Magnus Gardham
Political Editor

EDINBURGH City Council has come under fire after its most senior official
was encouraged to accept a second job as a non-executive director of
utility giant SSE.

Sue Bruce, who has been chief executive of the council since 2011, will be
paid £57,000 on top of her £158,533 salary, though she has pledged to
donate some of the money to charity.

The move was approved by Andrew Burns, the Labour leader of Edinburgh
council, despite his party’s criticism of a similar arrangement last year
when Lena Wilson, the boss of economic development agency Scottish
Enterprise, took a directorship with a leading firm.

Yesterday the news was met with anger by Unison, Scotland’s biggest public
sector union.

John Stevenson, president of the union’s City of Edinburgh branch, said:
“When front line staff are pushed to the limit covering for staff
shortages, it is not a good message that the chief executive has enough
time to take on a second job.

“We trust that the decision to allow Sue Bruce to take up a second job with
an energy company will herald a new approach by the council to all of its
staff.

“In particular, we look forward to a more sympathetic approach to time off
for staff doing unpaid trade union duties, and to staff on low pay who have
no choice except to take a second job just to make ends meet.”

Liberal Democrats on the council also demanded assurances over Ms Bruce’s
time commitment to SSE.

LibDem Councillor Paul Edie said: “I would want to be reassured we are
going to get Sue’s full attention on the problems of Edinburgh, which are
not limited just to trams.”

It is expected Ms Bruce will work for SSE for a day and a half per month on
average. She will take up the role on September 1.

She promised to donate SSE fees to Edinburgh charities for as long as she
is employed by the authority.

However some of the earnings may be used “to fulfil her obligation as a
board member to purchase shares in the company,” a statement from
Perth-based SSE said.

Yesterday the former Aberdeen and East Dunbartonshire councils chief
executive said she was “privileged” to join SSE. She insisted the move was
a “mutually beneficial arrangement and a natural extension of the
partnership approach that the council already has with many companies”.

She added: “There is much from my experience that I hope to bring to the
board, but the council’s services can equally benefit through sharing the
good practices of the private sector.”

Lord Smith of Kelvin, the chairman of SSE, said: “It is often said that the
public sector has much to learn from business. I believe the same is true
in reverse and that Sue’s experience and knowledge of the public sector
will be invaluable.”

The move follows anger a year ago when Ms Wilson took a £55,000 job on the
board of London-based safety group Intertek.

At the time the appointment, endorsed by Finance Secretary John Swinney and
Scottish Enterprise chairman Crawford Gillies, was strongly criticised by
Labour and the LibDems.

Edinburgh City Council leader Mr Burns said yesterday he was “really
pleased” about Ms Bruce’s new role.

He said it was a “personal endorsement” and added: “I’m sure SSE will soon
see the benefit of her contribution and that the council will gain from the
perspective she will bring from her participation on the board.

“Sue asked me before accepting if I was able to give my support to her
taking the appointment… I was happy to give her my backing.”

The SNP – which is in coalition with Labour on Edinburgh City Council –
also welcomed the appointment.

SNP MSP for Edinburgh Southern Jim Eadie said: “The fact senior public
servants are clearly held in such high regard by the private sector should
be seen as a positive. This ‘attack the SNP now, think later’ approach from
Labour in the Scottish Parliament is sadly all too familiar and has backfired.”

Edinburgh council employs 15,000 people and has a budget of more than £1
billion per year.


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