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Bonkers Blog June 2013

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18 June (Part 1) - Death by council cuts

I imagine that some of Bexley council’s staff are unhappy with the way their employer handled the aftermath of the death of Barbara Baker who subscribed to the council’s emergency call pendant scheme known as BELL, as a bit more information has drifted my way.

It would appear that both the CCTV surveillance team and the BELL operators used to be in the Civic Centre occupying rooms either side of a corridor. Staffing levels were minimal and overnight one would look out for the other should there be a need to visit the toilet or the kitchen. When it was proposed that Siemens take over and move out with the CCTV equipment, staff pointed out that it would be necessary for Bexley council to schedule a second BELL operator through the night to cover absences and, I would have thought, the not impossible scenario of someone falling asleep in the early hours.

Bexley’s management argued otherwise and any members of staff who put their case more forcibly found themselves in various forms of hot water. That seems to be the way of Bexley council, I’ve seen it before in cases I have not yet obtained permission to publish.

On the fateful day, or rather night; the emergency call came through just after 1 a.m., a new operator was on duty and his training is said to have been incomplete or otherwise inadequate. To avoid a lengthy description every time he is mentioned in future I am going to call him Andy. For reasons that are not yet fully apparent, the computer system went into a sort of stand-by mode when Mrs. Baker’s call was not immediately answered. Andy was not sufficiently experienced to recognise the symptoms and it was five hours before he took any remedial steps - by which time the unfortunate lady was dead.

When the manager came in later in the morning, Andy was immediately sacked for switching the system effectively off. Others said that he could not have done that (no permissions on the computer) but, it is alleged, the manager was in panic mode and wouldn’t listen to reason. Is instant dismissal legal?

It has been suggested that the system engineer examined the server logs which showed exactly what happened and they proved that Andy could not have committed the operational error for which he was dismissed - although I suppose he could simply have fallen asleep. But no one has suggested that.

Maybe Bexley council was concerned the logs might be incriminating because lockers, cupboards and desk drawers were searched (even locked ones with no staff in attendance) in an effort to secure all copies of the server logs and one or more were taken away and never seen again. Destroyed presumably, making ultimate proof of any Bexley council cover up difficult to obtain. Maybe something else will turn up.


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