FIVE city council workers have been sacked from their posts in the property conservation department as part of the investigation into the statutory notice scandal.
The employees, who are believed to have lost their jobs within the past week, held key roles in the department, which is being scrutinised by both independent and criminal investigations.
It comes as a source told the Evening News police believed some council staff were attempting to block the inquiry.
Although it is understood no criminal charges have been brought against the sacked workers – who had been suspended on full pay for up to a year – they were dismissed after “very serious issues” came to light.
A number of the affected staff have appealed against the decision to dismiss them.
Council bosses are preparing to reach a conclusion on the future of several other workers in the next few weeks.
Inside sources have said that it is “almost certain” others will be told to clear their desks.
Council workers have been accused of cosying up to contractors, accepting bribes and favouring certain building companies for lucrative jobs, while contractors face accusations of hiking up final bills by as much as 20 times the original estimate, charging for fictional or sub-standard work and completing work that did not need to be done.
Councillor Ewan Aitken said he believed the situation would only be resolved by court action. He said: “These sackings do not surprise me. I believe there is a whole lot more to come and I expect court cases.”
Although bosses said they were “rigorously investigating” the “extremely serious allegations”, one source said police officers had been forced to threaten some council staff to cooperate or face official action.
The source said: “There has been a consistent blocking of information by staff that have been questioned.
“The police have a lot of evidence, and they have told the department if they don’t act on this evidence there could be a suggestion of collusion.
“Several times when police have asked for paperwork or requested that the context of documents be explained, staff claimed they couldn’t find the information or took a while to get back to police.”
Sarah Boyack MSP said the council now had to answer serious questions about the investigations, which are being carried out by Deloitte and Lothian and Borders Police.
She said: “It’s important that we get a proper statement from the council as to what action they are taking.
“It’s nearly a year since Deloitte was commissioned and it’s astonishing we still don’t have a clear way forward.”
A council spokesperson said: “These are extremely serious allegations which the council is rigorously investigating.
“We have already taken firm action by suspending a number of staff. Five people have been dismissed so far and some have appeals pending. We expect most of the cases relating to the suspensions to be brought to a conclusion in due course.”