Statutory repairs scandal: Call for public inquiry

Gordon Murdie is calling for a public inquiry into the statutory repairs scandal. Picture: Neil Hanna
Gordon Murdie is calling for a public inquiry into the statutory repairs scandal. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A KEY critic of Edinburgh’s statutory repairs scandal has called for a public inquiry into the fiasco, insisting the council’s “investigation into itself cannot be allowed to continue”.

Gordon Murdie, of Quantus quantity surveyors, who represents more than 200 clients affected by the controversy, insisted that an independent probe was the only way the city could reclaim people’s trust and claimed the “ongoing scandal requires to be properly addressed in the wider interest”.

It comes as the council’s governance, risk and best value committee released a statement reaffirming their commitment to subjecting the former service to “full and proper scrutiny”.

Chairman Councillor Jeremy Balfour said the council “owes it” to those who were “let down so badly” by the previous service to ensure “lessons were learned and acted upon”.

“Only then can we begin to regain their trust,” he said.

The statutory repairs system was suspended amid allegations that staff were bribed by some contractors in exchange for lucrative repair projects but replaced in April last year. Auditors Deloitte has been paid almost £1 million to help untangle the mess which left the city in £30m of debt – and ensure homeowners are billed for the work carried out on their properties.

Today, Mr Murdie, a former chairman of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors East Area, called for a public inquiry into the affair which he branded “deeply wrong and has been going on for far too long”.

He said: “For the past two years and more it has been increasingly evident that the scandal is being studiously concealed and perpetuated behind closed doors.

“City of Edinburgh Council has supplanted an open and transparent resolution process with a veil of corporate secrecy and must now be the subject of an urgent public inquiry.”

He said an itemised bill for work on one property and released through Freedom of Information legislation showed one homeowner had been charged nearly £2000 for water.

“CEC’s investigation by themselves into themselves cannot be allowed to continue unchecked,” he said.

The News told last week how contractors and former council staff from the property repairs department had appeared in court to face charges. Eleven defendants appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and made no plea or declaration to allegations of corruption, fraud, perverting the course of justice and profiting from crime.

A city council spokesman said: “Both the council and police have carried out extensive and detailed investigations into allegations relating to the Property Services section. This also included independent external reports from Deloitte.

“We now have a new Shared Repairs service in place and the council’s governance, risk and best value committee will ensure lessons have been learned and acted upon.”