Repairs scandal bill to cost £3m
THE resolution team drafted in to deal with statutory repairs complaints has eaten through two-thirds of the £300,000 budget put aside by the council – despite solving only six per cent of cases.
Thomson Bethune, which was brought in last November to deal with the property scandal, is being paid more than £1000 every day to deal with complaints and other issues in property conservation, such as emergency repairs.
If the team continues to work at the same pace as it has for the past nine months, it would potentially cost the council £3 million to hire Thomson Bethune consultants alone.
Council officials pointed out that the team dealing with complaints also includes in-house surveyors, and that they may have solved the most complex cases first, but bosses have still paid out more than £200,000 of the money pot to resolve six per cent of cases.
In total, 45 out of 721 complaints have been solved, meaning the council has a long way to go to discover how many jobs were not to the correct standard or price.
Thomson Bethune has been drafted in to make up the bulk of the complaints resolution team. Around £5 million worth of resident bills have been suspended as it investigates 1634 invoices.
A council spokesman said their involvement would be reduced as soon as the new department is developed, which it hopes to have up and running by spring 2013.
He said: “We have a competitive contract with the company that allows us to use their specialist skills in dealing with this priority project. We will reduce their involvement as soon as possible as any new service takes shape.”
But insiders said there was “absolutely no chance” the council would spend close to the original budget, no matter what happened. One said: “They’re paying out over £1000 a day just for the external surveyors. What about the wages for those working in the department at the council? How much will this consultation and revamp cost? This is just one small bill for them.”
Thomson Bethune was brought in to the property conservation department after grave concerns were raised by an alleged whistleblower and a contractor. Four staff have so far been sacked, two resigned or retired and two remain under investigation.
A second investigation was sparked in a neighbouring department, property care, which deals with public buildings such as schools rather than private homes. This led 15 people to be charged, including four ex-employees, five associates of contractors and six associates of ex-employees.
Gordon Murdie, a quantity surveyor with Quantas QS, said: “Seven months with little meaningful progress exposes a costly and continuing cover-up. Edinburgh council are delivering a shameful service to thousands of affected owners, and costing Edinburgh dearly.”
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