Disgust at treatment of axed council staff

Council chief executive Angela Leitch has been criticised
Council chief executive Angela Leitch has been criticised
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FIVE long-serving senior council officials were said to have been told they had lost their jobs and given “five minutes” to clear their desks under a shake-up branded “disgraceful”.

The reshuffle ordered by East Lothian Council’s chief executive, Angela Leitch, has come under fire from opposition politicians over the way it was handled. One of those to lose their jobs had a total of 47 years’ service.

Under the reorganisation of the council’s management structure, the number of director posts was cut from four to three and the number of second-tier “heads of service” slashed from 11 to seven.

One director decided to retire, which allowed his three remaining colleagues to be “matched” to the new posts.

But Ms Leitch, who moved to East Lothian from Clackmannanshire Council last autumn, faced a tougher problem when it came to the heads of service roles.

One source said: “She opened up all their jobs and made them apply. Five were unsuccessful and they were given five minutes to clear their desks and get out.

“The chief executive didn’t even bother to go and tell them herself.”

The council said the reorganisation would save up to £554,000 a year, but the cost of making the senior officials redundant could be as much as £800,000.

The five who lost out in the shake-up were David Spilsbury, head of finance; Colin Shand, head of IT; Ronnie Hill, head of children’s services; Keith MacConnachie, head of law and licensing; and the long-serving Alan Forsyth, head of community housing and property management.

Councillor Willie Innes, leader of the opposition Labour group, said he would be demanding a statement on the handling of the process at today’s full council meeting.

He said: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace. It’s no way to treat public service officers who have done nothing wrong other than be unsuccessful in an interview process.

“It’s disgusting that loyal public servants are treated in this manner, not being allowed to say farewell to colleagues and staff they have worked with, in one case for nearly 47 years.”

Cllr Innes said the Labour group had opposed the reorganisation. “We felt it was hurried and ill-thought out.

“She implemented a very similar structure in Clackmannanshire, but it is very different from East Lothian and doesn’t perform as well. Why would we move to a management system that doesn’t perform as well?”

Asked about the five being given five minutes to clear their desks, a council spokesman said: “Following the outcome of the selection procedure on Wednesday, those candidates who were unsuccessful were given Thursday and Friday as paid leave, prior to returning on Monday for discussions with human resources on possible redeployment, redundancy arrangements and other forms of employment support.”

Ms Leitch said: “The successful applicants, appointed after a rigorous and robust selection process, demonstrated their abilities as leaders committed to taking forward the ambitions set out in the council plan.”

All change at the top under reshuffle

Under the shake-up, the council’s environment director, Pete Collins, is to retire this summer while the other three existing directors will stay on.

Don Ledingham, currently director of education and children’s services, will become executive director (people). Community services director Monica Patterson will become executive director (communities) and Alex McCrorie, currently director of corporate resources, will become executive director (support services).

Among the heads of service, Murray Leys, retains responsibility for adult social care but Sharon Saunders, currently head of human resources, will be responsible for children’s services.

Richard Jennings, currently head of education, switches to community housing, property services, environment, planning and building control, environmental protection, trading standards, food safety and licensing.

A new head of service for education and schools has still to be appointed.