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ARUN DISTRICT COUNCIL SUSPENDS EMPLOYEE ON HER RETIREMENT DAY AND ESCORTS HER OFF THE PREMISES

Maureen Chaffe has been a loyal employee of Arun District Council for the past 30 years, during which time she has been passionate about good customer service and fair dealings with staff.

On the evening before her last day she created a farewell blog on the internal intranet and sent a message round to all her colleagues.  As a result she arrived at 8am on her final day to find that all her access rights had been removed to her phone, Facebook account and the whole Arun network.  She was told she was suspended from work  and that she faced an internal investigation as she could not be trusted.  She was banned from speaking to her colleagues and then escorted from the building by Nigel Croad, Deputy Chief Executive at Arun.

She has made it clear that  she would never knowingly do anything to harm the reputation of the Council.  Her only crime was to use an internal communication tool, which she created, to express her concerns about the current state, and future, of the Council which she has served for so long.

What was the terrible crime that caused this extreme reaction?  It seems it was the content of the message she sent only to internal colleagues.  It went as follows:

"I want to say goodbye to you all.

I cannot go without commenting on the current state of affairs within Arun.  I have never known the Authority to feel so broken.  Breaking it was easy, putting it back together will not be. It will take inspirational leadership.  The current system where people are just being slotted into jobs without interview and where decisions are made without consultation makes staff feel angry and disillusioned.

A few weeks ago my Word For The Week was:

'They keep killing the caterpillars and wondering why there are no butterflies'

Over the years I have worked with some amazing, clever people and watched their enthusiasm dwindle as they keep getting knocked back by a system that is risk averse and in some cases by Managers scared that a clever member of staff might make them look bad.

Working on the Lean Reviews I met so many people who said that they had been trying to make improvements to the way they did their job for years and nobody would listen.

The Lean Reviews were held up as being important to Arun and throughout the process of the reviews I worked with some really clever people, both on the Lean Team and in Housing.  They all had a common aim - to improve things for the customer. The result of those reviews is that some 7 months later none of the recommendations from any of the reviews have been implemented.

Says it all really, doesn’t it.

I truly hope that in the coming months staff at Arun get the sort of leadership they deserve.  Not the political rhetoric given out at the staff meetings, but real leadership that listens to staff, inspires them and helps them to achieve their true potential.

Regards,

Maureen."

A  footnote to this is that we understand the Conservative Whip, Ricky Bower, advised all his party members not to communicate with Maureen Chaffe.  What their reaction to this was is not known, although a few have privately expressed the view that Mr Bower may keep his advice to himself.  And at the Full Council meeting on 5th September a Councillor attempted to ask a question on the matter, but was not permitted to.  Is this open and transparent governance?

Opinion in Bognor Regis is that this provides a lot of answers to questions people have been asking about the attitude of senior Officers and Councillors towards the hopes and aspirations of Bognor Regis people who only wish to improve their town.  If the internal affairs of Arun cannot be managed satisfactorily, what hopes for the District, let alone our town?

A final thought.  It has been said in the town that this extreme reaction by Arun might be detrimental to the lady's pension rights, and it would be considered extremely unjust if this were to turn out to be true.

If you are concerned about this, contact your Councillor with your thoughts.  You can find out who he/she is and how to contact them by phoning Arun DC on 01903 737500, telling them your address and asking for the name, address and phone number.  Or go to the Arun District Council website on: http://www.arun.gov.uk/main.cfm?type=DISTRICTCOUNCILLOR  and follow the instructions.

September 2012

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