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PRESS RELEASE - Collins Solicitors issues proceedings for client against Corby Borough Council due to harassment following whistleblowing

Steven Redfern v Corby Borough Council

A senior officer and whistleblower at Corby Borough Council (CBC) has issued a claim for substantial damages for psychiatric injury at the High Court against CBC, after being hospitalised in 2011 owing to self harm and a diagnosis of predisposition to suicide.

Steven Redfern, Head of Corby Borough Property, claims he was subjected to bullying and harassment after bringing to light a number of serious financial irregularities including the sale of land at St. James in Corby and highlighting the causes of the Council’s overspend in the building of Corby’s new Civic Centre.

Mr. Redfern was hospitalised after self harming in November 2012, and has been unable to work since. He still suffers with severe anxiety with depressive symptoms which he claims are caused by harassment and bullying from the Council’s current and former Chief Executives, senior officers and politicians including the leader of the Council and through working in an environment that was characterised by fear and financial impropriety.

Des Collins, Senior Partner of Collins Solicitors, representing Mr. Redfern commented: “These are very serious allegations against Corby Borough Council. It is only right that they should be examined fully in the High Court through the proper judicial process.”

Background to the case:

The complaints relate to conduct which took place over the course of four years. Mr. Redfern claims he was forced by the former Chief Executive of CBC, Chris Mallender – who left the Council in January 2013 – to process sales of Council land which he considered to be unlawful. Mr. Redfern says he was intimidated, fearing dismissal or disciplinary action if he did not comply. Mr. Redfern repeatedly raised concerns about the financial propriety of the deals, and finally whistleblew in October 2011.

Mr. Redfern was the subject of criticism and, he says, further harassment by senior officers and Councillors following the publication of the Cube Scrutiny Review. This report was prepared by a working group led by Mr. Redfern to investigate how and why the cost of building the Council’s Civic Centre – the Corby Cube – had grown to some £12 million over budget.

The Review found that “alleged intimidation of senior officers was” one of the main causes of the overspend, together with failings by politicians and officers. On publication of the report, the probity of the working group was openly criticised by senior Councillors, including Council Leader Cllr Tom Beattie and former Deputy Leader Cllr Mark Pengelly.

Further, in June 2013 the Audit Commission found that the sale of land at St. James may have cost the Corby Tax Payer as much as £9.5 million. It also made findings which endorsed those of the Cube Scrutiny Review. This led to Cllr Beattie accepting that ‘there was clearly a lack of oversight by elected members, weak project management procedures and a culture in which officers were fearful of questioning or drawing attention to practices which fall well short of the standards our residents expect of Corby Council.’

The claims made by Mr. Redfern also relate to complaints of bullying by the former Chief Executive of CBC, Mr. Mallender in October 2011. However, over two years later, Mr. Redfern’s grievance against him remains unresolved. Following the departure of Mr. Mallender, the Council began investigations into Mr. Redfern’s conduct, led by current Chief Executive Norman Stronach, relating to allegations of misconduct. Despite being notified of his deteriorating mental health, Mr Stronach’s investigations were intensified rather than stayed, and Mr. Redfern was hospitalised in November 2012 following self harming.

Collins Solicitors, which successfully brought a landmark action for child birth defects caused by toxic waste against Corby Borough Council in 2009, has been instructed by Mr. Redfern in his claim for psychiatric injury. Corby Borough Council failed to provide an adequate response to Mr. Redfern’s letter of Claim, sent in June 2013, and so Mr. Redfern had no option but to issue his claim on 12th December 2013.

For further information:

Des Collins, Senior Partner, Collins Solicitors, 01923 223 324, dcollins@collinslaw.co.uk

Will Hulbert, PR consultant, 01263 576 564 will@hulbertandco.com