Brighton: Disciplinary process currently underway at ‘toxic’ Cityclean Brighton News

A £266,000 independent report by barrister Aileen McColgan was presented to councillors for debate at a meeting of the full council at Hove Town Hall on Thursday.

The Labour leader of the council Bella Sankey said that one of her first decisions when she took charge after the local elections last May was to start the investigation into complaints about behaviour at Cityclean.

Ms McColgan’s investigation found deep-rooted issues with bullying, race discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation and violence. Managers were unable to respond to issues because of the realistic threat of industrial action.


Councillor Sankey said that Ms McColgan heard from 70 people who had not spoken out before because of their fear of reprisals which was described in the report as “well-founded”.

She said that the report highlighted a “toxic culture” at Cityclean involving GMB union reps and a group of about ten white men who were particularly protected by the union reps.

Councillor Sankey said that an independent security check found illegal weapons in the GMB office including a samurai sword, nunchucks, knives and other weapons.

She said: “I have apologised repeatedly to staff who have been affected by these behaviours and I do so again tonight. I also apologise for the wider culture and to everybody who has been affected by it.

“In turn, I’ve been struck by the many members of staff and residents who have come forward to thank our administration for gripping this issue which has dogged our city for so long.

“I am also struck by the number of people that have come forward to raise their mistreatment at Cityclean since the publication of the interim report in October.”

Councillor Sankey said that a confidential disciplinary process was currently under way and that the barrister’s recommendations had been accepted.

A full report is due to be presented to the Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee on Thursday, January 25, including an action plan.

Councillor Sankey said that action was already taking place and a web page would keep the public and councillors up to date with the action plan.

Green convenor Steve Davis said that the report made regular references to political interference after councillors overturned personnel decisions – and “mentions dodgy relationships between some councillors and some union members”.

Councillor Davis called for full disclosure and accountability for the previous Labour council’s dealings with GMB representatives.

He said: “If we are to have confidence that the current Labour administration can be trusted to tackle the problems at Cityclean, then we need full accountability over the roles that Labour councillors past and present may have played in Cityclean issues.

“For every day that elected members are not named, that Labour averts culpability, that Labour fails to publicly address allegations about some of their members’ dealings with some trade union reps, we move further away from the transparency and accountability that is needed to ensure these issues won’t arise again.”

Councillor Davis asked for an earlier report, by the late trade union leader Gerry Doherty in 2019, to be published but Councillor Sankey said that this was not possible because it contained confidential information.

She said that Ms McColgan had received a copy of the Doherty report to inform her work.

Conservative leader Alistair McNair said that the conclusions of Ms McColgan’s report made for “uncomfortable reading”.

Councillor McNair said: “Clearly, staff have been let down but so have residents. This report suggests why residents have been getting such a raw deal over many years.

“It is to be hoped that the essential changes in working practices outlined will be adopted urgently and thoroughly so that residents will receive the service they deserve and staff can work in a place that is professional and inclusive.”

The council’s Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee meeting is due to start at 4pm on Thursday 25 January. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-18 05:00:00

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