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Royal Borough leader refuses to apologise over council staff comments

The leader of the Royal Borough has remained defiant after the union representing council staff called for an apology from him over comments made at an Employment Panel meeting.

The meeting, held on Tuesday, November 29, saw panel members including Cllr Simon Dudley, discussing a staff exit survey filled out by departing council employees.

Perceiving the framing of some of the questions in the survey to be negative, Cllr Dudley said: “It’s a bit like asking, when did you last beat your wife?”

Later in the same meeting, when talking about staff turnover at the borough, he made the remark: “The good people always leave and the people you want to leave, stay.”

After his comments were reported in last week’s Advertiser he came under fire on social media and a number of people wrote in to the paper to complain.

Fellow councillor Ed Wilson also received some criticism for adding: “Lots of people come to me on a daily basis and tell me they don’t like me; it doesn’t mean they’re going to leave.”

UNISON Central and East Berks branch secretary, Billie Reynolds said: “I am dismayed at the crass and insensitive comments made by councillors Dudley and Wilson in response to the results of an online staff exit survey.

“In their attempts to undermine the genuine concerns of staff, they have demonstrated exactly why our members need more support than ever from a trade union in what is already an extremely difficult environment for local government workers.”

When contacted this week Cllr Dudley (Con, Riverside) stood by his comments, which he has defended on Twitter.

When asked whether he would be apologising, he said: “Not at all.

“It’s a classic critique of closed questioning that has no positive responses.

“The survey has been withdrawn. The entire thing was a waste of time.”

The council leader added he didn’t believe any current Royal Borough staff should have a problem with his comments or worry about how they were received.

In a response to a complaint about the comments, seen by the Advertiser, the council’s managing director Alison Alexander said: “I have been in communication with staff about how this comment was taken out of context.”

In a separate communication, Cllr Lisa Targowska (Con, Belmont), cabinet member for HR, said: “It is disappointing when quotes like this are published. I can imagine how demotivating it is for staff.”

An audio recording of the meeting is available for the public to listen to the comments by visiting www.rbwm.gov.uk and searching under the ‘meetings’ section.

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