Edinburgh council whistle-blower line plan slammed

Edinburgh city council has faced a series of damaging scandals. Picture: Martin Smith
Edinburgh city council has faced a series of damaging scandals. Picture: Martin Smith
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THE city’s new whistle-blowing policy will do little to expose wrongdoing and corruption among council employees, it has been claimed.

Critics of the pilot project – set to be introduced following a series of damaging scandals that rocked City Chambers – say the scheme will “do worse than nothing” in ensuring misconduct is reported and acted upon.

They claim the measures are tantamount to an advice line for would-be whistle-blowers, rather than the secure channel to report shady behaviour the city requires.

Campaigners for a whistle-blowing hotline want the system to be independent of city officials and any misconducts being reported directly to a summit of senior councillors

But a report into this system suggested it was not “appropriate” because operational functions are delegated to the chief executive and officers, who are obliged to keep councillors informed.

It comes just months after Scottish NHS boards introduced a phone line – later disparaged – to highlight problems amid allegations of bullying at NHS Lothian and publication of the Francis report into failures at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust in England

The new council alert system would be external and run by Public Concern at Work – the same firm managing the NHS phone line.

Council worker Peter Gregson has petitioned for a “safer mechanism” to report misdeeds, following the Mortonhall ashes scandal and stat repairs disgrace.

He said: “This is not the hotline we were looking for, but a helpline.

“It’s an advice line run by the same firm as the NHS one which provides the same information that can be downloaded from the council’s website.

“They say reports will be passed up to senior management, but a lot of the time the service will be advising people to speak to their line manager.”

And he added: “So after the trams disaster, property conservation scandal and Mortonhall [babies’ ashes] it’s no safer that it was before. We don’t need an advice line, we need a hotline that takes people’s concerns and gives them the security of knowing its being acted on.”

Trade unions are due to help implement the procedure if approved by councillors on Tuesday.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, the city’s finance and budget convener, said: “Staff are often first to spot any potential issues or problems and we want to strengthen the procedure and the culture within the council where employees are encouraged to report suspected wrongdoing.

“The proposal to set up an external confidential helpline is something that not many other local authorities are doing and I believe that this demonstrates the council’s continuing commitment to being as open and as transparent as possible.”