The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), alone in Scotland, has for many years had the power to issue Statutory Notices to the owners of common property, requiring them to repair specific defects detailed on the notice. If the owners failed to do so within a very short time-frame, the Council stepped in to do the work and extracted the cost from the owners.
In the years running up to the exposure of the scandal this built up into a massive industry for the Council. Going out to tender to contractors for each and every project at the same time as complying with EU procurement rules was considered, not unreasonably, to be unworkable.
The method of appointing contractors devised by CEC to comply with EU Procurement rules was to create what was known as a ‘Framework’, or Term Framework Agreement. CEC advertised the Framework and invited contractors to submit details of their firms to the Council and then, when the Council was satisfied that they were appropriately qualified, they invited them to price a ‘schedule of rates’. This was a lengthy document which described just about every item of work that might be expected in the repair of the property. The tendering contractors provided their costs (or ‘rates’) per unit of measure, such as per square metre.
For a particular project the works would be measured and the measurements put into a spreadsheet that also included all the other tenderers’ rates. This would automatically calculate which was the lowest tenderer for that particular project.
Council officials were obliged to appoint the lowest contractor unless they had clear and explainable reasons for not doing so.
In time this system started to break down. Not only did Council officials routinely appoint contractors whose tender was not the lowest, but they also started to hand out work in very large quantities to newly formed contractors who were not on the Framework at all. Prices started to escalate astronomically. There are reems of examples of projects that were small to insignificant suddenly being tendered out at hundreds of thousands of pounds. Projects that had been quoted prior to Council involvement at a few thousand, were suddenly over £200,000: ones originally at £300,000 became £1.7M. And all this at a time when CEC were handing out approximately 3000 Statutory Notices per year (that is to 3000 listed tenement buildings, not owners, … per year). The scale of the problem became enormous.
And at this time allegations against Council workers of fraud, corruption, money laundering and accepting gifts for favours, were being widely made, and in early 2015 approximately 17 of them are facing the courts.
There were numerous other irregularities in the way that council officials were operating but this, in terms of illegal procurement, was the worst.
Here are two very important points:
When these irregularities were first pointed out did the Council’s procurement officer and senior management take any action to stamp them out?
No, they did not.
Did Council officials attempt to buy off peeved framework contractors by allocating projects to them when they were not the lowest tenderer?
Yes, they did.
A Decade of Statutory Notice Hell for thousands of Edinburgh Residents
This scandal has rumbled on for 15 years for some, but only four as far as the media is concerned. To see a timeline of the media library on this scandal, see the Newsroom section.
The Council appointed external consultants Deloitte at great cost (currently about £9M) to do an internal investigation. No input was sought or taken from thousands upon thousands of afflicted residents. The Council has called these reports ‘independent’. Internal documents show it to be otherwise. And now that it has been concluded, CEC is not entering into any negotiation with those thousands of afflicted residents: it is simply issuing bills.
On top of this there are continuing widespread allegations of fraud and criminality within CEC with some 17 or more staff being taken to court for fraud and money laundering. Indeed, after the initial revelations in the media, public servants were moved, sacked, suspended pending investigation (on full pay), and have then resigned (to avoid investigation) … yet hardly anybody has been held to account. The Council is being accused of a wide-scale cover-up.
Ask the average Edinburgh resident and the majority would feel that these accusations have not been fully or transparently followed up: that nobody has been brought to book.
The public has a just grievance that those responsible did not pay for their actions.
2015: How has Property Conservation changed?
The very department concerned in the debacle is actually carrying on as before!
Property Conservation is not addressing complaints, not answering emails or letters, in other words completely stone-walling those who have already suffered over 10-15 long years.
To make the situation still worse, Property Conservation are now presenting bills, to the residents of the historic cases involved in the scandal, saying that the Deloitte Reports close the cases. To see how many residents disagree with this, look at the court rolls … look at the forums … ask ‘Accounts Receivable’ how many residents are refusing to pay …
Faced with a long legacy of problems, mounting costs because of their decision to employ external consultants, rather than putting their own house in order … Property Conservation are now trying to rush the debacle to a conclusion.
Yet they are not completing outstanding projects (as recommended by Deloitte); they are not making compensation for terrible workmanship nor damaged caused to properties (as recommended by Deloitte); and they are still not providing adequate documentation of the initial tendering process justifying how the original vastly inflated figures were ever arrived at.
Alasdair Rankin defends his departments position by saying many bills have been reduced by as much as 65%. Yet a 65% reduction on hundreds of final bills that were massively inflated by incompetence, malpractice and fraud in the first place: is no reduction at all!
Even if it were the time to present them.
To cap this off City of Edinburgh Council are prepared to waste further taxpayers money on the army of solicitors and lawyers to defend this decade long debacle in the courts, resident by resident … case by case.
We will be asking this in FOI requests, to see how much was spent on Deloitte, how much is being spent on lawyers, how much was spent on paying corrupt building contractors for projects that were shoddy and never finished, and whom the taxpayer should never have paid in the first place.
We don’t think any of the above is right or correct.
Why is this Website Different?
We aim to collate all the information into one repository. News reports, Freedom of Information Requests, Council Responses, Public Enquiry Documents … Letters to and from Councillors … and we aim to get Councillors to clearly say whether they think this scandal has been dealt with satisfactorily, or is still a disgrace.
This website is not a forum for ranting or hearsay, all of the documentation on this website will be bonafide interchanges with CEC, letter by letter, FOI request by FOI request, complaint by complaint, and hopefully some leaked documents in there to boot.
The truth is in the cracks. And we are as determined to have it out, as Dame Sue Bruce and CEC is to sweep it under the carpet. Otherwise what is the choice …
A Lingering Legacy of Mendacity?
We believe the scandals that have hit CEC over the years are the result of a handful of incompetent and dishonest people.
We believe the majority of hard-working Councillors and auxiliary public servants names are being tarnished by the few. The result is a malignant erosion of the democratic process.
We do not understand why legislation already in place is not better used to root out such people in the first place, why nobody was charged, and why so little fact is in the public domain. Nor do we understand why the Council is using such heavy-handed, combative tactics with Residents who have been patient over 10-15 years of the Council’s maladministration.
Secrecy and stone-walling serves no-one but the perpetrators.
As well as asking Dame Sue Bruce, we’ll be asking the other institutions charged with overseeing public bodies why this is the case.