A city councillor is to be referred to Scotland’s standards watchdog over claims he broke rules by criticising local authority staff.
The SNP’s Michael Hutchison, who represents the George Street and Harbour ward on Aberdeen City Council, attracted controversy over comments regarding the redevelopment of the city’s oldest building.
Provost Skene’s House is due to reopen later this year after a revamp costing nearly £4 million, but Mr Hutchison raised concerns over the quality of the work – branding the restoration “embarrassing”.
He claimed some of the 16th-century building’s historic brickwork had been covered over by cement or mortar.
Criticism of work ‘unforgivable’
Officials from the Unite trade union are now understood to have written to council chiefs demanding an explanation and apology, while furious members of the ruling Labour/Conservative/independent coalition said staff had been left “distraught” at a meeting of the city growth and resources committee on Wednesday.
Administration councillors brought forward a motion calling on Mr Hutchison to apologise and instructing chief executive Angela Scott to report him to the Ethical Standards Commissioner.
They claimed he had breached item 3.3 of the code of conduct all members must abide by, which states: “You must respect all council employees and the role they play, and treat them with courtesy at all times. It is expected that employees will show the same consideration in return.”
Marie Boulton, leader of the Independent Alliance group, described his comments as “unforgivable” and said council employees had been left “upset, disappointed and distraught”.
“We have no option but to refer this to standards,” she added. “If Mr Hutchison has any remorse he will apologise sooner rather than later.”
SNP hit back at claims
However, SNP group leader Alex Nicoll pressed officials on whether it had been council staff or contractors who had carried out the work.
In response, he was told the council was unable to confirm “who had held the trowel”.
Mr Nicoll also criticised the timing of the administration’s motion, which was heard at the end of a meeting which had taken almost six hours, and the fact he had not been made aware of the nature of the item.
The administration’s motion was carried by five votes to three.
After the meeting, Mr Hutchison insisted his comments were directed at the administration.
“I have not been approached by any individuals or trade unions following my comments in the press which were aimed at the council administration, who are ultimately accountable for this project,” he said.
“I have obviously offended someone with my comments around the work carried out at Provost Skene’s House for which I can only apologise.
“The matter will now be referred to the Standards Commission who I am sure will carry out a full investigation so I will not make any further comment on the matter.”