A pensioner who battled with the council for seven years over statutory repairs has finally reached a settlement – paying the amount he was originally quoted right at the start of the row.
Bruce Thompson, 70, said he was delighted the long-running dispute over work to the tenement block where he lives in Comely Bank Place had been resolved.
He has now paid £5900 in “full and final settlement” for the repair works – fractionally less than the £5960 per flat which the council quoted back in 2008.
“It’s been a hard fight,” he said. “The council has used bullying tactics and threatened us – but they have been well and truly thrashed here and the outcome of this is likely to help many others in Edinburgh who are no doubt being bullied and threatened in the same way as we were.”
He said it had all started with a roof leak and the refusal of two owners in the block to pay their share of the bill. “That’s why we had to go to the council and they came in with a quote of £65,560 between the 11 flats. They started work and the cost just went up and up.
“We only found out by making a Freedom of Information request that it was going to be about £330,000 between 11 of us.
“Most of this work was unnecessary, overpriced and of poor quality workmanship.” An independent review by Deloitte brought the bill down, but the council still wanted the owners to pay £22,000 over the quoted price despite being unable to provide an itemised bill for the demand. There was now also an administration charge, taking the bill to £9100 each.
Mr Thompson refused to pay and won an ombudsman ruling against the council. It was only when the council would not withdraw its demand and threatened court action that he engaged a lawyer. “She has been very good – she had a meeting with the council lawyers and they managed to thrash out this settlement.”
But he said some of his neighbours had paid the £9100 demanded.
“The question is: is the council going to pay them back the difference? They can’t charge one owner one price and everyone else £4000 more. In my view, every one of them should be entitled to a refund of anything they paid over £5900.”
The council declined to discuss the settlement. A spokesman said: “It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on a private arrangement.”
But finance convener Councillor Alasdair Rankin said: “The council continues to make good progress in resolving the long-standing problems associated with the former property conservation service, introducing an independent, objective and consistent approach to reviewing cases. This approach has worked well and the process is nearing its conclusion.
“Clearly, we have a duty to recover outstanding costs on behalf of the taxpayer, recovering over £12m to date, but only those deemed reasonable and legitimate have been billed to owners.”