Member conduct in hybrid meetings
A Member stated that, whilst he hoped that a return to in-person meetings would be possible for all in the near future, he would like an assurance from the Chair that, if virtual meetings continued, he would not, as a general rule, pass comment on the facial expressions of meeting participants following comments made by him at the last meeting of this Committee. The Chair responded to clarify that he would challenge any participant where he felt that their behaviour was inappropriate or needed to be noted without fear of favour and clarified that he had since spoken separately with the individual concerned on this matter. The Member spoke again to request that the Chair be as tolerant/lenient as possible in this respect given that things such as facial expressions were often magnified in a virtual setting.
The Member concerned thanked the speaker for raising this point today and confirmed that she had now spoken further with the Chair on this matter. The Member reported that, during her conversation with the Chair, she had stated that she did not feel that he challenged others on the Committee for similar behaviour and had underlined that some Members found meetings intimidating due to the behaviour of other Members. The Chair had assured the Member that, going forward, he would ensure that Members were able to express their views without feeling intimidated, harassed or bullied. The Member stated that the reason she was speaking on this matter today was to thank those Members and members of the public that had contacted her to offer their support and underline that they did not think that this was acceptable, noting that they felt that she was frequently bullied, harassed and intimidated at this and other Corporation meetings. The Member added that she was speaking today to underline that it was not acceptable for anyone to feel harassed, intimidated or bullied by the behaviour of any Members. The Member reiterated that she did not feel that the Chair had always pulled up this kind of behaviour, referring specifically to comments made about her at the last meeting of this Committee which a number of others appeared to find amusing but which she had not heard at the time. The Member added that this kind of behaviour was not acceptable and undermined the City Corporation’s policy around inclusivity and diversity, on mental health support and depression and anxiety. The Member underlined that no one should feel ostracised or the butt of jokes as all Members were equally elected to serve their electorate and to speak/enter debate without fear of intimidation. The Member stated that she was aware that there were many Members who felt harassed and bullied and felt the need to maintain the status quo or risk losing votes on Committees or the ability to be elected as a Chairman or Deputy Chairman. She underlined that she had no ambitions in this regard and would therefore speak out on this matter as well as on behalf of all those who felt bullied and intimidated which had no place in society, politics or the Court of Common Council. The Member concluded by stating that she hoped that the Chair would intervene should Members demonstrate similar behaviour in future meetings of this Committee.
The Chair thanked the Member and stated that he had also asked that she and any other Member challenge any time where they did not feel that he had acted fairly and reiterated that, as Chair, he would challenge the behaviour of any Member or Officer that he felt was inappropriate or disrespectful without fear or favour. The Chair added that he hoped that today’s meeting had demonstrated that it was possible to have a robust but successful and respectful debate in which there were many differing views expressed.
Another Member spoke to underline the depth of feeling on this matter and reported that he had emailed the Chair directly at the conclusion of the last meeting to underline this and was disappointed to have not yet received a response to this. The Chair apologised if this was the case as he thought that he had responded on this matter but undertook to discuss this further with the Member at the conclusion of this meeting.
Panel Arrangements – wider consultation
A Member made a further request that, ahead of any future report on Panel arrangements and the possible options therein being presented to this Committee, those who wanted to feed into the process externally were encouraged to do so via email given that the petitioners were so many in number and their strength of feeling. Better still, would be the opportunity to have a short session where residents and other stakeholders could raise any questions or concerns around the intended approach. The Chair stated that he was sure that Officers would take this view on board when progressing the next steps.