Row over 5pm meeting lets down our vulnerable young people - again - Steve Cardownie

The recent intervention by City Council Leader Adam McVey on behalf of Chief Executive Andrew Kerr hardly did Mr Kerr any favours.

Councillor McVey took to the pages of this newspaper to claim the Conservative Group at the City Chambers “came close to harassment” of Mr Kerr.

This stemmed from a Tory attempt to extend the time of the last full council meeting beyond 5pm in order to debate a motion of no confidence in the Chief Executive. The motion was tabled in response to a report from the council’s monitoring officer which found “illegality, maladministration and injustice” in the city’s secure accommodation for young people over the last decade or more and highlighted failings in management at all levels.

The motion was defeated without discussion but instead of licking their wounds, the Tory Group continued to use every opportunity to raise the matter.

Councillor Adam McVey, Leader of City of Edinburgh Council, has been criticised for claiming that Tory councillors' treatment of Edinburgh's £175,000-a-year chief executive Andrew Kerr is verging on bullying. PIC: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Councillor McVey likened this to potential bullying and prompted him to state that “a motion of no confidence in itself is not bullying but putting a motion of no confidence down and continuing to attack an officer in the press at the same time as continuing to bring more or less the same thing to committees, then it is approaching that stage”.

The saying “you reap what you sow” springs to mind.

If the council leadership had simply allowed the Conservative motion to be debated and then defeated it, that would have been the end of the matter.

But by denying the Tories that opportunity, it should hardly have come as a surprise that they would continue to press the issue.

Now his latest pronouncements not only give the whole sorry saga more oxygen but could prove to be a tad embarrassing for the Chief Executive. At £175,000 a year he hardly needs a champion to suggest that he may be subject to bullying by a political group on the city council.

The leader of the Conservative Group summed it up when he said: “It’s just nonsense. The man is paid more than the Prime Minister and he’s meant to be publicly accountable. Publicly and privately he has been telling us for some years that he has fundamentally changed the culture in getting to the bottom of all these things. My concern is the culture of the council hasn’t changed over the last six years with Andrew Kerr in charge.”

Wisely, Mr Kerr decided to keep his own counsel and declined to comment, probably hoping that the whole matter had gone away, only to see it re-emerge by courtesy of the administration’s leader.

Now, faced with the accusation that the Labour Group voted against the motion to extend the meeting beyond 5pm because they wanted to attend a party, Group Leader Cammy Day, in a statement reminiscent of Boris Johnson, said a small group had enjoyed drinks in the Labour Rooms at the City Chambers - but denied it was a party.

Whatever the reasons for not extending the meeting, this political misjudgement is yet another example of how the young people who were subjected to mistreatment at the secure units have been badly let down by the councillors who are supposedly elected to look after their interests.

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