Official who quit over Mortonhall baby ashes scandal gets £30k

Mark Turley. Picture: Jayne Emsley
Mark Turley. Picture: Jayne Emsley
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A SENIOR council official who resigned over the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal walked away with a £30,000 golden goodbye.

It is understood Mark Turley, former director of the Capital’s services for communities department, received the award, described as “compensation for loss of office”, following negotiation with council bosses.

He quit his £135,000-a-year post in July 2014 – eight weeks after being suspended amid concern over the council’s handling of the Mortonhall issue.

At the time, Mr Turley said he did not feel he “personally contributed” to any wrong-doing at the council-run crematorium, where hundreds of families were denied their babies’ remains after they were secretly buried by staff.

However, he added that resignation was the “honourable thing” to do following criticism of working practices at the facility as set out in a report by Dame Elish Angiolini.

It is believed Mr Turley has since set up his own consultancy.

Confirmation of the payout – which comes as the Capital bids to make savings of at least £147 million over the next four years – has sparked anger and concern.

SEE ALSO: Mortonhall baby ashes scandal ‘could happen again’

Cameron Buchanan, Conservative MSP for the Lothians, said: “When the council continues to be pleading poverty and restraint, how can they justify this payment?

“As he has resigned, this smells a little bit to me that maybe they could be buying his silence.

“It’s crazy, ludicrous. And we complain about the bankers getting their bonuses and payments. I’m very much against it.”

Known as a powerful and sometimes controversial figure through several changes of administration at the City Chambers, Mr Turley was one of Edinburgh’s longest-serving senior officials.

As the man leading the services for communities department, he was ultimately responsible for Mortonhall Crematorium, although parents affected by the scandal made clear they do not see him as the culprit for what went on.

His department was responsible for managing areas such as housing, planning, environment and transport, and meant Mr Turley was overseeing not only Mortonhall but also statutory repairs and even bin collections.. The department has since been dismantled as part of a council restructure.

Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayer Scotland, said the payout was “wrong”.

He added: “It seems that, even when public sector staff make mistakes, or do wrong, they still get away with our money – given away to them in cosy backroom deals.

“This is not right, for the people paying for these awards are a lot less wealthy than the recipients.

“If the council disapproves of his actions, if they think he has done wrong, why have they rewarded him?”

A council spokesman said: “The remuneration paid to senior council officers is reported publicly in our annual accounts. The former director of services for communities left the council in 2014 and his financial settlement has been public since June of last year.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com