Council hounds OAP over ‘unreasonable’ £87k repair bill

Bruce Thompson outside his Comely Bank Place home. Picture: Julie Bull

Bruce Thompson outside his Comely Bank Place home. Picture: Julie Bull

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A PENSIONER who won his battle with the council over a statutory repairs bill is still being asked to pay thousands of pounds despite an ombudsman’s ruling.

Bruce Thompson, 70, complained to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman after he and his neighbours were sent a bill for £87,000 – £22,000 more than the original quote – without being given a breakdown of the additional costs.

The ombudsman decided the council had behaved “unreasonably” in failing to provide an itemised bill – and rejected a council bid to overturn the ruling.

But the council is still demanding Mr Thompson and his neighbours in Comely Bank Place pay the full amount – £7930 per flat.

He said: “They have written with an apology, as the ombudsman recommended, but the fact they are still trying to charge us £2000 extra per flat without telling us what it is for is totally unreasonable.

“The council has put it in writing that they cannot provide an itemised bill. We’re just not paying when we don’t know what it is for.”

Mr Thompson’s case dates back to 2007. He said many other homeowners across the city had also received unitemised bills for statutory repair projects and could potentially benefit from the ombudsman’s ruling. The statutory repairs system was suspended in 2011 amid widespread complaints of over-billing as well as unnecessary and poor quality work.

Consultants Deloitte were called in to review disputed cases and it was they who arrived at the £87,000 bill for the Comely Bank property.

The ombudsman noted the council had said it was unable to provide Mr Thompson with an itemised account, but had claimed the figure represented “the amount they considered reasonable for the project”.

But Mr Thompson said he had consulted his lawyer and she agreed the council should drop the £2000 extra charge.

He said: “We cannot see how they can justify that amount of money.

“If you got a bill and didn’t know what it was for, would you pay it?

“We’re going to fight this all the way.”

The council has waived an administration fee of almost £1200 following a recommendation by the ombudsman and is arranging a meeting with Mr Thompson.

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said: “I think we have done our best to meet him in terms of his complaint.

“Our view is still that on the basis of the evidence we have there is a legitimate charge to be made for his share.”

A council spokeswoman added: “While we have provided Mr Thompson with all the financial information we hold about the works carried out, we regret that we do not hold the project cost information in the format Mr Thompson requested.”

She added that, as recommended, the council had taken steps to ensure that the new Edinburgh Shared Repairs Service, which replaces the statutory repairs system, will have mechanisms in place to itemise and communicate project costs.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com