Claims of bullying culture set to be reviewed as a matter of urgency

cec

Cheshire East Council is considering, as a matter of urgency, having a review of the culture within the Council carried out, with particular regard to the ongoing perception that there are significant issues relating to bullying and harassment.

The review will be independent of the council and conducted by Sarah Messenger from the Local Government Association. It will identify and make recommendations of changes that the council may wish to consider as well as highlighting aspects of the organisational culture that are positive and should be built upon.

It is estimated that the review will take 6 to 8 days, costing £700 a day plus vat and expenses.

The work will include: reviewing current policies and relevant information from the Council; conducting one to one interviews and focus groups and writing a report describing the review findings and making recommendations for potential changes which will help the council to ensure bullying and harassment are not part of the organisational culture, whether perceived or real.

One to one interviews will be conducted with the Leader of the Council, Cabinet Member for Corporate Policy and Legal Services and Chair of the Staffing Committee.

Four focus groups will be set up with staff, senior managers, trade union representatives and a cross party group with up to eight members.

The proposal to carry out a Cultural Review will be considered by the Staffing Committee on Thursday, 26th October.

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Cheshire East Council
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Jonathan Follows
Tuesday 24th October 2017 at 2:37 pm
Something missing here - that Cheshire East Council is considering a review of culture "as a matter of urgency" does not fit with the fact that many have been calling for such a review for a long time now. Labour says it tabled a motion calling for an investigation into allegations of bullying in December 2015. What has only now made Cheshire East Council consider actually doing this?
Sue Wallace
Tuesday 24th October 2017 at 2:49 pm
Who will identify candidates for focus groups? ..how will independence from CEC be achieved? How will retribution be identified and addressed?
Jackie Pass
Tuesday 24th October 2017 at 6:13 pm
Typically the LGA agree the scope of the investigation with the "Chief Executive" of a Council - but then he is under suspension for something - but be are not being told what!
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 25th October 2017 at 9:53 am
What’s the betting the “leader” will blame the previous “leader”?
Sue Wallace
Wednesday 25th October 2017 at 10:02 am
How will independence from CEC be achieved? ..what reassurance and protection will be offered to those who want to speak out but live in fear of doing so?... do you really think that those at the top will admit the problem when they are part of it?..'like a turkey voting for Christmas dinner '... independent should mean independent rather than a window dressing for the current CEC stance.
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 25th October 2017 at 1:48 pm
Pete Taylor has obviously had a sneaky peak at the script.
Jonathan Follows
Wednesday 25th October 2017 at 2:13 pm
If it's acceptable to answer my own question, then the trigger for this review is documented in the minutes from the Council meeting on Thursday 19 October, "Independent Cultural Review" proposed by Councillor Bailey on page 80 (http://bit.ly/2gBR9U1) starting with:
"Cheshire East Council has been beset by numerous allegations of bullying and harassment from its staff.This Council claims to be an organisation that puts ‘Residents First’. In order to carry out such an objective in an effective and efficient manner, we rely on our staff to deliver the services our residents rely on. Therefore, the welfare of the people we employ must be front and centre of everything we do as an organisation. Currently, there are concerns that we may be failing them and it is incumbent on us as elected representatives to tackle the issue head on."

The terms of reference of the proposed review can be read at http://bit.ly/2z7IofM

To be discussed at the Staffing Committee meeting tomorrow, Thursday 26 October at 2pm:"The Chairman has agreed to this item being considered as an item of urgent business in the light of the announcement made by the Leader of the Council at the meeting of Council on 19 October 2017"
Jonathan Follows
Friday 27th October 2017 at 11:32 am
I listened to a recording of yesterday's Staffing Committee meeting, available at http://bit.ly/2gJhyzp

Some of the audio was hard to hear, but what I think I heard includes:

Councillor Janet Jackson (Labour, Macclesfield Central) raised some of the issues already commented on here - perception of possible repercussions for people who speak out, a more "random" selection process for participants to try and avoid having "the usual suspects", and concerns that CEC could be seen to be controlling the review process.

Councillor David Brown (Conservative, Congleton East) spoke at length in support and observed that if bullying has happened then it's been "both ways", in other words councillors bullying staff as well as staff bullying councillors.

All seemed to imply that although "3-5 years ago there was a lot of it" that it's important to identify and deal with what's happening now as a matter of urgency, and there didn't appear to be any complacency that this problem was only something which happened in the past.

Plan is for the comments made, including from trade unions, to be incorporated by close of play Friday 27 October. Work planned during November with report due before the end of the year. I didn't hear what is planned once the report is written and submitted.

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