Review of shredding policy in wake of lost tram papers

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COUNCIL chiefs today said they were reviewing their policy over how long they keep documents after claims they had shredded important files on the trams project ahead of a public inquiry into the fiasco.

The council apologised for refusing a Freedom of Information request for documents dating back to 2007 on the grounds it no longer held the information.

It had said in the refusal letter that the council chief executive and city development director only kept correspondence for a year, diaries for the period were no longer held and tram firm TIE destroyed correspondence after three years.

Today, the council said its response was “not entirely accurate” and some information does exist, and it said it was reviewing and consolidating its policies on the retention of documents to bring them into line with the new Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011, which requires authorities to operate a records management plan, covering the archiving or disposal of documents.

Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale has written to council chief executive Sue Bruce referring to yesterday’s Evening News story on the claims that important information on the trams had been shredded.

She wrote: “I write to urge you to launch and conduct an urgent internal investigation to determine whether any procedures or laws were broken.

“The people of Edinburgh need reassurance that they can have confidence in the city council’s integrity, and ultimately a public inquiry which can access the full facts.”

Alastair Maclean, the city council’s director of corporate governance, said: “The FoI response was not entirely accurate and we have contacted the applicant with an apology, and a commitment to review the request and issue a correction.

“We wholeheartedly refute any suggestion that any information is being deliberately destroyed in order to thwart any public inquiry.

“Indeed, the council has already backed calls for an inquiry and we are currently gathering all relevant information to ensure that we can cooperate fully with this process. In particular, TIE’s records are in the process of being migrated over to the council.”

Mr Maclean said each council department had historically operated different document retention policies.

“However, through a current review of governance arrangements and in line with the upcoming implementation of the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011, we are seeking to consolidate our record management procedures and this process is already well under way.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com