Council face ‘culture of fear’ probe

Edinburgh city council faces a probe into claims of a culture of fear. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Edinburgh city council faces a probe into claims of a culture of fear. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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CITY chiefs are set to be questioned on whether a “culture of fear” exists within the council, with a councillor calling for changes to tackle anxiety within the workforce.

Green Councillor Maggie Chapman will ask for a report showing the steps taken by management to address staff morale and satisfaction concerns raised in an internal survey carried out last year.

Results revealed in October showed 61 per cent of employees did not have confidence in management decisions, while 41 per cent did not think they were valued.

Only 50 per cent of surveyed staff reported feeling involved in decisions affecting their work.

Cllr Chapman said in a motion to be considered by the council’s corporate policy and strategy committee today the facts indicated a “level of disquiet with management and communications within the council” that could lead to “low staff morale, low productivity and poor working relationships”.

She said: “I’ve had a few people report their issues of potential mismanagement and concern that when issues are raised they’re not taken seriously or they are actually just dismissed.”

As of last month, Edinburgh City Council had the highest number of suspended staff of any local authority in Scotland, with 15 employees on paid leave.

One former council worker cited a manager disclosing private reasons for sick leave to fellow staff and the need to disclose any interaction with a suspended employee to senior figures as cases that had affected morale.

The Edinburgh branch of public sector union Unison, which represents some 9000 council staff, is
set to consider several motions related to treatment of staff at its annual meeting tonight.

Branch president John Stevenson said Unison had been convincedof the need to carry out a wider survey of members to determine if acts like bullying were rife in the workplace.

Mr Stevenson said: “There is a fair treatment at work policy in the council that is used very regularly. The bit that prompted us to go into this was soundings on the ground that folk were being asked to do more rather than less and that in some areas they felt they were under undue pressure.”

All council staff are given access to a confidential counselling and support helpline.

Finance and budget convener Councillor Alasdair Rankin said: “The well-being of our staff is extremely important, which is why we have measures in place to support them and ensure they are able to develop and fully contribute to the council’s performance.

“While there is room for
improvement, many of the results from the staff survey are positive or encouraging.”