Edinburgh City Council keeps public in dark over report on property scandal
JUST 20 complaints out of almost 900 into Edinburgh City Council’s beleaguered property repairs department have been resolved despite a two-year investigation costing the tax payer more than £1.5 million.
It is two years this month since councillors first began raising concerns about the way the property repairs service in the council was run, amid fears of a widespread abuse of power.
Council chiefs have also admitted a confidential report by consultants Deloitte into the scandal may have to remain under wraps until any criminal proceedings are complete.
New council leader Andrew Burns said although the city had received “significant reputational damage” over the allegations, it was too early to commit to publishing the findings in full.
Only a handful of councillors, including Mr Burns, have seen the report, in a redacted form, with council lawyers believed to be worried about the legal implications of making it public.
The report is expected to spell out how the cost of “statutory repairs” on historic buildings across the city rose from around £9.2 million in 2005 to some £30 million in 2010, when the probe began.
Officers in charge of the council’s investigation, which has led to at least seven sackings and the ongoing suspensions of 12 staff, have been accused of dragging their feet over the probe, which has triggered a separate police investigation.
The police were called in November 2010, with consultants Deloitte hired by new council chief executive Sue Bruce a few months later. Hundreds of residents are alleged to have been over charged for repairs to historic buildings.
Ms Bruce has been urged to speed up the pace of the investigation, which is being run by one of her senior officers, community services director Mark Turley, who inherited the investigation from city development boss Dave Anderson, after his responsibilities were scaled back.
Mr Turley planned to investigate every case last October, but since then the council has been besieged by more complaints.
Chartered surveyor Gordon Murdie, who has been pursuing the council over the scandal for several years, said: “We have been promised openness and transparency over the last six months or so but there has been no evidence of it.
“At the moment this has all the hallmarks of an investigation by the council, into the council and for the council.”
The council insisted the rate of complaints has now slowed.
A spokesman for the city council said: “Our emphasis is on getting the responses right.
“We are making progress as quickly as possible, while treating the complaints seriously and thoroughly. The work is being done by a team that was set up from scratch and which is managing a new complaints process. We would expect the pace of work to increase and it may be appropriate to put further resources into this.”
Meanwhile Cllr Burns said his new administration would be “very public” about the ongoing investigations, but stopped short of committing to publish the full Deloitte report.
“We have literally only been in administration a few weeks. We are going to take our time to get fully up to speed on the details of the investigations and once we are comfortable about the information that should be released, hopefully over the next month or so, we will be very public about it.
“However, I am not going to rush into any commitments. As I understand it, the police investigation is still ongoing.”
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