RELATIONSHIPS between district council officers and elected members is at a new low amid claims of bullying and intimidation.
Results of the latest staff survey have been published revealing only 13 per cent of workers who were asked thought the relationship was good – down from 20 per cent last year and 43 per cent just three years ago.
Andy Baldwin, head of resources, told the Executive Committee last week that the senior management team had a plan in place to address the ‘saddening decline’ and were in talks with UNISON, one of the UK’s biggest unions representing workers helping to deliver public services.
The poll showed council staff thought more negatively about the council in most areas compared to 2012.
A total of 61 per cent said job satisfaction was good compared to three quarters of people two years ago.
Positive feedback for leadership from the senior management team was also down 16 per cent, communication and trust had declined by a similar amount and a broad category called ‘working for the council’ was down by nearly 20 per cent.
Communication with the public is also significantly worse according to staff with 38 per cent of employees rating it good compared to 69 per cent in 2012.
Leadership at manager and supervisor level still rated highly with more than three quarters saying it was positive.
On October 29 the council moved to prohibit all members from entering council buildings without prior appointment, apart from the leader David Hughes and deputy leader Paul Swinburn, following alleged incidents of inappropriate behaviour from elected members to staff.
The situation is set to be reviewed in the new year but Coun Roskams, leader of the Democratic group, said relationships were unlikely to improve while the measures were still in place.
Coun Hughes said: “We have first class staff who work under difficult conditions and are asked to do an awful lot.
“We have all seen situations at meetings and in the corridors where some councillors can be very intimidating, bullying and very rude. It is not necessary at all.
“Members must accept responsibility and behave in a way which is appropriate when they are dealing with professional people.”
Coun Swinburn pointed to the fact public sector staff had not seen a pay rise in recent years, arguing it was influential to job satisfaction.
“There is more to work than salary but if you think your income is suffering considerably you are not likely to be a happy bunny. We are slightly imprisoned by national salary negotiations.
“Our staff have done a fantastic job cutting expenditure at local government level which needs to be recognised by salary rewards