks breached Westminster’s email policy on “circulating offensive material” “by placing links “on the Westminster Unison site relating to a newspaper article and an external social media site that could be accessed by staff and the general public”. The council is also said to allege that “a copy of the article contained within the social media site link was placed on an internal notice board with Westminster City Hall”.”
I have to tell you that I am very surprised by the Council’s actions as it appears that the Council is operating double standards.
I posted the same Evening Standard article as Mr Shanks on the Labour Westminster website on 24th April. This article could also be “accessed by staff and the general public” from the Labour Westminster website (indeed some of your staff have signed up to receive all my posts) and yet no action has been taken by the Council against me for “circulating offensive material”. Please can you explain your double standards and use of ‘bully-boy’ tactics against long-standing Council staff? How long has the Council held the view that the content of the Evening Standard can be described as “offensive material”.
The Council’s misguided, disproportionate and inappropriate actions have clearly brought the Council into disrepute. I call on you to take action against those Members and Officers who are responsible for this fiasco which will do serious damage to the Council’s relations with its staff and to its reputation generally. Please can you report this matter to the Council’s Standards Committee.
I look forward to hearing from you
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Leader of the Labour Group
The Council’s Chief Executive replies;
“It is wrong to say that James Shanks has been suspended for posting an article from the Evening Standard on the Unison website. To be clear: if all he had done was to post the Standard article there would have been no question of suspension, or indeed of any disciplinary action at all.
As I have informed you previously, I am unable to comment on disciplinary matters in any detail, particularly when they are under investigation. However, you need to be aware that the behaviour which is alleged is of considerable seriousness and has been the subject of complaints by some of Mr. Shanks’ colleagues.
It does not assist those who have the responsibility for investigating this (or indeed any) case of alleged misconduct in a fair and impartial manner to have to deal with a media campaign based on a partial or distorted version of the facts. I do not tolerate either double standards or ‘bully boy tactics’. If the investigations currently under way were to reveal such behaviour, it would be dealt with severely. But it is entirely wrong to leap to premature conclusions based on a partial and one-sided account of the matters in hand.
Finally, I am sure you are aware that suspension in itself is not a disciplinary sanction but is a holding action pending the outcome of the disciplinary investigation and possible hearing.”