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23 September 2011 | Adam Leach
The fraud unit at Lothian and Borders Police is investigating allegations at The City of Edinburgh Council relating to the commissioning of maintenance carried out on residential housing.
The claims follow complaints from residents that they had been overcharged for roof repairs. A statutory notice - unique to Edinburgh - enables the council to commission repair work to be carried out on buildings in the city in order to stop them deteriorating, and then charges the owners for the work. Once a notice is served, the affected parties have 14 days to appeal, although emergency repairs cannot be appealed against.
A BBC Scotland investigation, Scotland's Property Scandal, commissioned a team of independent surveyors to assess the work, and their view was that residents had been overcharged. The programme, broadcast on Tuesday, alleged the work had been given to a contractor not on the approved supplier framework.
The local authority has already suspended staff from its property conservation department, although it refused to confirm the number or give further details, and has hired accountants Deloitte to carry out an independent investigation. Following the programme, councillor Phil Wheeler has called for an update on the Deloitte investigation.
"It is right that officers have commissioned a thorough, independent investigation into the allegations that have been made,” he said. “While the most important thing is to have accurate answers, councillors and the public need to be kept informed as to the latest progress. That is why I have asked for a progress report so we can all be assured the matter is being given thorough attention.”
A statement from the council said it has now limited the use of the notices: “While the investigation is ongoing, the property conservation service is dealing only with emergencies and works which have already started.”
Lothian and Borders police confirmed to SM a criminal investigation is under way, but would not comment further while the investigation is ongoing.