AN INDEPENDENT inquiry has been called for looking into accusations made about a council department.

Labour group leader Councillor Paul Harvey has made the call over issues within the law and governance unit at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC).

The statement came during a full council meeting of BDBC on Thursday, 14 December after deputy mayor Cllr Sean Keating, chairing the meeting, outlined the reasons why a request for a special meeting of the council, to discuss the issues within the unit was turned down.

Responding to the reason, Cllr Harvey said: “We would like an independent inquiry. There may well be staff that have left the council and present staff that may want to give evidence and that should be done in the appropriate way. I do believe an independent investigation is the most appropriate way.”

While the reasons for the plea for an independent examination were not specifically referred to at the meeting, The Gazette understands it relates to: -a Freedom of Information request, reported on in The Gazette, which shows the number of resignations from the law and governance unit and the amount of absence in the department due to stress, depression and other mental health problems, -a report in The Gazette which featured a whistleblower alleging psychological bullying in the department, -a number of further concerns raised, by more than one person, which have not been made public.

Cllr Keating told the council the request for the special meeting was turned down because the matters it refer too were not ‘for discussion in a public meeting’.

He added: “I have asked for an urgent meeting of the Human Resources Committee to deal with the subject matter of the request.”

BDBC leader Cllr Clive Sanders confirmed at the meeting he also requested the request be referred to the ‘relevant committee’.

The discussion at committee will likely be held in private.

As has been previously reported in The Gazette, at least 11 members of staff have resigned from their posts while part of the unit since June last year and from June 2016 to September 2017, staff absence to stress, depression and other mental health problems accounted for 80 per cent of the total absence versus 20 per cent across the council as a whole.