Lothian Buses: Directors ‘offer’ to oust Ian Craig

Councillor Lesley Hinds and Lothian Buses chief exec Ian Craig at the launch of the tram service. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Councillor Lesley Hinds and Lothian Buses chief exec Ian Craig at the launch of the tram service. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THREE Lothian Buses directors at the centre of a bitter boardroom row with their boss offered to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of pounds in a deal to oust him, it is understood.

The so-called “Annandale Three” had agreed to waive their annual bonuses and slash notice periods by a year to help fund a £400,000 pay-off for under-fire chief executive Ian Craig. The trio – operations director Bill Campbell, engineering director Bill Devlin and finance director Norman Strachan – were said to have been “desperate” to unseat the Lothian Buses boss after filing complaints against him for an alleged abrasive management style and failure to consult on major decisions.

With bonuses worth £42,900 on top of £145,000 salaries, the directors – who all work at firm’s Annandale Street offices – faced losing a significant income in exchange for their boss’ dismissal.

It has also emerged that Mr Craig had been given an ultimatum to accept the £400,000 pay-off to leave Lothian Buses voluntarily or face the sack. Neither deal was followed through.

An insider said: “Former chairwoman Ann Faulds struck a deal with the three directors who agreed not to accept their bonuses this year and to reduce their notice period from two years to one.

“They had agreed to this to offset the cost of Ian Craig’s severance deal and reduce the impact on Lothian Buses bank balance. They seemed to be desperate for him to go.”

The revelations highlight the depth of the divide at the top of Lothian Buses – whose board has been plunged into turmoil by the row between its top bosses.

It follows an investigation into eight grievances filed against Mr Craig by his fellow directors which saw five upheld. Despite this, no disciplinary action was taken and mediation talks were launched between the four directors.

But the peace talks ended in failure and Ms Faulds later recommended Mr Craig’s departure.

The chief executive, whose £270,000 pay package dwarfs the prime minister’s, is understood to have considered accepting the £400,000 pay-off deal even though he would have been entitled to more than £500,000 under a standard compromise agreement.

Details of the grievances lodged against Mr Craig caused a storm after they were leaked to the press last week.

An investigation report revealed the three directors had branded their boss’ behaviour “intimidating” and “petulant”. And they wrote: “We feel Mr Craig’s management and leadership has become of such ­concern that we no longer have any trust or confidence in his actions.”

The allegations, which were investigated by former Scottish Government civil servant John Martin, included that Mr Craig appointed and fired employees without proper recruitment processes; he spent money on branding for umbrella body Transport for Edinburgh without consultation; and behaved inappropriately towards junior staff.

The investigation upheld five out of eight complaints against him, but despite all the company’s non-executive directors backing a call to dismiss Mr Craig by then chairwoman Ms Faulds, the chief executive remain in post after being backed by senior councillors.

Ms Faulds was later forced to resign. The four directors are now back at work following lengthy absences and will settle their differences.

New revelations of a deal to oust Mr Craig come days after Owen Boyle, an employee director, became the first senior board member to resign their post in the wake of the feud.

In a resignation letter, Mr Boyle said that he was stepping down from the board in protest over the repeated leaking of information to the Evening News relating to the grievance procedure against the Lothian Buses chief executive.

He said: “From the comments made in the paper, it is obvious that someone with knowledge is making ­comments to the News and hiding behind a nom de plume.

“I do not want to be associated with such cowardly behaviour and it is with regret that I have to resign my position on the board. During the recent period of unrest within Lothian Buses board I believed that to remain neutral was the best position to take. I do not want my resignation to appear that I am siding with anyone.

“I wish you and colleagues on the board every success in taking Lothian Buses from strength to strength.”

paris.courtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com