Tory leaders of Bicester Town Council have been exposed for failing to stop mismanagement by the Chief Officer they appointed.
In 2016, Tory councillors led by Richard Mould and Lynn Pratt appointed Sam Shippen as the most senior full-time officer at the Council. Ms Shippen had been previously fired from her role as clerk at Seaford Town Council for gross misconduct in 2014 and Bicester’s councillors failed to take up a reference from her former employer.
The Lib Dems asked questions about the management of BTC under Ms Shippen and learnt that sick days rocketed and staff were paid to leave quietly. From 2017-2021, there were 641 sick days, compared to 110 from 2012-2016. In the same period, two staff left under non-disclosure agreements with one receiving a discretionary payment in excess of that required by their contract.
Despite all these warning signs, the Conservative councillors asked no questions. Cllr Mould was responsible for Ms Shippen’s annual appraisal but he confirmed that he had not asked for feedback from any Council staff.
When a Bicester allotment holder made a freedom of information request over increased charges, he received no reply. So he appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In November 2020, an email was sent from Ms Shippen to the ICO, claiming a reply had been sent within the required 20 days. Tory councillors ignored the Bicester resident’s messages to them pointing out this was untrue. It took a judge in the First Tier Tribunal to conclude that the email had been falsified before Cllr Mould and his colleagues reacted.
Even then, the Conservatives running the Town Council did not take responsibility, apologise to the resident or discipline Ms Shippen who took six months fully paid sick leave from the Council and then resigned.
Lib Dem campaigners have presented all this information to all councillors but there has been a total failure of leadership by the Conservative-dominated council. They declined to apologise to Council staff or Bicester residents.
Our taxes should be spent on local services not on payments to lawyers and shady non-disclosure agreements. Bicester residents deserve a town council that is open, honest and accountable.