Edinburgh trams: ex-council leader's shock at emails

FORMER council leader Jenny Dawe said today she was 'pretty shocked' when she was shown internal e-mails about the tram project suggesting officials may have kept information from her.

Edinburgh Tram testing on the tracks in the Gogar Depot
Pic Neil Hanna
Edinburgh Tram testing on the tracks in the Gogar Depot Pic Neil Hanna

Ms Dawe, who led the Capital’s Lib Dem-SNP coalition from 2007 to 2012, said she had been interviewed for four days by the team in charge of the inquiry into the tram fiasco and was asked to look at a large number of documents.

“The vast majority of these I had not seen before and many of them I found quite surprising,” she said.

“A lot of them were about nitty gritty technical details I would not expect to be informed about.

Jenny Dawe led the council from 2007 until 2012. Picture; Kenny Smith,

“Sometimes it is difficult to know what information should be given to councillors – it can be a difficult line between what is operational and what is a policy matter.

“But it does seem there were certainly some people in the council who knew things we as senior councillors were not told.”

Yesterday the Evening News revealed one e-mail sent by Nick Smith, then a solicitor in the council’s legal services division, to new boss Alastair Maclean, giving a summary of the project, warned: “Dissemination of the actual history here could cause serious problems.”

And it went on: “Be very careful what info you impart to the politicians as the directors and TIE have kept them on a restricted info flow.”

Jenny Dawe led the council from 2007 until 2012. Picture; Kenny Smith,

The e-mail was sent on January 8, 2010, at the height of the lengthy dispute between the council’s arms-length tram firm TIE and the contractors.

The council has said the e-mail comments were not about withholding facts, simply about ensuring the correct information went to the appropriate people at the right time.

But Ms Dawe said: “This suggestion we were kept on a restricted information flow is quite worrying. You have to trust your senior council officers.

“If they had information at this level that could cause problems, what were those problems? We should surely have been told about these.

“Quite clearly there were people who had information they did not impart.

“It is a concern. I was having to be the public face and imparting unwelcome information about costs and timescales and I was dependent for that information on what people were telling me.”

She said there had been lots of meetings and briefings with officials both from the council and TIE.

“We always questioned them very vigorously indeed,” she said. “It’s so easy with hindsight to say perhaps we should have realised we were not being told everything.

“What I don’t know is to what extent the senior officers who were briefing us knew things and were keeping it quiet or to what extent it was TIE who were not sharing information.

“Presumably that should come out in the inquiry – who knew what and when.”