Claims of sexist bullying and other inappropriate behaviour by senior politicians are being routinely ignored by the body responsible for upholding standards on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has learned that in the last three years, 18 complaints were submitted to the LFEPA standards committee about the conduct of members of the Authority. Yet only one complaint was ever deemed worthy of an investigation (which eventually concluded that no further action was necessary). Of the remainder, 15 were rejected without investigation, and some kind of â€œinformal actionâ€, such as a letter of apology, was recommended in the other two.
Fourteen of the 18 complaints were made about the conduct of the Authorityâ€™s controversial leader and member of the GLA, Brian Coleman. Some of these complaints detailed serious allegations of bullying and harassment, often aimed at women. In one case where Coleman was said to have twice bullied a young canteen worker, the standards committee concluded that, even if the allegations were true, Coleman could not be considered to have breached the Authorityâ€™s code of conduct as he was not acting in an â€œofficial capacityâ€ at the time. This was despite the fact that he was working inside Authority headquarters when the alleged incidents occurred.
The extraordinary ruling means that Authority politicians are free to behave exactly how they please while on Authority premises, without fear of sanction.
FBU regional official Laurie Brightman said: â€œWithout commenting on the veracity of the allegations, it is abundantly clear that serious complaints about the conduct of some of Londonâ€™s most senior politicians are being routinely rejected without investigation. That is simply unacceptable. Firefighters are subject to a rigorous discipline procedure, but their political masters are seemingly free to behave how they wish, in the knowledge that no-one will do anything about it.
â€œThe LFEPA standards committee is manifestly not doing its job. There seems to be something of a cosy relationship between standards committee members and those over whom they are sitting in judgement. Authority managers like to wax lyrical about their commitment to stamping out bullying in the London Fire Brigade, but they need to get their own house in order before lecturing others.â€
The FBU has sent a dossier outlining its concerns to the Local Government Ombudsman.
CONTACT: PAUL EMBERY 07854 998508