THERE have been “volatile” relationships between senior district council members and officers, a peer challenge found.

In February last year, a corporate peer challenge was carried out at Maldon District Council by a team from the Local Government Association, which provides feedback as critical friends to help councils improve operations.

In a summary of the team’s findings, published in the agenda set to go before council members at a meeting tomorrow, concerns were raised that there was a lack of trust and respect between elected council members and council officers.

The report also stated there were a number of complaints regarding members’ behaviour and that the situation would get worse if it wasn’t addressed.

It said: “It was reported that at times there were volatile relationships at a senior level which affect the council and could have short and long term implications.

“The peer team felt that a feeling of mutual respect between officers and members is essential if the council is to deliver on its objectives and services to residents.”

Actions are now underway to tackle these issues, including the council’s directors and chief executive regularly meeting with their committee chairman or the leader of the council to discuss issues and progress of key activities, and meetings between the leader, committee chairmen and corporate leadership team every six weeks.

New staff will also be given a more thorough induction process and the role of elected members, with future training being organised for existing members’ behaviour and code of conduct.

Mark Durham, Maldon District Council leader, said: “The report identified both negative and positive points during their visit. We were pleased with their positive findings and the negative issues have been acknowledged and steps have already been taken to address them. These are identified in the appendix to the report.”