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At last night’s Full Council meeting Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Sutton and Cheam, Emily Brothers questioned Sutton’s Lib Dem Leader, Councillor Ruth Dombey, over findings from a Unison Survey revealed exclusively by The Sutton Guardian last week. The questionnaire found 31% of those who took part felt they were being bullied, with 20% of those affected having taken sick leave as a result. When asked what form the bullying took, humiliation, excessive criticism and intimidation were the most common answers. As a result of these findings, Ms Brothers asked:
“Is the leader of the Council ashamed about the culture of bullying of workers over which she presides and explain how the Lib Dem administration intends to rectify their broken trust with employees?”
Councillor Dombey responded by talking about Council Policy and training made available to staff. No regrets were expressed by Councillor Dombey and no actions were set out to address the concerns of council employees.
By way of follow up, Emily Brothers asked:
“I’m sure there is agreement that tackling bullying comes from leadership. Therefore, I would like to know whether it has ever been suggested that the Chief Executive should attend an anger management course? If not, will the Leader ensure this happens? As an act of good faith will the Leader of the Council join the Chief Executive on that course?”
Councillor Dombey dismissed the accusation that there is a culture of bullying at Sutton Council. She did not address the suggestion that either the Chief Executive or Leader of the Council should attend anger management training.
Ms Brothers was dismayed by this response. She said:
“Evidence of staff experience is clearly presented by Unison, but the Lib Dem leadership simply dismiss it. You may not like the message, but it is imperative that concerns of employees are taken seriously. Ignoring these findings will lead to more significant problems later as Lib Dem cuts bite even more deeply.
“I would have respect for an administration that accepted the challenge from staff, held up their hands by showing regret and committing to work with employees to combat harassment and bullying. Instead those concerns of employees have been brushed aside and my questions were typically ignored, not answered at all. It is shameful that Lib Dem leaders lack the political courage to deal with both systemic ways of working and inappropriate behaviour at the top of the organisation.
“The Leader hasn’t denied that it has been suggested that Sutton’s Chief Executive should get support and training for anger management and bullying. It hasn’t been confirmed that the Chief Executive has received such support, nor any undertaking that it will be addressed. I have it on good authority that it is a concern that needs to be addressed.”
Talking about the Unison findings published last week, Emily Brothers remarked:
“I’m alarmed by the continued scale of bullying within Lib Dem Sutton Council It is becoming more covert, taking the form of humiliation, excessive criticism and intimidation.
“Lib Dem cuts are clearly making matters even worse. Employees are under significant pressure, resulting in 43% working over their contracted hours regularly or always. Work pressures along with poor management behaviour is leading to council workers feeling demoralised.
“I’m often told by staff at Lib Dem Sutton Council that they feel under pressure, not valued by managers and they are intimidated by the top-down culture.
“Lib Dem Councillors are turning a blind eye to bullying and the pressure on council workers is increasing with all the service cuts and re-organisation. That’s leading to unacceptable levels of sickness absence due to stress and bullying, costing local taxpayers who are getting less value from their services.
“Along with other residents I’m grateful for the additional hours council staff put into their role, but I’m not clear how far this Lib Dem administration want to push this goodwill. Changes to terms and conditions, not least in ending flexible working, is likely to lead to a further deterioration in employee relations.
“Lib Dem Sutton Council need to set out the measures they will take to address their culture of bullying. Employees deserve such action, whilst service users need to be assured that council provision isn’t going to be further eroded by poor management.”

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