Council sorry for community centre ‘dirty tricks’

Cameron House. Picture: Toby Williams
Cameron House. Picture: Toby Williams
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ONE of the city’s most senior officials has been ordered to apologise to staff at a community centre plagued by building defects and allegations of dirty tricks by council employees.

Gillian Tee – the £143,000-a-year director of communities and families at the city council – will visit Cameron House Community Centre to say sorry for the saga which has involved a botched redevelopment job and complaints of bizarre behaviour by officials, including sending doctored e-mails and impersonating a member of the public to gain access to the building.

The centre in Prestonfield – widely praised for its work with local young people – was also left with problems including leaking gutters and front doors which were built too low.

Ms Tee will apologise for “past mistakes”, council officials said, although they would not expand on exactly what these were. However, it is understood the apology is intended to cover both the building work and the way in which ensuing problems were handled.

The move follows an investigation by the council’s internal auditors which also confirmed links between the Cameron House debacle and historic 
allegations of fraud at Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership (ELLP), an arms-length council company. The auditors are understood to have raised concerns about the potential misspending of ELLP funds as part of their latest investigation.

However, the council has refused to reopen its probe into the alleged fraud, saying an inquiry in 2006 concluded there was “insufficient evidence of misconduct”.

Concerns were raised today that the whole truth about the council’s mismanagement of the Cameron House project and the suggestion staff had been victimised due to their links with a whistleblower at the ELLP had yet to be uncovered.

Conservative councillor Cameron Rose said: “The audit committee has now had two reports on the problems which have bedevilled the design, build and ongoing running of the centre.

“These do not make happy reading for the council. The contrast between this and other similar projects is striking. The continuing issues make me wonder if there is a link between these issues and matters which occurred a long time ago.

“I want to make sure we have the truth of what happened and to rebuild and move on.”

City leaders have stressed that any new evidence of impropriety would be investigated thoroughly. A spokesman said: “The council’s monitoring officer was asked by the governance, risk and best value committee to look into allegations regarding matters at Cameron House. This was carried out by the council’s chief internal auditor and the results of that investigation were reported to committee in private last week.”

He added: “A further historical issue was raised during that investigation regarding whistleblowing allegations in relation to the Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership.

“An investigation instructed by the council in February 2006 into those allegations concluded that although council policies and procedures had not been fully adhered to, there was no evidence of misappropriation of council funds.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com