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INQUIRY FINDS NO EVIDENCE OF BULLYING AT ABERDEEN

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There is no evidence of a bullying culture in Aberdeen City Council, a senior Scottish QC has concluded after a thr...
There is no evidence of a bullying culture in Aberdeen City Council, a senior Scottish QC has concluded after a three month investigation involving interviews with 115 people. Gordon Coutts QC presented his report to a special council committee on Tuesday with no officers present.

Convenor Neil Cooney said the committee accepted Mr Coutts' conclusions but would be recommending further investigations into allegations of 'inappropriate and unreasonable behaviour'. The council commissioned the report after Unison branch secretary Gill Thackray called for an independent investigation into allegationsof bullying.

The committee released part of the report which makes recommendations for improving working relationships in the council but withheld parts on employees' conduct. Ms Thackray this week said she had 'no particular problems' with the parts of the report which had been released but said Unison would reserve its judgment until the further investigations had been completed.

She challenged Mr Coutts' conclusion that there was no evidence of significant levels of ill health of staff attributable to bullying. 'It all depends on what significant means. There are 3,000 employees within the local authority. If five or six report ill health and it has a common route for us, that is significant. But when taking a global view of 3,000 people, it is insignificant', she said.

In the section of the report made public, Mr Coutts says his inquiry uncovered among staff 'a substantial lack of confidence in and trust of their colleagues'.

'Everyone appeared to be of the view that they were required to 'watch their backs' and some of what was said to me by and about members of staff indicated that attitude was not without foundation. There was also a lack of confidence in their own continued employment. Reconciliation at all levels is now needed after the turmoil of recent months', says the report.

The report reveals support in the council for the appointment of a welfare officer - who staff could approach with work or personal problems - but divided opinion about which department such a person should be attached to.

Mr Coutts dismisses Unison complaints that Aberdeen's grievance procedure is inadequate for dealing with complaints against the chief executive. His report says there is no justification for a system which allows an anonymous complaint to trigger a disciplinary challenge to the chief executive.

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