Glasgow & West Scotland

Gordon Matheson cleared of George Square 'misconduct'

Gordon Matheson
Image caption The commissioner found Mr Matheson had no case to answer

The leader of Glasgow City Council has been cleared of improper conduct over his handling of the controversial project to revamp George Square.

Gordon Matheson was accused of trying to fix a design competition and breaking statutory procurement rules.

The complaint came after the council dropped the competition winner's design in favour of a more modest revamp.

The Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland concluded Mr Matheson had not broken any rules.

Six visions for the square went forward to an expert panel chaired by Mr Matheson following a Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) competition.

The design competition was won by John McAslan and Partners, but Mr Matheson subsequently announced that the council would not be proceeding with the £15m contract.

Two allegations

Instead, a scaled-back facelift of the square is to be carried out in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at a cost of about £500,000.

A complaint about Mr Matheson's conduct was lodged by Neil Baxter on behalf of the Council of the RIAS.

Image caption The council is to go ahead with a more modest revamp of George Square

The first allegation said that in his decision-making capacity as a judge of the design competition, Mr Matheson attempted to coerce council officers to endorse his own views and urged them to influence other parties involved.

The second allegation said that he failed to observe the rules of the competition as set out within the statutory procurement process, and acted unfairly and without observing the agreed criteria.

The RIAS complaint said that these allegations constituted a breaches of the councillors' code of conduct.

The Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public, D Stuart Allan, investigated the allegations and found that Mr Matheson had no case to answer.

'Entirely proper'

He concluded: "Essentially I found that Councillor Matheson did not engage inappropriately in the management of the competition to select the design for the redevelopment of George Square and that he did not act unfairly in applying his own judgement to the selection process.

"The allegations in this complaint were predicated on a misconception of the role of a competition jury in relation to the procurement of the design and construction of a major civic development project."

Mr Allan noted that "the remit of the jury...was no more than to advise" and it was "entirely proper" that the council should have been represented by Mr Matheson.

He said in his capacity as panel chair, Mr Matheson was "entitled to express his views, and in so doing he was entitled to reflect wider policy considerations and the varying public support for the project generally".

Mr Allan added: "The decisions to conclude the competition process by not issuing a service contract and to proceed with a less ambitious scheme were properly taken, and Councillor Matheson's conduct in relation to these decisions was appropriate in terms of the application of the councillors' code of conduct.

"Having considered the information that arose from my investigation, I concluded that Councillor Gordon Matheson had not contravened the councillors' code of conduct."

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