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Hillingdon LBC's chief executive has failed in a High Court bid to stop the authority taking steps that may lead to...
Hillingdon LBC's chief executive has failed in a High Court bid to stop the authority taking steps that may lead to his suspension.

In the background of the running dispute between Dorian Leatham, Hillingdon's most senior officer since 1998, and the authority is 'a history of ill feeling' between him and the council's leader, Ray Puddifoot, said judge, Mr Justice Underhill.

Mr Leatham went to court, claiming that procedural steps planned by the council which may lead to his suspension are 'unlawful' and breach essential safeguards set out in his employment contract and local authority regulations.

He sought an injunction against the council, but Mr Justice Underhill refused to intervene in the case, saying there was nothing to prevent the council suspending Mr Leatham temporarily whilst preliminary inquiries are made as to whether he has a disciplinary 'case to answer'.

Given the sensitivity of a chief executive's role, the judge said it could 'give rise to acute difficulties' if the council had no power to suspend him pending preliminary investigation.

He accepted that, if Mr Leatham is in fact suspended, some might view it as a 'stigma', but told the court that would have to be 'accepted as a misfortune'.

If Mr Leatham was able to refute the allegations against him at 'Stage 1' of the inquiry process, the judge said any suspension may in fact 'only last a few days'.

And Mr Justice Underhill stressed that the issue he had to decide was solely procedural and his ruling should not be taken as giving any indication as to whether or not Mr Leatham has a case to answer.

Andrew Stafford QC, for Mr Leatham, had told the judge that on July 28 this year - the day after he went on holiday - Hillingdon issued a press release to the effect that he was leaving the council.

That was despite the fact there had been 'no agreement for the departure of Mr Leatham', he said.

When Mr Leatham returned on August 10, he found that another officer - who was 'styled chief executive' - had booked a number of meetings in his office.

Nigel Giffin QC, for the council, said there was a 'major factual dispute about the history of dealings' between Mr Leatham and Mr Puddifoot, but it was 'common ground that the relationship between them has not always been an easy one'.

But he told the judge: 'The rights and wrongs of this history are not the subject matter of the present claim.

'This is not a wrongful dismissal case - Mr Leatham has not been dismissed and there is no suggestion that he could or would be dismissed without a formal procedure being followed through a number of stages'.

Mr Leatham had his application for an injunction against the council dismissed and was ordered to pay the action's legal costs.



Statement from Hillingdon LBC follows:

'The High Court yesterday rejected an attempt by DorianLeatham, chief executive of the London Borough of Hillingdon to obtain an injunction to prevent him from being suspended.

The court also refused to grant him an injunction to stop the council's investigating and disciplinary procedures from progressing.

The judge ordered that Mr Leatham pay the council's full legal costs.

The council's due process can now continue and a meeting of the investigating and disciplinary committee will now be called.

They will consider employment matters in relation to Mr Leatham and can consider the possibility of suspension should they decide that it may be inappropriate for the him to carry out his duties whilst the committee considers these matters.'

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