Scilly Council’s controversial Chief Executive called in for secret chat

October 23, 2012 12:24 PM

The latest twist in the Isles of Scilly Council saga has chief executive Philip Hygate being called before its Policy and Resources Committee on 30th October to discuss his recent conduct, or ‘employment issues’ as they prefer to call it. But islanders will be disappointed that this meeting, which will hopefully touch upon accusations of ‘secrecy and poor government’, will be held in secret—owing to the ‘confidential nature’ of the topic to be discussed.

Among some of the ‘employment issues’ to be discussed may be Mr Hygate’s claim for 100 days of unused holiday over a period of 15 years, amounting to a sum of £40,000. Before a meeting last month to discuss this, the chief executive said there was ‘nothing sinister or strange’ about his demand. ‘You can actually view it as a great sense of loyalty to an organisation which, when I came, was in considerable difficulty. I was loyal enough to stay at my post and get the council through those issues.’ The Council saw it differently and refused his claim for back leave, saying its policy is to carry over only five days unused holiday from a previous year—not 100.

It was also last month that Mr Hygate was compelled to answer questions about the nature of his rule, as some islanders claim to have been living in a ‘climate of fear.’ Locals, on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that they ‘fear losing council contacts or jobs if they disagree’ with the chief executive. Home to 2,200 islanders, the Council employs ten percent of the population. ‘I think some these fears are, frankly, unfounded, particularly in terms of my ability to do these things,’ responded Hygate. ‘I just don't have the power that some people assert that I do have.’

Concerns over his management style focused on his suspension of the head teacher of Five Islands School over alleged financial irregularities. This process had begun before even the school governors were informed of any problems. The Council has now re-opened its investigation into this case, as it had previously closed it without the head teacher giving any evidence. They had claimed this was because he didn’t respond, but the head teacher was baffled by this, saying: ‘I am greatly puzzled by the assertion that I was previously unavailable for interview as I have emails and phone logs that prove otherwise.’ He added that he had only heard about the re-opening of the Council investigation ‘via the press rather than my employer’.

Last month, Hygate narrowly survived a vote allowing him to retain his position as Monitoring Officer, a post entrusted with ensuring the lawfulness and fairness of the Council. Local members of the Heart of Scilly action group wondered at his ability to carry out both roles. A councillor said it was like the ‘captain of the team also being the referee.’ The Isles of Scilly is the only local authority where the chief executive is also Monitoring Officer—it’s illegal in all other local authorities.

Islanders can only hope that the subjects of Scilly Council’s governance, communication and transparency will be among many discussed at the secret meeting at the end of this month. We’ll see…The latest twist in the Isles of Scilly Council saga has chief executive Philip Hygate being called before its Policy and Resources Committee on 30th October to discuss his recent conduct, or ‘employment issues’ as they prefer to call it. But islanders will be disappointed that this meeting, which will hopefully touch upon accusations of ‘secrecy and poor government’, will be held in secret—owing to the ‘confidential nature’ of the topic to be discussed.

Among some of the ‘employment issues’ to be discussed may be Mr Hygate’s claim for 100 days of unused holiday over a period of 15 years, amounting to a sum of £40,000. Before a meeting last month to discuss this, the chief executive said there was ‘nothing sinister or strange’ about his demand. ‘You can actually view it as a great sense of loyalty to an organisation which, when I came, was in considerable difficulty. I was loyal enough to stay at my post and get the council through those issues.’ The Council saw it differently and refused his claim for back leave, saying its policy is to carry over only five days unused holiday from a previous year—not 100.

It was also last month that Mr Hygate was compelled to answer questions about the nature of his rule, as some islanders claim to have been living in a ‘climate of fear.’ Locals, on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that they ‘fear losing council contacts or jobs if they disagree’ with the chief executive. Home to 2,200 islanders, the Council employs ten percent of the population. ‘I think some these fears are, frankly, unfounded, particularly in terms of my ability to do these things,’ responded Hygate. ‘I just don't have the power that some people assert that I do have.’

Concerns over his management style focused on his suspension of the head teacher of Five Islands School over alleged financial irregularities. This process had begun before even the school governors were informed of any problems. The Council has now re-opened its investigation into this case, as it had previously closed it without the head teacher giving any evidence. They had claimed this was because he didn’t respond, but the head teacher was baffled by this, saying: ‘I am greatly puzzled by the assertion that I was previously unavailable for interview as I have emails and phone logs that prove otherwise.’ He added that he had only heard about the re-opening of the Council investigation ‘via the press rather than my employer’.

Last month, Hygate narrowly survived a vote allowing him to retain his position as Monitoring Officer, a post entrusted with ensuring the lawfulness and fairness of the Council. Local members of the Heart of Scilly action group wondered at his ability to carry out both roles. A councillor said it was like the ‘captain of the team also being the referee.’ The Isles of Scilly is the only local authority where the chief executive is also Monitoring Officer—it’s illegal in all other local authorities.

Islanders can only hope that the subjects of Scilly Council’s governance, communication and transparency will be among many discussed at the secret meeting at the end of this month. We’ll see…

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