Tribunal finds in favour of Gloucestershire whistleblower

The University of Gloucestershire has lost a tribunal case brought by a manager who claimed she was sidelined after blowing the whistle on the state of the institution’s finances.

Jan Merrigan, business development manager at Gloucestershire’s Faculty of Education, Humanities and Sciences, said she had suffered professionally after drawing attention to financial problems, particularly at the faculty.

She claimed at an employment tribunal in Bristol this week that public money was being spent inappropriately on overseas travel for academic staff and part-time payments for workers already in full-time contracts. She added that Gloucestershire was losing money on courses run in partnership with London-based international colleges.

In 2008-09, the university’s overall deficit was £6.3 million, and the early indications are that it suffered another large deficit in 2009-10.

The university disputed any evidence of unlawful practice during the tribunal hearing, which also heard claims that Paul Bowler, Gloucestershire’s former deputy vice-chancellor, had “plotted a coup” against Patricia Broadfoot, its former vice-chancellor.

Mr Bowler, who left the post in December after a period on suspension, denied the allegation, although he told the tribunal that when the vice-chancellor had asked him whether he thought she should resign, he told her she should.

Professor Broadfoot retired in August.

The tribunal panel upheld the claim lodged by Ms Merrigan, who still works at the university, and ordered Gloucestershire to pay £6,000 in compensation.

Ms Merrigan said: “I am delighted I have won, but most importantly, that my concerns were taken seriously. I never wanted to take my case to an external tribunal, but the internal procedures were flawed and despite my best efforts, the university did not want to hear what I had to say or address my serious concerns over financial flaws.”

A university spokeswoman said that although the tribunal had concluded that Ms Merrigan had suffered “some detriment” a number of “extremely serious” allegations in respect to financial irregularities were “neither upheld nor featured in the verdict”.

She said the university was considering whether to appeal against the decision, adding that “the tribunal cost the public purse over £150,000 at a time of severe cuts to public spending”.

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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