Whistleblowing allegations against North Somerset Council dismissed

PUBLISHED: 16:15 15 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:19 15 May 2018

Weston Town Hall, where North Somerset Council is based.

Weston Town Hall, where North Somerset Council is based.

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An employment tribunal has rejected a former North Somerset Council employee’s allegation she was sacked because she spoke out about child sexual exploitation.

The Mercury has previously reported how Maggie Siviter, a former safeguarding lead, was suing the authority for £1.4million for breach of contract. The claim has been dismissed.

She was sacked by the council after committing a ‘significant data protection breach’.

Ms Siviter argued her job should have been protected under whistleblowing rules.

However, an employment tribunal yesterday (Monday) ruled the council took the disclosures seriously, and dealt with them objectively.

The tribunal found Ms Siviter convinced herself she had uncovered a Rotherham-style child sexual exploitation case.

The ruling says when her contract was not renewed, she believed there had been collusion among senior employees at the council to dismiss her and suppress the facts.

The council said Ms Siviter ‘made a series of serious allegations regarding the council’s handling of a wide range of children’s safeguarding matters – all of which were found to be unsubstantiated’.

Its spokesman said: “The tribunal also found that Ms Siviter ignored the obvious deficiencies in what she was saying and doing and ignored the opinions of her colleagues which highlighted those deficiencies.

“It said that she failed to exercise proper professional judgment in reaching conclusions and was blinded to other explanations.

“Nonetheless the tribunal considered her views were treated with objective assessment by others including the director and assistant director of children’s services at the council.”

It was found the council took disclosures seriously, and carried out independent and thorough investigations.

Sheila Smith, director of people and communities at the council and responsible for children’s services said: “We always have and always will take our safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously.

“While we will always welcome and encourage anyone with concerns about our handling of safeguarding matters to raise them with us, we want to make it clear that it was only when Ms Siviter was dismissed from the council that she made her serious (and unfounded) allegations.

“Defending this case has cost the taxpayer over £200,000 and years of our officers’ time.

“These monies could have been better used in delivering much needed services to children and families.

“We are pleased that we can now put this matter behind us and return our full attention to serving the children and adults of North Somerset.”

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