Statutory repairs: Shop facing closure over delay

Saj Hussain says his shop could be out of business within weeks. Picture: Julie Bull
Saj Hussain says his shop could be out of business within weeks. Picture: Julie Bull
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A CITY stationer claims to be just weeks from going bust – due to long-running statutory repair works outside his shop.

Saj Hussain’s family has run the Newington Stationers on the corner of South Clerk Street and Bernard Terrace for the past 35 years but trade has been hit hard over the last 12 months as a result of unsightly scaffolding outside the premises.

The 39-year-old’s fears for his business have now been further increased after the council-appointed stonemasons firm who were carrying out the work entered liquidation.

Capital Stone Company Ltd was liquidated on June 1 leaving the council to take over the scaffolding contract and set about appointing a new contractor.

Saj said: “This latest delay could add months to the job while we could be out of business in weeks. I’m just hoping we make it through until August when the students return.

“From start to finish the whole thing has been a nightmare. The scaffolding has been up a year but hardly any work has been completed.

“I’ve suffered a serious drop in trade while at the same time I’m still having to pay all my service charges. Two different businesses approached me inquiring about our neighbouring premises and our basement but both felt that they wouldn’t have a chance of attracting customers with the scaffolding up.”

Saj also faces a £30,000 bill for the works to stabilise the building’s stone facade.

He added: “When I complained to the council officer that I couldn’t pay, she told me that if I couldn’t afford to pay then I should hand my keys in at the council offices.

“There’s been no timescale for the works and the first I knew of the stonemason going bust was when he came and packed up all his gear. I then heard nothing for weeks until one day I spotted a council officer walking past and he finally told me what had happened.

“Our hands are tied in relation to these works and we have to just wait for the council to sort it.

“My father started this business in 1978 and as a family we’ve contributed to Newington ever since but this has left us at breaking point.”

Local councillor and Tory group leader Cameron Rose is sympathetic to Saj’s predicament and has urged council officers to be quick in completing the works. He said: “There have been delays in obtaining materials, weather delays and the manner of keeping local businesses in touch has been poor.”

A city council spokesman said: “We intervened to ensure necessary work was carried out when the owners couldn’t agree how to take it forward once the disrepair had been brought to their attention. Of course we’re sorry for the continued 
inconvenience to all of the property owners in that block. This was due to the original contractor going into liquidation and these are still difficult times for many businesses.

“There is a process we must go through before appointing a new contractor but it’s in all our interests for that to happen as quickly as possible.”

A report released in May by auditor Deloitte pointed towards “serious and wide-ranging management failure” that led to the local authority being £30 million in debt. Unbilled work has since been reduced to about £22m.

Corruption allegations included that staff received gifts and hospitality from building contractors and had work done on their own homes for below market value.

As a result of an internal investigation, 11 people were sacked and six suspended.