MORE than 100 council workers have been dismissed in the past three years on disciplinary grounds, The Argus can reveal.

Council staff across Sussex have been sacked for a range of serious misdemeanours including failing to take care of a child, bullying, being drunk at work and theft.

Almost all of these staff members have been removed secretly and out of the public eye - and even after Freedom of Information requests from this newspaper, some councils refused to release information on reasons for staff sackings or even their job role in order to protect their identity.

This is in sharp contrast to police officers whose disciplinary hearings and outcomes are now heard in and made public.

The discrepancy has led to calls for greater transparency from local authorities on their staff’s wrongdoing.

Brighton and Hove City Council had the highest number of removed staff with 40 between the start of 2013 and March this year although the authority was unable to provide reasons for dismissals because it was not recorded on their systems.

West Sussex County Council said 14 members of staff had been dismissed for misconduct over three years for a range of issues including bullying and harassment, fraud, bringing the council into disrepute and a criminal conviction for theft.

Four of these members of staff were dismissed for failing to take proper care of a child or adult.

East Sussex County Council provided the most comprehensive detail for the 22 staff it had removed including full job titles and brief reasons for dismissal.

Workmen, teaching assistants, social workers and even a school crossing patrol were removed over safeguarding concerns, inappropriate behaviour and misconduct.

Eastbourne Borough Council dismissed four workers, Crawley Borough Council three workers plus two more at Crawley Homes, Chichester District Council 11, Mid Sussex four and Hastings Borough Council one worker.

Commenting on the discrepancy between how the police force deals with disciplinary outcomes compared to local authorities, Hove MP Peter Kyle said: "In any council matter, officials should be actively looking to drive for maximum transparency, not the least."

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said its policies with staff disciplinary procedures were consistent with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and Data Protection Act obligations.

The spokesman added: “Decisions on whether other parties are informed of the dismissal of a member of staff are taken on a case by case basis and in line with legal requirements.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Staff disciplinary matters are normally confidential and not something we would seek to bring into the public domain unless there was a particularly compelling reason to do so.

“If issues come to light as a result of disciplinary proceedings which have implications for other parties, we may consider disclosing this information to them where appropriate, but each case is considered on its merits.”

A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman said: “Unlike the police, there is no legislation requiring local authority dismissal hearings to be open to the public.

“Our employees have a reasonable expectation that information relating to any disciplinary process will remain confidential.”


THE misdemeanours and indiscretions of disgraced police officers Lee Lyons, Paul Revell, Sarah Hosking, Forrest Knight and Mark Scruby are recorded on the internet in great detail.

Any prospective future employer or partner can scour news sites and even Sussex Police’s own website to learn more about the former coppers’ behaviour.

Under regulations brought in by Home Secretary Theresa May last year, police disciplinary hearings are now held in public, while Sussex Police publish dates of hearing and comprehensive results.

But for the 101 council staff who committed similar, and in some instances more serious, offences they are able to skulk out of county hall through the back door and away from the glare of publicity.

Only when staff are part of a regulated industry, such as social workers or teachers, might their misdemeanours come to light during a regulatory body hearing.

Hove MP Peter Kyle has called for greater transparency from councils and said that while privacy issues had to be considered, they should not be “barriers” to taxpayers being kept informed about their local authority.

He said: “In any council matter, officials should be actively looking to drive for maximum transparency, not the least.

“When it comes to staff dismissals it seems there is more scope for information to be provided to local taxpayers to enable them to scrutinise council activity.

“This is a complex area involving individual privacy and also an employer that needs to compete with other sectors to attract talent.

“We must be mindful that other sectors, private and charitable, also delivery statutory services to children and young people.

“There are all factors to be considered, not barriers to keeping the public informed.”

Matt Webb, Sussex Police Federation chairman, said he thought the current system is unfair to police officers.

He said: “We do think that the pendulum has swung too far and we have confused the divide between transparency and publicity.

“The issuing of press releases about who has crossed the line is quite open but the bottom line is that for most other public organisations it would remain an internal employment matter.

“With a public hearing, there is a danger of it becoming like the old-fashioned stocks where all sorts of issues can get dragged up.

“People might have crossed the line but they have still got to find another career and earn money, which is made difficult when any potential employer just searches for them in Google.”

As well as a huge discrepancy in how police and council staff individuals are treated, the current contrast inequity also means that police forces suffer far greater reputational damage because of their transparency than councils.

Mr Webb said: “It can be seen in two ways. Some people will always say ‘here we go again, another police officer who is not able to behave themselves’.

“But the other way to see it is that the officer dismissed has been found out by the force, the force has identified the problem and has dealt with it to remove that culprit from service.

“We understand that there are changes to Theresa May’s regulations but I don’t think they will remove public hearings at the same time; I think public hearings are here to stay.”