In September rogue UBS trader Kweku Adoboli was arrested following allegations he had cost the banking group an estimated £1.3 billion by abusing his position. But it isn't just occasional high profile rogue traders who let down their employers. A critical test of any organisation is how they respond to allegations of misconduct: they need to respond quickly to stop bogus allegations disrupting their work and stigmatising employees they have a duty to treat fairly, or get rid of bad apples.
How big is this problem in local government, and are local authorities acting quickly enough to prevent unnecessary costs to taxpayers?
Today the TaxPayers' Alliance has unveiled new research that reveals the cost of council staff that have been suspended. While it would be very hard for a council employee to cost taxpayers anything like what Adoboli cost UBS shareholders, the bill is substantial. A series of Freedom of Information requests to councils across the Midlands shows that 57 local authorities paid suspended employees in excess of £8.2 million since April 2009. They were suspended for everything from alleged kidnap to theft and sleeping on the job.
If these figures were replicated nationally in line with the spending power of councils in the Midlands, we estimate that since April 2009 7,852 staff would have been suspended for a total of almost 2,500 working years. That could be a cost to taxpayers of nearly £70 million pounds since 2009.
Around 8% of cases are on-going, meaning both the members of staff involved (who might be falsely accused) and taxpayers are left in limbo, with costs mounting. There is the additional expense of potentially bringing in agency or temporary workers to cover those who are suspended as well, they are normally more expensive but that cost isn't included in our calculations as it is hard to estimate reliably.
An employee of Nottingham City Council was suspended for 950 days - almost four years. However, no cost was provided for this period of absence from work. Even a very low paid worker would have cost tens of thousands of pounds over such a long time.
Hundreds of working years are being lost at local councils in the Midlands thanks to suspensions for allegedly misbehaving council staff. This isn't good for taxpayers, the council or the individuals involved. Local authorities must ensure that action is taken and suspensions are dealt with swiftly and cases don't drag on, leaving taxpayers picking up the bill for staff who are off work for long periods and temps to cover their absence.
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