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Lord Provost's office under review over spiralling expenses

A REVIEW of the running of the office of the Lord Provost of one of Scotland's largest councils has been launched after staff expenses doubled in a year.

Edinburgh City Council Lord Provost Donald Wilson has been criticised after his office's staff bill spiralled and he used public funds to pay for alterations to his kilt after attending twice as many more functions than his predecessors.

The council confirmed yesterday the Lord Provost's office was under "operational review" as new papers also revealed that he had two chauffeurs among his rising staff of 12.

Now Edinburgh Tory Group leader Cameron Rose is to quiz officials over the Lord Provost's office expenses in public for the first time today.

He will ask the council at a meeting for answers on the 103% rise in the forecast overspend on the Lord Provost's office staff costs to £433,000 to March compared with £223,000 the previous year.

New figures also show that of nearly 900 engagements, Mr Wilson has been to 101 dinners and 81 refreshments receptions.

In 2008 Lord Provost George Grubb, a Lib Dem councillor, attended 429 events in total.

Mr Cameron said he believed detailed answers needed to be provided on the running of the office.

He will ask for comparisons of the number of events previous incumbents have carried out and why it has nearly doubled since 2008.

He will also demand "an explanation of why the budgeted 2.89 (full or part-time) staff in the Lord Provost's Office has been augmented by four additional staff at a cost of £145,000".

A senior source at the council said: "In order to address the budget pressure in the Lord Provost's office, an organisational review has been implemented."

Mr Wilson had the alterations to his kilt done last year after struggling to fit into the official Highland dress.

The £250 bill was paid for out of the public purse, although Mr Wilson has since repaid the cash and insists he always intended to do so.

A spokesman for the council, which is controlled by a Labour and SNP coalition, said: "The Finance Convener will respond in detail to Mr Rose's questions during the council meeting."

The council said earlier the Lord Provost, reported to be in line for a pay rise from £36,528 to £37,262 "fulfils an important promotional role".

The Lord Provost is said to employ a staff of about 12, including full and part-time workers and secondments from other departments as he "develops his role further". His predecessor managed the department with an equivalent eight staff.

The Lord Provost declined to comment.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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