Call for independent review into Council over treatment of whistleblowers' reports

Cllr Ian Whyte, who put forward the motion.Cllr Ian Whyte, who put forward the motion.
Cllr Ian Whyte, who put forward the motion.
It will question if senior figures are protecting themselves or each other.

Councillors have called for an independent review into the working culture of Edinburgh City Council amid questions over whether senior management figures are protecting themselves or colleagues to avoid “reputational damage”.

A motion submitted by Conservative Inverleith councillor Ian Whyte will be discussed in a report at the next meeting of the council’s Policy and Sustainability meeting on October 6.

The motion noted recent news reports around the death of former senior Council worker Sean Bell, whose body was found near Salisbury Crags on August 27.

Mr Bell, 58, was awaiting trial for sex offences.

At one time he had been a Senior Manager working with children with disabilities.

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He was being investigated by Police Scotland at the time of his death and had been suspended by the Council.

Some reports allege that complaints about Mr Bell’s behaviour were made to the Council several years ago but that nothing was done, Cllr Whyte noted in his motion.

One woman told the Scottish Sun that she reported Mr Bell more than 20 years ago in 1998, when she was 22, and that nothing was done.

Cllr Whyte hopes the inquiry will not only review this instance but the wider attitude of the Council towards whistleblowers and investigating potential wrongdoing.

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“There have now been multiple scandals over the years at the council,” said Cllr Whyte.

"This is about the culture of the council and how it deals with whistleblowing, cover-ups and any allegations of wrongdoing.

“The aim is to look back at where things have been wrong, whether any of it is linked, and relate it more widely to the way in which the culture of the council works, as well as looking for ways that could be improved for the future.”

He added: “There’s a whole host of things which are outstanding, probably the biggest one of which is the Tram Inquiry. And there are other cases which started from whistleblowing and are now in the courts.

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“It’s really about whether the council tries to protect its reputation at all costs, whether that might be detrimental to the public or its staff, or if it is more open and can we be assured of that.

“We need to answer that and we need to make sure. We want to know that the council is working for the people it serves, not internally to in any way protect its management or individuals who work there.”

Cllr Whyte said he wanted to see an independent review which will be made public.

“The outcome of this should be some kind of public report, and we’d like it to be independent of the council management structure to have a review of what the council management structure has been doing,” he said.

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A Council spokesperson said: “Following the motion last week we are actively working on next steps which will be set out in a report for the next meeting of the Policy and Sustainability Committee on the 6th October.

“We continue to actively encourage all employees to raise any concerns and we have a fully independent whistleblowing service in place where colleagues can make an anonymous disclosure.

“The results of whistleblowing can and do lead to positive changes to policies and procedures and improvements to the way we deliver services, and is a fundamental part of our commitment to continue to promote an open and transparent culture.”

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