West Dunbartonshire Council chief loses unfair dismissal claim

A West Dunbartonshire Council chief who claimed she should have been made redundant – earning a payout of £500,000 – lost her case at a court.

Angela Wilson claimed a restructure should have resulted in her being given a package.

She didn’t agree to the changes and as a result was dismissed from her job as strategic director of transformation and public sector reform in December 2020.

But she went on to accept a new post at the council as chief officer of supply, distribution and property, retaining her salary at the time of £95,872.

Ms Wilson, who joined the council in 2012, took her employer to a court claiming she had been unfairly dismissed but employment judge Lucy Wiseman ruled it had been fair.

The Lennox Herald understands Ms Wilson is now appealing the decision.

The court heard evidence from Chief Executive Joyce White, Victoria Rogers, chief officer (people and technology), and from Ms Wilson on three dates in August and September last year.

The details are explained in a judgement, which states Ms Wilson was “clearly upset” by what had happened as she saw herself as Ms White’s “number two” and “had Ms White’s back”.

It explains that her “unhappiness” at the changes began in 2019 when she was asked to take on procurement.

Then, in 2020 she believed her strategic lead role was made redundant following a restructuring in which she was offered the chief officer role.

The statement says she did not consider it to be suitable alternative employment but ultimately accepted it.

The reorganization saw the axing of strategic director and lead posts, and creation of eight chief officer roles.

Explaining the changes, the judgment states Ms White explained they were necessary because the council was facing significant financial challenges.

It reads: “Ms White has significant private sector experience in the delivery of service and best value.

“She decided there was a need to reduce the number of layers in the respondent organization (in some areas of the council there were up to 10 layers or tiers of functions) and to focus on multi-functional working.

“All of this was to try to achieve the delivery of services more effectively in circumstances where there is less money available but more demand.

“The claimant was not happy with the proposals. She considered her post by Ella was being made redundant and that she was being offered an alternative role at a lower grade and salary.

“The focus of the claimant’s case was twofold: firstly that the need of the respondent for strategic directors had disappeared and therefore she was redundant; and secondly, that the change was not simply a change in job title and a comparison of the job descriptions for the claimant’s previous post and the new chief officer post demonstrated this.”

Ms Wilson’s position was that she should retain her role or be made redundant, with access to redundancy or early retirement.

Employment judge Ms Wiseman adds: “The cost of making the claimant redundant would have been in excess of £500,000, and it would have taken 4/5 years for the respondent to recover this.”

She states that the post, on the face of it, was a demotion because it came with a lower salary – but that Ms White had pledged to honor her previous pay.

Ms Wise says: “The claimant did not lose any money by moving to the chief officer post and will not have any direct loss until there is a cost of living increase which she will not receive the benefit of.

“There was also protection for the claimant’s pension by way of a pension certificate which will be in place for 10 years and protects contributions based on the conserved salary.”

Confirming the position of the Chief Executive, she explained: “Ms White concluded the status quo was not a reasonable option for the organisation.

“She confirmed the claimant had, as an alternative to redundancy, been offered suitable alternative employment with pay protection, and that unreasonable refusal of the offer would render the claimant ineligible for a redundancy payment and the respondent would proceed to dismiss the claimant on the grounds of some other substantial reason (being reorganization).”

Ms Wilson’s representative invited the tribunal to find the reason for dismissal was redundancy and to make an award based on a schedule of loss.

However, Ms Wise concluded that there was no redundancy situation as the reason for the termination of employment was ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR).

She says: “I decided the respondent’s decision to dismiss fell within the band of reasonable responses which a reasonable employer might have adopted in the circumstances.

“I decided the claimant had been fairly dismissed.”

A council spokeswoman said the council would not comment on individual employee matters.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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