Corby Council accused of 'bullying culture'

Opposition politicians at a Northamptonshire council claim the number of staff off work with stress indicates a "bullying culture".

Figures show 21 staff at Corby Borough Council spent more than three months on sick leave from April till December, Conservatives say.

"Fourteen staff cite stress, anxiety or depression," a spokesman said.

The council said some staff suffered stress but many had since returned to work.

Conservative spokesman Ray Lilley said nine staff with long-term stress-related absences were in the neighbourhood pride department, three were in operational services and two worked for corporate services.

Labour's deputy leader Jean Addison confirmed the information at a council meeting on 23 January.

The council is also being sued in the High Court for bullying and personal injury by its former head of property Stephen Redfern.

In papers submitted by solicitor Des Collins before Christmas, Mr Redfern claims bulling by senior councillors and officers almost drove him to suicide.

Bullying 'not tolerated'

Mr Lilley said: "Clearly the council is not treating its staff with the care and respect that they deserve.

"Less than a year ago the district auditor heavily criticised the council for operating a culture of fear."

The Conservatives are now calling for council leader Tom Beattie and head of housing Bob Eyles to appear before an audit and governance committee to explain the illness figures.

Chief Executive Norman Stronach said: 'In total, from April to December 2013 there has been a total of 23 recorded cases - 4.48% of headcount - relating to stress, depression and anxiety within Corby Borough Council.

"However out of these 23 cases, 74% of them were cited as personal matters and not work related. Also 83% of the cases are resolved and the staff member is back at work.

"Corby Borough Council would not tolerate a culture of bullying, we take work-related stress and health issues very seriously.

"We have a thorough work related stress policy and back to work process in which we support staff alongside occupational health and counselling services."

The secretary of the Unison union's Corby branch, Paul Craddock, said: "Corby Borough Council is an excellent employer, where there isn't a culture of bullying.

"Like every large employer there can be a degree of inter personal conflict."

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