Bus chiefs ordered to keep quiet over firm wrangle

Ian Craig. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Ian Craig. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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Three Lothian Buses executives at the centre of a boardroom row that has rocked the company have been gagged.

The “Annandale Three” have been told to sign documents guaranteeing they will not leak any information to the media over the episode.

Operations director Bill Campbell, engineering director Bill Devlin and finance director Norman Strachan were warned that revealing information could constitute gross misconduct and result in dismissal, the Evening News can reveal.

It is understood the men signed a document committing them to confidentiality at the last Lothian Buses board meeting of the year on December 17.

Opposition councillors said Lothian Buses should focus on the “substantive matter” in a “transparent fashion” rather than trying to shut down leaks.

The move is believed to have come at the request of interim chairman Tony Depledge, who stepped in to replace former chairwoman Ann Faulds after she resigned when the city council, which owns more than 90 per cent of Lothian Buses, refused to back her call for chief executive Ian Craig to be sacked.

Mr Craig was investigated following a joint grievance by the Annandale Three, with five out of eight allegations upheld by another Lothian Buses director.

Despite the gagging orders, last week the News revealed details of the investigation report which found that Mr Craig had hired senior executives, including a family friend, without any external recruitment process or consultation with other executives. He was also found to have dismissed several senior members of staff through compromise agreements costing hundreds 
of thousands in pay-offs, again without consulting fellow executives.

More than a quarter of a million pounds of Lothian Buses’ funds were spent on a brand launch for Transport for Edinburgh with Mr Craig’s sign-off, without the knowledge of senior executives.

The report did not recommend disciplinary action, but following a failed mediation attempt the non-executive directors agreed to back Ms Faulds’ call for Mr Craig to be dismissed. Mr Depledge later changed his mind.

Tory councillor Jason Rust said Lothian Buses had its priorities wrong in pursuing leaks from the company rather than tackling the management problems identified in the report.

He said: “This whole sorry episode has gone on for far too long and there appear to be more revelations by the day. The focus needs to be on the substantive matter and addressing the process and budgeting issues in a transparent fashion.

“Untold harm is being caused to the company’s reputation and without addressing the key issues highlighted, the company is going to find it extremely difficult to move on. For the sake of the staff and the taxpayer, this needs resolved now.”

A Lothian Buses spokesman did not provide a comment when contacted by the Evening News about the document given to the three executives.

The Evening News reported this month that staff at Lothian Buses had called on employment dispute mediators Acas to step in to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances around Ms Faulds’ departure and the investigation into Mr Craig.

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com