No huge bullying payouts at Highland Council

by Colin Campbell

ON the same day it was revealed that NHS Highland has paid out a staggering £3.4million to employees and ex-employees as a result of bullying disputes, it was reported that there are some similar issues at Highland Council.

A survey by the GMB union found that 59 per cent of respondents had concerns about harassment, mistreatment and abuse they say is not being properly addressed by the local authority.

So, heaven help the taxpayer, are we now in for a similar situation at Highland Council?

No, mercifully, we are not.

While bullying is a very serious issue and has to be treated accordingly, the scale of it alleged by council employees is in no way comparable to the major problems in recent years revealed and verified by deep and detailed inquiries at NHS Highland.

Only around 100 council staff responded to the GMB survey.

Of those, 59 per cent said they had raised concerns about the behaviour of management or colleagues, particularly in education, social care and environment.

A total of 53 per cent said they felt their concerns had not been taken seriously and 69 per cent said they did not feel informed through the process.

And a total of 69 per cent were not satisfied with the outcome of investigations.

The council employs around 10,000 people in total. Different conclusions may be drawn from the fact that only a fraction of those working for the local authority responded to the survey, but the most obvious one is that bullying is not a widespread problem which causes very many people working there concern.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council takes any allegations of bullying very seriously.

“Highland Council is an organisation of over 10,000 staff and within this context it would be surprising not to have any issues and indeed we would want staff to feel they can come forward if they have a problem. We are aware of a very small number of cases and these are being worked through within our policies.”

That sounds a fair and satisfactory response.

We could not afford another major public sector bullying scandal where compensation payouts – some as high as £90,000 in the case of NHS Highland – were being shelled out left, right and centre to a large number of people.

With regard to Highland Council, the problems raised should be treated seriously, and dealt with internally.

And that should be an end to it.

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