Political tensions affecting Torbay Council morale

Political tensions affecting Torbay Council morale

Image caption, Torbay Council was heavily criticised in a report from the Local Government Association

  • Author, Miles Davis
  • Role, BBC Devon political reporter

Political tensions at a council in Devon are having a negative impact on staff morale, experts have found.

The alleged behaviour of some members of Torbay Council is affecting “the reputation of the council and the trust and confidence of partners”, a report said.

The council currently has 18 Conservative members, 15 Liberal Democrats and three independents.

Leaders from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said they would work together on a mediation process to improve relations.

The report, a peer review from the Local Government Association, said it was “absolutely clear” the political conflict was “negatively impacting upon staff morale and motivation” as well as councillors and the reputation of the council.

The report said: “The issues are vested in a very small number of elected members, from across the council chamber, who must ask themselves what they want their legacy to be.”

Image source, Swithin Long

Image caption, Swithin Long is the acting leder of the Liberal Democrat group on Torbay Council

Swithin Long, acting leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Torbay Council, said: “The council seems to have gone back to what it’s renowned for sadly, the bad old days where people are falling out.”

Mr Long said it was “really disappointing” to read the LGA review.

He said: “The Conservatives seem to be treating the council as if they have a thumping majority, which they don’t.

“That’s why we’ve called for this outside mediation to come in – otherwise I fear Torbay will become a basket case.”

Image caption, Torbay Council covers the areas of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham

Torbay Council operated under an elected mayor system from 2005 to 2019.

Since then it has shifted between being under no overall control and under Conservative control.

Image caption, Chris Lewis is deputy leader of the Conservative group on Torbay Council

Chris Lewis, the deputy leader of the Conservative group on Torbay Council, said: “We’ve realised there has been a problem over the last 12 months politically.”

Mr Lewis said councillors needed “to draw a line under what went on in the past”.

He said: “We had a meeting yesterday with all group leaders and deputy group leaders where we agreed to have someone to come in to facilitate and a bit of mediation so we can all work together.”

The LGA report is due to be discussed by members of Torbay Council’s cabinet on Thursday.