Call for action on bullying fears

MORE should be done to prevent councillors bullying staff at borough officers, opposition leader David Ellesmere has said.

MORE should be done to prevent councillors bullying staff at borough officers, opposition leader David Ellesmere has said.

The Labour leader urged the council to ensure its staff were adequately protected - even though there has been no official complaint made against any councillor.

Mr Ellesmere said the number of days lost because of stress, depression, or anxiety had nearly doubled between 2005 and 2007 - indicating that bullying could be an increasing problem

During this week's Ipswich Council meeting Mr Ellesmere questioned what steps were being taken to ensure council staff are adequately protected after allegations emerged that some councillors had been acting inappropriately.

The claims came to light in an official Audit Commission report published earlier this month, which revealed that council inspectors had uncovered “isolated incidents of intimidation and bullying” at the council and been informed by a number of staff about the inappropriate behaviour of “some councillors”.

Liz Harsant, the borough's leader, agreed with Mr Ellesmere that any bullying of staff by councillors was unacceptable but added that no official complaint had been made.

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Mrs Harsant said: “There are no formal complaints by staff against any councillors. Confidential interviews were given to the auditor who is not prepared to divulge this information. It will be dealt with internally in accordance with the appropriate policy.”

Although Carole Jones questioned whether the policy should be reviewed, David Goldsmith said both the human resources committee and the standards committee felt “informal complaints should be dealt with informally”.

He added: “If anyone wishes to make a complaint, then it would be dealt with under the new regulations. What we have in place at the moment is quite adequate.”

During a meeting of the council's human resources committee earlier this month, Mr Ellesmere said statistics showing that the number of days lost due to stress, depression and anxiety increased from 1,337 in 2004/05 to 2,452 in 2006/07 indicate there is an “atmosphere of bullying and intimidation” at the council.

However deputy leader of the council John Carnall, argued at the time that the matter had been dealt with and was being blown out of proportion.

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