By Anna Gault
THE company behind Edinburgh’s controversial tram project spent over 5m on public relation consultants and lawyers as it argued with contractors.
Legal fees totalling 4million were paid out in the past three years by Transport Intiative Edinburgh (TIE), which was established by the Edinburgh City Council to manage the delivery of the trams.
A further 900,000 was shared between a number of PR consultancies over the same period.
The figures, revealed under Freedom of Information, show that since 2008, 2.6m has been paid to DLA Piper, a legal firm behind the original tram contract.
The former head of communications for TIE, Mandy Haeburn-Little, was paid more than 90,000 in consultancy fees ahead of her in-house salary of at least 129,000.
A further 1.3m was spent during a bitter row between TIE and Bilfinger Bergman Siemans (BBS), the German engineering contractors over funding.
Council officials have acknowledged that the decision to enter arbitration – which is now only coming to and end after
two and a half years – was an expensive mistake.
The resolution of the clash, and the cutting of costs that followed, is attributed by insiders to the selection of Sue Bruce as chief executive of Edinburgh City Council.
The chief executive of TIE, Richard Jeffrey and a number of senior executives have left the company since Ms Bruce was appointed, saving approximately 1m in salaries.
The mediation process between TIE and BBS has come to a resolution with friendly relations being restored between the two firms.
Ms Bruce said she has maintained a close working relationship with Vic Emery, the chairman of TIE, but other changes at the company had
“flowed through from the discussion we had during mediation.”
“Richard [Jeffrey] came into the project at a very difficult time.
“It took a different approach with all of the parties coming together to find a resolution.
“We were never going to find a resolution if we had stayed in a state of tribal warfare. “
Ms Bruce’s intervention was welcomed by Green campaigners who stressed the importance of delivering the tramway.
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for the Lothians and a member of Edinburgh council, said that there had been a need to
“grab the tram project by the scruff of the neck.”
“There is disillusionment among Edinburgh’s council tax payers,’ she said.
“There have been concerns about the use of external consultants – the council has its own people with expertise – it would save a great deal of public money if we started using that expertise instead of constantly looking outside for expertise consultants.
“We have all got to tighten our belts. “
Stan Blackley, the chief executive of Friends of Earth Scotland, said:
“There is no doubt that the project has been unlucky and mismanaged.
“But to come this far, and have nothing to show at the end of it, would have been the worst outcome.
“The trams have a potential to be a good thing for Edinburgh.
“The city struggles to meet European standards for air quality and is very congested.
“Trams will reduce street pollution and they will take people out of cars and decrease congestion. “