Ex-council boss Christine Laird's legal costs plea

Christine Laird is still suffering from mental health problems since leaving Cheltenham Borough Council in 2005

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The former managing director at Cheltenham Borough Council, Christine Laird, has called for the council to pay costs she says are owed to her.

In 2009, Mrs Laird was taken to the High Court by the council which accused her of causing losses of £1m as she withheld a history of mental illness.

After winning the case she was awarded £250,000 in damages but says £75,000 is still owed to her two years on.

The council said it wanted to "move on" and focus on improving its service.

Monies owed

Mrs Laird was appointed in 2002, but left in 2005 on an ill-health pension after taking sick leave on full pay.

"I'm still owed a significant amount of money in terms of court costs and it's been two and a half years, I would like that paid because I am bearing really heavy loans as a consequence of their actions and I'm not asking for something the judge hasn't ordered or isn't due.

Start Quote

It was a truly pernicious working environment, it was something I'd never experienced in my working life before”

End Quote Christine Laird

"The secretary of state has said I am entitled to an injury allowance in law, a tribunal has ruled I was injured at work because my illness is an industrial injury and yet the medical advice to make me an award has been ignored by the council."

She has been receiving an injury allowance which was backdated from 2009, but she says she is owed the allowance since 2005.

This has been supported by the Local Government and Communities Minister, Eric Pickles.

A spokesman for the council said: "To revisit, two-and-a-half to three years on, the issues and matters that were debated in the High Court trial over a period of some 35 days would fly in the face of Hamblen J's [Mr Justice Hamblen, the High Court judge] hope expressed within his judgment that a line could now finally be drawn, allowing Mrs Laird to get on with her life and Cheltenham Borough Council to get on with the business of governing Cheltenham."

The council spent £2.1m in taking Mrs Laird to court and in 2010 wrote letters of apology to residents for its failed court action.

'Attacked and undermined'

At an industrial tribunal in 2010, a judge ruled that Mrs Laird had been the victim of ill-treatment.

"I'd been a chief officer since I was 32, and working in local government at senior level is no picnic, so I was used to the rough and tumble of political life," she said.

"What I wasn't used to was being personally attacked and undermined. It got to the point where I would wake up in the morning and feel physically sick at the thought of having to go to work."

She also received a series of anonymous letters sent to her home and office, as well as to organisations outside the council.

"The letters were very unpleasant, they were malicious, and as the judge said, calculated to cause personal distress and damage my personal reputation.

"It was a truly pernicious working environment, it was something I'd never experienced in my working life before."

Since leaving the council, Mrs Laird has been diagnosed with severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe panic disorder, and agoraphobia, all caused by workplace stress.

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