Agenda item

To Councillor Clark, Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee, from Councillor Joy Andrews

“In view of the fact that the bullying and follow up investigation has spanned three Councils, could the chair of O&S please give this new council the history and background so as to put the report into context.”


To Councillor Clark, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee from Councillor J Andrews:


Councillor J Andrews submitted the following question:


“In view of the fact that the bullying and follow up investigation has spanned three Councils, could the chair of O&S please give this new council the history and background so as to put the report into context.”


Councillor Clark, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, replied:


The investigation into bullying by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee has taken an unbelievable two and a half years. My own involvement goes back 6 years. Employees of RDC made contact alleging bullying, they usually asked for help and advice. On each occasion I advised that they spoke to their line manager, the manager's manager and the union.  None of this appeared to reduce, let alone stop the alleged bullying. I was contacted by more than ten cases and heard of as many again.


The biggest impact was on mental health. Three examples; left 2017 not worked since; serious mental issues still ongoing in 2020. one person was going to ring me in the new year 2017, told me she had panic attacks over Christmas and the New Year though had never had panic attacks before. Handed in her notice with no job to go to.


I raised bullying several times with the Chief Executive at that time in 2014 and 2015, I asked her to investigate. In my opinion nothing happened and the phone calls from employees continued. In 2016 I raised the issue in Full Council, the Chief Executive said no Councillors had raised the question of bullying with her. One other Councillor had raised the issue with her, again, nothing done. I therefore moved a motion of no confidence in the Chief Executive at the time, this was ruled out of order by the Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer.


In 2017 the Health & Wellbeing Group, in conjunction with the then Staff Champion, carried out a survey into bullying and other issues. In June 2017 Overview & Scrutiny agreed to look into the alleged bullying starting with the Health & Wellbeing Group/Staff Champion survey. The Deputy Chief Executive said "I'll see if the Chief Executive will let the Committee see it". In my opinion, once again senior management at that time tried to block any moves to resolve the issue.


Overview & Scrutiny commissioned an independent academic survey to be carried out by Professor John Raine, this gave the same results as the Health & Wellbeing survey, however the Raine report is academically sound, independent and more rigorous.  The Raine report was given to the new Chief Executive in January 2019 for her to use in management terms, her report is attached in the item later this evening.


One question for Council to consider is what course of action should a Councillor take if the senior management is  possibly acting inappropriately. If this is non-financial but concerns welfare etc of employees, what is the equivalent to the external auditor?  The problem of bullying should not have taken six years to resolve.


The second question  for RDC to consider is its duty of care to employees and I put duty of care as my words in inverted commas because I believe it has a technical time limit to it. Those who've been bullied in the past may still be our responsibility and I use the word responsibility in the same tone. The new Chief Executive has looked into and is in contact with many of those and I think we must make absolutely sure that we've picked up every case of where our behaviour, and I say our collective behaviour in the past has allowed people to be ill-treated, some of the who have been suffering for all that time since.”


Councillor Cleary , Chairman of the Council stated:


“We have a partial answer to your questions Mr Barry Khan, our legal advisor this evening who will answer in part, those questions.”


Mr B Khan, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Democratic Services)

and Monitoring Officer, North Yorkshire County Council, advised:


“I’m grateful for the advanced notice of the question. As a local authority there's usually a whole series of checks and balances that apply to local authorities, so you have the ombudsman, which is an external independent organisation which looks at whether the authority has created any mal-administration, so a member of the public can make a complaint to an independent party. As Councillor Clark has said, finance matters go to external audit. Also if there's an employment matter then individual employees can refer the matter to an Employment Tribunal, so ultimately it will have a judicial hearing.


I think the question that's been raised now though is if those processes don't fit the exact circumstances whereby an authority has legitimate concerns, or where a member of staff or a member of the public has  legitimate concerns, how can that be raised? Because I've had advanced notice of that, what I've said is that I would write on behalf of this Council to the relevant central government department to ask for answers to those questions where things slip through the gaps.”