Staff at Citizens Advice bureau threaten walkout over return of chief executive

Employees and volunteers at Central & East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice allege bullying and harassment by Martin Lord, but he and another member of staff were cleared by an investigation

Central & East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice
Central & East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice

Staff and volunteers at an East Midlands Citizens Advice bureau have threatened to walk out because its chief executive has been allowed to return to work, Third Sector has been told.

In February, grievances were raised against Martin Lord, chief executive of Central & East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice, alleging bullying and harassment. Similar complaints were made against Lisander Whiby, who also works for the charity and is understood to be in a relationship with Lord.

The charity’s board commissioned an independent investigator to look into the complaints, which led to both Lord and Whiby being suspended in March and codes for the doors to the charity’s offices being changed.

But the complaints were rejected after the independent investigation was completed and on 17 April it was announced that Lord and Whiby would be returning to work.

The charity’s chair, Pam Law, announced her retirement the following day and another trustee left the board at the same time.

Earlier this month, the vice chair, Bob Lewell, also resigned. A human resources specialist has been hired to handle the situation.

Documents seen by Third Sector say that, despite having been cleared to return to work, Lord and Whiby are working from home and are unable to enter the charity’s buildings without being accompanied by a trustee.

A worker at the charity said some staff and volunteers had left because of Lord and Whiby, and others were threatening to leave if they returned to the charity’s offices.

"Volunteers have quit and staff both paid and unpaid have stated that they will leave if Martin and Lisander are allowed to return to the building," said the source, who asked not to be named.

A vote of no confidence in the board by workers at the charity has also been put forward but postponed.

A statement from Cencab said: "An independent investigator was called in after grievances were made against two members of staff.

"The investigation found no evidence of deliberate harassment or intentional bullying and advised that the staff members return to work without disciplinary action.

"A vote of no confidence in the board was suspended and the two employees have begun returning to the workplace."

The statement said: "The board of trustees has listened to the concerns brought to its attention and will support the team here at Cencab to conclude this matter and allow them to continue to provide expert advice to our clients.

"It’s important to stress to people who use our services that Citizens Advice Central and East Northamptonshire is open as usual."

The incident is the second case this year in which workers at a Citizens Advice bureau have complained about management. The chief executive of Citizens Advice South Warwickshire left earlier this year after complaints from some staff and volunteers about their treatment.

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