Comment: Council upheaval could be opportunity

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THE jungle drums are beating following the departure of another of the city’s most senior officials.

There is no confirmation yet that the leave which Peter Gabbitas has taken amid a crisis regarding overspending in his department will prove to be permanent, but it would be a surprise to see him return to his post in the circumstances.

Coming after the resignation of Mark Turley and the announcement of Dame Sue Bruce’s impending retirement, it means that half of the six-strong team of 
officials leading the city council will have changed in the space of a year.

That is a remarkably high turnover for such a small team, but it represents an opportunity as much as it does a headache for the city’s incoming chief executive, Andrew Kerr.

There is, of course, a risk that the city will lose its focus in the months ahead. These are unsettling times for many of those working at the local authority, especially true when you consider the ongoing investigations into recent events at Castlebrae Community High School and Cameron House Community Centre, as well as the turmoil at Lothian Buses.

Mr Kerr will have to be mindful of the effect that this uncertainty will have had on the city’s workforce, but it cannot, will not and should not hold back necessary changes.

Mr Gabbitas’ health and social care department was always going to be one of the main focuses of the new chief executive. The city needs to find better ways of managing the financial pressures on it, while protecting frontline services, whether that is through innovative cost-cutting measures or finding new ways of raising money. There are similar challenges in other areas.

Arriving at a time when so much is already in a state of flux will make it easier for the new man at the helm to make his mark quickly.