Suspended council staff paid £1.5m

MORE than £3.5 million has been spent on wages for suspended council staff and the Deloitte investigation into the property repairs scandal, the Evening News can today reveal.

Senior sources have exposed that more than £1.5 million has been paid to employees suspected of wrongdoing since the first worker was suspended in October 2010. Six staff remain suspended on full pay across the property conservation and property care departments.

The news comes after the council confirmed it had sacked the acting head of services, Janis Dunn, following her suspension in April 2011.

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Around £2m of taxpayers’ money has so far been spent on the Deloitte report, which has remained under lock and key since it was finalised in March.

It has been highlighted that the 11 sacked staff across property conservation and property care were suspended on full pay while they were being investigated – and none of this money will be returned.

The Evening News revealed on Saturday that the council employee who blew the whistle on problems within the property department has been sacked after being suspended for one year and nine months. Two other employees were also dismissed.

A number of the sacked employees are understood to be taking their cases to appeal.

One inside source said: “The fact this amount has been spent on wages for suspended staff – many of whom have now been sacked or look to be sacked – is quite astounding. It is no secret that this disciplinary process has taken longer than was initially thought, but every day that these people are suspended costs the public.”

A number of issues have been raised in the property conservation department, which deals with private tenements and businesses, and property care, which deals with public buildings such as libraries and schools.

Ffiteen people have been charged within property care, including associates of five contractors, four ex-employees and six of their associates. The charges include fraud, corruption and money laundering.

A spokesman for the council said bosses needed to spend money on the independent investigation to get to the bottom of the scandal. “The seriousness of the allegations justified the use of an external investigation team,” he said.

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“All of our suspensions were precautionary, with no presumption of wrongdoing. In those circumstances, it is right that staff continue to be paid and the council is legally obliged to do that.”

MSP Sarah Boyack dubbed the situation “astonishing” and called for immediate action.

She said: “We clearly need to have a resolution to the police inquiry and the internal council discipline issue.

“But while all that happens, every single day somebody in the city needs assistance with getting communal repairs carried out.

“We can’t sit here waiting until the police and the discipline issues are dealt with, we need to see the council clearly setting out how they are going to fix this problem.”