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Wednesday 14 December 2011

TPA – Meaningless Suspension

[Update at end of post]

Following their Christmas party yesterday, the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) have today revealed the fruits of their latest Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expedition. They have made the ground-breaking discovery that employers routinely suspend employees on full pay while breaches of discipline are investigated. Who knew?

But as some of these suspensions occur within the public sector, the TPA can cloak itself in the mantle of righteous outrage at the costs borne by all those ordinary hard working council tax payers that they would not let through the door of last night’s party, and whose interests they only pretend to serve, while in reality using this exercise to demonise Government and public service.

Because the exercise is rendered meaningless – apart from as knocking copy – as there is no comparison with similarly sized private sector organisations. Perhaps the TPA would have us believe that these never suspend employees on full pay while disciplinary matters are considered. Moreover, as the TPA never actually engage with the councils concerned, we cannot tell if the procedure followed is sound.

Saying that Employee A at Council Z is suspended for X days does not demonstrate whether that council’s stewardship of its finances is good, bad or indifferent, and if the TPA is using this exercise to argue against employee rights in these matters, they should say so. Otherwise, all we have is data from FoI requests, which the TPA has extrapolated for the whole of the UK to produce larger and scarier numbers.

And including several pages of “Reasons for Suspensions” is just a way to pad out the “report”. Moreover, looking at Page 14, the thought enters that unless Blaby Council is a particularly large local Government organisation, one of those reported “Reasons for Suspensions” published may have enabled the identification of the staff member concerned.

Plus some of the more detailed “Reasons for Suspensions” for other councils could also enable staff members to be identified. It would be interesting to hear the TPA’s defence of this otherwise unethical, unprincipled and utterly inexcusable practice. This information has not been inserted in the “report” by accident: entries for Boston, Derbyshire, Harborough, North Warwickshire, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Wolverhampton and Wychavon all figure.

Otherwise, this is the usual TPA style: the conclusion is already written (including “Taxpayers” being told what they think), and the line of attack known, all to secure column inches and airtime while demonising Government – any Government – along with public service and public works. As with most TPA by-product, it serves no other purpose. That’s not good enough.

[UPDATE 16 December 1900 hours: a local Government manager, speaking to Zelo Street on condition of anonymity, has pointed out that at least half of paid suspensions result in unconditional reinstatement for the individual concerned. This is significant, as complaints have to be investigated by someone outside the department concerned, so there can be no claim of favouritism. That's another fact that the TPA will not be dwelling on, as they do not engage with local Government, except by showering it with FoI requests]


Anonymous said...

Unless I've missed it, there doesn't appear to be any analysis of how many staff are employed or what the staff budget it, so what the "loss" is in terms of percentage of days worked or percentage of staff budget isn't there.
So the numbers given on their own mean nothing, regardless of the lack of comparison to the private sector.

Anonymous said...

I hate to actually defend the TPA, but they have only published what councils have given them... once it is releseed under FOI it can be given to anyone else and published freely for journalism purposes.

Those Councils that have released data that could identify staff should have exempted that info under s40(2)- personal data... they will be to blame if people are identified and have grounds for complaint, not the TPA.