New claims of bullying at council
Berwick Town Council has lurched into a new row with fresh allegations of bullying made against un-named councillors.
Two members of the staffing committee have been accused of aggressive and bullying emails and pressure to resign directed towards the acting town clerk.
The matter was listed as an agenda item at Monday night’s meeting of the staffing committee but was withdrawn on legal advice.
Mayor Ivor Dixon said: “Having taken advice from the monitoring office, it is deemed inappropriate to discuss this unless it is taken as a confidential item.”
“Instead, I would urge all concerned to get around the table to thrash this out.”
However, the fact it had been put in the public domain in the first place became a talking point.
Peter Watts, a Lib Dem activist, said: “I am saddened but not surprised to see that this council’s rows rumble on.
“After an officer and half a dozen councillors have been driven out – at a cost of eight inquiries and £130,000 – we were promised that we would move forward together in harmony.
“Since then another councillor has been driven out, another officer was driven to resign, albeit briefly, and another tribunal at Rothbury has found this sort of remorseless
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campaign unjustified – and now this agenda.”
He called for fresh attempts be made to resolve matters amicably and, in the interests of transparency, for the two councillors mentioned to identify themselves.
He added: “In the interests of a much needed cleaner democracy, I shall ask our own MP to join publicly in efforts to end this row between a handful of her past and present supporters and the council, a row which has now lasted about three years and which contributes to anger and hate such as that which led to the recent murder of Jo Cox, the late Labour MP.”
His comments infuriated Cllr Georgina Hill, who described it as an ‘Oscar-winning performance’.
Afterwards, she commented: “Council staffing meetings are usually quiet affairs, with legitimate reasons to discuss certain items in private as they relate to individual staff members’ pay and conditions.
“(On Monday), all this was discussed in front of incredulous members of the public following, what I have described as, the most inadvisable and outrageous council agenda, I have ever seen.
“I will go further and say the agenda was a serious abuse of position and I can reveal now all this has been thrown in to the public domain that it forms part of a complaint by myself.
“(The item) was deferred - although the damage was done by the spectacularly inadvisable inclusion on a publicised agenda - following advice from the monitoring officer that it was, clearly, inappropriate.
“It was also an abuse of procedure and contrary to all principles of natural justice - an attempt at an extreme version of the kangaroo court.”