‘The biggest scandal for many years’

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it’s probably no exaggeration to say the city council may be facing one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit any Scottish local authority in years.

This may take some readers by surprise, as the crisis at the heart of the council’s statutory repairs system has been a slow burn.

What started 18 months ago as a series of random homeowners’ complaints – to the News and elsewhere – about steep repair bills soon became demands for a review.

Within two weeks of those calls being acceded to last October, the first of a number of suspensions of council officials was revealed. To date, there have been around 18 and, meanwhile, repair work under the scheme has all but ground to a halt.

The results of an independent report by Deloitte is understood to be near completion and will form the basis of a report to councillors later this month. The News understands it will be damning – and a separate police investigation has recently been stepped up too.

The case we highlight today illustrates how the system went wrong – a £300,000 repairs bill slashed to just £40,000 when a group of residents (led by an architect) decided to fight the statutory notice.

If that has been replicated across the city then homeowners could have lost many millions of pounds.

Senior council officials will be planning now for the outcome of the Deloitte and police probes. It seems reasonable to predict they will face enormous compensation claims, and that some staff could lose their jobs and possibly face prosecution.

Anyone who has broken the law should face the consequences. Equally, staff who have done no wrong but found themselves tarred by association must be publicly exonerated.

Then council bosses will face the unenviable task of coming up with a credible, trusted system to protect the city’s privately-owned buildings.

College merger

even when the plan to merge Stevenson with Jewel and Esk was first mooted it seemed slightly odd that the city’s third further education college was not involved.

After all, the planned “super- college” should be even stronger, and able to achieve greater economies of scale, with Telford on board.

Those economies of scale, of course, could include job losses, which would be opposed by unions. Telford’s bosses, meanwhile, clearly feel they are better on their own.

But given the Abertay/Dundee experience and the Scottish Government’s desire for more mergers, there is likely to be growing pressure on them to reconsider.