THE release of two explosive reports into Edinburgh’s statutory repairs scandal will take place “in the coming weeks”, it has emerged, as calls mount for the documents to be published immediately.
It is understood city chiefs met with the Scottish Information Commissioner this week to discuss overcoming the legal hurdles preventing disclosure of independent reports into the scandal-hit property care and property conservation departments, with the findings expected to be made public shortly.
Today, campaigners and politicians questioned the council’s motives for withholding the documents and called for the reports to be released.
Councillor Cameron Rose, leader of the Conservative group at the City Chambers, said the council’s ruling Labour-SNP coalition had failed to live up its “open and transparent” mantra.
“The administration had trumpeted its openness and that has been tested by this investigation into one of the most serious reputation crises the council has had to face,” he said.
“Months after many people have requested to see the details of the reports we still don’t have them. That doesn’t look very open. There will be certain redactions but there is no reason for the Procurator Fiscal or Information Commissioner to advise against a pretty full release.”
Gordon Murdie, of Quantus quantity surveyors, who has more than 200 clients affected by the property repairs controversy, said publication of the long-awaited reports would bring some “comfort and reassurance” to homeowners caught up in the repairs crisis.
He said the reports would lay bare a “scandal as big as Burke and Hare”.
Last month, council leader Andrew Burns said he was “frustrated” the documents had not yet been released and said it was now “overdue”.
He added: “We may have read redacted versions under supervision but that’s not the same as releasing legally redacted versions into the public domain. It’s not a question of legal clearance any longer, it’s legal matters inside the council.”
A council spokesman said: “The council is confident that it has addressed all of the issues highlighted in the Deloitte reports.
“However, given that they relate to ongoing criminal matters, internal disciplinary procedures and council insurance policies, it is important that full consideration is given to the views of the Procurator Fiscal, Information Commissioner and others.
“Failure to do so could prejudice criminal procedures, prevent council officers from receiving a fair hearing and, in the case of insurance claims, risk costing the council tax-payer millions of pounds.”
Auditors tackle backlog
CITY chiefs last week agreed to draft in a specialist team of auditors to help resolve a backlog of statutory repairs cases and recoup some of the outstanding £22 million on 430 projects caught up in the repair scheme.
Expert auditing firm Deloitte LLP won a tendering process to bill residents for completed work at a cost of £800,000 to the taxpayer. The firm was previously appointed to carry out an internal investigation at the City Chambers costing £2m.
There have been claims that statutory repairs were carried out on properties which were not required in the interests of public safety – which could mean homeowners having to pay for unnecessary work.
They were supposed to ensure essential repairs were carried out on Edinburgh’s historic tenements in the absence of a factoring system.