In response to an alarming £266,000 independent report, Brighton and Hove City Council is taking decisive action to eliminate a deeply ingrained “toxic culture” at Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service. The comprehensive investigation by a barrister, whose findings were presented at a recent full council meeting, brought to light serious issues such as bullying, race discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation, and violence.
The initiation of the investigation last May by the council’s leader, following local elections, underscores the gravity of the situation. The report unveiled a disturbing pattern of fear and silence among Cityclean staff, with 70 individuals choosing not to speak out due to well-founded fears of reprisals.
The report pointed to a toxic culture perpetuated by GMB union representatives and approximately 10 individuals enjoying protection from these representatives. An independent security check at the GMB office revealed the presence of illegal weapons, including a samurai sword, nunchucks, knives, and other weapons.
Acknowledging the severity of the situation, the council expressed apologies to the affected staff and the wider community. Ongoing confidential disciplinary processes are in place, and the barrister’s recommendations are actively being implemented. A comprehensive report and action plan are set to be presented to the Strategy, Finance, and City Regeneration Committee on Thursday, 25 January.
To foster transparency, the council assured the public and councillors that a dedicated webpage would provide regular updates on the action plan’s progress. However, concerns about political interference were raised, citing instances where personnel decisions were overturned and alluding to questionable relationships between councillors and union members.
Calling for full disclosure and accountability for past dealings, emphasis was placed on transparency in the administration’s handling of Cityclean issues. Reference was made to a 2019 report by a late trade union leader, urging its publication. However, confidentiality issues were cited as a hindrance to the report’s release, although the barrister had access to it during her investigation.
Acknowledging the discomforting nature of the findings, the conservative leader stressed the collective letdown of both staff and residents. Expressing hope for the swift and comprehensive adoption of proposed changes in working practices outlined in the report, there is optimism that residents will receive the service they deserve, and staff can work in a professional and inclusive environment.
Looking ahead, the council’s Strategy, Finance, and City Regeneration Committee are scheduled to convene on Thursday, 25 January, at 4 pm. The meeting will be webcast on the council’s website, providing an opportunity for the public to observe the council’s commitment to addressing the challenges outlined in the independent report.