Yesterday evening, reports emerged via the BBC that the City of Edinburgh Council is set to scrap its statutory repairs service for all but emergency work from April.
A Council statement said that a new service would be “developed from scratch” and would have two main elements – to provide information and advice to help property owners manage their own repairs and to only intervene to provide an emergency service.
The decision follows a public consultation on possible options last autumn which included a focus on providing more information to assist homeowners to conduct their own repairs.
In my submission to the consultation, I highlighted concerns over how this information would be delivered in practice to overcome the barriers that saw the statutory notice system becoming a first rather than last resort.
The reasons for this are complex but, put simply, it comes down to the difficulties of coordinating agreement between various owners in a block to act together to ensure that a building is maintained. This is particularly difficult when owners rent out their property and can be hard to track down.
As part of my submission, I also made clear my belief that a form of statutory notice system should be retained. The consultation process identified widespread support for the principles behind the system and focussed concerns on the way it was managed.
Poor management led to question marks being raised over the quality, scope and cost of work while poor communications and a lack of effective oversight did little to allay fears over alleged corruption and mismanagement of projects.
By choosing to start from scratch, rather than building on the broadly supported principle that common repairs should not be left until there is an emergency there are concerns that the Council may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.
The BBC story comes from an internal council document and I will be making further representations to councillors in a bid to persuade them to not to opt out of helping owners where there are property owners not prepared to pay their share for maintaining their property. I will be closely monitoring the proposals from the Council when they are put forward and will continue to press for a robust system that encourages people to take charge of their own repairs while retaining a mechanism for the Council to intervene where required.