THE Local Government Association report on Cheshire East Council published a year ago stated, ‘The bullying or bad treatment that was described comes from a range of sources, predominantly people who have power within the organisation’.

Since then there have been no changes at the top of Cheshire East Council.

Not a single senior Conservative councillor has stepped down or been moved, so we know that those responsible for any bullying or bad treatment are still in post and are still in positions of power.

It is difficult to prove who is a bully, but not hard to prove who should have taken action to stop the bullying and has failed. Changes at the top provide an opportunity for a fresh start.

Sadly, the Conservative leader of the council has adopted a bunker mentality and developed a habit of hiding behind staff whenever she is criticised.

The latest example is over an email she wrote in 2016 justifying her appointment of someone to the finance portfolio in her cabinet by saying that all the creditors of his company were paid in full when his company was liquidated.

That has now been proved to be factually incorrect, but the Conservative leader says that she is not at fault because she relied on the advice of the council’s then monitoring officer.

The leader said that she referred herself under the council’s code of conduct over her misleading statement. She has now said that the code of conduct report says that she did not breach the code because she was relying on advice from officers. This raises two questions.

1 As the code of conduct process is supposedly confidential, how can the Conservative leader say what the outcome was without breaching confidentiality?

2 If it isn’t confidential then why won’t she release the code of conduct report? In fact even the advice from the then monitoring officer on which she claims to have relied is being withheld.

It seems that in Cheshire East Council the definition of ‘confidential’ depends on whether it might be embarrassing for the Conservative leadership!

Labour’s record of standing up for council staff is clear for all to see.

The Labour group repeatedly and publicly called for an external review of allegations of bullying and the culture at Cheshire East Council for months before the Conservatives finally agreed to the LGA review.

The Labour Group proposed a motion of no confidence in the previous Conservative leader Michael Jones in February 2015, but the Conservatives unanimously voted that they had full confidence in Michael Jones.

Yet now the new Conservative leader tries to blame everything on ‘legacy issues’, conveniently overlooking the fact that she was in Michael Jones’ cabinet and was his chosen successor.

I am not denying the scale of the challenge facing the council. Most experts I have spoken to say that it takes at least two years to change the culture of an organisation of the size of Cheshire East Council.

The Conservatives are acting as if the bullying has stopped.

This just isn’t credible and suggests that the £153,000 spent on consultants is more about enhancing their own electoral prospects rather than stamping out bullying.

Sam Corcoran, leader Labour Group, Cheshire East Council