Dan Peters 01 February 2023

Auditor calls for national changes after public interest report

Auditor calls for national changes after public interest report image
Image: Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock.com.

External auditor Grant Thornton has called for national changes after cataloguing a ‘toxic’ culture and ‘dysfunctional environment’ at Cheshire East Council.

A report in the public interest discussed at a full council meeting today accused former Conservative leader Michael Jones of being ‘bullying and intimidatory’.

Current leader of the Conservative group, Janet Clowes, who was a member of the cabinet when Mr Jones was leader, had told auditors he could be ‘absolutely appalling’ to officers, with behaviour - including shouting, screaming and use of foul language - being ‘unpleasant and frightening’ at times.

Auditors said Mr Jones created a ‘culture of fear’ but said the ‘responsibility for not taking effective action in relation to the former leader largely fell on the former chief executive [Mike Suarez] and former chief operating officer [Peter Bates].

They added that ‘relatively inexperienced’ Mr Suarez ‘did not consistently or effectively push back’.

Cllr Clowes told the meeting that senior statutory officers failed to provide the ‘required support and protections’ to employees at the authority.

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