Cllr. Luke Giles, bumbling trade unionist, has written a letter. Or, to be more accurate, has had a letter written for him and current Labour Sandwell councillor malcontents to sign.

The signatories, of course, include former members of the Eling council cabinet; Hackett, Peter Hughes, Preece, Trow, Khatun, Shackleton and Costigan. All sacked and replaced under the Yvonne Davies regime, thousands of pounds worse off and bursting with goodwill towards the present Labour administration in Sandwell.

The letter is the latest shot in Sandwell Labour’s civil war. Ironically, while boasting “an obligation to be able to set aside any political differences, to maintain our unity and mutual respect” it displays disunity, hostility and a scarcely veiled threat of union power. More, while stressing the need for “transparency openness and integrity” it demands that another Sandwell council potential scandal be swept, at least temporarily, under the carpet.

The letter is addressed to council leader, Yvonne Davies and to David Stevens, Sandwell’s new chief executive.

Properly praising the council workforce for their efforts in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, it goes on more doubtfully to extol the “stability and focus and ….leadership of experienced managers” and the “crucial role being played by the Unions”

Front line workers risk coronavirus infection and possible fatal consequences; no trade union has ever occupied an intensive care bed. Workers are distinct from the bodies that claim to represent them. The letter has all the self- righteous cant of a shop steward, though one more literate than the lumbering Luke, and blurs this distinction. Unions are congratulated for what individuals have done and are doing.

Where is this all leading? The crux comes in page 3 after all the backslapping verbage. The letter demands an assurance that “any disciplinary investigations or decisions that relate to issues or events that pre-date and are not related to the coronavirus crisis have been, or will be immediately suspended and set aside”.

There are outstanding complaints against at least two of the signatories of the letter. Protected in return for their support under the Eling regime, they may now feel at risk. More recently a very senior manager at the council was suspended. It’s understood that he is a member of Unison.

Reference is made in the Giles letter to a letter written by a Unison official to West Midlands public bodies asking them to “set aside …usual staffing matters....and staff relations issues” The Unison letter refers to an unnamed public sector employer which “astonishingly” is taking a different line and a “massively damaging disciplinary process against a very senior manager”. The implication is that the unnamed body is Sandwell council.  

Fighting the scourge of coronavirus must be priority. The Giles letter does not suggest any ongoing disciplinary investigation is hampering that fight. Instead it smacks of special pleading,

Coronavirus must not be used as an excuse for not investigating legitimate complaints against Sandwell councillors and/or officials no matter how exalted. The councillors involved should remember the Eling mantra that suspension is a neutral act. In cases under his regime it usually gave a breathing space for agreement of compensation, (at public expense) with a nondisclosure clause to silence the departing employee. Whether history repeats itself, we have yet to see. There are signs that the Yvonne Davies regime will not sweep misdeeds under the carpet. That may be concerning the letter signatories, particularly if Davies sweeps as selectively as Eling did.

There has been a lot rotten in the state of Labour Sandwell for a considerable time. Councillors opposed to its investigation and the disciplining of offenders do the public a disservice.

It’s right therefor that Sandwell’s electors know the names of those behind the letter. We understand that, now, some of the signatories are claiming that they were bamboozled or misled into signing. If they will let us know, we will be happy to print their excuses.

Luke Giles       Bob Piper         Ann Jaron        Kerrie Carmichael       Elaine Giles

Elizabeth Giles   Sue Phillips   Liam Preece   Ann Shackleton   Simon Hackett

Steve Melia    Ann Jarvis         John Edwards   Kay Millar   Paul Moore

Paul Sandars   Steve Trow   Suzanne Hartwell   Jenny Chidley   Susan Eaves

Mohammed Yaseen Hussain   Syeda Khatun   Elaine Costigan   Pete Hughes               

Pam Hughes   Laura Rollins