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Dispute over groundskeeper

By Shepton Mallet Journal  |  Posted: December 12, 2013

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NEITHER side in the row over the dismissal of disabled Shepton groundskeeper Daniel White will agree whose responsibility he is.

The boss of the Landscape Group places the duty of care firmly at the door of Shepton Mallet Town Council, claiming they discussed the contract but were not told about the special arrangements for employing Daniel.

But the town council says it has not spoken to Landscape about the contract.

Nick Temple-Heald, CEO of Landscape Group, said: "Shepton Mallet Town Council is being completely disingenuous.

"It has said the reason why he is being made redundant is because we couldn't find him a place in the Mendip contract, but he's never been part of the Mendip contract.

"The only place he can work is Collett Park. He lives near the park and now walks to work.

"At Collett Park there is a wall around him and someone there who can look after him.

"The council have known that the decision to only have two people, and not Daniel, was made by Shepton Mallet Town Council just over 12 months ago.

"This is about budget cuts in Shepton Mallet, they say they can no longer afford to have Daniel.

"We are on Daniel's side on this. We would love Shepton Mallet to come up with the right decision.

"They stopped paying him on November 1, 2012, and we have paid him since.

"We have paid for his care during the day – having someone with him.

"We got medical advice and an occupational therapist – we paid for all that trying to find him something else to do.

"Shepton Mallet Town Council has not put in a penny for Daniel.

"They gave us a budget and we gave the solution of a town ranger and apprentice.

"At that point we didn't know anything about Daniel. We said 'this is what you need' and they said 'that's exactly right'.

"It's inconceivable officers and members didn't know about Daniel and that impact on the decision.

"We have had some vile abuse – had people in tears, had threats of violence – all because Shepton Mallet Town Council are not standing by their decision."

But the town council rejected Mr Temple-Heald's account of events, saying his company should have contacted the former contractor Quadron about all employees that had to be transferred.

In a statement, the council said: "Daniel White has never been employed by Shepton Mallet Town Council and the town council did not make any direct contract with the Landscape Group.

"Work for the town council was to be a part of the contract with Mendip District Council; the town council stipulated the areas to be maintained and the money available, but it was for the contractor to find the solution; no details were given about any employees because the town council had no employment information about any sub-contractors employees.

"The town council did not have any details or knowledge of any individual's personal circumstances. As a courtesy the Landscape Group was informed and agreed that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) might apply. It was for the Landscape Group to enquire about those employees from the previous employer.

"The contract was awarded to the Landscape Group by Mendip District Council, and not by Shepton Mallet Town Council."

Meanwhile Fred Davis, who was a grounds contractor until 2002 has solved the mystery of why Daniel believes he has been employed by the council since the late 1980s.

Fred says: "Each approach to the council appears to have brought the reply: 'We have no records regarding Daniel.' The reason that the council can find no record is because, there aren't any.

"Daniel worked with me for some 14 years, under the umbrella of the Shaw Trust who contributed towards his wages.

"When retiring I spoke to the winning contractor who readily agreed to employ Daniel – not because of his disability – but because of his ability. Do the sums and you will find Daniel was in continuous employment at the park for 25 years, not the 11 that has been quoted."

Mendip District Council says it is looking into the matter.

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