Andrew Burns ‘misled’ public on Sue Bruce SSE job

Sue Bruce. Picture: Julie Bull
Sue Bruce. Picture: Julie Bull
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COUNCIL leader Andrew Burns has been accused of misleading the public after admitting discussions over the city’s top official taking a contentious second job started up to four months earlier than he originally said.

Chief executive Sue Bruce broached the possibility of being offered a non-executive board position at energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) as far back as February.

Councillor Burns previously said he had first discussed the offer with Ms Bruce in “mid to late June”.

Colinton/Fairmilehead Ward Cllr Jason Rust said it was concerning that not all the details about Ms Bruce’s appointment had been made available from the start.

He said: “Some information seems to have been known for so many months and yet that information has not really been forthcoming.”

Ms Bruce is due to start the £50,000-a-year role next month amid unrest over the appointment. Critics have claimed it is a serious conflict of interest, with the council in the midst of reviewing a preferred supplier contract with SSE worth up to £11 million to the firm over the next five years.

Eben Wilson, director of campaign group TaxpayerScotland, said of Cllr Burns’ admission: “This will inevitably be seen as misleading. This is the sort of mistake or difficulty that a lack of openness is going to engender.”

Cllr Burns has promised to review the internal process that led to Ms Bruce being given his blessing to take the job.

Ms Bruce’s predecessor, Tom Aitchison, had a clause in his contract preventing him taking up a paid position with a private firm without full 
ratification from the council.

However, the current chief executive’s move was rubber-stamped without the approval of the full council, after internal legal advice had been provided by senior officials.

Cllr Burns said he had not mentioned the February meeting earlier due to “stock exchange rules and the sensitivity around the appointment.” but said: “I do accept there have been concerns and I am willing to commit to look at this procedure as part of the governance review.”

INo formal offer had had been made at the time of the January discussion. He added: “The chief
executive made me aware of contact from SSE regarding a potential position earlier in the year, but an offer was not received until June, at which point she asked for my approval to take on the role.”