Independent inquiry into 'cover-up' culture claim at Edinburgh City Council amid complaints concerns

AN independent chair is to be appointed by Edinburgh City Council to head an inquiry into the handling of complaints against a social work manager who was found dead at Salisbury Crags and a second inquiry into the wider culture of the council.
An independent chair for the inquiries is expected to be agreed next weekAn independent chair for the inquiries is expected to be agreed next week
An independent chair for the inquiries is expected to be agreed next week

Andy Jeffries, Senior Manager, Children’s Practice Teams, has been suspended on a "precautionary basis" while an investigation is carried out into the complaints against Sean Bell, who was awaiting trial for sexual assault when he was found dead at Salisbury Crags in August.

Council chief executive Andrew Kerr told today's policy committee that an independent chair should be appointed next week and the terms of reference for both inquiries would be agreed by the chair and the group leaders

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"This matter will take some time to conclude. It is likely even that the first part may take as long as six months to come to some conclusion. How long both matters take to conclude will depend on who comes forward and matters we find as part of the investigations.

"However, I believe with a credible and independent chair and an experienced investigation team that we will come to some clear conclusions that will allow the council to act appropriately in dealing with those matters both now and going forward."

Two councillors challenged a report by Mr Kerr which said the council had "robustly investigated matters brought to its attention".

SNP councillor Alison Dickie said she had been raising serious concerns around historic cases and current proceedings

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She said: "Some of the people I represent are whistleblowers who still don't feel their concerns have been resolved and some of the references about robust investigation already being taken by the council may deter them form coming forward because it almost looks as if that's concluding it has been dealt with already.”

And Tory councillor Cameron Rose told Mr Kerr: “In some of these previous investigations what can only be described as a cover-up has been uncovered and where you use that phrase 'robust investigations' there is almost a belief you do not accept what has been preciously discovered."

Tom Stocker, a partner in lawyers Pinsent Mason, who has been brought in by the council to lead the investigation, interrupted to suggest the issue should be "subject to our review". He said: "Getting into issues about whether or not there have been cover-ups in a public forum like this could prejudice the investigation."

Council leader Adam McVey said the issues the inquiries would address were never easy for an organisation to deal with.

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But he said: “People who use whistleblowing services are doing good work for this city to highlight issues so they can be addressed. It's absolutely crucial an allows us to make sure in such a big diverse organisation as the council we have the ability to address issues.

"This will not be a quick process, not should it be - it should be the right process. We want this council to be an open one, an honest one and a transparent one where staff feel empowered to raise issues and management and employees feel empowered to drive forward solutions.”

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