Two managers leave troubled skills council

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Senior staff changes agreed at controversial Nottinghamshire LSC . Ngaio Crequer reports

Two senior managers of the troubled Nottinghamshire Learning and Skills Council are to leave their posts. The two are senior managers in an organisation at the heart of a national inquiry into claims of bullying, harassment and intimidation.

Joanne Simpson, 37, the deputy executive director and director of finance, who was also in charge of human resources, has left with immediate effect.

The national LSC said it was mutually agreed.

It is understood she arrived for work as normal on Monday and attended a meeting of the senior management team. During the meeting a call came in from the Coventry national office of the LSC. Ms Simpson left in tears a short time later.

Her boss, executive director Rob Valentine, will leave at the end of February. A spokeswoman for the national LSC said the creation of a new regional structure had provided a catalyst for the change. He would develop a career in consultancy in education and training.

Mr Valentine, 55, was previously director of education for Nottinghamshire County Council.

Last week The TES revealed that rampant bullying had been exposed in an independent, confidential report. Senior management called staff "wankers" and "shaggable".

There was casual and open use of obscenities and derogatory remarks. Staff were regularly sworn at, insulted, demeaned and lied to. There was a culture of fear.

The inquiry was conducted by Acas, the conciliation and arbitration service, after a joint request by the national LSC and PCS, the public and commercial services union.

An LSC spokeswoman said: "No complaint has been made about her (Ms Simpson), she was not named in the report, so she has not been dismissed as a result of the employee situation."

Duncan Sedgwick, the chair of the Notts LSC, last week said the union had not expressed a single grievance, locally or nationally, relating to a culture of fear.

"Their explanation for this unprecedented dismissal of proper process is that any expression of grievance will bring more mistreatment, a view for which there is also no evidence. It is possible that some of what the PCS represents as 'culture of fear' is what in other circumstances would be described as aiming high."

Dave Cliff, PCS senior national officer, was appalled at Mr Sedgwick's comments; "I don't think he is an appropriate person to be chairman of the board.

"How he can confuse what has been going on at Notts with 'aiming high' is beyond belief.

"They said they wanted to work with us to sort these problems out, but they have cancelled two meetings scheduled for this week."

The national LSC insisted it intended to work with the union and Acas to improve employee relations. A meeting was due to be held on Wednesday, and Mr Valentine would not be present.

David Hughes, recently appointed regional director for the East Midlands, will assume immediate responsibility for the Notts office while a replacement director is found.

Mr Hughes last year carried out an investigation into how Notts had handled the affairs of South Nottingham college. Ahmed Choonara, former college principal, rejected the findings. He told the national LSC that the Hughes'

investigation was "grossly inaccurate, judiciously selective, contradictory and totally unacceptable".

A new report into Mr Choonara's claims is imminent.

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