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Bullying claims trigger inquiries

Probe announced to investigate 'draconian' regime. Ngaio Crequer and James Harrison report

A ROW over claims of bullying at Nottinghamshire Learning and Skills Council has reached a head with the announcement of two inquiries into the allegations.

The first, an independent inquiry, was agreed at a crisis meeting on Monday of senior members of the council and the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) to discuss the allegations.

The second is an internal inquiry into allegations made in a nine-page anonymous dossier criticising the running of the council.

While the remit for the first inquiry has yet to be drawn up, it is believed that the conciliation service Acas is favourite to conduct the probe. In a joint statement, the LSC and PCS said: "Representatives of the PCS union, Nottinghamshire learning and skills council and National LSC met on August 4, having arranged to do so on July 17 to discuss the allegations about management style at the Nottinghamshire LSC.

"As a result of this, all parties agreed that an independent investigation will be set up as soon as possible to examine the allegations and the issues surrounding them."

A spokesman for the PCS, which represents many of the 90 or so staff at Notts LSC, said it was satisfied that an inquiry was to be held.

An LSC spokesman said: "We have one or two organisations in mind.

Approaches have yet to be made, but it will be a completely independent organisation."

He said the decision to hold such an inquiry was "very rare - probably unique".

A former Notts LSC employee, who did not wish to be named, said: "This is the best news. I hope that existing staff, and those who have been forced out, are given the opportunity to have their say independently and in confidence."

The inquiry is the culmination of weeks of allegations - reported in FE Focus - of bullying and intimidation at Notts LSC. But within 24 hours of its announcement, the LSC declared that there would be a second inquiry into the dossier, an open letter criticising the running of the council.

The letter was posted to more than a dozen staff at its offices last week.

It contained serious accusations of a "draconian culture of fear and intimidation" at Notts LSC.

The mystery author posed 29 questions about the conduct of named managers.

While many are of a trivial or personal nature, several make serious accusations about management style and procedures.

The nine-page dossier has been widely distributed, with copies sent to the national LSC and FE Focus.

In its statement, the LSC said it would "investigate an anonymous letter which makes allegations of misconduct about managers at Nottinghamshire LSC".

David Russell, the LSC's director of human resources, said: "Where concerns are raised about matters of a public interest we will, naturally, investigate.

"However, we deplore the tactic of sending anonymous letters attacking individual members of staff."

While the dossier offers few clues to the author's identity, it is believed that it could have been written by a former employee with an in-depth knowledge of the council's structure and operations.

The author writes: "I cannot disclose my name as this would inevitably lead to vindictive letters being sent to my new employer".

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