Hartlepool council chief defends sacking of highways inspector at unfair dismissal claim hearing

A council boss has defended his decision to fire a highways officer after 20 years service despite him never having been in trouble before.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 6:05 am
Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Tony Hanson, the assistant director for Environment and Neighbourhoods at Hartlepool Borough Council, was quizzed at an employment tribunal why he sacked highways inspector John Carroll for gross misconduct.

Mr Carroll is claiming unfair dismissal in the tribunal being held in Middlesbrough.

It followed a council investigation into concerns of how Mr Carroll was spending his time on the job. The authority accused him of ‘abandoning his duties’ claiming he could not account for 25 hours over a three-week period in October 2018.

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Mr Hanson and council officer Sarah Scarr, who investigated Mr Carroll, say he was not working as efficiently as possible after looking at the movements of his work van and records of his work, including on an electronic system called Confirm.

Mr Carroll’s barrister Sam Healy suggested to Mr Hanson that concerns about the way Mr Carroll was working could have been dealt with by guidance or through meetings with his supervisors rather than disciplinary action.

Mr Hanson said he was satisfied with all the evidence put before him by Ms Scarr and said Mr Carroll had been given numerous chances to explain the time in question but couldn’t.

He said he did not consider Mr Carroll’s lack of any previous disciplinary action or sanctions relevant to his decision.

Mr Hanson said: “I believe that from hearing the evidence I had, the information that was presented by the investigating officer and the lack of explanations from Mr Carroll as to the missing hours and a number of other issues I felt it was gross misconduct.”

He accepted there was no written way of working for Mr Carroll’s job but said he would have known what was expected of him.

Mr Healy said his client’s job was not a simple one and that not everything he did was recorded on the Confirm system, including checking non-pre-planned roads and pavements for defects reported directly to him by council staff and members of the public.

Mr Carroll told the investigation he could have been doing ‘any number of things’ including sending emails, using his work phone and speaking to people on site.

The council also claim Mr Carroll claimed for flexi time he was not entitled to by staying longer than necessary at the council depot at the end of the day by between 15 and 30 minutes, and spending too long on lunch on some occasions.

Mr Carroll’s lawyer said he was never told by his supervisors how long he had to leave the depot after dropping off his works van, and during the time in question Mr Carroll was likely speaking to colleagues about work.

The hearing continues.