Statutory repairs scandal: Council could be sued as report reveals staff taken to strip club

A Police report on the statutory notice repairs scandal has said the city council is open to being sued for handing repair jobs to unvetted contractors.

Detectives drafted in to probe alleged corruption said the local authority had breached Scottish Government and EU regulations by handing hundreds of contracts to non-approved firms.

Officers also confirmed claims that staff at the Property Conservation Department (PCD) had accepted hospitality from contractors including trips to football matches, bottles of alcohol and a visit to a strip club.

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Also revealed in the report was evidence that buildings were being repaired with unnecessarily expensive “like for like” materials.

The report concluded that there was “clearly evidence” to suggest a culture whereby the allocation of contracts was made to those who are favoured as opposed to those on an approved list.

“Breaches of these regulations are not criminal but are the subject of action by civil legislation pursued by EU regulators. Any action is taken against the Public Organisation as opposed to the individual, again this could see the CEC taken to court regarding its PCD procurement practices.”

It went on to detail how officials at the department accepted hospitality from contractors, although the report – which is redacted in parts – did not go as far as suggesting this was 
bribery in return for work.

In one case, a member of staff borrowed vehicles and equipment from a favoured contractor to build an extension on his own house, without being charged.

Officers wrote: “A significant number of PCD members have accepted hospitality from contractors, including attending football matches, horse racing meetings, rounds of golf, meals and drinks and certainly on one occasion attending a strip club.

“In addition, some have accepted gifts of alcohol and tools.”

Sarah Boyack MSP said: “This report lays bare the problems at the heart of the mismanagement of statutory notices. I have previously highlighted the complete lack of transparency for owners and the fact that costs escalated due to the lack of rigorous surveys at the outset.

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“What is new to me is the extent that works were carried out, not just on existing repairs, but on future ‘anticipated repairs’.

“The key issue is what happens next. How many cases have been resolved? I’m still hearing of owners unhappy with how they have been treated. The issues identified in this report need to be acted on in an open and transparent matter by the council.”

The report concluded that to date, no criminality has been identified and currently no-one from the Property Conservation Department is facing criminal charges. A total of 17 people have so far been charged over allegations of criminal conduct at the council’s Property Care Department following a separate report.

A council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issues in the report and fully supported the police in their investigation.

“The situation now is very different and we have taken strong action, for example, by changing how we manage the service and through disciplinary action.”

“We are also in the process of designing a new service, which we consulted on earlier this year and will ensure it also has the necessary checks and balances built in.”