“THE primary reason for staff morale not being high appeared to be the poor behaviour of some members across all parties.”

A Peer Challenge Team said that based on those people they spoke to, the council “clearly has many talented, experienced and professional staff who are proud to work for BDBC.”

But they added: “We were surprised to hear that the morale of the staff is not as high as we would have expected in a council such as BDBC.

“We had feedback from staff who feel very disheartened. During our discussions, staff confirmed that this is an ongoing issue for the council to address.”

Efficiency reviews which have resulted in some redundancies, perceived lack of visibility and support from management, over-reliance on emails, and inconsistent communication are all cited as issues that need to be addressed.

Senior management are also “perceived as remote and not visible to staff.”

Council leader Councillor Clive Sanders and chief executive Tony Curtis were advised to meet new staff, hold more staff conferences, and walk the floor more.

But the experts stated: “The primary reason for (staff) morale not being high appeared to be the poor behaviour of some members across all parties.

“We were told that officers feel very vulnerable, particularly when presenting reports to members.”

They added: “The Overview and Scrutiny committees were singled out as being particularly onerous for officers.

“There were reports of committees not finishing until very late, officers spending up to 60 hours ‘giving evidence’ to O/S on the Local Plan, and officers getting caught in the political crossfire.

“A member reported to us that some of their ‘colleagues behaviour in committee was appalling’. This may be exacerbated by the council filming all meetings and posting them as webcasts which could be further adding to the damage as officers watch their colleagues being publically humiliated.

“The lowering of morale seems endemic across the council, and the Peer Team talked to partners who are aware of the situation. This is a top priority for resolution.”

The Peer Challenge Team have suggested that cabinet members should take full responsibility for their area, supported by officers.

The experts said: “If a paper is presented at Overview and Scrutiny committee, it should be the member and not the officer that presents. Officers should be in attendance to provide appropriate technical advice, not front the item.”