Complaints procedure for inappropriate behaviour in Fife Council to be scrutinised

Fife Council HQ, Fife House in Glenrothes.

Fife Council is to set up a working group to consider how to deal with complaints of inappropriate behaviour.

The move follows media reports of sexual harassment and comes just weeks after a new councillor claimed there was a culture of bullying and misogyny in the local authority.

Conservative Linda Holt insisted politicians at all levels, including local government, could be implicated in the recent flood of complaints about public figures.

The East Neuk and landward councillor had called on the council to set up a working group to ensure any complaints of sexual harassment and bullying were dealt with properly.

Council leaders David Ross and David Alexander have announced they intend to take forward a number of actions and that a working group of councillors would be supported by appropriate officers.

This has been welcomed by Ms Holt, who said it would make it more difficult to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour.

The group will consider the council’s current arrangements for dealing with any complaints of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace by councillors.

It will also clarify the various roles and responsibilities of the chief executive, the political groups, the council’s standards and audit committee and the Standards Commission.

In addition, it will identify any additional actions which are being, or should be, taken, locally or nationally.

This will include developing a clear statement on the council’s expectations on standards of behaviour of elected members, to which all political groups will be asked to sign up.

The action will be in addition to a national code of conduct which is overseen by the Standards Commission and which all councillors must follow.

Ms Holt said: “I applaud the co-leaders of Fife Council for their readiness to address the concerns about how sexual harassment and discrimination issues involving councillors are dealt with.

“As at Westminster and Holyrood, elected members at the council indulging in inappropriate behaviour are not subject to the same rules and checks as regular employees.

“Moreover, party considerations, such as the wish to avoid damaging publicity or political fall-out, make hushing-up complaints, or turning a blind eye to bad behaviour, tempting options.

“It would be fantastic if Fife Council’s new working group could lead Scotland in coming up with creative ways to combat sexism and harassment in local government.”