New bullying row amid claims local government minister shouted at staff

Home Office in Westminster, London
Home Office in Westminster, London

A new bullying row has broken out in the Home Office as a minister has been accused of shouting and screaming at civil servants.

Lord Greenhalgh, a local government minister of state who also works in the Home Office, has been the subject of complaints by staff who feel they have been bullied and harassed by him.

One complaint is understood to have been made by a civil servant in the Home Office, where Lord Greenhalgh spends only a fraction of his time, and by a member of staff of the House of Lords.

Sources have also told The Telegraph that there have also been informal complaints in the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) about his behaviour.

One said: “It has included shouting and treatment of civil servants that was perceived as harassment.”

Two sources said Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, had spoken to Lord Greenhalgh about his behaviour.

Robert Jenrick - Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Robert Jenrick – Henry Nicholls/Reuters

A spokesman for the MHCLG declined to comment on “personnel matters”, while Lord Greenhalgh did not respond to requests for comment.

Lord Greenhalgh, who is an unpaid minister and works across both MHCLG and the Home Office, is said to be close to Boris Johnson, having served as his deputy mayor responsible for policing and crime in London in the early 2010s.

The controversy over his behaviour is, however, likely to prove unwelcome for the Prime Minister who backed Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, over allegations of bullying, prompting the resignation of his ministerial standards adviser Sir Alex Allan.

This week, it emerged that Mr Johnson is facing a legal challenge over his decision to reject Sir Alex’s assessment that Ms Patel’s behaviour, although unintentional, amounted to a breach of the ministerial code.

Lawyers for the First Division Association union sent a pre-action notice to Downing Street on Wednesday, accusing the Prime Minister of acting unlawfully when he chose to stand by his home secretary and overrule his independent adviser.

The letter accuses Johnson of “setting a damaging precedent which gives carte blanche to the kind of unacceptable conduct which the Home Secretary was found to have committed”.

The union hopes the letter is the first step towards a judicial review of Johnson’s decision. The Government has so far refused to make public the full Cabinet Office investigation led by Sir Alex.

It is thought no formal complaints about Lord Greenhalgh have yet gone to the Cabinet Office, which deals with Civil Service issues, but a source suggested that Mr Jenrick is concerned and may have raised the issue with Number 10.

The source said there were broader concerns about his behaviour, which included calling Joe Biden “sleepy Joe” on Twitter the morning after the US election when he was emerging as victor over Donald Trump. 

One source said he had been asked to take the Twitter post down and had done so, but not without it already having generated a series of critical responses.

Lord Greenhalgh, a businessman, was appointed London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime by Mr Johnson, then mayor, in June 2012.

He publicly endorsed Mr Johnson’s abortive proposal to equip the police with water cannon to be used in the event of a serious outbreak of public disorder. In December 2014, he became the third declared candidate for the Conservative Party nomination which was eventually won by Lord [Zac] Goldsmith.

He was created Baron Geenhalgh of Fulham in April this year, after being appointed minister of state for building safety and communities by Mr Johnson in March.

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