Union has had to support county council staff with grievances about bullying

Chichester's County Hall SUS-160818-125926001
Chichester's County Hall SUS-160818-125926001

Unison says it has supported a number of West Sussex County Council staff with grievances about bullying.

Regional organiser Caroline Fife spoke after a leaked report from Department for Education commissioner John Coughlan described a ‘bullying culture’ at County Hall.

The report stated that, while nothing was proven, stories from staff were all ‘disturbingly consistent’ and had ‘a significant ring of truth’.

Ms Fife said: “The commissioner’s report has confirmed what Unison has been telling the council’s political and executive leadership for 18 months: that there is a toxic bullying and blame culture at West Sussex.”

Describing bullying as ‘a tragedy for those individuals who were bullied and were deeply impacted personally’, she questioned the way the county council had worked with Unison to address the problem.

Ms Fife said: “We believe there was a culture of hostility towards unions and an unwillingness to engage with us on anything other than core terms and conditions and restructures.

“That inability to listen to trade unions and our feedback from the shop floor, and work with us as partners, has undoubtedly contributed to the present situation and failures.

“We really hope for improved industrial relations with the new political and executive leaderships when appointed.”

Mr Coughlan, who is also chief executive at Hampshire County Council, was appointed by the Department for Education to oversee the improvements to children’s services which should have followed a damning Ofsted report.

His first report was shared with the council last week and leaked to the BBC.

Louise Goldsmith resigned as leader of the county council earlier today.

Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames took to social media to call for immediate action.

He said: “What is needed at West Sussex County Council is a complete review of its governance and culture at the highest level and a high-performing local county council to come in and lead improvement immediately.”

A county council spokesman said: “The county council takes allegations of inappropriate behaviour and bullying extremely seriously and we have well established procedures to manage them. We will look carefully at the serious concerns that have been raised.

“We are committed to maintaining good working relationships with all unions, including Unison, and we are open to constructive discussion about working together.”