Council ordered to apologise over statutory repairs

The Council have been ordered to apologise.

The Council have been ordered to apologise.

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COUNCIL chiefs have been ordered to apologise to a homeowner over their handling of a statutory repair scheme.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) also ruled the city council must refund part of the admin fee for the project.

An SPSO investigation upheld a complaint by the man, identified only as Mr C, that the council had failed to reasonably administer three statutory notices served on his and neighbouring properties.

Edinburgh’s statutory repair system – where the council could arrange for urgent work to be done on a property and then recoup the cost from the owners – was suspended five years ago amid allegations of owners being overcharged for work, which was occasionally substandard and that often did not need to be done.

The council is currently piloting an alternative system.

The project investigated by the SPSO dated back to 2008 and the cost was originally estimated at around £27,000, shared between six properties.

But the price escalated to £165,000 before the bill was later reduced by £17,000 charged for scaffolding and £2,800 for other issues, taking the final cost to £145,000.

The SPSO report said there was no clear evidence that Mr C was given an estimate of the cost of the project before work commenced or that update letters were issued while the work was being completed.

The report said: “Whilst the council told us that they could not accept that they failed to reasonably administer the three statutory notices as they complied with the legislative requirements, we found that their handling of the matter had not been satisfactory.”

The SPSO noted the council had previously agreed to reduce the total bill for the statutory notices by over £17,000 for scaffolding hire – “which was likely to have been incurred due to their poor management of the works”.

But the report added: “In their response to our inquiries, the council also acknowledged that owners were not kept informed of the anticipated increases in costs during the project. We upheld Mr C’s complaint.”

It went on to recommend that the council “issue a written apology to Mr C for the failure to reasonably administer the statutory notices served on his property; and refund the customer care and communication portion of the administration fee to him”.

A council spokesman said Mr C had now received an apology and a refund, understood to be just over £100.

The spokesman said efforts to sort out the legacy of statutory repair notices were going well. “We have made considerable progress in resolving the problems associated with the former property conservation service, billing owners where reasonable to do so and recovering significant debt on behalf of the Edinburgh tax payer.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com