Hadleigh councillor admits prejudice against former soldiers in job interview

  Posted: 15.04.21 at 12:05 by Derek Davis

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Hadleigh councillor Carol Schleip has admitted being prejudiced against a former soldier who was being interviewed for the role as the council's town council manager.

The admissions were revealed when a whistleblower made details of the comments available after a video recording of the meeting was circulated. Concern that wrongdoing, namely discrimination against an ex-serviceman, had taken place and revealing the details was in the public interest.

Hadleigh has a strong connection with the military, a thriving Royal British Legion club and will this year will host Armed Forces Day in June, which was held over from last year due to the pandemic restrictions.

The applicant, who we will identify only as Mr A, was described as 'having some interesting experiences through his life' after he told the staffing committee about some of his managerial and administrative roles during his lengthy service in the military, he had worked on a large number of international projects, including leading a team during an epidemic in Africa.

Ex soldier Mr A, who has lived in the Hadleigh area for more the 20 years, had also worked at the MOD and RAF Wattisham and as an experienced manager within the NHS for a number of years after leaving the armed forces.

"I have to admit to having a terrible prejudice," said Cllr Schleip. "Tendring had a lot of people who used to retire from the army and work for the council and some of them I spent a year trying to get rid of them. And I had one officer who worked for me who was absolutely brilliant for about five years and then became an absolute nightmare. So I have had experience of ex military and some of them can be bit jobsworth."

Cllr Beggerow defended MR A and pointed out he was not fresh out of the army. He said: I get the impression he is good people person and strong on his HR. He is also prepared to give references.

But Cllr Shleip added: "I had an assistant head of service who was ex army and I'm very open-minded but it doesn't always work out due to the transition. I will admit to my prejudice, even though I thought he (Mr A) was a good candidate."

Former councillor Angela Gregg said Mr A was an excellent candidate. Cllr Beggerow added he found Mr A very impressive. Cllr Gavin Talbot was the fourth member of the staffing sub committee.

The panel Interviewed another candidate the following week but it was decided by 3:1, with the three Hadleigh Together councillors voting to appoint Cheryl Tye, who had been acting town manager since last August when the former manager Andy McMillan left the council.

Concerned councillors called for the matter to be looked into to ascertain if prejudice had taken place but a motion to hold an investigation was defeated. Three Hadleigh Together councillors, including Cllrs Schleip and Beggerow, along with Cllr Minns voted against, while three independent councillors, Andrew Knock, Gordon McLeod and Gregg voted for, but Cllr Minns used his casting vote as chairman to quash the motion.

The council's staffing committee has subsequently been disbanded, with the expectation that a new committee will be formed following the May 6 elections when six new councillors will be elected to take the council up to its full complement.

Hadleigh's town council has now also signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, which among other things, offers serving and former personnel support and protection from discrimination.

Advice was sought from Babergh's monitoring office, and it was concluded an investigation would be a waste of public money.

It doesn't appear clear that any of the applicants were aware the interviews were being recorded, as no verbal confirmation had been given. It is not known who has shared the recording of the Zoom meeting or who posted out a memory stick containing the recording.

Cllr Schleip was given the opportunity to comment but has declined.

Town mayor Cllr Frank Minns was asked to comment on behalf of the council but said he did not believe the material should have been made public and declined to comment further.

*Although the meeting was confidential, English law and the Human Rights Act protects whistleblowers and journalists when certain criteria is met.

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