ONE of Scotland's leading local government officials has been sacked and several others given final warnings for their role in the collapse of a money-saving scheme.

But cash-strapped Inverclyde Council is continuing to face criticism for taking seven months to complete its probe, during which time it paid out almost £200,000 to the four suspended officers, and the role of the chief executive in the saga has been criticised.

Paul Wallace, the authority’s £100,000-a-year-plus corporate director, was the only member under investigation to be fired for his role in the fiasco, which saw more than £650,000 paid to consultants and savings of barely £250,000 delivered.

Inverclyde’s supposedly pioneering modernisation scheme – future operating model (FOM) – aimed to pull office functions of various departments together. It had been expected to deliver £1.9 million in savings but was axed in January after failings came to light.

Two other heads of service, John Arthur and Gordon McLoughlin, both on annual salaries of around £80,000, are on final warnings.

The fourth, Arun Menon, admitted culpability several weeks ago and has also been issued with a final warning.

The Herald can also reveal Mr Wallace has taken Inverclyde Council to the Court of Session over how it has handled the investigation. It is understood his case will focus on claims of a lack of transparency in the probe and that chief executive John Mundell’s role in it breached any sense of natural justice.

The decision to sack Mr Wallace comes amid mounting speculation that the former leader of the council at the time the FOM fiasco came to light is to return to the post.

Labour’s Stephen McCabe quit several months ago citing family reasons, but he has been touted to return to the leader’s chair later this month after his successor, Iain McKenzie, was elected to Westminster at the Inverclyde by-election in June.

Last night, senior insiders said the investigation may have cost taxpayers double the amount paid to the four suspended officers as the probe took place and could approach the £500,000 mark.

They also said that despite the outcome there would still be questions about Mr Mundell’s role.

One said: “The chief executive has overall corporate responsibility and was the head of the FOM working group, so how on earth has he raised charges against four key officials without including himself? He was the guy pushing this through and the fact he didn’t convene meetings to keep continuous tabs on potential problems is a disgrace.

“People are extremely annoyed at how several close colleagues have been treated while the chief executive takes no responsibility.”

SNP group leader Innes Nelson said: “I find it hard to believe the council’s leadership at the time did not know about this and it seems ridiculous that more money was being spent than saved.

“That said, I think we should be asking whether the FOM was terminated too early and that had it run longer it could have delivered the promised savings.”

A council spokesman said the disciplinary process had concluded, adding: “The process allows for appeals to take place, if required, and therefore the council is unable to make any further comments at this time.”