Hackney Council bullying row: Town hall CEO hits back at unions’ accusations investigation was ‘undermined’

Hackney Service Centre.

Hackney Service Centre. - Credit: Archant

The town hall has hit back at unions after they pulled out of an investigation into allegations of bullying, racism and harassment within the council.

Hackney’s chief exec Tim Shields has written to reps from Unite, Unison and GMB in response to their letter last week accusing the council of “consistently undermining” the probe.

The unions said they had “no confidence” the council had taken seriously the concerns raised by staff in Hackney Service Centre, a call centre behind the town hall at the centre of the row.

But Mr Shields has responded to accusations the council made a “catalogue of basic errors at best, fundamental flaws at worst” during the investigation.

Regarding claims people couldn’t book sessions with the investigator because all slots had been allotted, he said: “Of the 48 slots available for the initial 6 days of interviews, only 27 of these were booked.

“Staff in the HR team involved in booking the appointments were not authorised to make additional slots available and neither could we provide an assurance to staff about making more slots available if we are not made aware more were needed.

“When you requested for additional slots to be made available, we listened to your reasons for this and immediately made 16 more slots available.”

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Mr Shields also shot down claims the council had failed to properly investigate allegations a manager cautioned staff about what they were to say to the investigator.

He also said unions’ claims they had been “inundated with staff complaints” since the probe began were “unacceptable” because only one incident could be accounted for.

Mr Shields highlighted a range of actions to tackle inequality at the council, including an inclusive leadership champions programme, and said he understood managers needed to become more inclusive.

But he signed off by saying: “In an organisation of this size and complexity, there will always be challenges, but to meet them, we need to work together.

“Your decision to withdraw from the investigation goes against that need to collaborate and work together, and devalues what we have achieved together over recent years. As always I am happy to receive any further information and I will continue to listen to and respond to concerns.”