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Ex-county supremo to carry out Threshold review
A REVIEW of Threshold Housing Link’s dealings with two whistleblowers will be carried out by retired Wiltshire Council chief executive Keith Robinson.
Street outreach workers Tony Niester and James Derieg were suspended after going public to allege problems with conflicts of interest, financial arrangements and governance.
These were strenuously denied by the homeless charity, with chairman of trustees Trevor Davies accusing the pair of a witch-hunt against chief executive officer Cher Sawyer-Smith.
The independent review has been instigated by South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, the charity’s patron, and Swindon Council chief executive Gavin Jones.
However the inquiry will focus on how the workers’ complaints were originally handled by the trustees, rather than the wider substance of their claims.
It had been hoped by the pair, and their supporters among the staff and the membership, that the review would have taken a wider focus to consider the substance of their claims.
However, Mr Robinson, left, is understood not to be planning to re-interview anyone who took part in the original process, which was conducted by Mr Davies.
The examination of how the charity handled the workers’ grievances through its internal whistleblowing procedure is expected to be concluded in weeks.
Mr Robinson left his post after 14 years in 2009, having been instrumental in the creation of a unitary authority for Wiltshire when four district councils merged.
However, he attracted criticism over his final payout, a package of £484,832, which included £138,758 of his salary and £322,648 as compensation for the loss of office.
Chippenham MP Duncan Hames told the House of Commons in October 2010 that he was shocked by the substantial award of taxpayers’ cash. The following year Mr Robinson became a board advisor to Charteris, a business and IT consultancy which had helped with the merger.
Mr Niester, 39, and Mr Derieg, 49, who spoke out in the Adver in June, have had their disciplinary process postponed until the completion of the review.
Mr Buckland said: “Mr Robinson has already started work. From my viewpoint he’s someone who’s independent and experienced in public service and can provide an objective view to the proceedings.
“He is also carrying out the review for free so the charity will not have to pay for his work. “How Mr Robinson conducts the review, and how wide it should be, is a matter for him.
“I don’t pretend this will solve everything as there will still be outstanding employment issues but I am glad he has come in at no extra cost.”
Mrs Sawyer-Smith added: “Keith Robinson was commissioned by our trustees and we have every confidence in his ability to carry out a review of Threshold’s activities. We are offering him every assistance and look forward to receiving his report.”