A COUNCIL last night defended its decision to sack a war hero and disobey an employment tribunal to reinstate him.

A damning tribunal judgement last night confirmed that Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council failed to follow procedures in dismissing Paul Whittaker for gross misconduct for allegations that were never proved.

The judgement said Mr Whittaker's line manager, Simon Dale, deliberately arranged for jobs to be offered to others after claiming that there was no job available.

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The community safety warden, who was decorated for his services in the Royal Navy during the Falklands and Gulf wars, was commended for his actions during a cliff rescue in 2004, after being one of four wardens to help a woman who fell on rocks.

The tribunal said: "This is a large local authority employing many thousands of people and the likelihood is that, on a regular basis, vacancies will arise.

"Accordingly, it would have been possible to identify other job opportunities had the respondent wished to do so. It is clear that the failure to look at other areas of opportunity within the council was a deliberate and intentional decision by Mr Dale not to do so."

The tribunal awarded Mr Whittaker a five figure sum in compensation, including an additional award set at the maximum 52 weeks for the failure to reinstate him.

Mr Whittaker said: "I feel a great injustice has been done, not only to me, but to my family."

Unison regional officer Mike Hill called on the council to issue an apology to My Whittaker and give him his job back.

But Dave McLuckie, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council's cabinet member for community protection, said: "As with all judicial cases, evidence is heard and sometimes the wrong decision is made. On this occasion I believe, having seen the evidence myself, that the tribunal made the wrong decision to find in favour of Mr Whittaker.

"The council's original decision to dismiss Mr Whittaker on the grounds of gross misconduct was, and still is, in our view the correct decision, and we stand by it."