An implementation plan to take forward changes to the whistleblowing and wider organisational culture at the City of Edinburgh Council will be discussed by councillors next week (Thursday 10 February).
The detailed plan responds to the findings of an Independent Review led by Susanne Tanner QC, which was published in December last year. This followed on from her earlier Independent Inquiry into the conduct of the late Sean Bell, published in October 2021.
The Review highlighted that the Council had made ‘considerable strides’ to improve its whistleblowing and organisational culture since 2014, but recognises that significant work remains to be done to make and sustain further improvements and positive change. Ms Tanner made 50 recommendations, which were agreed in full by councillors at their last meeting on 16 December.
Key to the findings of both processes were testimonies from Council staff, both past and present, who spoke about their experiences and the survivors who suffered abuse at the hands of the late Sean Bell. It is thanks to their honesty and bravery that the Council is now in a position to take forward these transformational changes.
Areas for improvement have been grouped under five themes: Policy Development and Review, Our Approach to Investigations, Training and Development, Systems and Processes and a Redress Scheme designed to compensate those who suffered as a consequence of the actions of Bell.
Actions included in the plan will see the development of a revised domestic abuse policy and associated training, strengthening of the Council’s disciplinary code and whistleblowing policy, reviewing of various policies including violence at work, increasing whistleblowing training, avoidance of bullying and harassment training, and improving reporting and investigatory processes for issues of concern.
Councillors will be asked to consider the significant financial and resource implications for the implementation plan, should the actions be taken forward as recommended.
Council Leader Adam McVey said:
“I want to thank everyone who came forward to speak to the Inquiry and Review teams, including colleagues past and present. I know this has been a really difficult process for those affected but it is thanks to their testimonies that we are now in a position to implement these changes and deliver positive change.
“The culture of the Council has to be as positive, open, safe and supportive as it can be so that colleagues can feel confident in raising issues and that they will be properly investigated and responded to. Although there has been positive progress and improvements to the Council’s whistleblowing and organisational culture in recent years, Ms Tanner has outlined more work to do.
“This implementation plan outlines the next steps we need to take to make sure the Council is in the very best position it can be to support our colleagues and continue to deliver the best services for the people of Edinburgh.”
Depute Leader Cammy Day said:
“Having gone through what has been an exceptionally difficult process, particularly for those who came forward so bravely, we now have a clear idea of the steps we need to take to drive forward meaningful change to the Council’s whistleblowing and organisational culture. We must ensure that people can raise issues of concern, be confident they will be listened to and appropriate action is taken.
“This implementation plan outlines the challenges that lie ahead, both in terms of the financial commitment and level of resources required, but it’s vital that we grasp this opportunity and continue working together to make further positive changes to our organisation.”