Council split over move not to replace £100k chief

Greg Ward. Picture: Comp
Greg Ward. Picture: Comp
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A SPLIT has emerged in the Capital’s ruling coalition over whether its £100,000-a-year director of economic development should be replaced.

The Evening News understands that city chief executive Andrew Kerr has recommended “deleting” the post currently held by Greg Ward, who will soon leave for a similar role at Westminster Council. His salary would be kept as a budget saving, while responsibilities associated with the role would be delegated to other directorates.

However, it is understood that the city’s SNP group is resisting the move, with suggestions that Councillor Frank Ross, economy leader, is reluctant to see the post go.

The proposed axing of Mr Ward’s position comes as the council bids to save £141 million and cut around 2000 jobs.

Mr Ward was responsible for overseeing key developments such as the £850m St James revamp and the £1 billion City Deal.

One senior council source said maintaining the role was “unjustifiable”. The source said: “Our own chief executive is recommending that he deletes this post and, looking at it, you can understand why that’s the case. At a time when we are looking to shed up to 2000 staff, I don’t see how reappointing a director at this time, against the recommendations of our chief executive, can be justified.

“I think this is all about personal positioning. We entered the administration with the aim of putting the city first and I think we’ve been relatively successful in doing that.

“It has become clear that the SNP group is bitterly divided, partly through a leadership contest that was very close. Getting [the SNP] to make a decision is becoming increasingly difficult. They’re putting their own personal positioning and personal battles in front of making the right decision for the city.”

Leading figures in the business community have warned the council to tread carefully.

Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute, said: “Clearly, the SNP group and, in particular Councillor Ross, are probably saying to themselves, when is a saving not a saving?

“And the answer to that is when it has the potential to impact on local tax revenue and, on the wider level, economic benefits and jobs.”

City bosses said discussions about the future structure of the council were still taking place. A spokeswoman said: “A report outlining the chief executive’s recommendations at will be considered by council in December.” Cllr Ross did not respond to a request for comment.