Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Call for update on Edinburgh repairs 'fraud' probe

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Media captionAn investigation has uncovered evidence of possible fraud and serious wrongdoing in building repairs overseen by Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh Council's finance committee convenor has called for an update on the investigation into possible fraud in the city's building works.

Phil Wheeler made the call after a BBC documentary about the city's statutory notice system, which allows the council to order repairs to private homes.

The BBC heard claims of bribes being offered by contractors, overcharging, unnecessary and poor quality work.

An independent investigation by Deloitte is currently under way.

The fraud unit at Lothian and Borders Police is currently investigating the council's property conservation department, which deals with statutory notices.

Officials suspended

Over the past year about 15 of its officials - nearly half the department - have been suspended in a move the council described as "precautionary".

Mr Wheeler, said: "The fact that officers have commissioned a thorough, independent investigation should be taken as a sign of how seriously we take the complaints and concerns that have been raised and our commitment to addressing them.

"The most important thing is to have accurate answers from that investigation, rather than quick answers.

"However, I fully recognise that the public should know the results of these, as well as councillors.

"That is why I have asked for a progress report for the council meeting on 27 October so that we can all be assured the matter is being given the thorough attention it deserves."

Under the statutory notice system, the council can intervene to organise repair work for private properties when the owners cannot reach agreement.

Council surveyors arrange the work through approved contractors and recoup the cash from owners, and the local authority also receives 15% of the final bill.

The value of statutory notices issued by council surveyors has increased dramatically in recent years, from £9.2m in 2005 to more than £30m in 2010.

Scotland's Property Scandal was broadcast on BBC1 Scotland on Tuesday. You can watch the programme again on the BBC iPlayer.

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