Edinburgh Council considers replacement to statutory repairs service

Councillors are considering plans to re-establish a property repairs enforcement service in Edinburgh.

A detailed service blueprint, costed business plan and implementation plan will be presented to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Finance and Resources Committee next Thursday, 27 November.

If approved, it would see an extension to the council’s Shared Repairs service, which has been offering an emergency call-out and advice service to homeowners since its successful introduction last April.

The department was hit by scandal in 2011 when allegations were made of inflamed prices, poor materials and substandard work.

The council was left £22m out of pocket from unsettled bills and Deloitte were brought in to recover the money.

An independent investigation led to 11 people sacked and more suspended. These staff worked across both the conservation and care departments at the council.

The scheme was only supposed to be used as a last resort when tenement owners could not agree to carry out essential repair work. In reality, notices were being issued to too many properties.

The proposed design is based on supporting homeowners to take responsibility for their own shared repairs. The council will only undertake emergency and essential repairs when it is clear that owners are unable to do so themselves.

The service would be delivered by a largely in-house team who would work to clearly defined operational procedures and quality assurance standards. Improved management information systems would be developed to ensure timely and transparent communication with owners affected by repairs projects.

An initial project management fee of 26 per cent is proposed, allowing the council to recover the costs of enforcement, with a 5 per cent discount offered to those who settle within 28 days.

Cllr Alasdair Rankin, finance convener, said: “We are acutely aware of the issues faced by the former Property Conservation Service and the wishes of Edinburgh residents to see the Council play a role in protecting our historic capital city. The design set out in this blueprint pays particular attention to the lessons learned and to the need for a culture change on the part of homeowners.

“Essentially, we are aiming to balance the council’s commitment to protect the fabric of the city with the need to encourage owners to take responsibility for repairs to their own homes.”

“In the longer term, we believe that national legislation may be required to ensure that owners of shared properties across the country are supported in taking a more proactive and planned approach to maintaining and managing their buildings and it is our intention to continue the dialogue we have already started with Scottish Ministers.”

Vice convener, Cllr Bill Cook, added: “We acknowledge the risk associated with introducing this service but we believe the risk of doing nothing is greater.

“These proposals should not be viewed as a panacea solution to managing shared repairs in the city and Council involvement would only be as a last resort. That said, we recognise that not all homeowners are in a position to manage repairs for themselves and are in genuine need of support.”

Subject to approval next week, and subsequently in February as part of the council’s budget process, implementation of the new service would take around six months, becoming operational from the second quarter of the next financial year.

Share icon
Share this article: