Norwich City Hall bullying claims

Kim BriscoeConcerns have been raised that political banter at City Hall is crossing over into bullying and harassment.Kim Briscoe

Concerns have been raised that political banter at City Hall is crossing over into bullying and harassment.

An unnamed Norwich City councillor has raised fears some comments and behaviour at committee meetings would be viewed as bullying and harassment in any ordinary workplace.

Now the conduct of councillors will be discussed at a standards meeting on Friday. A report prepared ahead of the meeting said the councillor was concerned about 'dismissiveness of the beliefs or integrity of members and heckling, to personal comments and attacks,' as well as members laughing at another's expense and intending to 'humiliate and undermine' them or misrepresent their views.

Today, Steve Morphew, leader of the ruling Labour group on the council, said he would never condone personal attacks on councillors and that he did not feel this happened often at city council meetings.

He said: 'While things can improve, if we are not careful we could finish up taking the passion out of politics.

'I think if people can't stand up to the criticisms likely to be levelled at them in that public forum then maybe they should find another way of expressing their views.'

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Adrian Ramsay, leader of the Greens on the council, said he felt on occasions comments could become personal, rather than remaining part of a healthy discussion, but said he had seen far worse in Westminster.

He said: 'It's important for councillors to always have respect for each other and focus on debating issues and policies and not getting into attacks.'

He added: 'The monitoring office is right to highlight this issue.'

Antony Little, leader of the Conservative group, said he knew of another council where parties refused to speak to each other outside meetings, but thankfully that was not the case in Norwich, where the relationship between parties was good.

He said: 'I don't think that scrutiny and debate is necessarily disrespecting people. It is part of politics and it would be poorer if we don't have that. I think we need that bit of rough and tumble and debate which exposes the weaknesses of some arguments and the strengths of others.'

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