Council accused of bullying ‘cover-up’ during meeting on violence against women

An independent councillor has accused Southend Council of covering up reports of bullying and urged council bosses to start listening.

The Policy and Scrutiny Resources Committee met on Thursday night and discussed a motion that calls for the council to support the White Ribbon campaign which asks men to take a stand against the high levels of violence perpetrated by men against women.

But when Councillor Stephen Aylen (Ind) spoke about the issue, he said the council should also stand up for male victims and claimed the council has a history of covering up such incidents.

He said: “I’ve suffered violence from two women. One basically nearly killed me and my concern is, we’ve got this White Ribbon day where we’re all out to stop male violence against women, but it is so often with any gender and nobody believes you.

“Nobody believes it, especially for me, that a woman is attacking you and nobody believes when a man is being violent, they just think no they are a nice person they wouldn’t do it.

“Sadly, I’m going to say this, this council covers up these things.

“Don’t say anything because you will bring the council into disrepute, don’t say anything because you will upset someone, or you’ll lose friends.

“This is happening across all of Southend, so yes white ribbon day absolutely brilliant, but we’ve got to remember that it is not just men on women. It is women on women, men on men, women on men. There is all sorts of things and I know from my experience it is hushed up.”

Cllr Aylen later said it would be too upsetting to elaborate on the allegations but confirmed he had made multiple complaints internally.

Cllr Matt Dent (Lab), who is also an ambassador for White Ribbon, Cllr Aylen would have his “whole-hearted support” if he proposed a motion for male survivors of violence.

He added: “I have seen people ask what about men and that no one would for a moment devalue the experiences of male victims of violence however the majority of violence is by men and is against women and if we are to end that its beholden on men to stand up and say this is not acceptable.”

Councillors from all parties agreed the council should support the White Ribbon campaign, which will require it to provide evidence of an ongoing commitment within the workplace to preventing male violence against women.

This will include an annual awareness training course for all elected councillors.

After the meeting Joanna Ruffle, executive director for transformation at the council, said: “All  allegations of bullying are taken extremely seriously at the council.

“We have mechanisms in place for individuals, officers and councillors, to report these on a confidential basis, and they are then investigated fully in line with the code of conduct and HR procedures.

“The council also offers appropriate support, such as counselling, to staff and councillors who are struggling with stress or trauma in all its forms.”

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter