‘Serious concerns about the ability of senior officers to work together’ has led to cash-strapped Thanet DC being issued with a rare Section 24 notice.
External auditor Grant Thornton decided to make written statutory recommendations due to ‘inadequate arrangements in governance in responding to whistleblowing, grievances and disciplinary procedures,’ with the council failing to address concerns and allowing matters to ‘continue to escalate’.
Grant Thornton described a ‘serious breakdown in relationships’ between the four senior officers and said their ability to work together to deliver a council strategy had been ‘compromised’.
It said the council had failed to manage whistleblowing, grievance and disciplinary cases ‘promptly and systematically’ and that a number of external council-commissioned reports had found ‘clear evidence of bullying’.
Grant Thornton’s statutory recommendations read: ‘Senior officers’ behaviour was found to fall below the standard expected on a number of occasions.
‘The council’s management culture has allowed the perception that attempts to raise legitimate concerns will be met by disciplinary action.
'This has been described by one independent reviewer as a culture of overt bullying, intimidation, victimisation or humiliation within Thanet DC.’
Grant Thornton said the council’s financial position remained ‘fragile’ and warned of ‘acute risks to financial sustainability in the medium-term’.
It added: ‘Action is needed urgently to address the escalating costs, re-establish appropriate governance arrangements and put the council on a sustainable financial footing.’
Council leader, Cllr Ash Ashbee, said she welcomed the recommendations.