Press reports today have revealed the latest twist in the ongoing statutory notices saga as Director for City Development Dave Anderson was suspended.
My focus now is on the need to ensure that the 800 outstanding complaints are dealt with swiftly and effectively and that has to be the top priority for the Council.
I remain deeply concerned about the way that this investigation has been dragged out and understand people’s concerns about the secrecy surrounding the Deloitte report. However, I am conscious of the need to ensure that criminal investigations are not jeopardised by disclosure of sensitive information.
A reminder, if it were needed, of the scale of the problems some residents are facing was exposed in this story where the cost of repairs to a roof jumped from £700 to over £300,000.
I have argued that there needs to be an independent review of the situation and recently met with representatives of Audit Scotland. During the meeting I passed them documents outlining my concerns over the operation of the property conservation department and discussed my concerns over the delays to the investigation. I am pleased that Audit Scotland is considering examining the issue as part of both the annual audit of the council and the forthcoming audit of the council’s approach to best value.
During the meeting I made clear my concerns that the situation in Edinburgh could potentially be replicated in areas across the country and that there are therefore national implications. Given the rise in the cost of works from around £9 million-£30 million there is an issue about inadequate financial scrutiny in the council. This massive hike in payments should have been questioned. I therefore welcome Audit Scotland’s acknowledgement of the widespread concern surrounding this issue and have asked to be kept abreast of further developments.
As Council Leader Andrew Burns has acknowledged, this situation is causing significant damage to the city’s reputation and I will be continuing to call for the investigation into what has gone wrong to be handled in as swift, open and transparent a manner as possible without jeopardising the on-going criminal investigation.
Lessons need to be learned swiftly because there are now owners unable to progress common repairs because the council has put a halt on new statutory notices for all but emergency cases. We need a new way forward urgently.