Council ducks report publication
Yesterday Chard Town Council promised that it would publish the independent report investigating bullying at the council. They promised it would be published today.
By 5pm the report had not been published. The Leveller has however seen the version of the report that is to be released in due course. It has been so heavily redacted as to be utterly meaningless. To all intents and purposes, the town council have not published the report. Anything that is meaningful in the way of evidence has been redacted.
All we have are the conclusions. What we do know from those conclusions is as follows:
- that there have been serious failings by a small group of councillors
- a small number of councillors refused to engage in the process
- the report shows high staff turnover as a result of poor behaviour by councillors
- at least two previous reports, the last in 2021 pointed to the same failings – and nothing was done
- appraisal records and records of exit interviews are not as well documented as they should be
- the problems have proven costly to taxpayers due to the number of settlement agreements paid out
- those councillors implicated do not accept their behaviour is inappropriate, nor that it contravenes the code of conduct.
- some behaviours, advertent or inadvertent, have fallen short of what is required, and in some cases well short
All the evidence in the report, two entire sections have been redacted. In short there are clear failings identified. They relate to a small number of councillors. The taxpayer has picked up an enormous tab as a result of the failings of those councillors. Those councillors have failed to meet the Nolan standards.
Those councillors have protected themselves by redacting the report. Clearly those councillors who refused to engage with the process and those implicated in the bullying should resign.
However the report has been redacted to ensure no-one can know who they are. If there are no resignations, as is likely, the problems will continue.
The council has therefore wasted a lot of money, perhaps as much as £250,000, for nothing. If the problem continues the council will continue to be paying large sums of money. All for inappropriate behaviours by a small coterie of councillors.
There is however one consideration worth devoting more time to. Last night councillors voted to adopt the report and agree the recommendations in it. Any councillor involved in the bullying, any councillor whose actions were highlighted in the report has a prejudicial interest in it. That interest should have been declared prior to the vote on adopting the report. Last night no councillor declared a prejudicial interest. Of course some councillors were absent. But it would not be unreasonable for the Monitoring Officer to be asked to investigate the failure to declare an interest by councillors present. And to provide the Monitoring Officer with an unredacted version of the independent report in order to allow him to do his job.
Perhaps the typo on the Chard Town Council website says it all? “Chard Town Council whole heatedly acknowledges the findings in the report“