More than 5,000 Doncaster Council staff could be balloted for industrial action over the suspension of Unison branch secretary Jim Board.
Board, a reintegration officer in children’s services, was suspended for speaking to Channel 4 News about the case of two brothers in care who attacked another two children.
Council chiefs accused him of a “failure to observe a reasonable management instruction”, after children’s services staff had been told not to speak to the press in case they prejudiced the boys’ trial.
However, Board spoke to Channel 4 News after the boys, aged 10 and 12, had pleaded guilty at Sheffield Crown Court on 3 September to causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
Suspension ‘politically motivated’
Unison instead claims Board’s suspension is politically motivated. A spokesperson for its Doncaster branch said Board was suspended on the same day that Doncaster’s mayor, Peter Davies, had promoted an alternative trade union, Workers of England, which is linked with his English Democrats Party.
The Doncaster branch has received approval from Unison’s Yorkshire and Humberside regional office to ballot for industrial action, and will hold two mass meetings with members tomorrow (17 September), the same day Board faces a council disciplinary interview.
The attack by the boys in Edlington, near Doncaster, received widespread publicity after details emerged of the severity of their assault.
Victim of attack almost died
The older victim, aged 11, almost died when a section of a sink was smashed on his head.
The attackers had been placed with foster parents in Edlington only three weeks before the incident. They had previously been involved in violence and were known to police.
An independent inquiry is looking at why Doncaster’s children’s services failed to heed warnings that the brothers were out of control.
Ongoing problems at Doncaster
Doncaster’s safeguarding performance has already been criticised in a number of serious case reviews, its annual performance assessment last year by Ofsted and in a review this year by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
These prompted children’s secretary Ed Balls to appoint an external board to scrutinise progress and order Doncaster to appoint a new senior management team to improve services.
Doncaster said it was unable to comment on an individual case and declined to comment on the possibility of industrial action.