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August 06, 2008

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James Lloyd

Dave, I think there's a slightly different issue in addition to the one you have raised about the malice of Andrew Gilligan’s reports, which is the accuracy of the report. Friends in the media say that there was some kind of GLA rebuttal to the Gilligan report issued on Monday correcting inaccuracies both about the payments and the staff but also about the claim that Ken Livingstone had changed the rules to benefit his advisers; but I can't find this online anywhere. Perhaps you could establish whether this is in fact the case? It would be a strange twist to have Boris Johnson’s press office having to correct Gilligan.

What doesn't seem to stack up when you read through the story a few times is the claim that these staff have been paid on average £200k each as a pay-off…which by the way Phil Taylor has taken at face value when commenting here and on his blog. All Veronica's Cat has done is divide the £1.6m figure (which was presumably given to him by Boris Johnson's press office in the first place) and then divided it by eight. I just don't believe that the public sector routinely pays out what would in this case be two years' pay each for some of them. There must be more to it. For example what does this figure of £1.6 million really comprise? Is it all direct payments of redundancy and/or some kind of compensation, or is it other things like legal costs or whatever? The more you look at it the more the whole coverage in the Standard looks in some way dodgy.

Surely the Mayor of London would be expected to have some sort of cap to ensure that payments to leaving staff were reasonable. Anyone who's worked in the public sector knows that public sector officials would have one eye on the auditors and would be having to demonstrate legality and reasonable spending of public money. Is there such a cap for Ken Livingstone's appointees and if so what was it in this case? I assume the GLA is never going to tell us who exactly got what, but I cannot believe they would be able to refuse a breakdown of the costs between actual redundancy or compensation cash payments, pensions, legal costs and so on.

The problem of course is that if the figure is more complicated than Gilligan presented it, he has been allowed to spin it to suit his own prejudices.

My own view is that it's pretty fishy that something relating to the terms of employment (or termination of employment) of GLA staff should find its way as an exclusive to Andrew Gilligan in the first place. Seems a very rum way to go about things. Whoever gave the story to Gilligan must have known that it would be used to attack and even potentially defame Livingstone's former staff, as well as Livingstone himself. A "row" story was created with various Assembly members and commentators giving their views; but what's not clear is whether they were commenting on something that was accurate in the first place.

If Mayor Johnson was complicit in developing a media strategy of giving this directly to Gilligan you have to ask if he has acted properly in terms of the GLA’s responsibilities to its employees. If he wasn’t, who decided it?


Guano

And has there been an official statement from the Mayor, or the GLA? What were Gilligan and the Telegraph quoting frm? Where can it be found?

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