Wales politics

Bullying behaviour 'risking Cardiff council's reputation'

City Hall Image copyright Getty Images

Bullying and discrimination at Cardiff council are risking the reputation of the authority, a report has said.

Councillors are being offered support after a survey found about a third of members had witnessed bullying.

A report by the council's ethics committee said there was concern about some councillors' conduct on social media and at full council meetings.

Cardiff council said the role of councillor could be "stressful".

A spokesman said all councillors had to abide by the council's code of conduct, by law, requiring them to treat people with respect.

The draft annual report by the authority's standards and ethics committee, to be considered on Monday, said an exit survey carried out in February 2017 ahead of May's local elections, showed about a third of councillors who responded had witnessed "some bullying behaviour".

The committee's chairman Richard Tebboth writes: "Committee members shared widespread concern about levels of conduct in some full council meetings - which attracted adverse comment in public media and risked affecting the overall reputation of the council.

"It also undermines the great dedication that individual councillors bring to their everyday work in their role. The new council gives the opportunity for a fresh start in this regard."


The report also highlighted:

  • Between April 2016 and March 2017, there were 18 complaints made against councillors alleging breaches of the code of conduct - most were resolved informally and only one is being considered by the ombudsman
  • Of these, 13 were made by members of the public, while five were from another councillor
  • An existing confidential employee counselling scheme has been extended to councillors
  • Councillors should "make it clear" on social media when they are commenting in their personal capacity rather than as councillors - "using separate accounts as appropriate"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A confidential counselling service has been extended to councillors following the concerns

In March, Plaid Cymru councillor Neil McEvoy was suspended for a month after a tribunal found a comment he made to an official amounted to "bullying behaviour".

Members of the committee attended full council meetings - where all 75 councillors attend - to watch and raise concerns about "behaviour and lack of respect", the report states.

Councillors talked over each other and many were seen leaving early.

Councillor Fenella Bowden, an independent member for the Heath ward, said she had experienced bullying.

"It is intimidating behaviour, I am disabled and the discrimination I have experienced as a result of me not talking about it, because I don't feel like I have to, has been shameful," she said.

'Disgusting'

The councillor, first elected in 2009, said she thought the bullying had got worse in the past few years, and had asked the chief executive to introduce a mentoring scheme for all new councillors.

She added: "This is why you lose experienced and potentially very effective councillors after a couple of years, they just cannot handle the behaviour, they think 'my life is worth more than this'.

"It is always disgusting when you see the bullying and undermining of councillors within the chamber. We may not agree with another's opinion but we have to respect that someone has an opinion."

She added Cardiff council had "not got to grips with it".

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Media captionCouncillor Fenella Bowden claims 'intimidation' tactics are used during debates

Conservative group leader Adrian Robson said, since the election, members had "calmed down" and new councillors were setting a considerate tone.

"Unfortunately, during the last council there were instances where behaviour between councillors was unacceptable and sometimes that continued afterwards on social media," he said.

Liberal Democrats group leader Joe Boyle said: "Council meetings over the past few years were frequently shambolic, directionless and failed to serve Cardiff's residents.

"Boorish behaviour was all too common. Everyone has a personal responsibility to act like grown-ups but there is no doubt that some of the ill-temper was a result of frustration at the poor quality of the meetings."

Plaid Cymru group leader Neil McEvoy said: "Being elected to represent our constituents is a privilege and being elected to run our capital city should be an honour.

"Part of the job is to accept scrutiny from others and to be held accountable for your decisions - opposing views should be heard and respected, not shouted down and silenced."

A Cardiff council spokesman said: "All elected members are required to attend an induction session on the code of conduct, at which behaviour was discussed.

"The role of councillor can be stressful for many reasons and for many involves juggling work and family commitments alongside their role as a councillor.

"For all these reasons an existing employee counselling scheme was extended to councillors."

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