An attempt to remove an interim Edinburgh Council boss from their role after just two weeks over a “completely indefensible” salary has failed.
SNP councillors sought to cancel the appointment of an interim director of adult social care after it emerged they would be paid £160,000 for six months of part-time work.
They said this equated to a £403,000 full-time salary making it the highest-paid public sector role in Scotland – a comparison dismissed as “inappropriate” by one councillor.
The move, which did not pass after failing to gain support from other groups in the chamber, would have included requesting a secondment from the Scottish Government to take on the role instead.
It comes following the resignation of Health and Social Care Partnership chief Judith Proctor last month amid a crisis in funding, recruitment and the quality of care being delivered.
The council made plans for someone to oversee the delivery of adult social care whilst the process to recruit Ms Proctor’s replacement was ongoing – and councillors sitting on a panel which interviewed for the interim role unanimously agreed on the appointment.
However, Alys Mumford, Greens co-convenor, said group leaders were told the proposed salary “would be half the amount we now see before us for approval”.
Addresssing a full council meeting on Thursday, June 1, Labour council leader Cammy Day said: “None of us want to see these kinds of ridiculous salaries being paid for anybody but I accept that is also – as some of my colleagues have reminded me – the going rate for these types of roles.”
He added the administration would rather have a permanent council employee or the NHS filling the role, but pointed out there had been unanimous support for the interim arrangement.
SNP councillor Vicky Nicolson said: “While I was involved in the recruitment process there was no discussion of salary and many other crucial aspects of the role.
She said health and social care services are set to face “cuts over this year and the next three years on a scale the partnership has never experienced,” adding: “We as a group cannot support this salary and encourage colleagues across the chamber to join us in our request to cancel the appointment.”
SNP group leader Adam McVey called the new interim director’s salary “completely indefensible” and said: “This is about £90,000 more than the next highest person in Scotland that I can find in relation to public sector pay. We are paying our social workers some of the lowest rates in Scotland.”
Councillor Mumford said the Greens disagreed with “the general policy of the council to pay vast money to consultants” but did not support “removing someone from post after two weeks following two weeks previously of having no chief officer in place” and did not vote with SNP councillors.
Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said the attempt to scrap the appointment was “disgraceful” and “incredibly disrespectful to the individual that has been brought to this council as a unanimous recommendation for approval”.
He said: “We’re having to work very hard as every organisation is in the public and private sector to try and find the best people that we can – and if this council honestly thinks that we’re going to get people applying for roles – especially senior roles – when their appointments are going to be drowned in party politics when we get to this point then folk need to take a good long hard look at themselves.”
Councillor Iain Whyte, Conservative group leader, accused the SNP of “fundamentally trying to alter a long standing convention in this council” and said their salary comparison was “inappropriate”.
He said: “I think it’s pretty clear that we need fundamental change and we need to bring in someone from outside to help us to achieve that.”
A council spokesperson said: “It is vital to appoint a high-quality candidate to this critical role in delivering social care to the people of Edinburgh at a time of huge pressures.
“The interim arrangement will allow service continuity during the recruitment process for the chief officer role. To meet the challenges in Health and Social care in Edinburgh the postholder will be responsible for delivering an Improvement Plan.
“The appointment was agreed with a cross-party recruitment committee and the rate of pay reflects the responsibilities involved and the need to attract the most talented, qualified, and appropriate candidate to work towards delivering the very best in health and social care services for the people of Edinburgh.”