Council chief denies dirty tricks ‘cover-up shambles’

Cameron House. Picture: Scott Taylor
Cameron House. Picture: Scott Taylor
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SENIOR councillors were accused of “playing politics” when they tried to raise concerns highlighted in the Evening News about the “dirty tricks” row at Cameron House.

The News revealed yesterday how a council report into the saga surrounding the community centre in Prestonfield had found poor judgment, mismanagement, poor communication and an apparent cover-up by the council.

Conservative group leader Cameron Rose said the report came on top of a “long-running shambles” at Castlebrae High School and another education incident on a private agenda.

And at yesterday’s council meeting, he asked council leader Andrew Burns: “What action is now proposed by yourself and the convener of children and families?”

But Councillor Burns said he did not accept Cllr Rose’s “false characterisation” of the situation as a shambles.

He said: “Cameron Rose is referring to things that happened well over a decade ago. Yes mistakes were made. To try and conflate that with other events somewhere else in the city is playing politics.”

Another senior Tory councillor, Jeremy Balfour, raised the issue again soon afterwards, saying he had attended a meeting where it was clear the relationship between the department and management at the centre had completely broken down. And he asked Cllr Burns if he would meet people from Cameron House to hear their concerns.

But Cllr Burns said: “I can see what the Conservatives are trying to do here. They are trying to conflate these issues on purpose for political gain. There is a huge amount of good work going on in all departments across the council.

“No-one is denying mistakes are sometimes made. We are all human beings, after all.”

The report into Cameron House acknowledged for the first time that council staff doctored an e-mail to make it look as if it had been sent to an individual who was missed off the circulation list.

It admitted builders involved in the flawed construction of the community centre were sent back as “independent” contractors to look at problems with the building.

And it conceded the council had no explanation for an 
incident where staff believe a council official posed as a member of the public to gain entry to the centre.

The report also acknowledged the mistrust between the centre and the council had been aggravated by a whistleblowing case – where a council employee alleged in 2002 nearly £400,000 had been misspent at council arms-length company Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership.

The council has already announced it is reopening an investigation into the claims. Cllr Rose said the “accumulation of issues within the education department” raised the question of whether a fuller external inquiry was required.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com