“Routine” racism, sexism and homophobia have been found within a council waste service.

Racist name calling and graffiti, inappropriate sexual comments on a daily basis and homophobic “banter” were just some of the behaviour reported at Brighton and Hove City Council’s Cityclean service.

The revelations come as part of an independent report into behaviour at the council’s Hollingdean bin depot.

Aileen McColgan KC, who wrote the independent report, said in a summary: “A number of witnesses expressed concern about racism at the depot. I heard a number of Cityclean staff had been subject to racist name calling by their colleagues and that a truck had been regularly defaced with racist graffiti while parked in the depot.

The Argus: Overflowing binsOverflowing bins

“One witness spoke of a culture of racism, homophobia and sexism and told me that a group of loaders (bin collectors) ‘catfished’ gay staff on Grindr.”

“One manager described very personal comments having been made about her appearance. Another spoke about the very misogynistic culture at the depot which she told me she had to put up with most of the time because of the potential risks of challenging it.”

'Toxic' work environment was 'like Animal Farm'

Among other behaviours found in the report are:

  • Explicit threats of violence and using violence
  • Referring to a manager as “a f***ing b**** pulling the strings”
  • Calling a member of staff a “Black c***”
  • Creating fake accounts on gay dating app Grindr to trick gay co-workers

One witness described working at Cityclean as “like Animal Farm” while others called the environment “toxic”.

Staff were also told that they did not need to attend mandatory diversity training while one worker who identified as gay was shunned with workers refusing to work with him because of his sexuality.

The Argus: Hollingdean Bin DepotHollingdean Bin Depot

The report also found that panels of councillors reinstated staff dismissed by Cityclean for gross misconduct.

The report added: “One manager told me that, until recently, Cityclean management expected their decisions to be overturned, to be punished for having made these decisions, and for the council to fail to protect them from the ‘punishment.”

Attempts to discipline individuals was regularly met with threats of industrial action.


More than 70 whistleblowers gave evidence for the report with interviews conducted on the promise of secrecy due to fear of retaliation.

The report also debunked claims that managers were hostile to trade unions.

'A service mired in racism, misogyny and homophobia'

Ms McColgan KC has made recommendations in her report to change the behaviour within Cityclean, including disciplinary action against certain individuals.

Council Leader Bella Sankey apologised to staff and residents, adding: “I am deeply concerned by the findings in this report concerning the working culture at Cityclean.

"It paints a picture of a service mired in racism, misogyny and homophobia and where a culture of bullying, intimidation and aggression has taken hold.

The Argus: Bella SankeyBella Sankey (Image: Andrew Gardner)

“Brighton and Hove City Council must be an organisation which has zero tolerance for bullying, aggression, racism, misogyny and homophobia. This is essential for staff to feel safe, respected and supported and for our council to deliver the high-quality services that residents deserve and expect.

"As the new council Leader, the buck stops with me. I will ensure that once we’ve completed necessary legal processes, the full report and recommendations are published and that we now take appropriate action to address the report’s findings for our staff and residents.”

Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Will Tucker added: “I and the senior leadership team at the council have been working very closely with the new political leadership to ensure this report is published.

“We are all determined to improve the behaviour and culture at Cityclean to make sure it’s a fair and inclusive place for everyone to work, and to ensure the service we provide to our residents and businesses is the best it can be.”

The revelations in the summary report come as the full report is expected to be published before the end of this month.

The full report will be published after the people or organisations who face criticism are given an opportunity to respond.

The inquiry was launched in July following “significant” numbers of whistleblower complaints.