My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Criminal Council Fined £250k

In her summing at Canterbury Crown Court yesterday, Judge Norton said she was deeply saddened by the plight of  15  Thanet Council staff who had contracted Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) because of a systemic failure to manage health and safety at the council. She said that Thanet Council’s failure to exercise its duty of care towards its workers had had a devastating impact on the lives of  the  workers who had contracted these debilitating and painful conditions. Not only had their ability to work been badly affected, but their ability to enjoy family life and leisure time had also  been destroyed by the effects of industrial injuries which could have been avoided.

For over 45 minutes the court listened in silence as the barrister for the Health and Safety Executive described  the events which led up to this criminal prosecution.  Seldom have I heard such a catalogue of  incompetence, maladministration and dereliction of duty. Headed by £90,000 a year Director of Operations, Mark Seed, who left TDC on the grounds of ill-health, a few weeks after the HAVs situation became known, the barrister recounted  how a chaotic and dysfunctional management  team totally ignored the safety and welfare of the staff is was supposed to protect. He listed example after example of  shameful and unacceptable actions by management, which a  more reminiscent of a 19th century Dickensian workhouse than a, supposedly modern, 21st century council including

  • No staff training on the dangers of HAVs and how to reduce risk over an 8 year period.
  • No council safety polices on HAVs and risk  reduction
  • Grounds maintenance managers had little or  no training on how to conduct HAVs risk assessments and developing HAVs risk reduction strategies
  • HAVs risk assessment documents  produced by East Kent Human Resources were totally inadequate and not fit for purpose
  • No HAVs risk assessments carried out in 8 years
  • No health screening of staff at risk of contracting HAVs
  • Health and Safety Audit warnings in 2012, 2013 & 2014 which identified the lack of HAVs risk assessments were ignored and not acted upon by Director Mark Seed and not onward reported to elected councillors on the Council’s Governance and Audit Committee.
  • Staff required to use vibrating equipment for  up to 7 hours a  day 5 days per week over prolonged periods of time without a break or rotation of duties. This resulted in staff being significantly over exposed to dangerous levels of vibration.
  • Departmental and Council Health and Safety committees which were chaired by Mark Seed never discussed HAVs even though vibrating equipment was extensively and frequently used by grounds maintenance staff.
  • Purchasing of new grounds maintenance failed to identify the need to procure  low vibration models.
The barrister said that a report commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive and produced by a specialist safety adviser concluded that there had been a “systemic failure” of Thanet Council’s health and safety management.

Considering that the HSE produced extensive and  overwhelming evidence of culpability and harm and that the failure of the Council had been a prolonged and deep-seated failure I was disappointed that TDC was only fined  £250,000 plus costs of £18,000. TDC managed to avoid a much higher fine, by pleading  mitigation on the grounds of having a reduced budget and depleted cash reserves. Which is a bit rich considering that just the day before the court case Council Leader  Chris Wells had said on BBC Radio Kent that he was happy with the council’s budget and reserves situation. But whilst the fine is an important part of justice being seen to be done, it’s the damages payments which will be made to the staff that really matter. I sincerely hope that these payments will be fair and proper compensation for the  devastating impact that HAVs will have on all aspects of their lives .

Although now over, the court case has raised some important questions. Why did the trade unions appear to have failed to raise the issues of HAVs exposure and the lack of  HAVs risk assessments with management  through the council’s safety committee structure before the injuries were detected in staff?    Why did  the council’s internal audit team fail to detect persistent  non-compliance with the HAVs risk assessment requirements until it was too late. Why were democratically elected councillors on the governance and Audit Committee  persistently mislead by officers (including  Mark Seed)  about the lack of HAVs safety assessment and training and constantly told that Health and Safety was a low corporate risk, until it was too late?

The biggest question is why the HSE decided not to  take out a criminal prosecution against former Director  Mark Seed. Comments made in court yesterday, including a statement by TDCs Barrister suggest  that his actions and inactions  contributed towards this terrible tragedy. Perhaps the HSE felt that that Seeds actions or lack of action were not of a level which would have led to his conviction. Either way Mark Seed has shown no contrition for his role in this sorry state od affairs. His Linkedin page of today (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/mark-seed-803032b6) says that he was responsible for “managing council wide health and safety as chair of council health and safety committee”. Perhaps he should change it to say say that his performance in carrying these safety duties has  been  criticized by barristers at Canterbury  Crown Court and that he may have played a contributory role in the contraction of HAVs by 15 members staff. Perhaps he should also sorry.

What happened to TDCs grounds maintenance staff is, despite an unreserved apology from the council, totally unacceptable and unforgivable. Sadly I fear that the managerial  dysfunctionality and incompetence  described by the barrister is not confined to the grounds maintenance department  who were plain unlucky for being out. Consider the spectacular fiasco that is the Margate Dreamland project, consider the illegal actions of the Council over the live animal exports ban and the incompetent management of the Ramsgate Pleasurama project. All of these issues point to a council which endemically dysfunctional and mis-managed at the hifghest of levels. A shake-up is required along with some long overdue departures

If any of the HAVs victims want to contact me I would very much like to talk to you about your experiences and perhaps publish your stories on this blogsite.  This will be done in the strictest of confidence and fully protecting your identities. My contact details are at the top of this page.

 

8 comments:

  1. This has gone on for years you have to blame The last four administration and
    If not mistaken you was part of Yes/No

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    1. Yes you are right. I was a councillor at the time and I am very unhappy and sad what happened . If you read my post you will see that the truth about the situation was hidden from councillors by untruth reports made to elected councillors on the Governance and Audit Committee. These reports, some of which were presented by Mark Seed, informed councillors that health and safety at TDC was a low risk activity which nobody needed to worry about, when all along there were some serious problems. When I found about this deception I was the first and only councillor/ ex-councillor to speak out and I published several articles on this blogsite which you can check out which attempted to expose this serious criminal situation. I'm furious that councillors misled. I'm also concerned that the councils internal audit system failed to pick up this longstandidng problem and the trade unions don't appear to have raised it until after the event. This is why the judge rightly called the a systemic failure

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    2. Then its time get rid of the old dead wood and to change the way Thanet District Council is run and how it accountable to Thanet Council Tax payer.
      It needs changing from top to bottom this situation is not New Thanet District Council has been a Laughing stock for years and that's why I have got politically involved Thanet and it's Residence deserve better

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  2. Thanet District Council = Spiv management!

    What an utterly avoidable disgrace.

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  3. Not to mention that the council also failed to consider disability rights before placing a mobility disabled person up 4 flights of stairs in a homeless shelter miles away from a GP. Which means that I could not have received certain medical treatment as I did not have access to my GP. Myself and minor suffered bruises dislocations and pain from the ordeal and we got awarded £250 and a small appology. I can proove that Madaline Homer lied to the Ombudsman several times and it is only due to photographic evidence that the case was awarded with full details on failings by the council. It is shameful that they have to be brought up on a most basic thing - if someone says to you they cannot climb more than 6 steps - that doesn't mean stick em at the highest point and don't try to get them a ground floor or first floor room.....

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  4. Why didn't the Judge fine the senior management - or jail them - form their senior salaries and pensions rather than from tax?

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  5. they swept it under the carpet like they normally do mark seed paid off paul verall paid off both guilty of all this to these workers and nothing done to them!!

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  6. its a disgrace what they done to them poor workers, i know 1 that is affected that works in ramsgate cemetery hes been there best part of 20 years digging graves looking after the grass etc ive seen his hands when its been cold and hes not even 40 yet!! what future for work does he have! nothing all because of the way the council have run things for years, not giving a toss as long as they big wigs pocket £100,000 plus a year in wages and do f**K all to earn it!! and employ clowns that cock everything up then pay them big money to go!! disgusting about time the goverment stepped in and kicked all this dead wood out

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