Council gets £4m bill just to charge for repairs

Deloitte's fees have risen as they deal with a backlog of disputes over the property repair service. Picture: Sean Bell
Deloitte's fees have risen as they deal with a backlog of disputes over the property repair service. Picture: Sean Bell
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CONSULTANTS brought in to help sort out the Capital’s statutory repairs problems are set to receive an estimated £1 million of council taxpayers’ money – on top of £3 million they have already been paid.

Accountancy specialists Deloitte were appointed more than a year ago to help the council bill residents for £22 million worth of work. The firm was paid £800,000 and was expected to complete the task by October, but in January received a further £150,000 because many of the projects were “more complex” than anticipated. The council says Deloitte is about three-quarters of the way through the work.

Deloitte was also previously paid £2 million for carrying out an internal investigation into the scandal-hit property repair service. Now it is being asked to deal with a backlog of outstanding disputes with owners whose properties were the subject of statutory notice repairs.

Payment for the new work has yet to be negotiated, but Green finance spokesman Gavin Corbett said he expected it would be over £1 million.

He said: “The light at the end of the property repair tunnel is a long way off.

“People in Edinburgh rightly expect the council to shift up a gear in dealing with the enormous backlog of unfinished, unsatisfactory or unbilled work by the now-defunct property conservation service.

“People need to be assured that they are getting what they paid for and paying only for what was needed.”

He said the council did need expert help and Deloitte, having been immersed in the work for two years, was best-placed to continue it.

But he added: “Deloitte has already had over £3 million in fees from the council and if yet more payment is warranted, it needs to be much more clearly tied to targets to get bills out and focused on sorting out those disputes which are continuing to haunt the service and the people affected.

“Without that, we are entering into an open-ended commitment which I fear will add another seven-figure sum to bill.”

Councillors have agreed to appoint a special project board, bringing together key departments, meeting twice a week, to oversee the drive to cut the backlog. However they decided against making senior official Alastair Maclean a statutory repairs tsar with power to sign cheques for up to £100,000 to settle claims and instead gave chief executive Sue Bruce overall responsibility for the work.

The councillors also rejected a plan for an all-party group to oversee the work and said reports should rather go to the council’s finance committee.

A council spokesman said: “Deloitte are making significant progress in getting what can often be extremely complex projects to a point where they can be billed.

“Negotiations are ongoing with a view to extending their remit to include the resolution of outstanding complaints.

“The aim is for all legacy issues to be dealt with in a more focused, co-ordinated and transparent fashion.”