Homeowner’s shock as statutory repair bill soars from £700 to £300k

Bruce Thompson
Bruce Thompson
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A HOMEOWNER battling the council over repair costs which had already soared from £700 to £230,000 discovered the bill had jumped again to £307,000 when he obtained official files under freedom of information laws.

Bruce Thompson, 67, and ten other owners in Comely Bank Place, have been battling the council for five years over its handling of the repair project.

They believe most of the work ordered to their block was unnecessary and in some cases has left the building worse than it was before.

Theirs is one of many caught up in the council’s property repairs scandal.

Mr Thompson said: “It all started five years ago when the council were called in to repair a flat roof. It was just a leak. We had had a quote for £700, but two people in the block objected so we had to get the council in.

“They said we needed a whole new roof. Two years later, work started and at that time the quote was £65,000, which I don’t think was necessary.”

By August 2009, the estimated cost had reached £230,000 – almost £20,000 per flat.

Then Mr Thompson and his partner Edna McLeod, 60, received a box of files from the council in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) and among the documents was a bill for the work.

“It was for £252,000, but once you add VAT and the other costs it was £307,000.

“There was also a letter from the external consultant saying he was amazed it was that amount of money.”

The owners have still not received an official bill from the council for the repairs.

Now Mr Thompson, a consultant to the licensed trade, has won a freedom of information victory to acquire other documents the council wanted to keep secret.

Files in a second box handed over by the authority had been heavily redacted. But Mr Thompson singled out two letters he particularly wanted to see – one the report from the external consultants called in to look at his complaint, the other an internal memo from the council’s conservation department to chief executive Sue Bruce in response to the report.

Now, in one of her first decisions, the new Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew has said the council must give Mr Thompson full versions of the two documents he requested.

Mr Thompson described the ruling as a major victory. He said: “We are quite convinced there are things in these letters they don’t want us to see. They fought tooth and nail to stop us getting them.”

He is determined to carry on his fight against the council and said he was confident he had the evidence to win the case.

“I have letters from experts saying it was totally unnecessary, badly done and a complete mess.

“The flat roof they were called in for hasn’t been done, but they used it as a platform and have made it a lot worse.”

A council spokesman said: “We note the ruling from the Information Commissioner which we will comply with.”