TAXPAYERS in the Lothians are forking out more than £11,000 a week in wages for suspended local authority staff, new figures have revealed.
Employees are being paid £47,000 per month to sit at home while cases are investigated.
Figures released under Freedom of Information laws revealed that 22 workers at the four councils in the region are currently on gardening leave, with the annual total coming to £565,680.
Edinburgh City Council had the highest number in Scotland, with 15 staff currently on paid leave.
Nationwide there were 116 suspended with an estimated annual cost of £2.6 million.
Political leaders today called for disciplinary cases to be dealt with more speedily to prevent wasting public funds.
Sarah Boyack, Lothians MSP and Labour local government spokeswoman, said: “Our local authorities are under huge financial pressure from the Scottish Government’s funding regime. That means local authorities need to deal with suspended staff effectively and swiftly.
“It’s not just a financial issue, it’s in nobody’s interest for staff to be sitting in limbo for months on end.”
In West Lothian, four staff were suspended as of December at a cost of £10,411 per month. In Midlothian, two are on leave costing £3936 per month and in East Lothian, a single member of staff is off on £2624 per month.
In Edinburgh, three of the 15 suspensions relate to the statutory repairs scandal, which was investigated by police and specialist auditors from Deloitte.
Among the most high profile staff members to be suspended over the investigation was Dave Anderson, the former director of city development, who was suspended in June 2012 over the handling of the affair. He was later cleared of all wrongdoing but stepped down from his post in November.
Two workers in the property conservation department, which issues compulsory repairs to aging tenements, are currently on leave with a further four sacked and two resigned.
One worker from the property care department, which handles work to public buildings, is also on leave, with 17 others charged over allegations of criminal conduct.
Gavin Brown, Lothians MSP and Tory finance spokesman, said: “Half a million is a substantial amount. No doubt a proportion of this has to be paid but I would call on local authorities to ensure they are doing everything they can to minimise gardening leave.”
A spokeswoman for Midlothian Council highlighted the fact that there are only two members currently suspended from a workforce of 4500.
She added: “No decision to suspend a member of staff is taken lightly. We aim to investigate the reasons behind why someone was suspended to come up with a solution as quickly as possible. We should stress that suspending someone doesn’t necessarily mean they have done anything wrong.”
A spokesman for the city council said: “The number of suspensions has to be seen in the context that we employ over 18,000 people.
“We have fair and robust employment policies in place covering all disciplinary procedures, including suspensions.”