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£620,000 settlement for bullying row at Museum Wales considered ‘reasonable’

30 Nov 2023 3 minute read
St Fagans National History Museum – a site run by Museum Wales

Chris Haines ICNN Senedd reporter

A settlement following a bullying row at Museum Wales which led to former WRU chief executive, Roger Lewis, leaving his job has cost the public purse more than £620,000. 

Mr Lewis had been the subject of complaints by two members of staff while employed as the museum’s president.

Least-worst outcome

Following criticism of the museum for how it settled the dispute, the figure, which represents the settlement figure, contractual salary costs and professional fees has been considered reasonable and the “least-worst outcome”, according to senior officials. 

Wales’ public accounts committee grilled civil servants about the feud between Roger Lewis and David Anderson, the museum’s former president and director-general respectively.

Andrew Slade, the Welsh Government’s director-general for economy, described the costs as reasonable in terms of trying to get the least-worst outcome for taxpayers.

Labour’s Rhianon Passmore said the dispute could have cost two or three times more – £1.2m to £1.8m – if the case had gone to an employment tribunal.

Pressed about whether the deal provides value for money, Mr Slade stressed that nobody approached negotiations with a blank cheque.

He said: “No party to the settlement agreement would have signed up to it if they thought there was a better outcome elsewhere.”

Hard to pitch

This month, an Audit Wales report put the total cost of settlements with Mr Anderson and a former chief operating officer, who retired due to ill health, at £626,383.

The estimate includes legal and advisory fees but not time spent by officials on dealing with the matter nor costs arising from the recruitment of new trustees or staff.

Mr Slade warned that an employment tribunal would have taken about two years to resolve the issue, with the outcome potentially subject to appeal.

He said: “Whether it’s value for money, without actually having a complete ability to say it would definitely have been this other thing, I guess that’s hard to pitch.”

Responding to the Conservative’s call, Mr Slade said it would require the suspension of the Welsh Government’s legal privilege which is only done in extraordinary circumstances.

Mike Hedges questioned advice to ministers that payments for injury to feelings and loss of employment were reasonable, saying the total was not included. He said the settlement was way above the amount tribunals ordinarily award, outside of sexual or racial discrimination cases.

After failing to get to the bottom of his line of questioning, with officials committing to write to the committee instead, the Swansea East MS said: “I’ll just say I remain unsatisfied.”

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7 months ago

How were these 2 squabbling egos recruited in the first place ? Expensive recruitment campaigns involving “high end” executive search consultants have rarely delivered lasting solutions in Welsh public appointments. Time to rethink how things are done.

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