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Clear up this council shame; RecordView.

SOUTH Lanarkshire Council serve some of Scotland's most deprived areas and spend pounds 718million of taxpayers' money every year.

So you'd imagine that their bosses would want to squeeze every last penny from that budget to ensure it is spent wisely and to the benefit of the public the council serve.

Yet, as we revealed yesterday, senior managers saw fit to organise a pounds 500,000 payoff for one of their colleagues.

And before the money went through, their ex-finance chief Linda Hardie spent six months at home on full pay - collecting pounds 63,000 in the process - doing nothing.

As we report today, public spending watchdog Audit Scotland say that was a waste of money. What a shameful situation.

Hardie, remember, presided over a department which lost pounds 100,000 to a fraud scam and miscalculated budget cuts to the tune of pounds 38million.

Meanwhile, her colleagues continue to fight a shameful legal battle against their female staff whose only crime is to ask for the same bonuses as their male colleagues.

Audit Scotland also make serious criticisms of decision-making at the council - in particular, the lack of democratic scrutiny of those decisions.

Paid officials such as Hardie are supposed to help councillors run the services we depend on. But at South Lanarkshire, the opposite seems to be the case.

In a case of the tail wagging the dog, paid officials seem to be making decisions in private without any reference to the councillors who are supposed to be their masters.

There are serious questions here about who is actually running local government in Scotland and who, apart from newspapers, is scrutinising them.

Because if councillors aren't able to find out what is happening, what chance do the rest of us have of discovering what is being done in our name? Labour's Eddie McAvoy, the elected leader of South Lanarkshire, is abroad on holiday and is refusing to comment on Hardie's payoff or the Audit Scotland report. That is not good enough.

Holiday or not, he is at the helm - or he should be. He needs to tell the public who pay his wages exactly what has been going on and what he is going to do to sort it out.

The longer he's silent, the more people will ask - Eddie, what have you got to hide?
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Title Annotation:Editorial; Opinion, Leading articles
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 3, 2012
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