Stratford-on-Avon District Council Culture Report published

Released on 13 November 2019 Archived Press Release

The Culture Report for Stratford-on-Avon District Council, following allegations of sexism and an internal investigation, has been published.

Olwen Brown, a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP, who produced the report found no evidence of a culture of sexism at the District Council.

In the report, she states: "Given the evidence I have considered, it seems to me that it would be unfair to brand the Council as having a 'sexist culture'."

The report also states: "I was also impressed by the way in which the Employee Code and Member Code of conduct are strongly aligned, with for example the Nolan principles now incorporated in the Employee Code of Conduct as well as underpinning, as is required, the Member Code."

The report also recognises that: "My belief is that both Mr Buckland and Cllr Jefferson, as the new Chief Executive and Leader respectively are genuine in their commitment to do what they can to make sure that the Council does not have and is not seen as having a sexist culture."

Many of the comments and complaints in the witness evidence relates to the behaviour of two particular members, namely Cllrs Barnes and Feilding. They have been the subject of separate Code of Conduct investigations and were found guilty of breaches of the Code of Conduct, have apologised to all staff at the Council and are going through a training process in an attempt to amend their behaviour.

However, one area of concern is for staff to have the confidence and feel supported to report instances of inappropriate behaviour and that known behaviours had not been tackled previously.

The full report will now go to the District Council's Audit and Standards Committee on Monday 18 November for consideration.

The recommendations in the report are:

  • Giving officers the confidence and support to raise concerns of unacceptable behaviours.
  • Further training for both officers and members on equality and diversity.
  • Improving communications for staff about how to raise matters of concern.
  • Learning from other workplaces to improve procedures.
  • Review the current procedures in place of raising concerns and see if improvements can be made.

A detailed action plan to address the recommendations will also be considered at the meeting.

In addition staff are being surveyed on how they feel most comfortable about raising concerns.

David Buckland, Chief Executive in response said: "The District Council takes any allegations involving any form of discrimination extremely seriously and when we were aware the Monitoring Officer instigated an independent review immediately. I would like to thank all the staff and members that contributed to the review and also to the investigator for such a thorough report.

"Whilst I am obviously very pleased that the investigator has concluded we are not a 'sexist' organisation. Staff can be fully assured that the recommendations arising from the report will be implemented in full, and I would encourage anybody who has any such concerns to come forward. They will be taken seriously and they will be supported."

  • The District Council's Monitoring Officer commissioned the Culture Report as part of the internal investigation - to produce a further report in relation to the wider culture of the District Council, following the comments in the original Facebook post from the former employee.
  • The original investigation was started following a complaint from a private Facebook message posted by the former employee about some of her experiences and view of a sexist culture at the Council.
  • All staff and Councillors were contacted to invite those with similar concerns to come forward to help with the investigations.
  • A total of eight members of staff came forward and were interviewed as part of the investigation.

Contact details

Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Elizabeth House, Church Street,
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire,
CV37 6HX
Tel: 01789 267575