Sandwell council CEO’s no-pay-off departure raises serious questions re conduct of Watson’s local allies

Sandwell Council confirms Jan Britton resigned from £140k per year post without ‘compensation package’
Jan Britton (inset)

As the SKWAWKBOX reported yesterday Jan Britton, the chief executive officer of Sandwell Council – the borough at the heart of the Labour right’s West Midlands stronghold – resigned yesterday from his £140,000-a-year position, a week after being placed on ‘extended leave’ because of what the council termed ‘serious concerns’.

Britton was a close ally of former councillor Steve Eling, in turn a close ally of local MPs Tom Watson and John Spellar. Eling lost his position after being suspended by the Labour Party after serious complaints of bullying and other misconduct. In spite of the reported efforts of Tom Watson to derail the disciplinary proceedings, Eling’s case is now with the party’s ultimate disciplinary body for judgment.

A sign of the closeness between the two MPs and the two former council officials was seen yesterday when Spellar, in spite of the circumstances of Britton’s departure, paid tribute to the former CEO.

But the manner of Britton’s departure – it is almost unheard of for a senior council executive to resign with no pay-off – raises serious questions about what happened in Sandwell Council during his and Eling’s tenure.

One or both of the two men:

  • were accused of bullying a female council employee out of her post
  • pursued a legal case against a local blogger that fell apart when video evidence revealed that their allegations were untrue
  • were rebuked by a senior police officer for wasting the force’s time in further attempts to pursue the blogger
  • were accused of bullying a female councillor who also complained that Tom Watson made her life ‘a misery’

These are just some of the the issues that are currently publicly known. But Britton’s unusual resignation raises a number of questions:

  • what are the ‘serious concerns’ for which the council placed Britton on ‘extended leave’?
  • are Eling and other Watson allies and employees on the council also in the frame?
  • are the police involved?

In the run-up to May’s local elections, after a lengthy investigation that also involved the suspension of the Sandwell ‘local campaign forum’ that runs candidate selections, a number of local councillors failed their reselection interviews with the the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and were replaced by new candidates. The changes, along with Labour’s success in winning all of the seats up for election resulted in a new council leader and an entirely new cabinet apart from Syeda Khatun, another Watson ally who remained as deputy leader.

Watson complained at the time that the decisions were unfounded – a complaint that quickly fell apart in some of the cases involved.

The reasons for the failures were not made public. But the sudden and bizarre departure of the council’s most senior employee may not be unconnected.

Jan Britton could not be reached for comment.

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  1. There is absolutely no way a chief executive resigns from a £140k post with no pay off. Contractually the CX would be entitled to at the very least 6 months notice (that’s £70k), holiday pay for the 6 months (£2.5k) and of course pension contributions for the 6 months would also be paid (Approx £10k). A bill to the council of £80k+, at the very minimum. The only way this payment could be avoided is if the CX was sacked for gross misconduct. If the Council won’t say why he has left without in their words “a compensation package” then the current leadership of the Council are as bad as their predecessors in keeping things hidden. Not much change there then.

    1. john I would suggest he May have been paying himself off for some considerable time,The sanitized version will of course be published soon with Watson’s input to avoid any shit sticking to himself or any of the treacherous supporters.

  2. Gross misconduct it must’ve been then. And they should keep that deputy on a very short leash, given her undoubted admiration for deputy leader TWatson.

    But who was the blogger?

    1. “The Sandwell Skidder ” ! Who has attacked this council’s (alleged) corruption for years, and been pusued by the council at huge public expense to try and shut his blog up ! Enjoy his blog here :

      I too have NEVER come across a Chief Exec of a council leaving without a huge payoff no matter how incompetent or dodgy . His offence of gross misconduct must have been epic.

  3. £140k a year??!!!!
    £140 thousand pounds a year for 1 person’s salary in a local authority…. If 1 LA is paying that kind of renumeration for it’s CEO then it’s fair to guess all the others are in a similar ballpark. With other “executives” receiving comparable packages.
    Damn right he shouldn’t have collected his “golden handshake” as he’s resigned with something of a cloud hanging over him. Yes those issues should absolutely be explored and investigated fully.
    BUT the bigger issue to my mind is : thousands of SEND children are refused statutory rights and basic levels of support as set in law, by their LA’s who would rather force parents into expensive, lengthy, time consuming legal battles, that LA’s loose 9/10 to delay spending the SEND budgets, that they use to fund the expensive legal costs (oxymoron or what). Blaming funding cuts for this abuse and discrimination of vulnerable children’s access to education. Adult AND children’s social care is just as badly under funded and the other “soft targets” for bigger further cuts.
    While LA’s are paying salaries of £140k or thereabouts to CEOs and executives!!!!
    That’s our council tax footing the wages bills. Additional local taxes, paid towards local services, for local areas of need. Central government has forgotten it’s duty to fund local government (LA’s) adequately from the monies it collects from us in taxes. LA’s are also happy to forget about their duties too. Preferring to pay private sector corporate salaries to people who frankly have no justification to that kind of salary. Even less so when them getting that comes before the vulnerable in the local society being cared for.
    That is the bigger story, a part of the national crisis drowned by blasted unicorn’s peeing rainbows in the HoC for the last 3yrs!
    Parliament isn’t “logjammed” over the greatest failure of a Tory vanity project in history. Tory’s trying to save face is the problem.

  4. If there are serious concerns about an ordinary member of public sector staff he/ she is suspended and an investigation is carried out.If there is a case to answer the disciplinary process is entered into.Employers frequently refuse to accept a resignation from an employee once the disciplinary has started. This is so that they can eventually sack him/her and show that they take misconduct seriously.
    This man was not suspended but was put on extended leave. Also he has been allowed to resign. Resignation is voluntary and does not attract a compensation package. However he was not disciplined and leaves with a clear and unblemished record which will enable him to obtain equally well paid work elsewhere – these senior staff no matter how incompetent or badly behaved are never out of work for long.
    It is highly unlikely we will every find out from the council what their concerns were- some details will leak out and there will be rumours of course but that will be all.
    Mr Britton is well and truly off the hook.

  5. About the same as a Ministerial salary. No wonder there’s nothing left for the poor.
    Still only a third of what the vice-chancellors of some of our new “universities” are “earning” though.
    It’s little wonder they’ll all stop at nothing to maintain such ridiculous privilege.

    I blame City bonuses in the eighties for these inflated top salaries – I see the situation as analogous to the “differentials wars” between unions in the seventies.
    I also blame the City for so many of the country’s best young minds shunning other, more socially useful disciplines.
    Thatcher was to blame for those and so many other problems.
    If I could I’d dig her up and kill her again.

  6. Of course he might have had an honourable motive for resigning and refusing any compensation package.
    Perhaps he’s struggling to come to terms with his feeling of abject shame at having been so completely misled by “certain others” that he’s unknowingly brought dishonour on his Party and his Council?

    1. And on his family, his town, other councillors throughout the land, on politics, on his country…

    2. Unlikely. I suppose I should try and see the best in everyone. No luck, I’ll try again later. Cheers.

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