Over 200 witnesses come forward to independent inquiry into organisational culture at Edinburgh City Council

More than 200 witnesses have now come forward to the independent inquiry into the organisational culture at Edinburgh City Council.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 4:55 am

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Sources said the figure underlined the scale of concern over management practices at the authority.

The large number of witnesses has pushed the combined cost of the culture inquiry and a related one into the handling of complaints against a social work manager later found dead while awaiting trial for historical sex offences to more than £1 million.

Susanne Tanner QC is leading the inquiry

Susanne Tanner QC was appointed last November to lead both inquiries and an appeal was made for current and former city council employees to contact the inquiry team with any concerns they may have.

A source confirmed 200 people had now been in touch for the inquiry into council culture and the combined costs had passed £1m.

"It shows how much more the team has had to deal with than was initially expected."

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said: “A very large number of people have come forward and the cost has risen because of the number of people who wanted to disclose something to the inquiry and have the inquiry look at it.

"These things are always difficult to estimate the cost of in advance but we knew there were lots of unhappy people out there and we wanted to have that investigated. If more have come forward then obviously that's a major concern and something we need to get to the bottom of.”

And he made clear he was not calling for any cap on costs.

“Given the nature of the inquiry and the stuff people are coming forward with, we really must allow the inquiry to press ahead.

“It is concerning there are so many. It's good however that a large number have felt able to come forward to the independent chair and her inquiry to have their voice heard.

“The council has made the decision to have this inquiry, costs are rising but we really need to get to the bottom of the issues.

"I always knew anecdotally there were a lot of people who were unhappy with the council and the way they felt they'd been treated, I just didn't know how many.

"We don't know the nature of what has come forward yet. But certainly from what colleagues have been hearing and where people have contacted me to say they are going to the inquiry there seems to be an awful lot of claims about bullying culture and concerns being dismissed where they might make the council or management look bad and people feeling they are victimised for raising concerns. Obviously we need the inquiry to find out the truth of that but that's the nature of the allegations by people who have contacted me.”

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Lib Dem group leader Robert Aldridge said there had been all-party support for the inquiry, which he hoped would report back before the end of the council's term so appropriate action could be considered.

“Cost is obviously a concern, but we need to make sure the culture of the council is correct and there have been concerns expressed.

“Quite a number of people have come forward but the question is the judgement of the independent assessor about what they have said and whether it's a lot of individual issues or the general culture of the council and what needs to be done.”

A council spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring that any allegations or concerns about our organisational culture and whistleblowing issues are reviewed thoroughly and impartially.

"An independent chair, Susanne Tanner QC, was appointed to lead the inquiry following cross-party agreement and is being assisted by a UK investigation team from independent law firm Pinsent Masons, who have considerable experience in this area.

"We have been open and transparent from the outset of this process and have gone to great lengths to encourage current colleagues, ex-employees and service users to come forward and provide their evidence and submissions to the investigation team. We will not prejudge the inquiry conclusions and expect the report to be completed and findings issued later in the year.”

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