MPs' anger over wage bill of suspended Bradford coroner Peter Straker (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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MPs' anger over wage bill of suspended Bradford coroner Peter Straker
6:00am Wednesday 8th January 2014 in News
Suspended Bradford coroner Peter Straker is still on full pay, almost a year after a top-level investigation started into complaints about his conduct.
The Telegraph & Argus has discovered Bradford Council, along with Calderdale and Kirklees, is still footing his wage bill.
The news has been met with outrage from the district’s MPs.
Despite his wage being split between the three councils, Bradford is still the lead authority which administers it.
With a population of more than one million in his jurisdiction, his salary would be set at nearly £100,000 a year.
Suzan Hemingway, Bradford Council’s city solicitor, said it was the decision of the Minister for Justice to suspend him on full pay.
She added: “The investigation, its process and conclusions are not in the Council’s jurisdiction.”
A Council spokesman said: “Dr Peter Straker is the coroner for the western region of the West Yorkshire district. His salary is administered by Bradford Council, but is paid by Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees Councils as these local authorities lie within the district the coroner serves. He is not an employee of Bradford Council as he reports to the Ministry of Justice according to the Coroner’s Act 1988.
“This Coronial Jurisdiction’s population is more than one million. Therefore, the coroner’s annual salary is at the appropriate point on the Joint National Council (JNC) scale for that size of population. This is currently set at £99,963 per annum.
“As the coroner is not an employee of the Council we cannot state his actual gross salary. This would be a breach of the Data Protection Act.”
Bradford East MP David Ward has branded it “an expense Bradford can ill-afford at this time of callous cuts” and said he would be contacting the Minister for Justice.
Complaints included an allegation that Dr Straker had arranged a cab driver to transport confidential medical and police records in an unsecured supermarket carrier bag between two coroner’s courts.
It was also claimed he instructed those deputising for him not to return verdicts of suicide or misadventure even if the facts proved such conclusions were appropriate.
The Judicial Conduct Investigation Office had aimed to complete its inquiry within 90 days, but that time limit passed in May.
After being contacted by the T&A, a spokesman said: “This investigation has been complex, requiring the interviewing of a number of witnesses, but is now nearing its conclusion.”
But George Galloway, Bradford West MP, said: “It’s an absolute scandal that this case has not been decided.
“I will be contacting the Home Secretary today to demand that she bring pressure, knock heads together if needs be, to sort this.”
Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe said he thought it was “unusual” for such an inquiry to take so long and Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “It’s totally unsatisfactory for him (Straker) to be still suspended on full pay, just wasting taxpayers’ money.
“More effort needs to be made for a conclusion to be reached one way or another. I don’t see the justification for the investigation to take a year or so.”
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins added: “The district is paying out for a coroner and we need him or her to be doing their job. I have written to Bradford Council chief executive Tony Reeves to ask how long he believes it will take for this situation to be resolved, because it cannot go on.”