December 12, 2007

“A Northwest council is believed to have paid out around £250,000 after
settling two race discrimination claims by a former employee.

The cases involved Justin Idehen,
who earlier this year took Stockport Council to an industrial tribunal for a
second time. Mr Idehen, former head of engineering services, won damages of
£160,000 after alleging racial harassment back in 2001.

In the latest claim, he alleged to an industrial tribunal in Manchester
that in May 2006, he had applied for a new position with a council contractor
only to be told: ‘You can’t work for Stockport Council in any capacity at all.’

It is understood that the second case has now been settled out of court for
a figure believed to be above £80,000. The latest settlement suggests Mr
Idehen’s cases have cost Stockport council tax payers around £240,000 in
compensation, before legal fees.

An internal council source who asked not to be named, said: “The latest
amount, which was offered was £80,000, but it is my understanding that this was
rejected by him.

“However, by April all parties agreed on the final figure, which suggests
it was much higher than that original offer.

“However, that settlement would take no account of paying barrister’s fees
for the preparation work, the three-day hearing involving Mr Idehen’s London
barrister and/or the local authority’s own legal bills. The cost to the
authority must have been astronomical.”

The settlement came ahead of a three-day hearing in the spring at which the
authority was warned a decision due in July could award “exemplary damages”
against Stockport council.

Labour councillor Sheila Bailey claimed the case could have been avoided
second time around if the people allegedly committing racist acts had been dealt
with swiftly.

She said: “If the local authority settles out of court, it is accepting it
has a problem, but apart from paying out a huge amount, it a duty to deal with
the people at fault. At the very least there should have been an internal
inquiry not only to look at this, but at its general policy to make sure it is
being adhered to.”

The council has repeatedly refused to comment, claiming to do so would be
an infringement of the Data Protection Act.”