The leader of Devon County Council’s Liberal Democrats has called for a full review of the council’s ‘culture and behaviour’ following a leading councillor’s public censure for sexual harassment.

Barnstaple North councillor Brian Greenslade was found guilty of serious breaches of the council’s code of conduct following a cross-party investigation.

The public censure said Cllr Greenslade’s ‘sustained and repeated sexual harassment’ against female members of council staff fell ‘well short’ of their expectations of members’ conduct.

In the wake of the decision, Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Alan Connett, has called for a full, independent review into the council’s culture and behaviour.

In his statement, Cllr Connett said: “I offer my sincere and whole-hearted apology to all staff employed by Devon County Council who have experienced any form of inappropriate behaviour, whether from their colleagues or councillors.

“I am calling for a full, widespread and independent review of the county council’s culture and behaviours along with the immediate implementation of training and awareness for all staff and councillors.

“I have written to the council’s chief executive, Dr Phil Norrey, and leader, Conservative John Hart calling on them to commission this independent review along with training from an independent provider.”

Cllr Connett said the Liberal Democrat group would meet later this month to discuss the standards committee’s recommendations, and said Cllr Greenslade would have a full opportunity to comment on the complaint.

He added there a full training and awareness programme is needed to ‘modernise’ County Hall and help erase a culture of turning a blind eye.

Cllr Connett added: “I became Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at Devon County Council in 2014.

At no time since then has the council’s chief executive, solicitor, or any other officer raised a concern with me about councillor behaviour.

“Devon County Council may well have a hidden culture of ‘see nothing, say nothing, hear nothing’ and we need to be clear that managers and councillors must not ‘turn a blind eye’ if a member of staff or customer of the council is concerned about the behaviour displayed to them.

“If we are to modernise County Hall working practices and ensure staff, councillors and members of the public feel safe to raise their concerns, and ensure they are not ‘swept under the carpet’ then a full programme of training and awareness raising must be implemented urgently.”

‘Not about organisational culture’

In response to Councillor Connett’s statement, the council said it had updated guidance to staff about harassment and mounted a number of internal campaigns to promote the complaints process and other support available – including a dedicated helpline.

A spokesman said: “This is not about organisational culture it is about the behaviour of Councillor Greenslade and the impact of his actions on those women affected.

“The independent investigation made clear that, Cllr Greenslade was perceived as arrogant and a bully.

“What we have learned is that it is not enough to have strong policies and procedures in place, we need our staff to truly feel they can report issues and will be fully supported. This is a lesson for all large organisations.”