Audit, Inspection and Safety

31.01.18

Troubled Cheshire East Council hit with ‘bullying and inappropriate behaviour’ claim

The standards and practices at a unitary authority in the north west have been questioned after a report found examples of “bullying and inappropriate behaviour” from staff and bosses.

Cheshire East Council was subject to an LGA investigation into its behavioural practices after officials called for a review last year.

The council was shrouded with controversy in September last year after two senior staff, the CEO and the director of legal services, received suspensions prompted by allegations of misconduct.

This week’s review found that staff had taken sick days, sought for help from trade unions, filed grievances, and even quit the organisation as a result of behavioural and cultural issues within the authority.

LGA investigator, Sarah Messenger, said the absence of clear values and behaviours when the council was originally formed in 2009 left a vacuum which was filled by the poor actions of some individuals.

“Sadly, bullying and harassment takes place in many large organisations,” Messenger wrote. “This review has found that this is true within Cheshire East Council and where it occurs it is having a profound impact on those who are experiencing or witnessing it.

“In addition, the impact on the organisational culture and effectiveness may cause the council to lose some talented people and could potentially inhibit the behaviours and attitudes that successful 21st-century public sector organisations want to see: creativity, innovation, resilience, collaboration, confidence, compassion and pride.

“Consequently, senior managers and elected members have a shared responsibility to set a new ‘tone’ for the council in which everyone must play their part in ensuring it is sustainable.”

Employees at the organisation were encouraged to contribute information to the review through email and in response to a survey, and Messenger made clear that there were a number of very positive schemes undertaken by the council at a difficult time in the public sector.

In the most recent survey of staff, undertaken in 2016, a large proportion of people said they were happy with the way the council treated them and had not witnessed any bullying or harassment.

However, the last year’s report did find these issues and details some of the measures in place to deal with them, a number of which have been ongoing for some time.

Acting chief executive of Cheshire East, Kath O’Dwyer, commented: “Bullying and harassment are not acceptable in the workplace. Our staff, quite rightly, should expect to be able to come to work and be treated fairly and with respect.

“We are pleased to hear that most of our staff have never experienced or witnessed either harassment or bullying in the workplace but we will not shy away from the fact that some staff have experienced behaviour from others within the organisation that is not acceptable and, as such, I am saddened by some of the review findings but we are determined to take all necessary action to address the issues of concern identified within the review.”

Messenger recommended that senior management and elected officials should work to change the ‘tone’ set by the organisation at a high level, although she said this could take some time because the level of trust between employees is low in some areas.

She also said Cheshire East should build on current training and consider a new employment deal aimed at changing the problems with the culture.

Top image: Cheshire East Council

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

Cheshire East Resident 101   08/02/2018 at 08:27

If the change is to come from the top down then its dead in the water. There are too many managers who think dumping on subordinates is the way to protect themselves, their career and pension. Whilst recruitment for lower grade workers is not an issue then retention is not a concern. There should be a real value set to recruitment and retention so managers consider the needs of the service and public before their own personal ambitions.

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Essex council announces £1bn construction deal

22/03/2019Essex council announces £1bn construction deal

An Essex council has announced a £1bn contract in a joint venture to regenerate council sites and deliver new homes and commercial faciliti... more >
Council to pull out of government schools improvement body over rising costs and ‘major concerns’ over poor management

22/03/2019Council to pull out of government schools improvement body over rising costs and ‘major concerns’ over poor management

A Welsh council is to pull out of a government-run schools improvement scheme over concerns about how it is run and fears that the quadrupling of... more >
Councils' legal challenge against Buckinghamshire merger process rejected

22/03/2019Councils' legal challenge against Buckinghamshire merger process rejected

An application from three district councils for a judicial review of the merger plans to create a single unitary council for Buckinghamshire has ... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
Budget meeting descends into chaos as Manchester council raids reserves

11/03/2019Budget meeting descends into chaos as Manchester council raids reserves

Manchester City Council is to raid its reserves and raise council tax in a bid to make £15m worth of savings in a meeting that spiralled out of control and led to councillors “aggress... more >
‘Betrayed’ foster carers of Parsons Green bomber sue Surrey council

08/03/2019‘Betrayed’ foster carers of Parsons Green bomber sue Surrey council

The foster parents of the Parson Green bomber are suing Surrey County Council for negligence after the authority placed him in their home without telling them he had been “trained to kill b... more >

the raven's daily blog

Councils Can: LGA launches Spending Review campaign

18/03/2019Councils Can: LGA launches Spending Review campaign

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, outlines his organisation’s campaign to make sure local government tops to government’s list for this year’s Spending Review. Our #CouncilsCan campaign to influence this year’s Spending Review is well underway and gathering momentum. The money local governm... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Camberley inspired: investment and regeneration

11/03/2019Camberley inspired: investment and regeneration

The decline of the Great British high street has been one of the greatest concerns for local councils in recent years, leading to some innovative... more >
Swindon's solar-powered recycling centre saves council cash

11/03/2019Swindon's solar-powered recycling centre saves council cash

Steve Cains, head of power solutions at Public Power Solutions, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Swindon Borough Council, describes the benefits of... more >
National Infrastructure Commission: Progressing the North

11/03/2019National Infrastructure Commission: Progressing the North

The National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) National Infrastructure Assessment was released in July 2018, making a variety of recommenda... more >
SARS II: Recovery made easy

11/03/2019SARS II: Recovery made easy

Paul Bentley, of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), introduces us to the Spend Analysis Recovery Framework: a no win no fee means of carrying ou... more >

interviews

Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

public sector focus

View all News