Departing CEO Martin Esom given freedom of the borough, though he was five years in post when LBWF was found to have exposed staff and contractors to asbestos

At the council meeting last week, departing CEO Martin Esom was granted the freedom of the borough.

At first sight, many will conclude that he deserves such recognition, having guided the council for nearly thirteen years, albeit paid handsomely for his efforts, c. £200,000 every year, c. £2.6m in all.

Yet it is often now overlooked that Mr. Esom had been in post for five years when in 2015 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) successfully prosecuted LBWF for exposing staff and contractors in the Town Hall to asbestos dust which, in the words of the presiding judge ‘“posed them serious health risks”’.

Worse, during the trial, it emerged that 

(a) the asbestos issues in the Town Hall had been known to LBWF since 1984; and

(b) while in written evidence Mr. Esom claimed that the basement of the Town Hall, where asbestos was particularly prevalent, ‘was not used as a heavily occupied work place, but an infrequently accessed storage area’, the HSE found that ‘employees and contractors’ had been frequenting it ‘regularly’ since 2002 for ‘a variety of purposes including transitory work such as filing and maintenance but also on a more permanent basis’, as the Print Room was located there, and it was the latter view that the court accepted.

So, to sum up, in the arithmetic employed by the Leader, Cllr. Grace Williams, and her colleagues, Mr. Esom’s nearly thirteen years of service, handsomely rewarded, must weigh much more than the disgrace meted out to LBWF in 2015.

It would be interesting to discover how many long-serving Town Hall staff agree with that calculation.

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