After Richard Price, Conservative parish councillor for Crowthorne South, lost a vote of no-confidence after having been found to have bullied a member of staff, we were assured that this was an isolated incident and not reflective of our local councils at large. Shamefully, Councillor Price has yet to resign, and now the Bracknell News has reported on a shocking new survey from our Bracknell Forest councillors and officers. Disgracefully, 72% of officers responding said bullying sometimes takes place between they and councillors – a further 15% said it takes place frequently.
These are disturbing numbers and indicate the problem of bullying within our borough is not limited to an isolated case here and there. These results were publicised during Anti-Bullying Week, at a time when our borough leadership may talk of efforts to eradiate bullying within our schools, yet in the same moment preside over a dysfunctional work environment. Officers are not politicians – they are ordinary members of our community who expect to work in a safe environment, free from harassment by councillors.
What we don’t need are more platitudes. Our council staff deserve a concrete plan to monitor, identify, and address incidents between councillors and officers. As the case of Councillor Price shows, this effort must not be limited to just Bracknell Forest Borough Council. We call not just on the leadership of Bracknell Forest, but of the town councils of Bracknell and Sandhurst, and of the parish councils of Binfield, Crowthorne, Warfield and Winkfield. We call on these councils to publicise new plans for tackling this systemic problem.
We call too on the Bracknell Conservative Association, to whom 37 of the 42 borough councillors belong, to declare its own plan for sanctioning members found to have bullied others. Vague expressions of solidarity with the bullied are not sufficient, there must be an effort to show that bullying will not be tolerated, and any such councillors are not re-selected for future elections.