Senedd scrutinises £620,000 employment dispute at Amgueddfa Cymru - Museums Association

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Senedd scrutinises £620,000 employment dispute at Amgueddfa Cymru

Cost of settling case was ‘least-worst outcome’, public accounts committee hears
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Amgueddfa Cymru manages seven museum sites across Wales, including National Museum Cardiff - Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd
Amgueddfa Cymru manages seven museum sites across Wales, including National Museum Cardiff - Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd

Museum and government officials have defended the handling of an employment dispute at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales that incurred costs of more than £620,000.

Andrew Slade, the Welsh Government’s director for general, economy, skills and natural resources, told the Senedd’s public accounts committee last week that the costs were reasonable and represented the “least-worst outcome” for taxpayers.

The employment dispute followed a breakdown in relations between the institution's former director-general David Anderson and former president Roger Lewis, in which Anderson raised grievances against Lewis for bullying and discriminatory treatment. A further grievance against Lewis was submitted by the museum’s former chief operating officer.  

Anderson stepped down from his post in November last year and received a settlement of £325,698 comprising expenses, salary, pension and national insurance contributions from November 2022 to March 2023, £50,000 tax-free compensation for injury to feelings and £20,000 for loss of office.

A further settlement of £12,000 went to the former chief operating officer, who retired on grounds of ill health. The dispute cost just under £420,000 in legal fees, bringing total costs to more than £750,000 with some of this figure recouped through insurance.

The committee hearing follows the publication of an report last month by Wales' auditor general, which criticised Amgueddfa Cymru’s handling of the dispute.

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The report said that the institution “did not have adequate policies in place” to deal with concerns raised by senior officials against board members, and said the case had adversely affected the museum’s governance arrangements, contributing to “significant and potentially avoidable costs to help bring the dispute to an end”.

The report described the settlement awarded to the former director-general as “novel, contentious and repercussive” and said Amgueddfa Cymru had “not been able to demonstrate that it has acted in the best interests of the charity or that the settlement represents value for public money”.

Officials from Amgueddfa Cymru, including new chief executive Jane Richardson, appeared before the public accounts committee in November, where they defended the handling of the case.

Richardson told that committee: "Because of the nature of the claims made, the legal advice was very strong to the amgueddfa [museum], that the public purse could bear a much, much higher cost if we were to pursue through the tribunal route.

"And therefore, although the settlement is a significant amount of money, it was better value for the public purse to follow that settlement route."

In a statement, Amgueddfa Cymru said that while it respected the auditor general’s opinion and recommendations, it was “disappointed that some of the evidence provided by Amgueddfa Cymru has not been reflected in the report”.

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“As a result, we do not feel it a fair representation of the events that occurred or fully considers the complicated circumstances which Amgueddfa Cymru had to resolve,” continued the statement.

The institution says it has instigated several changes to its governance as a result of the case, including drafting alternative dispute resolution measures and undertaking a review of governance processes and procedures.

Amgueddfa Cymru said: “Under the leadership of the new chair and chief executive, we are now looking to move forward and focus on delivering inspirational, inclusive and impactful experiences in all our museums for the people of Wales.”

Lewis recused himself as president in late 2022 and was recently appointed by the Welsh Government to lead a review of the heritage body Cadw.

He said in a statement last month: "I am reassured to note that the auditor general, in his report, stated twice that during my tenure of office as president of Amgueddfa Cymru that I had not breached any of the Nolan Principles, the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’, and the auditor named them: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership."

Amgueddfa Cymru – full statement

Amgueddfa Cymru respects the Auditor General’s opinion and recommendations and has appreciated the engagement with Audit Wales throughout this difficult process. However, we are disappointed that some of the evidence provided by Amgueddfa Cymru has not been reflected in the report. As a result, we do not feel it a fair representation of the events that occurred or fully considers the complicated circumstances which Amgueddfa Cymru had to resolve.

The unprecedented events and related employment disputes put the organisation at risk of not being able to operate effectively in the best interests of the public. The Board of Trustees always acted under legal guidance and, working with Welsh Government, considered all available options in the best interests of Amgueddfa Cymru and out of duty of care to all individuals involved.

The settlement arrangements enabled the museum to avoid what would have been long and protracted legal processes and the associated costs. The figure of £757,613 represented in the report does not represent the settlement figure alone but includes contractual salary costs, professional fees incurred over a period of several years.

Considering all these factors, the settlement arrangements were deemed to represent the most responsible use of money under difficult circumstances.

Due to the confidential nature of related legal agreements in place, we are unable to comment on any matters involving any current or previous appointed representatives or members of staff employed by Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales.

Amgueddfa Cymru considers that it acted in the best interests of the charity, and in compliance with the requirements of charity law and Charity Commission guidance in relation to the decisions made. The Charity Commission has been satisfied by the actions of the trustees and confirmed that no further actions are required in relation to Amgueddfa Cymru’s governance.

The museum has taken a number of learnings from this difficult period, and the board of trustees have since reviewed and modernised governance arrangements. These include:

  • Implementing the recommendations of the Welsh Government-commissioned Tailored Review through a new Task and Finish group (in consultation with Welsh Government).
  • New alternative dispute resolution measures have been drafted and currently in consultation with trade unions.
  • Terms and conditions of a new chief executive role revised to reflect and support more stringent governance arrangements.
  • Review of governance processes and procedures underway, led by the new chair.

Under the leadership of the new chair and chief executive, we are now looking to move forward and focus on delivering inspirational, inclusive and impactful experiences in all our museums for the people of Wales.

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