Sacked council worker on hunger strike over £200k bill

Theresa Sives has been on hunger strike. Picture: comp

Theresa Sives has been on hunger strike. Picture: comp

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A SACKED council worker has vowed to starve herself to death in protest at a massive legal bill which would force her family out of their home.

Theresa Sives, has been on hunger strike for almost two weeks and lost a stone after her former employers at East Lothian Council decided to go to court to seize £200,000.

The 57-year-old was fired after claiming money for treating drug addicts was being siphoned off to other projects.Mrs Sives then lost an employment tribunal, the cost of which the council is demanding from her.

The grandmother-of-four said she would “rather die” than be forced to sell the home she shares with her family in Musselburgh.

Mrs Sives, who has eaten no solid food since March 30, posts a regular hunger strike diary on YouTube in which she urges supporters to sign a petition and argues her cause.

The dispute started when she was working as a £31,000-a-year project manager helping drug addicts find work

But after she claimed there had been mismanagement of funds, she was eventually sacked for gross misconduct in 2013. A subsequent employment tribunal case was thrown out following a 19-month battle.

A court case due to be heard later this month will decide whether or not to grant East Lothian’s costs application.

Asked if she is willing to die for her cause, Mrs Sives said: “Yes – absolutely. I would rather die than lose our house to the council. We’ve lived here for 30 years – there is no way we will leave our home.”

Mrs Sives, pictured below, said her family was supporting her, even though the hunger strike had left her in pain.

She said: “They are trying to back me but they are not happy with the situation. I feel it is my fault. I can’t let it go.

“There is nothing else I can do. I’ve tried. There is no other course of action left.

“I’m really, really tired. Sore all over. It changes day to day.Some days I find myself looking at magazine pictures of food. I’ve lost about a stone.”

Her hunger strike, which started at 7am on March 30, will only end “if they drop the claim for costs and come to a negotiated settlement”.

Mrs Sives alleged to her bosses that grants from the Big Lottery and East Lothian Drugs and Alcohol Partnership did not appear directly in her projects account.

She claimed money instead went into a museum fund and was “siphoned off to a different project to cover something completely different”. She added: “It wasn’t going where it was supposed to have.”

A council spokeswoman said: “East Lothian Council thoroughly investigated Ms Sives’ allegations as part of a disciplinary process but could find no evidence for her claims.

“Following an appeal hearing Ms Sives then took her claims to an employment tribunal, who dismissed her case and awarded costs to the council. The legal action over a period of years has amounted to significant public costs which East Lothian Council is now seeking to recover.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com