​Let’s have no whitewash repeat - John McLellan

City chief executive Andrew Kerr. Picture: Ian GeorgesonCity chief executive Andrew Kerr. Picture: Ian Georgeson
City chief executive Andrew Kerr. Picture: Ian Georgeson
What a difference opposition makes. Edinburgh Council’s SNP group has undergone quite the transformation since it led the governing coalition until last year.

​In power, it defended chief executive Andrew Kerr to the hilt, but last week the group delivered one of the biggest slaps in his face since his sudden departure from Wiltshire County Council in 2011.

Their addendum calling for an external review of the decision to take no action against council staff implicated in the Hardie tram report, particularly chief monitoring officer Nick Smith who stands accused of knowingly misleading councillors, was carried in a cross-party motion.

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Mr Kerr had assured the meeting, and the governance committee a fortnight ago, the decision was robust and that councillors would just have to take his word for it. He insisted external legal advice had been sought, but councillors still ordered the review.

Given the vehemence with which Mr Kerr argued there was nothing more to see and his assurances should be accepted at face value, it is as close to a vote of no confidence as is possible.

The question now is who should carry it out, and there should be no possibility of commissioning any law firm with an existing commercial relationship. Nor should Mr Kerr or Mr Smith, even though he is the chief legal officer, be involved in setting the remit.

The review of the council’s management culture overseen by Susanne Tanner KC, in which Mr Kerr was closely involved, was dismissed as a whitewash by whistleblowers and there must be no repeat.

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