Peter Halton’s Story

RESIDENT Peter Halton
WARD Murrayfield
STAT NOTICES N/32689/RO/R

This was issued by The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) in October 2003 in response to a request from one owner in our block who planned to sell and did so before this Statutory Notice was in the absence of agreement from owners enforced by CEC in March 2005.

I sold my own property in June 2006 and became liable under the terms of the sale for the cost of works required under the specific Statutory Notice, with £17,000 retained from the proceeds of the sale to cover the estimated cost.

At that stage CEC proposals for the work were not clearly specified, The works were specified by a contractor surveyor who would – in a clear conflict of interest – receive a percentage of the spend as their fee. The CEC department responsible also charged a percentage based fee for administering the project as the client on behalf of the property owners.

I challenged the scope of the works later in 2006 having identified many of the proposed works as being not prescribed by the notice and informed the new owner of this position. I was given assurances by CEC that additional works would be covered by additional notices which would be served to the new owner of the premises.

Works were completed in early 2007 and accounts were raised to the then owners after a considerable delay in 2008 with no further notices having been served on the then owners for any additional works not prescribed by the original notice. I became liable for the cost of all of the works and formally complained to CEC.

CEC firstly denied that the additional works were not covered by the notice and then suggested that they fell within some accepted “rule of thumb”. After the involvement of an elected member CEC offered a small unconditional reduction for some of the charges that were not prescribed. I continued to dispute the charges and withheld payment until a threat of legal action from my buyer forced payment to be released, under considerable duress, in March 2011.

CEC has in the meantime undertaken an internal review of the Statutory Notice service and the service has been suspended. The department – Property Conservation – has been the subject of a police investigation which found that the staff accepted favours from contractors, held utopian views on their responsibility to conserve the city’s architectural heritage and were being encouraged by their superiors to increase revenues derived from the service. Staff have been sacked, suspended or given early retirement. CEC has commissioned a number of resolution initiatives that have not resolved this dispute.

In that time I have corresponded regularly and at length with more than 30 staff and officials from CEC. I have been invited to attend meetings to discuss the dispute and has devoted considerable time and effort into exposing a scandal which has affected thousands of Edinburgh property owners. All of this yielded no progress at all until 2014 when CEC engaged Deloittes to conduct a review of disputed projects which in this case reported that items of work totalling around £5,000 were not in fact prescribed by the Statutory Notice. CEC made a ‘without prejudice’ offer based on this which was unacceptable to me.

I engaged a professional surveyor to assess the project including photographic evidence offered by CEC in support of the works. The surveyor has reported that in his opinion many more items of work worth perhaps another £5,000 were either not prescribed by the Statutory Notice or were not required.

I asked CEC to unconditionally repay the cost of the works they had identified with interest. This was declined and I was told that the settlement offer had now lapsed. I also raised the issues identified by my surveyor. These claims were not addressed.

Peter Halton