Borders housing chiefs accused of bullying

OFFICIALS at a housing association have been accused of jeo­pardising the welfare of ordinary families and ordering staff to ignore grievances, The Scotsman has learned.
The findings claim management have threatened staff. Picture: Phil WilkinsonThe findings claim management have threatened staff. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The findings claim management have threatened staff. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Senior officials at Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) are presiding over a culture of blame, fear and threats, a whistleblower claims.

A confidential survey of stress among its employees, meanwhile, accuses management of engaging in aggressive, bullying and discriminatory behaviour.

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The findings claim management have threatened staff, engaged in personal vendettas, blocked holiday requests, engaged in ageism and put people under pressure to leave and

retire from their positions.

Nearly one in five respondents said the organisation was run under a “climate of bullying set from the top”.

The allegations surrounding the Selkirk-based association

follow a Scotsman investigation detailing its failure to evict James Armstrong, a tenant who threatened to kill the family of academic Dr Eamonn O’Neill.

Armstrong pleaded guilty at

Peebles Sheriff Court in September 2011 to behaving in a threatening and abusive manner at the Innerleithen address. He was served with a criminal antisocial behaviour order (Crasbo), excluding him from the association property for 12 months.

Despite repeated complaints by Dr O’Neill, Armstrong was able to return to the flat after his release from prison in March. He left the property this month after what the association described as “active negotiations”.

However, internal SBHA correspondence seen by The Scotsman shows its solicitor, Fiona McLeod, from Harper Macleod, told management last March they could have ended his

tenancy with ease.

In the 17-page workplace stress survey, compiled by the Unite union this month, some workers accuse their seniors of “turning a blind eye” and having their “head in the sand” when problems are raised.

Some 44 people returned

the questionnaire. The annual accounts show it employs 188.

Last night, Dr O’Neill said: “These appalling whistleblower revelations prove SBHA exposed my young family to mortal

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danger needlessly, putting their own priorities above our lives, whilst repeatedly misleading us over years.

“I now strongly urge the Scottish Government, SBHA’s own regulators and the police authorities to investigate the matter.”

A spokeman for SBHA said: “We are aware of a survey and held a highly constructive meeting with Unite last week, at which we agreed that any member of staff who wants to raise concerns will be granted full and confidential access to the HR team.”

He said that SBHA was making “giant strides” to create a “positive and affirming work