Female Edinburgh City CEO in ‘mutually beneficial’ non-exec role at SSE plc

The chief executive of Edinburgh City Council has been appointed as a non-executive director of utility giant SSE – in a move that could bring mutual benefit to both the private and public sectors. In a potentially pioneering departure, Sue Bruce has asked that all fees due to her as a non-exec are paid instead to charity while she is still working for the council.

She will take up the role with SSE from 1 September.

Ms Bruce has previously been the chief executive of both Aberdeen City and East Dunbartonshire councils. She took up the post at City of Edinburgh Council in January 2011 and has an annual salary of £158,553. When she takes up her post, the board of Perth-based SSE will comprise two executive directors and six non-executive directors, plus the chairman. Of these, six are men and three are women.

Lord Smith of Kelvin, chairman of SSE, emphasised the ‘win-win’ nature of the appointment.

“It is often said that the public sector has much to learn from business. I believe the same is true in reverse and that Sue’s experience and knowledge of the public sector will be invaluable.

“More generally, her outstanding track record as the head of an organisation that provides services on which hundreds of thousands of people depend and also makes significant capital investments means she is very well-qualified to serve on the board of a company like SSE.”

The City of Edinburgh Council employs directly 15,000 people and is responsible for an annual revenue budget of £1bn and an annual capital budget of £150m.

Ms Bruce has asked that all fees due to her from SSE be paid instead to “charitable concerns that operate in or benefit the city of Edinburgh, beyond any amount required to fulfil her obligation as a board member to purchase shares in the company”.

She said: “It’s a privilege to have been offered this opportunity to join the board of SSE, one of Scotland’s most successful companies.

“I’m looking forward to contributing to the critical service that SSE provides for customers, the environment and the wider economy.

“I do, however, also see this as a mutually beneficial arrangement and a natural extension of the partnership approach that the council already has with many companies.

“There is much from my experience that I hope to bring to the board, but the council’s services can equally benefit through sharing the good practices of the private sector.”

Interestingly, each director of SSE is subject to annual re-election, and Ms Bruce will stand for re-election to the board at the company’s first Annual General Meeting after she takes up her appointment. It will be held in July of next year.

Council leader Andrew Burns said he was confident the arrangement would be mutually beneficial for the local authority and the energy provider.

He added: “I’m really pleased about this for two main reasons. The first is the personal endorsement for Sue’s abilities, as well as the efforts she has made to engage with the business sector in Edinburgh and further afield, which is so important for many areas of the council’s responsibilities.

“The second is that it’s a recognition that public sector leaders can have a great deal of experience, knowledge and expertise to offer organisations in the private sector.

“I’m sure SSE will soon see the benefit of her contribution and that the council will equally gain from the perspective she will bring from her participation on the board.

“Sue asked me before accepting if I was able to give my support to her taking the appointment. As I have no doubts at all about Sue’s commitment to the council and how hard she works I was happy to give her my backing.”

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