Standards Board investigates bid to sack BNP care worker
Following civil liberties group Liberty and Law reporting a senior Leeds councillor to the Standards Board for England over a campaign to dismiss a BNP care worker from her job because of her party affiliation the watchdog has confirmed [19 April] that it is holding an investigation under Section 58 of the Local Government Act 2000 by referring it to an Ethical Standards Officer.
Liberty and Law had asked the Board to investigate whether Councillor Keith Wakefield the leader of the Labour group failed in his duty to:(a) promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person;(b) treat others with respect; and(c) not do anything which compromises or which is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, the authority as required by the Board’s code of practice.
Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup explained: “The BNP is an extremely unpleasant political party whose views are rejected by the vast majority of British people. It is however a lawful political party which people are entitled to join, stand for in elections and to vote for under our system of democracy. It is appropriate to condemn their policies and their actions and to challenge these as forcefully as necessary to ensure they remain marginal to British political life.
“BNP supporters however have the same rights to protection from harassment as the most upstanding and meritorious citizens amongst us. Among these rights are the same rights to employment as everyone else in the absence of any evidence that they present a threat to the people they work with or work for. To attempt remove those rights in the absence of a clear and present danger is an affront to freedom both theirs and ours.”
The case involves care worker, Mrs Julie Day who works for a company providing community care to Leeds City Council. Mrs Day is a BNP activist who is standing for election in the Leeds West constituency. As a result of complaints about her employment with Allied Healthcare, the parent company of Yorkshire Careline, which provides services for Leeds City Council, a special audit of her work was carried out. Leeds Council's executive board member for social services Cllr Peter Harrand told the Yorkshire Post Today: ”As we requested, Allied Healthcare sent out questionnaires to all the service users and they are content with the service they are receiving. There have been no complaints - everybody is satisfied with the service they have received from this lady. Until there is anything to the contrary, things will continue as they are. On that basis, we will not be taking any further action."
There appears to have been no justification whatsoever for the extraordinary audit of Mrs Day’s work other than her association with the British National Party. Mrs Day claims to have been doing this work and similar work for sixteen years. However, even after the audit found a positive response to the work of this woman Councillor Keith Wakefield the leader of the Labour Party opposition group is quoted in Yorkshire Post Today [electronic version 18 March] stating, "I am very disappointed, indeed angry that the ruling administration does not appear to have taken this issue very seriously. As I have said before, I have grave concerns that someone with such extreme political views is working with some of the most vulnerable members of society. Surely, if the individual concerned is not in the direct employment of the council, discussions could have been held with the agency to find her a less frontline role. I will be raising this matter with the leader of the council as a matter of urgency."
Liberty and Law believes that Cllr Wakefield’s intervention could possibly allow Mrs Day’s employer to sack her on grounds similar to that used to sack Bradford BNP councillor Arthur Redfearn who was legally sacked by West Yorkshire Transport Services on health and safety grounds. The company argued successfully that it feared there might be attacks on its buses or on Cllr Redfearn himself once the association with the far-right party was known.
In an earlier report [10 May Yorkshire Post Today electronic version] Cllr Wakefield is reported as “shocked that Mrs Day was working on a Leeds City Council contract and demanded every pressure was put on the company to end her employment.” He is quoted in the article as saying, "I have very strong reservations about this. If she's working in the care area with her political views I would want council officers to look at the contract to see if there is something we can do to make sure people like this are not employed. I find it staggering she's working in care with her political views. I want every pressure to be put on this company as it is totally inappropriate that someone responsible for care in the community should employ someone who has those kind of views towards different races and ethnic groups."
Liberty and Law believes Cllr Wakefield’s continued intervention in her employment with the publicity that has resulted puts Mrs Day’s continued employment and her personal safety at risk and that his action may constitute unlawful harassment of this woman.
The Standards Board is satisfied that the allegation falls within its legal jurisdiction and considers the matter should be investigated. This does not mean that the allegation is necessarily true. The Board aims to complete 90% of investigations withing six months.
Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup prevented the use of a colour bar in the appointment of a curator at Bristol art gallery Arnolfini in 2004, advising the Commission for Racial Equality on the correct application of the law. The Arnolfini experience helped the CRE revise its advice to companies contained in its magazine Connexions.·
He initiated the prosecution of Cheltenham racist Bill Galbraith in 1990 over his harassment of black parliamentary candidate John [subsequently Lord] Taylor.·
The website www.libertyandlawjournal.blogspot.com is a vital resource for journalists dealing with race relations in the United Kingdom.
Yorkshire Post Today linkshttp://www.ypn.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=55&ArticleID=967084http://www.ypn.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=55&ArticleID=974980