Parish councillor accused of bullying female staff – but he brands claims as ‘nonsense’

An Upton parish councillor has been accused of bullying female workers at the authority – but he claims the complaints are a ‘choreographed’ attempt to undermine him.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 6:59 am
Northampton Borough Council's standards committee is looking into complaints regarding an Upton parish councillor

Councillor Robert Barrett, who sits on Upton Parish Council, is due to face a Standards Hearing later this year following a number of complaints being sent to the parish council.

It is understood that the complaints focus on the alleged ‘bullying’ of female parish council clerks, a number of whom are believed to have then left their posts. But Councillor Barrett – who states on his biography on the parish council’s website that he has a ‘direct, no nonsense approach who does not entertain or suffer fools and laggards lightly’ – dismissed the claims as ‘nonsense’.

He had been invited to a hearing of the Northampton Borough Council standards committee, which deals with code of conduct breaches from parish councils. But he told members by email that he would not be attending the meeting on Tuesday July 23 at The Guildhall.

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Councillor Robert Barrett has dismissed the claims, and says the authority is trying to 'undermine' him

Minutes of the meeting, which were recently published on the borough council’s website, indicate that Councillor Barrett would not engage in the process as he had not received a full disclosure of all the evidence, which comprised a number of relevant emails.

And responding to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Councillor Barrett stated: “The allegations in respect of my conduct have been brought by my own parish council largely, I believe, due to the fact that whilst I am a publicly elected member – unlike the majority that currently sit upon it – I refuse to join the collective ‘Private Members Club’ that purports to be a representative local body.

“The fact that I identify manipulative practices somewhat publicly doesn’t go down too well. I am unsurprised by the latest attempt to undermine my role presumably in the misguided hope that engaging what appears to be a vexatious, choreographed, farcical scrutiny via a code of conduct complaint will in some way discourage my continuance. Needless to say it won’t.”

The latest hearing minutes indicate that Councillor Barrett ‘turned down’ opportunities to meet with the borough council’s investigating officer, where he could have had sight and copies of the disclosable emails he had been referring to.

The perceived breaches of the code of conduct were referred to the borough council’s monitoring officer by Councillor Shaun Pape, the chairman of Upton Parish Council, after a number of complaints were received by the parish. It was unanimously agreed at a full parish council meeting on May 14, 2018, to refer these complaints to the borough council’s monitoring officer. The minutes of that meeting name Councillor Barrett as the member in question.

A 2017 edition of the parish council’s code of conduct states that councillors should behave with ‘selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership’.

Councillor Barrett added: “I have, since the initial submission in April 2018, requested on numerous occasions full disclosure of the allegations and for extended periods received nothing and then belatedly vague and redacted copy in return.

“It is of course hugely disappointing that the principle authority refuses to provide unfettered access to documentation or details of complainants for cross-examination purposes, particularly as the complaints and witnesses stem exclusively from within the council?

“I am entitled to receive full details and without such, I am not in a position to respond appropriately. The hearing on July 23 was adjourned mainly due to my complaints in this respect.”

The next standards committee meeting is due to take place on September 30. It is not yet known whether the hearing will take place at that meeting, or at a later date.