Code of Conduct
Throughout the parish and town council sector, there are growing concerns about the impact bullying, harassment and intimidation is having on councils, councillors and staff and the resulting effectiveness of local councils. Whilst local councils must face public scrutiny, it is not acceptable for Councillors or staff to be faced with abuse, personal insults, or attacks, or harassing and intimidatory behaviour.
Bexhill-on-Sea Town Council has experienced several incidents of inappropriate behaviour towards staff and Councillors that are wholly unacceptable. The Town Council maintains a zero-tolerance approach to this type of behaviour.
Recently, Rother District Council investigated reports of bullying by two Town Councillors. An independent investigation took place, and it was found that one Councillor was in breach of the Code of Conduct, and the other was advised to change their behaviour. The Councillor found in breach of the Code resigned before the next stage of the process, which meant that sanctions could not be imposed. Since then there have been a series of posts on social media and statements made in the public domain which contain misinformation about the investigation and further harass Councillors and staff at the Town Council.
The Town Council would like to reassure residents that it expects the highest standards of behaviour from our Councillors towards staff, other Councillors, and members of the public. The Town Council will not hesitate to report any concerning Councillor or public behaviour to the relevant authorities and will not tolerate this type of behaviour.
The Town Council has pledged to support the Civility and Respect Project and is working with Sussex Police to protect those affected by the abuse, inappropriate behaviour and intimidation that is being experienced. It is hurtful and damaging, and the Town Council is resolute in safeguarding the health of its Councillors and staff. The Civility and Respect Project is supported by representatives from across the sector including Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC), National Association of Local Councils (NALC) councils, County Associations and One Voice Wales (OVW).
If you, or someone you know is affected by offensive, abusive, or threatening comments on social media platforms you can report these to the social network directly. We encourage users to inform Sussex Police by reporting the issues online at www.sussex.police.uk or telephoning 101.
There are several charities that can support you through this difficult time. They advise:
- Document everything – keep copies of all instances of online harassment
- Report it to the police – keep a record of malicious communications through police incident reports.
- Focus on your online security – review what information is available online about you and keep yourself safe
- Remember it’s not your fault – bullies target people that are unlikely to stand up for themselves and fight back. It’s not your fault.
- Try not to engage – most bullies are in it to get a reaction and see evidence in the harm they are causing. Don’t play into their hands, simply ignore comments.
- Report to the social media network every time it happens – this will flag the perpetrator to the social media network and force them to take action
- Block offending accounts – look out for fake profiles as perpetrators may create other profiles if they are blocked
- Reach out for help – there are charities that can offer support and guidance such as: Cybersmile.org and www.thecyberhelpline.com