Council committee reports tell you all you really need to know - John McLellan
And this is despite Lord Hardie’s damning criticism of Mr Smith for misleading councillors as the project descended into chaos in 2010, described as being “inconsistent with the standards expected of officials and solicitors within a local authority”.
There has been a human resources inquiry of sorts, but no surprise that chief executive Andrew Kerr concluded it was “robustly conducted” and that no further action is required.
Another report will be submitted to the governance and risk committee later this month.
But it appears “no further action” means just that, not even a tightening of procedures which spells out that misleading councillors ─ and therefore the Edinburgh public ─ in official reports is gross misconduct for which the penalty is dismissal, as it should be.
There is an argument it was all a long time ago, so maybe it’s best to let matters rest. But that’s not the approach being taken when it comes to allegedly unreliable external advice supplied around the same time, and the council is set to resume legal action against law firm DLA Piper for failing to raise contractual problems the council claim were responsible for the soaring costs of the trams project.
A final report will go to the next full council meeting, but with no names or pack drill, and I understand councillors have been directly warned by Mr Kerr and the council’s head of “Democracy, Governance and Resilience”, Gavin King, that to mention staff members in any meetings would be a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct and potentially the subject of a complaint to the Standards Commission.
Therefore, it’s almost certain any councillor ignoring the gag will face a standards investigation, and no-one should be under any illusion that City of Edinburgh Council officers will not use the system to muzzle their critics. It has happened before, and it happened to me.
Edinburgh Council certainly can’t be criticised for the care it affords its most senior officers, and it must be quite the incentive when it comes to recruitment.
Two years ago, director of communities and families Alistair Gaw was found responsible for a “dereliction of duty” by failing to act against senior social worker and alleged serial sex abuser Sean Bell.
Yet as the investigation got underway in 2020, he was allowed to resign immediately with his notice paid – effectively getting public money for doing nothing – with effusive praise from the leadership for his “huge contribution to our pledge of giving every child in Edinburgh the best start in life”.
Considering that, maybe misleading statements in a report 12 years ago doesn’t seem so serious, but it tells you all you need to know about how that place is run.