Council publishes reports into property services allegations

The Council has published two reports it commissioned from Deloitte into historic allegations made against previous property services in the Council.

While many of the concerns have been summarised for Council meetings and reported in the media before, this is the first public opportunity to see the key findings of the reports.

The two reports are:

  1. ‘Power’, dated March 2012, and covering allegations about the Council’s Property Conservation service (which administered the statutory notice repair scheme) and the Council’s Property Care service (which managed repairs to the Council’s own properties)
  2. ‘Solar’, dated June 2012, which was a follow-up to Power to help establish if any broader management issues existed in relation to Property Conservation.

Mark Turley, Director of Services for Communities, who was asked to lead the investigation into Property Conservation and Property Care said:

“The fact that we commissioned Deloitte to properly investigate this matter shows how seriously we took the concerns, although it’s worth remembering that the police investigation found no evidence of criminality in the property conservation service. The issues in the ‘Power’ report are historic as we have taken significant steps to tackle behaviour by staff and overhaul our management arrangements. We are also making good progress with addressing property owner complaints and have recently launched our new Shared Repairs service.”

Alastair Maclean, Director of Corporate Governance, added:

“Although I was already aware that we needed to make significant changes to our corporate governance arrangements and had begun that process, the ‘Solar’ report was still an important piece of work. It provided both further evidence that reinforced the need for some of the improvements already underway and reassurance that we were aware of the main weaknesses that needed to be tackled.

“While we do not underestimate the seriousness of this issue, it’s also important to recognise the integrity and professionalism of the overwhelming majority of our staff who are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of people in Edinburgh.”

Until now, the Council has not published the reports because of ongoing criminal proceedings relating to property care and ongoing internal disciplinary processes. However, the Council has now prepared these redacted versions that take account of various factors and developments in recent months:

  • Progress with criminal proceedings
  • Progress with internal disciplinary processes
  • Insurance and legal advice
  • The amount of information already in the public domain and the need to ensure this is accurate.

During its preparation of the reports for publication, the Council has also taken advice from the Scottish Information Commissioner. The Commissioner has been supportive of the Council’s aims to publish proactively and the Council’s commitment to periodically review the small amount of withheld information.

The Council has taken many significant steps since these reports were produced, in some cases directly in response to the allegations raised and in others as part of ongoing management action. These include:

  • Introducing a new governance structure and operational arrangements, including improvements to internal audit, financial controls and councillor oversight.
  • Thoroughly investigating and responding to customer complaints about the previous service.
  • Creating a new Shared Repairs Service to support property owners in managing their own building maintenance. This incorporates many of the stronger arrangements already put in place to ensure the Council could show work was organised, carried out and billed for properly. The service also places a priority on good customer care, with management arrangements to support this.

Further work is underway to:

  • Discuss outstanding complaints with customers.
  • Recover outstanding amounts from property owners.

Background

The Property Conservation and Property Care services were both formerly in the Council’s City Development department. When issues around both of these came to light they were transferred to the Services for Communities department, headed by Mark Turley, for investigation and resolution. The transfer of Property Conservation took place in March 2011 and Property Care in January 2012.

The police have investigated both of these service areas. No criminality was found in the Property Conservation section but a report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal about the Property Care section, involving staff, contractors and associates.

The Council’s Corporate Services and Finance departments were merged in 2011, with Alastair Maclean being appointed the Council’s Director of Corporate Governance in September 2011.

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