A COUNCIL officer was unfairly dismissed for his part in a parking contract debacle, an employment judge has ruled.

Cliff Harrison was fired by Worthing Borough Council in 2013 for his involvement in the cancelling of a decade-long NCP contract.

A breach of contract dispute which followed led to the council paying the company an out of court settlement said to be around £700,000.

However an employment tribunal at Southampton Magistrates’ Court found Mr Harrison, the council’s head of technical services at the time, was unfairly dismissed.

The judge found while Mr Harrison’s “negligence” led to his dismissal, his sacking was not a “reasonable” step by a “reasonable” organisation.

Employment judge Craft also criticised the council for the “unsatisfactory investigation” carried out and disciplinary procedures which could have “potentially undermined” the appeal process.

The judge said Mr Harrison had to take some responsibility for the “serious consequences” and that any compensation paid to him should be reduced by 50%.

The matter relates to the cutting short of the council’s parking contract with NCP.

Officers called off the deal in favour of bringing parking services back in-house. They said NCP’s prices had a detrimental impact on Worthing’s economy.

NCP bosses hit back by launching a £1 million breach of contract case, which was settled out of court last year.

Adur and Worthing councils said it was “disappointed” by the ruling.

A spokesman accepted there were “systematic weaknesses” six years ago.

He said: “Since 2009, we have substantially improved our processes, including new checks on contract signing procedures following an internal audit report. “Additionally there has been a change of officer leadership at the council. The council is confident that a situation such as this should never be repeated.”

Mr Harrison was unavailable for comment. Any compensation will be decided at a remedy hearing on April 8.