Boss at heart of property repairs scandal leaves post

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THE MANAGER of a controversial property department at the heart of the city’s statutory repairs scandal has left the council, the Evening News can today reveal.

Brian Sibbald, who headed the property conservation department, resigned from his post at the end of March.

Mr Sibbald is understood to be suffering from health problems, but his departure – which comes with a full pension pot – comes after he had been suspended on full pay for almost a year. The manager left his position before any potential disciplinary hearing was carried out by council bosses.

It is understood that Mr Sibbald was asked to resign from the council in January but initially refused. He is said to have left his post at the end of March due to health issues.

An interim manager, Peter Long, is currently employed in Mr Sibbald’s post.

Around nine people employed by the department, including an acting head of services, remain suspended as investigations by Lothian and Borders Police and auditors Deloitte continue.

At least a dozen others have been suspended in neighbouring departments, including property care, which deals with maintenance of public buildings. John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of Unison, said: “We note that Mr Sibbald has retired on ill-health grounds. He is widely respected and well-liked within the council and the union.”

Councillor Ewan Aitken said he could not comment on the latest resignation, but stressed that leaving the council should not be a way to “avoid” disciplinary action.

The Evening News previously reported how Mr Sibbald had sent an e-mail to staff saying they would enjoy a “night out like no other” once an internal audit had inspected the department.

It is understood that further disciplinary hearings against staff will be under way within the next few weeks. Bosses said they expected to issue updated information within the next month or two, taking into account internal appeals and further investigations.

To date a total of five council staff – four from the property care department and one from the property conservation department – have been sacked from their posts. A number of these workers are understood to have appealed the decision.

Council chief executive Sue Bruce admitted that, as investigations had continued, “further questions” had been raised. She said: “While a quick resolution may be ideal, it is more important that our work on the serious allegations is both thorough and completed properly.”

When asked about Mr Sibbald, a council spokesman said: “We are not able to comment on individual cases.” He added that a new appointment to replace Mr Sibbald has not been finalised.

Earlier this week the Evening News revealed the property repairs scandal had left taxpayers facing a bill of £30 million, with council bosses admitting that they didn’t know how much of that will ever be recouped.