Lothian and Borders Police is investigating Edinburgh City Council’s property conservation department amid claims statutory repair notices were used fraudulently
A report by BBC Scotland unearthed accusations of corruption and serious wrongdoing at the department which repairs historic buildings in the city.
Edinburgh City Council is the UK’s only local authority to possess a statutory notice system allowing it to carry out repair work on privately owned properties.
City residents have complained of the rising cost of repairs carried out without consultation while an investigation by quantity surveyor Gordon Murdie and structural engineer John Addison concluded that in some cases residents had been over charged. Deloitte is currently investigating for the council.
The council’s notices have increased in value from £9.2m in 2005 to more than £30m in 2010, according to the report.
A former council worker reportedly told BBC Scotland he was encouraged to find faults with buildings and issue statutory notices.
He said: ‘You were congratulated on how many notices you served, whether it was warranted or not.
‘Inexperienced surveyors were going out and finding work. When they got builders on board they were being led by builders rather than the other way round. That’s why the bills were rising.’
Past council leader councillor Ewan Aitken predicted the council could be liable to shell out tens of millions of pounds if past repair cases prove invalid.
Mark Turley, director of services for communities at City of Edinburgh Council, said: ‘The ongoing independent investigations by Deloitte and the police mean it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to carry out an interview.
‘The fact that we commissioned Deloitte to carry out a very thorough investigation is a sign of how seriously we take the complaints and concerns that have been raised and our commitment to addressing them. We fully recognise that the public should know the results of these investigations and they will be reported to a meeting of the Council once we are in a position to do this.’