Repairs scandal: Council writes off another £2.2m
Around £2.2m has been declared “irrecoverable” amid efforts to resolve the long-running scandal, which saw the whole system suspended following allegations staff were bribed by contractors in exchange for lucrative repair projects.
And as many as 75 new complaints over work carried out are expected by the middle of next year, forcing city leaders to agree to further reviews by auditors Deloitte which will cost around £330,000.
The latest costs come on top of a £3m war chest paid for a Deloitte probe into the saga and a decision to write off £5.5m of debt owed by property owners refusing to pay for repairs considered over-engineered or unnecessary. Blueprints for a brand new enforcement service were unveiled late last year, when we revealed that clearing the case backlog could take up to five years and cost the city more than £10m.
A progress report has revealed 81 complex complaints are still outstanding, with reviews of 15 unbilled projects still to be completed.
Critics today said the figures were further evidence of how the scandal was “bleeding” Edinburgh dry. Gordon Murdie, of Quantus quantity surveyors, which represents more than 200 clients affected by the controversy, said: “Had the council addressed this properly from day one, it could have been resolved just now at a fraction of the wasted cost – the whole expenditure has been unnecessary.
“There are a number of services that have been compromised because, by their own admission, the council did not tackle this correctly from day one, and this is continuing to bleed the council dry.”
Warning that a number of councillors had raised concerns over the fairness of the case review process, he added: “I think that if and when the council finally resolves a scandal of their own making, the true cost to Edinburgh will be far in excess of any figure that City of Edinburgh Council have budgeted for.
“Edinburgh has been severely damaged, both reputationally and financially. And the level of damage continues to increase rather than decrease. As the cost of the scandal continues to rise, the effect on owners should not be forgotten or undervalued.”
Tanya Ivackovic, 50, who led the fight against a £2300 water bill after repairs more than four years ago, said the situation was a “catastrophe” and said expert surveyors, not auditors, should lead case reviews. She said: “It highlights to me the system and all the money they have already spent just doesn’t work. What they have actually got in place is just number checking and not looking behind the figures. It’s a fiasco.”
But city bosses insisted outstanding statutory repair cases were being dealt with in a “more cohesive, consistent and transparent fashion”.
Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader, said: “Working closely with our internal team, consultants have made significant progress in getting what can often be extremely complex projects to a point where they can be billed and are on target to complete their existing remit by the end of this month.
“Given their expertise and knowledge of the issues, it makes sense to continue with the process as is. We had an expectation further cases would arise and our financial provision will remain under regular review by the finance and resources committee.”