Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson has been cleared by Scotland’s Public Standards Commission over his handling of the city’s George Square fiasco
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The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) brought the complaint against Matheson after it was alleged the controversial leader had failed to obey the rules of the design competition and also tried to coerce staff to influence the judges (AJ 22.04.13).
The Standards Commission’s ruling is a blow for RIAS secretary and treasurer Neil Baxter, who has been at the vanguard of the RIAS’s attack on Matheson.
‘We are not willing to accept the conclusions of the Standards Commission,’ said Baxter. ‘We will be referring the matter for legal advice.
‘Every word in our original complaint is absolutely true. Why else would they [council staff] whistle-blow? They have done themselves severe damage and been given scant regard by the commission.’
One of those ‘whistleblowers’ is the council’s former chief architect, Kerr Robertson, who told the commission that, six weeks before the judging, he was informed that Matheson would be ‘allowed to choose the winning design’.
Baxter also expressed dismay that none of the four competition judges: David Mackay, Professor Andy McMillan, David Harding and Geoff Ellis, were contacted for witness statements. He said: ‘These are respected people prepared to give witness accounts and the Standards Commission did not bother to contact them.
‘Instead, [the commission] has produced a partial report that only the council has been privy to.’
Another source told the AJ: ‘Heritage insiders in Glasgow have expressed considerable surprise at the decision.’
The Standards Commission told AJ: ‘…a fair and impartial investigation was undertaken all witnesses - relevant to that part of the complaint which fell within the Councillors’ Code of Conduct - were interviewed.’
In January Matheson binned the entire scheme after John McAslan + Partners was selected for the £15 million revamp ahead of Matheson’s preferred choice, London-based Burns +Nice. At the time Matheson justified his decision by claiming: ‘The people of Glasgow have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they do not want a radical redesign of the square’ (AJ 21.01.13).
A revised council in-house design team refit of the square costing just £500,000 is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
You can find a summary of the commissioner’s decision here : http://www.publicstandardscommissioner.org.uk/decisions/decision/532/lag1389
RIAS considers legal action after Matheson cleared