Gordon Murdie and the Edinburgh Tenement Council Tax

The scam run by council employees on the owners of Edinburgh tenement flats is still spiralling. (Part I, January.) A fifth council employee was sacked at the end of March and the Scotsman quoted an anonymous “inside source” a few days ago claiming that people aren’t paying their statutory notice bills because they didn’t know if they’d been scammed by them.

Gordon Murdie appeared as the Quantity Surveyor expert on a BBC programme in September last year, “Scotland’s Property Scandal”. (Quantity surveyors manage all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures.) He also gave a presentation on statutory notices at the Minto Hotel, which is available online here. Murdie is the managing director of Quantus QS, a quantity surveying firm in Edinburgh. He is standing for election in Southside/Newington as an Independent, specifically on the statutory notice scandal.

The very cynical side of me says about Gordon Murdie standing is that it’s a good advert for his firm – and wonders if he’s realised that if he wins, the firm of which he is managing director will have to stop doing council business. Gordon Murdie can’t sit on Edinburgh Council and have a firm which is so closely connected with him involved with council actions. Whether lawful or not, it would not fit with the platform he’s standing on.

In February, Gordon Murdie called on the Scottish Government to

initiate a full public enquiry into the statutory notice scandal, which left hundreds of city property owners concerned that they may have overpaid for repairs to their homes.

Gordon Murdie writes in the Scotsman (last Saturday)

The council is in an unholy mess of its own making, and thousands of affected owners have suffered immeasurable emotional and financial stress – and their only mistake was to trust the council.

In a private meeting last December, I was assured the council’s position was one of “transparency” and they had no option other than to hold up their hands, apologise and work openly with all involved to sort the mess out. New computers were apparently on order and a “complaints team” was being formed.

The enormity of the task is clear, but its implementation is very disappointing. It has become an investigation by the council into the council for the council – and not one single project has been “resolved”.

“Transparent” has moved through translucent, then opaque, to totally obscure.

Whether Gordon Murdie really stands a chance as an Independent in Newington/Southside pretty much depends on him. The results in 2007 were thoroughly mixed – the Labour councillor got in at round 7 and the Conservative, LibDem, and Scottish Greens all three got in at Round 9 of the count. He’s got a Faceboook page and a newsletter and he’s on Twitter as @GordonMurdie – but what would win it for him if anything does is being able to make his case in person.

I will say that after the trams and the tenements and the traffic jams and the privatisation plans which the council spent four million on, it would be worthwhile having someone on the council who had some experience in looking at a project’s costs and implications and saying “No, that’s not going to work.” Whether Gordon Murdie can do that, I have no idea and this is not my ward: I don’t know if I would vote for him if I could: if it was my ward, I’d want to ask him where he stands on issues that matter to me – in the privatisation fight, every councillor mattered.

No one party expects to gain control of Edinburgh Council after 3rd May. There will be need for cross-party cooperation whoever wins. But I think Gordon Murdie has the possibility of being an interesting candidate, and if I lived in the Newington/Southside ward, I’d definitely want to find out.

(If you don’t know if you’re registered to vote, check on AboutMyVote by 18th April.)

5 Comments

Filed under Corruption, Elections, Housing, Scottish Politics

5 responses to “Gordon Murdie and the Edinburgh Tenement Council Tax

  1. Gordon Murdie

    Dear Edinburgh Eye
    Thank you for a very well put together article. I would value the opportunity of an interview. If elected, the day job does need looked at. I actually do not work for the Council in Stat Notice matters but for private affected owners – and a lot of that is pro bono. The scandal is the largest to hit any Council in living memory – the emotional cost to the hundreds of owners I have been in contact with is beyond belief and, in many cases, truly heartbreaking. That said, I am not a “one trick pony” as the saying goes – far from it! I would relish an open debate/discussion/public Q&A session with the other candidates – I feel I would do rather well.
    Oh well, back to leafletting again. It’s a hard shift taking on National political parties.

    Kind regards

    • Good luck to you.

      You should contact Edinburgh Reporter – they’re doing a page for each candidate, and they don’t have all that much on you. (I sent them some more details yesterday).

      It’s an interesting situation – four incumbents standing again, but given the past five years, I think incumbents don’t necessarily have the advantage. Though it’s not my ward, I’ll be looking with interest to see the results.

      My guess is that you should do better than the Liberal Party or the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition candidate, neither one of which seems to be taking a lot of interest in the election…

      But I think to make quota you’d probably have to get people to turn out to vote for you who didn’t vote last time. And though I have no direct experience of doing that, I think that’s going to be a long hard slog of just talking to enough people. Good luck!

  2. Gordon Murdie

    In answer to a question on privatisation of services which has been raised a few times, my answer is

    Fundamentally, I believe that core Council services should simply be delivered “in house” by a content, motivated and valued workforce. I am fond of the principle of a workforce dedicated to public service and appreciated for their efforts. To abandon something that pretty well works in favour of a snakepit of costly bespoke service contracts, tendering, evaluating, monitoring etc seems wrong minded. Handing out wholesale service delivery to companies driven by profit would most likely end in tears and it would be a mammoth task to reverse when the experiment failed. What would happen to loyal Council employees and their families? Certain pockets of necessary specialist expertise will always require to be “bought in” but I would prefer that to be the exception rather than the rule. That would have been my starting point but obviously I’m just an amateur “would be” local politician now! Out of interest, do you broadly agree with me?

    • Yes, I do – I think the advantage a local authority has of being able to maintain a long-term skilled/experienced workforce shouldn’t be underestimated.

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