In a way, there's just no sport in criticising Cheshire East Council.

You don't have to be a hard-bitten investigative journalist trawling through arcane documents to dish the dirt.

In the words of the Radiohead song Just: 'You do it to yourself', or in this case, Cheshire East does it to itself.

Despite the suspensions and resignations of senior staff, police investigations and calls for the council to be put in special measures, perhaps the most worrying and upsetting criticism of the council was the report that said there was a culture of bullying at the council.

You may recall a Local Government Association (LGA) review into CEC, commissioned by the council itself, that found almost a quarter of council staff surveyed were aware of workplace bullying in the second half of 2017.

In that report, the LGA stated that incidents of bullying came from ‘predominantly people who have power within the organisation’.

Has the problem of bullying gone away at Cheshire East? It's certainly an issue that's still bothering Cllr Sam Corcoran, the leader of the Labour group.

He said: “Given that there have been no changes in the senior positions of power within the organisation since those words were written, it is logically inescapable that the bullies are still in place at CEC."

After the somewhat damning report by the LGA, Cheshire East paid consultancy firm Sticky Change £152,460 to help it work on a ‘Brighter Future Together’ programme during 2018-19 – a scheme designed to improve the local authority’s workplace culture.

Cllr Corcoran went on to say: "I understand about the work being done through Sticky Change and the Brighter Futures programme, but that is aimed at changing the culture of the council, which is subtly but importantly different from addressing bullying.

“They are linked, because if you change the culture, that will help to prevent bullying. But there is nothing that I can see that gives me a warm feeling of how we are acting to stop bullying in this council.”

But it would appear everything in the Cheshire East garden is rosy after all, according to Conservative councillr Barry Moran who is chairman of CEC’s staffing committee.

As well as a dedicated anti-bullying helpline, the council has a ‘deal’ for staff that sets out values and behaviours, and a series of staff surveys have taken place.

Cllr Moran said: “It is well known that matters of employee wellbeing, cultural change and bullying are taken very seriously and are very high on CEC’s agenda.

“In recent times we have seen – and all welcomed I am sure – the commissioning of the LGA’s cultural review report, the resultant start-up of the current Brighter Future Together culture programme, along with some very good progress made by all of the officers and members involved to address the recommendations."

Well that's OK then. I just hope the council's employees are feeling the benefit. It would be interesting to hear from workers if that really is the case.

  •  Sadly, there's a little more bad news for Cheshire East. The council is responsible for carrying out food hygiene inspections in the borough and more than one in 10 pubs, restaurants, takeaways or grocery stores requiring inspection at least every two years is not being checked on time.

Why, you have every right to ask, given this is a fairly significant public heath issue.

Apparently, the problem is that staff vacancies are to blame for missing the target on food hygiene ratings in the first half of 2018-19.

Cllr Tony Dean, Conservative member for Knutsford, fears a major incident would cause reputational damage for CEC.

He told the council’s environment and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee: “I am concerned that we have dropped into the red with these.

“The reason why I am saying that is that it is a reputational issue for the council.

He said: “We just need one person dying of food poisoning and it is going to be in every Sunday newspaper, top of the list – ‘CEC has made a mistake and discovered that they haven’t been visited by a regulator for a year and a half’ or something.

“That’s trouble, so I am hoping that that is in hand.”

Don't know if I'm missing something here but isn't the point of these inspections to keep the public safe and well, not merely to protect the council's reputation?

That seems like a somewhat skewed priority to me.