Wiltshire Council is launching an appeal against a recent employment tribunal judgement, which declared an email sent by its CEO as “unlawful.”

The email in question, sent by Terence Herbert in November 2022, was related to a long-running dispute in which Wiltshire Council is seeking to remove contractual out-of-hours pay enhancements.

GMB, the union for Wiltshire Council staff, claim the correspondence was intended to deter its traffic wardens from voting in industrial action.

Herbert, who is preparing to transition from Wiltshire Council to Surrey County Council, maintains that he was trying to correct "misleading" statements from GMB.

He said: “We haven’t made the decision to appeal lightly, but after carefully considering legal advice, we feel this is the correct course of action.

 “We have always believed our position in this case was strong and that the email at the heart of this issue was intended to correct inaccurate information and reassure staff that the council was working to resolve this as swiftly as possible, as our priority throughout has been, and remains, the wellbeing of our staff.

“This appeal does not change our focus to resolve the terms and conditions issue as quickly and fairly as possible. Given this is now an ongoing case, it would be inappropriate to make further comments at this stage.”

Speaking to a Wiltshire Times reporter previously, he said: “We entered into all of our negotiations in good faith and professionally, with all three of our recognised unions – UNISON, Unite and the GMB.

“Unfortunately, from the outset, GMB’s behaviour and actions were in sharp contrast to that of UNISON and Unite, and they seemed to have set their course not to agree.”

He described the pay policies, which Wiltshire Council is seeking to change, as “historical” and “no longer fit for purpose.”

In March 2024, Bristol Employment Tribunal found that the staff who received the email “were subjected to a detriment on grounds related to union activities”, a conclusion which Wiltshire Council is now disputing.

The leader of the council, Richard Clewer, recently reported that £21,395 had been spent on defending the case. 

Wiltshire’s Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Ian Thorn, argued that given the “reputational concern” of the incident and “the damage” it had caused, there should be an interest in the total cost of the process, including the amount of time that the council officers had spent giving legal advice.

In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, March 5, Cllr Richard Clewer confirmed the decision to dispute the judgement and noted that the council was considered to have “strong grounds for appeal."

He added that the decision was made through the chief executive and officers, not by himself or the administration, as it was an issue related to staffing.

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for GMB, previously said: “The findings of the tribunal are clear that his arguments are unconvincing.

“For him to attack the findings of the tribunal is disingenuous and I'm sure residents of Wiltshire will find it equally concerning.” 

The Employment Appeal Tribunal is independent of government and is designed to settle legal disputes.

It will consider the grounds upon which Wiltshire Council is appealing, as well as the case made against the council by the original claimants.