POLICE investigating allegations of fraud is one of the last things that the city council needs right now.
The local authority has had a lot of work to do to repair its reputation in the wake of the trams construction debacle and the statutory repairs scandal. At the same time, it does not have its other troubles to seek as it goes through a massive restructuring, shedding 2000 jobs in a bid to save £148 million within four years.
There are plenty of other things on which the city should be focusing – but the events surrounding whistleblower John Travers are an ugly boil that needs to be lanced. Calling in the police was an important step and the right thing to do.
Mr Travers was a loyal employee of the council who raised legitimate concerns about the way in which public money was being spent. Instead of investigating the issues he raised, the council tried to sack him. He was harassed in a way which former council leader Donald Anderson describes as being more traumatic than “being beaten to a pulp in the street”.
It now transpires that there were at best serious flaws in the controls over the way hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money was being spent in the department concerned – and at worst the defrauding of the city tax payers. The police investigation that has now been triggered may finally get to the bottom of that as well as who was behind the despicable harassment of Mr Travers and his family.
What is clear is that Mr Travers was right to raise those concerns. He was telling the truth and has been completely vindicated. The formal apology he will receive is the least he deserves.
There is some consolation in the fact that such a terrible episode is unlikely to ever happen again at the local authority. Robust procedures have since been put in place to ensure that any future whistleblowers receive proper protection and their legitimate complaints are independently investigated.