Government sends in ‘improvement team’ to Edinburgh Council over missed targets

The Scottish Government is to send in an 'improvement team'  to the city council over concerns about the way it is handling crucial paperwork for building projects.
The Scottish Government is to send in an 'improvement team' to the city council over concerns about the way it is handling crucial paperwork for building projects.
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THE Scottish Government is to send in an “improvement team” to the city council over concerns about the way it is handling crucial paperwork for building projects.

At its lowest ebb in late 2016 the council’s building standards division was meeting the 20-day target for processing initial applications in just ten per cent of cases instead of the required 94 per cent.

Last year the Evening News revealed building warrants were being processed by council officials in Aberdeen and Argyll & Bute after cost-cutting measures by the city council left it with too few staff.

Most of the projects involved are small-scale building work such as house extensions, but bigger schemes could be affected too. The council insisted it had made “significant improvements” to its performance and 74 per cent of cases now met the target, but the government had ruled more remained to be done.

The three-strong team of experts will work with the council for the next 12 months.

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said there were widespread complaints that building warrants and planning applications took too long in the Capital.

“You have to wonder, in view of the lack of checking that went on with the school buildings whether there is potentially a quality issue with this.

“This is abysmal for the council. But it’s not the council being damaged, it’s the local economy and individual citizens who see their projects held up, costs go up and I’ve even heard of some businesses deciding not to do work or to invest elsewhere because it’s difficult to get a warrant in Edinburgh.”

Council leader Adam McVey said he welcomed the government support. He said: “Great strides have been made in improving the standard of our Building Standards service over the past year but we have to acknowledge we were starting from a pretty low base and that much work remains to be done.

“We have worked closely with the Scottish Government throughout this process and will continue to do so. They have a huge amount of experience in this area and our team can only benefit from their expertise and advice.”

The council said it had taken on extra staff, set up a dedicated team to deal with initial applications and redesigned the service with an emphasis on training and development.

Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart said: “An improvement team is going to work with council staff to help improve the service and ensure customer needs are being met. This is important work and by working in partnership over the next year we can build on the improvements already made, address the remaining issues raised in a recent report and raise the overall performance.”