Edinburgh council's Sean Bell scandal: review says councillors' behaviour has negative impact on culture

Councillors’ behaviour is harming the organisational culture of the council, top QC Susanne Tanner has said.

By Ian Swanson
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 4:55 am

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And she said little seemed to have changed since an Audit Scotland “Best Value” report last year highlighted “tensions between elected members which manifest in inappropriate language and tone being used in council debate”.

Her report said: “The majority of councillors conduct themselves professionally, comply with the Code of Conduct for Councillors, and treat their fellow members and council officers with courtesy and respect. However, occasional slips in behaviour and conduct of a minority of councillors has had a negative impact on the organisational culture of the council.

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Susanne Tanner QC led an independent review into council culture

"Concerns about the conduct of some councillors towards officers, and each other, in the course of committee meetings was raised with the review team by both councillors and officers.”

She said among the 21 councillors who took part in the review workshops, there was cross-party consensus that little had changed since the Best Value report.

"Indeed, one councillor observed that ‘in some respects relationships are getting worse’ and another that ‘in the last year or so it has become toxic’."

And she added: “Unfortunately, it is clear to me that some officers have become guarded and defensive in the information provided to Councillors due to concerns about information being leaked or the possibility of the officer or the department being unfairly criticised by councillors.”

She said the council should reflect on the findings of the Best Value report and consider any necessary changes to aid communications among councillors and between councillors and officers.

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