Director of children’s and young people services denied wanting to get rid of manager

THE former boss of a council youth chief who claims she was bullied and harassed out of a job has denied claims he wanted to get rid of her.

David Williams, director of children’s and young people services at Durham County Council, agreed that Christina Blythe had a reputation for being difficult to manage and was “generally very demanding”.

But he denied that he and the council were determined to rid themselves of Mrs Blythe, who is claiming unfair dismissal and alleges she was discriminated against on the grounds of her sex and diabetic disability, following her apparent exclusion in a management re-structuring.

Mr Williams told an employment tribunal hearing in Newcastle: “There was never any proposal to get rid of Mrs Blythe.”

He described how new legislation meant the council was required to change the way it delivered services to young people.

This meant integrating the former education and social care and health departments and creating a bigger department, a move that affected Mrs Blythe, a former head of County Durham’s Youth Engagement Service.

Mrs Blythe, 51, who claims Mr Williams’ behaviour towards her caused her to break down in tears, has said she was “bullied, harassed and victimised for complaining about being excluded and demoted unfairly”.

She was later fired for gross misconduct in January last year after nine years in the job, having being suspended for a year on full pay.

Mr Williams said he had given “explanation after explanation”

to Mrs Blythe about his decisions over the restructuring, and fundamentally disagreed that it meant a demotion for her or the sidelining of her service.

Mr Williams also revealed how he repeatedly asked Mrs Blythe for data about the performance of the youth engagement service, but she failed to respond, eventually presenting him with a “large box full of jumbled up scrappy pieces of information covered in post-it notes”, which he could not decipher.

He said he later discovered that its performance had deteriorated over a period of two years and was, in 2007, judged by the Youth Justice Board to be one of the least effective in the country.

He said Mrs Blythe would “bypass”

him with concerns, lobbying the chief executive and council leader to overturn decisions.

Mr Williams denied that the council failed to take into account Mrs Blythe’s diabetic condition, having arranged an occupational health referral for her.

Charles Thompson, of Mrs Blythe’s union the Association of School and College Leaders, said many of the allegations she had faced were clearly historical and should have been raised years earlier.

He described the decision to dismiss her as “draconian”.

A judgement in the hearing of Mrs Blythe, from Durham, is expected later next year.