By NEIL RIDDELL
A FORMER senior official at the City of Edinburgh Council has vowed to be “innovative” in addressing the challenge of continuing to provide services in a climate of spending restraint, after being appointed as the SIC’s new executive director of infrastructure.
Gordon Greenhill, 52, retired from the capital’s local authority earlier this year and was this week given the nod over six local candidates to replace the outgoing Graham Spall in the £80,000-a-year council post, which puts him in overall charge of roads, transport, environmental health and planning.
Mr Greenhill took early retirement in slightly unusual circumstances this August under the “rule of 85”, whereby an employee can bow out once their age and their number of years’ service exceeds 85 years.
Having told staff that he was retiring, he left his post as head of community safety within 24 hours. It is normal practice for senior officials to work out a period of around three months’ notice, prompting speculation in the local press at the time that he had been told to take early retirement by senior directors within the City of Edinburgh Council.
Mr Greenhill denied that suggestion and said he did not officially leave his previous post until the end of September, but had taken a “substantial” amount of leave which had been built up as a result of covering for other members of staff in his department.
“I left an organisation which was in profit, staff morale was high, sickness absence was low and I got the opportunity to take the 85 rule,” he said. “I wanted to move on to something else [and] the job in Shetland came up at roughly the same time. I didn’t leave in a hurry, senior officials and councillors knew I was leaving.”
That version of events was also backed up by the Edinburgh local authority’s head of human resources Philip Barr, who issued the following statement: “Gordon Greenhill took early retirement from the City of Edinburgh Council in August having given 34 years of commitment and hard work which helped to ensure the safety and welfare of Edinburgh residents and visitors alike.
“His retirement was a personal decision and any reports to the contrary are completely unfounded. I would like to wish Gordon every success in his new post at Shetland [Islands] Council.”
Mr Greenhill worked for the council in Edinburgh for more than three decades and was environmental health manager before taking up his most recent post, which gave him responsibility for antisocial behaviour, environmental health and trading standards.
He said he was “absolutely delighted with the new post” and had fallen for Shetland when he came to the isles to work in a fish factory for a brief period after leaving school, subsequently returning for holidays with his wife on a number of occasions. “It’s one where I have an association with Shetland from before I went on to university. I worked in Gremista for six months, really loved the place and the people.”
Mr Greenhill said he was looking forward to working and consulting with staff already in the department before looking at ways to improve services. “I have a track record of innovation and being able to introduce new services and undertake change management,” he said. “My quick analysis is there’s going to be a transition period when the funding of council services gets a bit tighter because of the difference in oil revenue. I look forward to analysing that and coming up with some proposals.”
He said tight budgets would be nothing new to him after his time in Edinburgh, where the local authority does not have the lavish public funds Shetland has become accustomed to, and that he is a great believer in public consultation. “You can have as many service plans as you like, but unless driven by the customer there really is no point in it,” he added.
A starting date for the new director has yet to be finalised, but it is expected that he will be in post before the end of the year.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness said: “Mr Greenhill was one of a number of excellent candidates, which made our final decision a very difficult one. However, the selection panel chose Mr Greenhill as someone who could lead this very important area of the council’s activities in a period of rapid change and financial restraint.”