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by Sam Blewett, Reporter
Thursday, February 20, 2014
The behaviour of Brentwood councillors has been blasted as “dysfunctional” and “vexatious” in a damning review.
These are some of the damning remarks taken from the peer review of Brentwood Borough Council:
n The current practice of constantly responding to frivolous and vexatious requests for information is draining capacity from the organisation
n The pace of much needed progress has been slowed and disrupted by the dysfunctional behaviour and impact of members and there is a requirement for the management team to take more decisive action to rectify matters
n Many staff we met don’t feel valued and morale is low... Staff cannot be expected to continue to work in such an environment
n The new constitution is being repeatedly used by opposition members to seek to interrupt the working of the council
n [Councillors and officers] need to understand and acknowledge what they expect from one another including defining what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
Morale is so low that employees say they can’t continue to work in the environment that councillors are creating, the report claims.
The review was published by the Local Government Association on Wednesday.
It did, however, suggest that some improvements had been made since the previous review in 2011.
The report says: “There remains a distrust between officers and certain members who need to understand the damage they are doing to staff.
“Many staff we met don’t feel valued and their morale is low.
One member of staff said they feel like “just a number on a payslip rather than a person”.
It predominantly blames opposition members for the friction with officers and suggests there is a “requirement for the management team to make more decisive action”.
Conservative council leader Cllr Louise McKinlay said the report had been “fair and balanced” and they would work hard to heed its advice.
She said: “It’s very clear that this lies with the opposition. They have a relenting approach to the officers, bombarding them with demands and requests.”
Lib Dem leader of the opposition, Barry Aspinell, said it was the ruling party which needed to shoulder responsbility.
“I think it’s embarrassing for the council leader,” he said. “Who wants to be associated with something like this?”
But he refutes that his group are to blame.
“I would come down hard on any member of my group who was treating an officer unfairly.”
The report also suggests that opposition members feel information is being denied to them so they must resort to Freedom of Information requests.
Labour group leader Mike Le-Surf said that they even struggled to learn the contents of the review.
He said: “Someone had to leak the document. It’s absolutely disgraceful.
“The Conservatives are running it like a leaky sieve; we might as well be as open as we say we are.”
Cllr McKinlay admitted “giving” the document to the press but denied it was a leak and that the opposition are given chances to meet with officers to discuss matters but “they don’t turn up”.