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Corruption Claims Against Edinburgh Council Officials

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From the BBC

BBC Scotland has uncovered evidence of possible fraud and serious wrongdoing in building works overseen by Edinburgh City Council.

There are calls for a review of recent work carried out under the 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.

The council said it would not comment until a police inquiry had ended.

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

Over the past year about 15 of its officials - nearly half the department - have been suspended in a move the council described as "precautionary". The local authority also called in Deloitte auditors to carry out an investigation, which is still ongoing.

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.

Christine Foster died after she was hit by falling masonry in 2000 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.

A BBC investigation, Scotland's Property Scandal - which is screened at 22:35 on Tuesday on BBC1 Scotland - reveals claims of cosy relationships between contractors and council officials.

The BBC understands that police have been passed evidence claiming a council officer went on holidays paid for by a contractor.

The property conservation department's hospitality records until 2009 have now been lost.

The power to issue repair orders to private homeowners is unique to Edinburgh. But there has been an increasing number of complaints from residents and businesses affected by them.

A recurring theme of these complaints has been spiralling costs when further repairs are carried out without owners being consulted, leaving them with bills totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The two experts said the repairs they examined were over-priced, unnecessary and of poor quality BBC Scotland commissioned two experts - quantity surveyor Gordon Murdie and structural engineer John Addison - to examine cases where work was carried out under the statutory notice system.

They concluded that the residents had been over-charged, and that some of the repairs were unnecessary, of poor quality and may actually have made the buildings worse.

The BBC also found evidence that the council was using firms not in their list of framework contractors, such as Action Building Contracts.

It picked up nearly £2m of work from the council over a two-year period. The firm, which later went into administration, has refused to comment.

The BBC spoke to an informant who used to work in the council department and left a few years ago. He said he was encouraged to find things wrong with buildings and issue statutory notices.

He said: "You were congratulated on how many notices you served, whether it was warranted or not.

Former city council leader Ewan Aitken has passed the information he has received to the police "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."

Councillor Ewan Aitken, former leader of Edinburgh City Council, told the BBC he is contacted at least once a day by concerned constituents over statutory notices.

For the past two years he has been raising concerns on behalf of constituents. He also became worried that some contractors carrying out statutory notice work have been lining their own pockets.

And he is particularly concerned that a few council officers may have abused their powers.

He said: "I am of the view that some things have gone on that have broken the law.

"I have seen what appear to be strange decisions, unexplained decisions about who gets work, and that worries me deeply. And I've been asking questions, public questions, about that, and not got answers."

Some residents are now contacting lawyers to determine whether the work they paid for was necessary and fairly priced. And Mr Aitken believes hundreds of cases may be invalid, resulting in a potential bill for the council of tens of millions of pounds.

He said: "I think we need to review every case, at least back to 2005, to find out how was the notice was put in place."

A council report says about 3,000 notices are issued each year, but all non-emergency cases have now been put on hold while the police and Deloitte investigations are carried out.

The statutory notice system aims to protect the rich architectural heritage of Scotland's capital, which includes a World Heritage site.

It is also intended to protect the public from defective old buildings, the importance of which was tragically borne out in June 2000, when falling masonry killed Australian waitress Christine Foster at the city's Ryan's Bar.

Mark Turley, director of the council's Services for Communities, said: "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."

So, yet again - get the council involved, and lo and behold people abuse their position. These people know no shame.

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From the BBC

So, yet again - get the council involved, and lo and behold people abuse their position. These people know no shame.

Yet it is a member of the ocuncil who informed the police.

The alleged criminal activity seems to be equally on the part of the private sector building contrators who, it is suggested, bribed some (all?) of the individuals in a particular department of the council in order to create business for themselves. Said private sector building contractors then carried out unnecessary and substandard work while over-charging for these services.

So, yet again - give the private sector power and lo and behold people abuse it. These people know no shame. :) A different but equally valid interpretation..

Ideal thing is to arrest the criminals. Unfortunately I doubt those who gained most - whether in the council or the private sector - will find themselves in custody. The money will certainly not be recovered.

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Yet it is a member of the ocuncil who informed the police.

So? Who know what their motive was? Just because there are (maybe) good apples in the barrel does not mean the barrel is not rotten.

The alleged criminal activity seems to be equally on the part of the private sector building contrators who, it is suggested, bribed some (all?) of the individuals in a particular department of the council in order to create business for themselves. Said private sector building contractors then carried out unnecessary and substandard work while over-charging for these services.

So, yet again - give the private sector power and lo and behold people abuse it. These people know no shame. :) A different but equally valid interpretation..

The power is completely with the council - this couldn't have happened if the council did not have the power to force people to use "services" that they deemed fit. The guilt lays firmly and squarely at the door of the council.

Ideal thing is to arrest the criminals. Unfortunately I doubt those who gained most - whether in the council or the private sector - will find themselves in custody. The money will certainly not be recovered.

Agreed

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The power is completely with the council - this couldn't have happened if the council did not have the power to force people to use "services" that they deemed fit. The guilt lays firmly and squarely at the door of the council.

Part of it.

The power to control their employees certainly lies with the council, and they failed in that duty. Guilt for failing in their supervisory duty lies firmly with them

The criminal activity was by the private sector businesses that allegedly bribed individual council employees. Guilt for any criminal activity lies firmly with them, not the council. (Employing people willing to take bribes is unwise but not a criminal offence. The crime doesn't occur until somebody offers the bribe.)

IMO it is valid to criticise both aspects. The criminal activity of the private sector businesses should not be hidden behind the failiure of the council to supervise its employees. It will be the taxpayer, through the council, who pays any compensation while the criminal element in the private sector will keep the ill-gotten gains.

I think its reasonable to direct more of my anger at those who get to keep the loot.

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Bob for the Fed.

No dount about it. Stories going around Edinburgh for years now about brown envelopes. This, along with the tram - and all after the Parliament ? Pretty much 100% guaranteed.

There is only so much you can put down to incompetancy.

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Council is responsible for the actions of its employees within the scope of their employment, like any corporation. The council should be prosecuted and fined along with the contractors. Ideally dissolved.

Problem solved.

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Yet it is a member of the ocuncil who informed the police.

The alleged criminal activity seems to be equally on the part of the private sector building contrators who, it is suggested, bribed some (all?) of the individuals in a particular department of the council in order to create business for themselves. Said private sector building contractors then carried out unnecessary and substandard work while over-charging for these services.

So, yet again - give the private sector power and lo and behold people abuse it. These people know no shame. :) A different but equally valid interpretation..

Ideal thing is to arrest the criminals. Unfortunately I doubt those who gained most - whether in the council or the private sector - will find themselves in custody. The money will certainly not be recovered.

This Is an extraordinarily foolish argument. Here is a pure example of a group of arbitrary people being given the "power" to steal money and force people to buy things they dont want. It is so obvious that this would corrupt its a wonder the abuse is not more extensive. The council keeps 15%, to pay for the dept presumably (no conflict of interest there) and gets to swan around playing billy big bullocks with other peoples cash. Even if they never took a bribe thats more than enough incentive to screw the citizen_victim into the dirt.

Councils, scum of the earth.

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Part of it.

The power to control their employees certainly lies with the council, and they failed in that duty. Guilt for failing in their supervisory duty lies firmly with them

The criminal activity was by the private sector businesses that allegedly bribed individual council employees. Guilt for any criminal activity lies firmly with them, not the council. (Employing people willing to take bribes is unwise but not a criminal offence. The crime doesn't occur until somebody offers the bribe.)

IMO it is valid to criticise both aspects. The criminal activity of the private sector businesses should not be hidden behind the failiure of the council to supervise its employees. It will be the taxpayer, through the council, who pays any compensation while the criminal element in the private sector will keep the ill-gotten gains.

I think its reasonable to direct more of my anger at those who get to keep the loot.

Under the new Bribery Act, employing someone who takes a bribe is a criminal offence.

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The criminal activity of the private sector businesses should not be hidden behind the failiure of the council to supervise its employees. It will be the taxpayer, through the council, who pays any compensation while the criminal element in the private sector will keep the ill-gotten gains.

I think its reasonable to direct more of my anger at those who get to keep the loot.

Would it not be possible, in the case of convictions, to recover the money owed by the convicted?

Peter.

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  • 284 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
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      • Even
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      • up 5%



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