Tram chief’s pay-off from public purse to stay secret until inquiry

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THE pay-off received by former Edinburgh trams chief Richard Jeffrey is not expected to be revealed until a public inquiry into the scheme, after the city council said it was covered by a confidentiality agreement.

When Mr Jeffrey announced he was quitting last May, The Scotsman reported that he was likely to receive a near six-figure sum, of up to a year’s salary of £155,000.

The council said yesterday it was unable to disclose the amount, but it is understood Mr Jeffrey would be required to reveal the figure at an inquiry into the troubled project – and would also be willing to do so.

However, it remains unclear if he was paid more than he was contractually due, in return for signing a “compromise agreement” preventing him from passing on sensitive information about the tram scheme.

The chief executive of council-owned firm Tie (the former Transport Initiatives Edinburgh) left last June after being effectively sidelined in peace talks to solve a bitter dispute with tram-line contractors.

Ministers have said an inquiry would be held once more progress has been made on completing the Edinburgh airport- St Andrew Square tram line, due to open in summer 2014.

Last August, in response to a Freedom of Information request, Mike Connelly, Tie’s head of public affairs, said the pay-off would be included in the council’s annual accounts, which would “allow for a sufficient passage of time so as not to cause any prejudice” to Mr Jeffrey.

However, two weeks later, Tie admitted it should have said the amount would not be disclosed because of a deal between Tie and Mr Jeffrey to keep it secret.

Susan Clark, its deputy project director, stated: “Tie should have been clearer that one of the primary reasons for not disclosing the details of any agreement between Richard Jeffrey and his employer was that a reference should have been made to the existence of a compromise agreement, which contained a confidentiality clause.

“The reason for not disclosing the existence of this agreement at the time was that revealing the existence of any such agreement was restricted. Both sides to the agreement have now agreed that the existence of the agreement can now be made public.”

The council said yesterday Tie – whose role has been taken over by the local authority – still existed as a legal entity, and the agreement meant the pay-off could not be disclosed unless both sides agreed.

However, legal experts said Mr Jeffrey could be compelled to reveal the pay-off at an inquiry.

Labour Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale criticised the secrecy surrounding the issue. She said: “The simple fact is that people in Edinburgh, across Scotland, are fed up of the secrecy around the trams. It’s why I called for a public inquiry nine months ago and why I’m still waiting.

“There’s hundreds of people in traffic jams across Edinburgh today, wondering why they don’t have this information in their hands. This figure should be in the public domain because it has come from their taxes.”

A council spokesman said: “On leaving the company in June 2011, Richard Jeffrey and his employer, Tie Ltd, reached a legally-binding agreement preventing the disclosure of details relating to his employment or its termination. This remains in place.”