Review criticises borough councillors' 'poor behaviour'

Review criticises borough councillors 'poor behaviour'

Review criticises borough councillors 'poor behaviour'

First published in News
Last updated
Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

THE poor behaviour of some councillors, partisan politics, and uncertainty over the future are damaging the effectiveness of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, and having an adverse impact on staff morale.

The council should also consider moving to all-out elections every four years in order to achieve greater stability, and to break out of a cycle of being in almost permanent ‘election mode’.

Those are just some of the key verdicts of a team of external local government experts who spent four days carrying out a ‘health-check’ of the borough council.

At the invitation of council leaders, the six-strong Peer Challenge Team focused on five key areas including political and managerial leadership, governance and decision-making, and financial planning and viability.

On a positive note, the experts concluded: “Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council provides excellent services to its residents. It has effective partnership relations and this is an area of real strength.”

The team also praised the council’s “excellent general approach to economic development and innovative partnerships”, its “good, positive and productive relationships with the business community”, its senior leadership, and the fact that BDBC is debt-free and has high levels of investment property and cash resources.

However, the team added: “Notwithstanding these notable achievements, the politics at the council are partisan and are obstructing good governance of the council. The current culture is detrimental to staff and member relations.

“Many staff recognise that this is a problem for the council, and we urge you to consider addressing this a top priority for resolution.

“In addition, we observed bureaucracy across areas of the council business that causes decision-making to be slow, hidebound by unnecessary process and adding limited or no value to the quality of decision-making in the council. It appears to be an inefficient use of staff and member time.”

The team added: “Within the context of the governance review, we would like to see two specific proposals. The first is that the council considers moving to all-out elections every four years in order to achieve greater stability.

“The second is that it considers including in the constitution that a member of the opposition should chair any scrutiny committee, as is the case in many other councils.”

While being generally “very impressed” with the staff they met, the Peer Challenge Team said they were “surprised to find morale is not as good as might be expected. The political environment combined with uncertainty about potential future change is having a negative effect on the feelings of staff.”

The report team added: “We did not find anyone outside of SLT (senior leadership team) who, during our visit, could tell us what is the council’s top priority, creating the impression that everything is a priority. This approach must ultimately be inefficient and frustrating for staff.”

Clink on the link below to read the review and see today's Gazette for more on this story.

Corporate Peer Challenge.pdf

Comments (9)

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10:23am Thu 13 Mar 14

Buster Preciation says...

I have always believed that all council seats should be up for election at the same time. Currently a ward with four councillors would return all four from the same party even if each one only had 51% share of the vote. Make all candidates stand at the same time and pick the four with the highest share of the vote. It would make voters think more about the candidates and less about the colour of their rosette and what is happening at a national level.
I have always believed that all council seats should be up for election at the same time. Currently a ward with four councillors would return all four from the same party even if each one only had 51% share of the vote. Make all candidates stand at the same time and pick the four with the highest share of the vote. It would make voters think more about the candidates and less about the colour of their rosette and what is happening at a national level. Buster Preciation
  • Score: -3

5:45pm Thu 13 Mar 14

Hiliter says...

The current Council is in effect one of no overall control but that is the way the electorate have decided it should be.That's certainly the argument used by Cameron and Clegg at a national level isn't it.The Tory group who form the administration locally hate the fact that they cannot push through their policies without challenge.They believe that a change to all out elections would give them a controlling majority and allow them over the four years in office to implement selective policies favouring the areas in BDBC who traditionally vote Tory and put them in power for a long time into the future.This proposal has nothing to do with improving democracy - just the opposite in fact and nothing to do with saving Council Tax payers money.Remember this is the Tory administration that gerrymandered the way the Manydown site was excluded from the local plan and then was hauled before the High Court and found to have acted illegally.
Their actions cost local tax payers more than £!/2 million and brought the Council into disrepute. If Cllr Sanders as Leader is so concerned about making savings perhaps he can start by not taking his £31.000 allowances and getting his Cabinet colleagues to do the same.
One party control of Local Councils is bad for democracy and will further deter,not encourage,voters to take part in local elections.
If the Tories think they have the right policies for Basingstoke people let them be judged on these by the electorate.
Fortunately we have a well organised opposition on the Council, or parts of it at least, that can challenge those who currently have the power to influence Basingstoke's future.
The current Council is in effect one of no overall control but that is the way the electorate have decided it should be.That's certainly the argument used by Cameron and Clegg at a national level isn't it.The Tory group who form the administration locally hate the fact that they cannot push through their policies without challenge.They believe that a change to all out elections would give them a controlling majority and allow them over the four years in office to implement selective policies favouring the areas in BDBC who traditionally vote Tory and put them in power for a long time into the future.This proposal has nothing to do with improving democracy - just the opposite in fact and nothing to do with saving Council Tax payers money.Remember this is the Tory administration that gerrymandered the way the Manydown site was excluded from the local plan and then was hauled before the High Court and found to have acted illegally. Their actions cost local tax payers more than £!/2 million and brought the Council into disrepute. If Cllr Sanders as Leader is so concerned about making savings perhaps he can start by not taking his £31.000 allowances and getting his Cabinet colleagues to do the same. One party control of Local Councils is bad for democracy and will further deter,not encourage,voters to take part in local elections. If the Tories think they have the right policies for Basingstoke people let them be judged on these by the electorate. Fortunately we have a well organised opposition on the Council, or parts of it at least, that can challenge those who currently have the power to influence Basingstoke's future. Hiliter
  • Score: 4

11:14am Mon 17 Mar 14

JJ38JJ says...

I disagree. Buster's example above says it all. Why should a ward with more than one councillor always return both councillors from the same party? It is far more democratic to force candidates from the same party to fight for the seats. This will do away with political complacency.
As for this proposal not saving money, I wonder how much local elections cost the council taxpayer? Instead of having three every four years we'd have one - that's a 67% saving.
I disagree. Buster's example above says it all. Why should a ward with more than one councillor always return both councillors from the same party? It is far more democratic to force candidates from the same party to fight for the seats. This will do away with political complacency. As for this proposal not saving money, I wonder how much local elections cost the council taxpayer? Instead of having three every four years we'd have one - that's a 67% saving. JJ38JJ
  • Score: 1

8:08am Tue 18 Mar 14

Hiliter says...

There are a number of wards under the current system that have Councillors from different parties working together and as far as I know are able to work individually and collectively for the electorate they serve.
They may differ fundamentally in their views about the Council's policies but their primary responsibility is to their electorate and they often show independence of view from the party line.The Council also benefits from a number of independent members who would find it even more difficult to compete with the major political parties at an all out election because of lack of resources.
There are mixed reviews from Councils operating the all out election system and some say the political vibrancy of the Council is reduced to token opposition even on major issues.As for cost arguments - the third,third,third elections probably do cost marginally more than an all out election but that's the price of democracy. Certainly there are many ways this current administration could not waste money in the way they do on projects benefiting only a few.
There are a number of wards under the current system that have Councillors from different parties working together and as far as I know are able to work individually and collectively for the electorate they serve. They may differ fundamentally in their views about the Council's policies but their primary responsibility is to their electorate and they often show independence of view from the party line.The Council also benefits from a number of independent members who would find it even more difficult to compete with the major political parties at an all out election because of lack of resources. There are mixed reviews from Councils operating the all out election system and some say the political vibrancy of the Council is reduced to token opposition even on major issues.As for cost arguments - the third,third,third elections probably do cost marginally more than an all out election but that's the price of democracy. Certainly there are many ways this current administration could not waste money in the way they do on projects benefiting only a few. Hiliter
  • Score: 4

1:13pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Jonty11 says...

I think there's a really valid discussion to be had with the electorate around the election scheme - with thirds, there is an argument that you have at least one month (or more if you include Christmas and summer periods) when it is difficult to get decisions made/work progressed.

I think there is a broader issue here which is not being discussed which is around the behaviour of councillors ........didn't the last Leader and the longest standing Labour Councillor both resign citing poor behaviour as one of the reasons?

This review has shown that this hasn't changed recently and is now damaging the Council - surely the Councillors have some fairly serious questions to answer about their behaviour???????????
I think there's a really valid discussion to be had with the electorate around the election scheme - with thirds, there is an argument that you have at least one month (or more if you include Christmas and summer periods) when it is difficult to get decisions made/work progressed. I think there is a broader issue here which is not being discussed which is around the behaviour of councillors ........didn't the last Leader and the longest standing Labour Councillor both resign citing poor behaviour as one of the reasons? This review has shown that this hasn't changed recently and is now damaging the Council - surely the Councillors have some fairly serious questions to answer about their behaviour??????????? Jonty11
  • Score: 0

4:46pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Hiliter says...

Fairly easy to see the political persuasion of Jonty11 who believes that the Tory Councillors behave impeccably at all times.Whereas some objective assessment of their conduct in Committees and Council meetings might suggest differently.On occasions they make the antics of the Bullingdon Club look like a vicar's tea party in comparison to their own behaviour.
All Councillors have a responsibility to behave well to each other and to staff but this isn't helped by the actions of a few in the Tory group who display an arrogance to any opposition Councillor who has the temerity to question their motives and decisions.
It will be interesting to establish where the review group got it's encouragement to go beyond its terms of reference.
Probably not difficult to work this one out really.
Fairly easy to see the political persuasion of Jonty11 who believes that the Tory Councillors behave impeccably at all times.Whereas some objective assessment of their conduct in Committees and Council meetings might suggest differently.On occasions they make the antics of the Bullingdon Club look like a vicar's tea party in comparison to their own behaviour. All Councillors have a responsibility to behave well to each other and to staff but this isn't helped by the actions of a few in the Tory group who display an arrogance to any opposition Councillor who has the temerity to question their motives and decisions. It will be interesting to establish where the review group got it's encouragement to go beyond its terms of reference. Probably not difficult to work this one out really. Hiliter
  • Score: 2

5:14pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Hiliter says...

Might also be worth reminding Jonty11 that without exception only Tory Councillors have been referred to the Standards Committee and been found to have breached the Code of Conduct.You are right about the last Leader of the Council resigning.That was Cllr Finney as I recall it. Isn't that the same Cllr Finney who had to apologise to Council and the electorate for failing to disclose his interest in the Golf Club site where his wife is a member.Didn't he fail to remember to do this in the members register of interests. This site is now included in the draft local plan for development as a lucrative housing development.What is it they say about people in glass houses........ There again perhaps i shouldn't mention houses to Jonty11.
Might also be worth reminding Jonty11 that without exception only Tory Councillors have been referred to the Standards Committee and been found to have breached the Code of Conduct.You are right about the last Leader of the Council resigning.That was Cllr Finney as I recall it. Isn't that the same Cllr Finney who had to apologise to Council and the electorate for failing to disclose his interest in the Golf Club site where his wife is a member.Didn't he fail to remember to do this in the members register of interests. This site is now included in the draft local plan for development as a lucrative housing development.What is it they say about people in glass houses........ There again perhaps i shouldn't mention houses to Jonty11. Hiliter
  • Score: 2

7:25pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Jonty11 says...

Hiliter wrote:
Fairly easy to see the political persuasion of Jonty11 who believes that the Tory Councillors behave impeccably at all times.Whereas some objective assessment of their conduct in Committees and Council meetings might suggest differently.On occasions they make the antics of the Bullingdon Club look like a vicar's tea party in comparison to their own behaviour.
All Councillors have a responsibility to behave well to each other and to staff but this isn't helped by the actions of a few in the Tory group who display an arrogance to any opposition Councillor who has the temerity to question their motives and decisions.
It will be interesting to establish where the review group got it's encouragement to go beyond its terms of reference.
Probably not difficult to work this one out really.
Hiliter, I made reference to Councillors citing behaviour as an issue across the political divide (both Conservative and Labour) and made no political comment in itself - so presuming where I may vote is wholly without basis.

My point was that the Councillors have been identified by the peer review as having behaviour which has damaged the Council, its reputation and presumably its performance - neither I,nor the reporting of the Peer Review by the Bas Gaz, have made specific reference regarding political groups in this.

Therefore Councillors (plural - no reference to political groups) need to answer some questions over their behaviour.....

Why are you a Councillor and have a guilty conscience?
[quote][p][bold]Hiliter[/bold] wrote: Fairly easy to see the political persuasion of Jonty11 who believes that the Tory Councillors behave impeccably at all times.Whereas some objective assessment of their conduct in Committees and Council meetings might suggest differently.On occasions they make the antics of the Bullingdon Club look like a vicar's tea party in comparison to their own behaviour. All Councillors have a responsibility to behave well to each other and to staff but this isn't helped by the actions of a few in the Tory group who display an arrogance to any opposition Councillor who has the temerity to question their motives and decisions. It will be interesting to establish where the review group got it's encouragement to go beyond its terms of reference. Probably not difficult to work this one out really.[/p][/quote]Hiliter, I made reference to Councillors citing behaviour as an issue across the political divide (both Conservative and Labour) and made no political comment in itself - so presuming where I may vote is wholly without basis. My point was that the Councillors have been identified by the peer review as having behaviour which has damaged the Council, its reputation and presumably its performance - neither I,nor the reporting of the Peer Review by the Bas Gaz, have made specific reference regarding political groups in this. Therefore Councillors (plural - no reference to political groups) need to answer some questions over their behaviour..... Why are you a Councillor and have a guilty conscience? Jonty11
  • Score: 0

9:44pm Tue 18 Mar 14

popleyrebel2 says...

The bullying tactic adopted by this administration during the Mandown saga was a perfect example of very poor behaviour, furthermore, it cost the borough a shed load of money, without reply, just another example of very bad behaviour.
The bullying tactic adopted by this administration during the Mandown saga was a perfect example of very poor behaviour, furthermore, it cost the borough a shed load of money, without reply, just another example of very bad behaviour. popleyrebel2
  • Score: 3

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