AN INVESTIGATION has been ordered into how the secret pay-offs to the senior officials working on Edinburgh’s tram project were made without the approval of the city council.
Senior councillors are demanding answers on how more than £700,000 was handed out to seven directors at the helm of the disastrous scheme.
All worked for the city council’s own company, Tie, which was set up to run the project, which is now running five years late and has a price tag more than double the original estimate.
These included £400,000 in compensation for being made redundant and at least another £300,000 for notice periods that the seven staff were not required to work.
A blame game is underway at the City Chambers with a former chairman of Tie and a senior council official among those said to have been involved in talks over the pay-outs.
Labour has been left furious at SNP claims that the council should be demanding the return of the pay-outs and branding them a “slap in the face” for taxpayers in the city, pointing out that the Nationalists were in coalition in the capital at the time.
However, it is claimed that the package was never seen by the Lib Dem-SNP administration who were running the city at the time – or by Tie’s board, on which several councillors were sitting.
The majority of the bumper pay-offs were agreed following a vote by the council in August to wind up Tie. All but 11 of the 60 staff who worked there lost their jobs, with the cost of paying them off now thought to have topped £2.5 million.
The SNP government at Holyrood had agreed to take control of the tram project in September when the SNP dropped its long-standing opposition to the scheme rather than see it scrapped completely.
Deputy leader, councillor Steve Cardownie, and transport leader, councillor Lesley Hinds, are both demanding answers.
Mr Cardownie said: “It should be a fairly simple matter to find out what was negotiated and when, and who signed off these pay-outs. There must be a paper trail available.”
Mr Hinds added: “The public needs to know exactly what happened, but it would certainly help if the Scottish Government would agree to get a public inquiry underway as soon as possible.
“We have been trying to get these figures out into the open for some time and it is a start to make these available.”
Meanwhile, The Scotsman can reveal that Vic Emery, who was brought in as the new chairman of Tie last January, is still on the council’s payroll.
He is thought to have agreed Richard Jeffrey’s pay-off after he decided to resign as chief executive of Tie just months after Mr Emery arrived.
Figures which emerged this week revealed that Mr Jeffrey was paid £105,000 despite only working for nine weeks during the last financial year – on top of £82,000 in compensation.
Mr Emery is also believed to have been in the talks which led to other officials, like project director Steven Bell, taking home £283,891, including £87,211 in compensation.
The council confirmed last night that Mr Emery, who famously compared Edinburgh to the centre of Tripoli, is still being paid his Tie salary, which was previously announced as £55,000.
A spokesman said: “Vic is a key adviser to the project – he chairs the project delivery forum and is vice-chair of the tram steering group. His salary is unchanged.”