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Highland Council to investigate possible internal bullying culture

Conservative Highland Councillor Andrew Jarvie.
Conservative Highland Councillor Andrew Jarvie.

Highland Council is to look into a reports of a possible culture of bullying within the organisation.

The commitment came after the matter was raised in full council yesterday by Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie, who said he had received a number of anonymous approaches from Highland Council employees about bullying.

He said the approaches were so anonymous, either through third parties known to him or via messages from anonymous accounts on social media, that he didn’t have enough information to take them forward to official channels.

He told the meeting he was sure other councillors had received such approaches.

He said: “The ones I’ve received won’t even state which department they work in to give anything to follow and try and improve the circumstances.

“I’m concerned there is the growing possibility of corporate bullying within the council that doesn’t seem to be addressing.

“I fear I do have to raise this in such a manner as we saw how badly it went for NHS Highland.

“When you have a problem the best way to face it, is be honest and do your best to resolve it.

“I have no means myself as a member to move this issue, so if there is indeed an issue that is developing within the council I would rather see us take a proactive approach to resolve anything and open up some kind of confidential line that staff can go to gather these instances.”

Mr Jarvie said what he had been hearing was not so much about individual bullying, but more of a corporate culture of fear and intimidation which put people in fear of their jobs.

He said: “A culture some describe as a pressure not to approach councillors, for example.

“People shouldn’t have to live in fear and worry that they have to either put up with working in their circumstances or worry they lose their job.”

Council convener Bill Lobban asked Mr Jarvie to have a private conversation with senior management, and said a report will be brought back to a future council meeting.

The council’s chief executive Donna Manson said she was disappointed Mr Jarvie had not come to speak to her and questioned the lack of evidence in his claims.

She said: “As chief of staff of the Highland Council I take allegations of bullying incredibly seriously.

“I am enormously disappointed that Councillor Jarvie has stated he is aware of allegations of bullying as he described and has not come to speak with myself, any member of the senior staff or any trade union representatives or the head of human resources to share his concerns.

“And I have to question why this matter has been raised in this way today because I do not believe it is in the best interests of staff as there is no evidence to support what has been said.

“I would now ask that Councillor Jarvie contacts myself or the head of HR  as a matter of urgency to share his concerns.”

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