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3 April 2018, 07:07
Nineteen council buildings across Edinburgh have defects similar to one which caused a wall to collapse at a primary school in the capital, a new report has revealed.
Checks were carried out following the incident at Oxgangs Primary School in January 2016, which sparked the temporary closure of 17 schools across the capital.
By the end of January 2018, 154 properties had been checked, with 19 having been found as "having issues similar to those identified at Oxgangs School", a new report from the public spending watchdog has revealed.
Libraries, care homes and community centres are among the properties affected.
The Accounts Commission said the discovery of the faults "signifies the importance of all councils in Scotland undertaking regular, comprehensive structural risk assessments and inspections on public buildings to ensure the safety of service users".
The spending watchdog looked at the circumstances surrounding the wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary - where approximately nine tons of masonry fell on an area where children could easily have been standing or passing through.
A previous report by Professor John Cole found it was down to timing and luck that no deaths or injuries occurred.
Investigations found ties needed to connect the walls to steel beams had not been used in some cases, leaving them unstable in heavy winds.
The school was one of 17 built as part of a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme by Edinburgh Schools Partnership.
Checks were carried out on other City of Edinburgh Council buildings - with the Accounts Commission stating 154 properties had been assessed by the end of January 2018.
The report said "19 properties had been identified as having issues similar to those identified at Oxgangs School".
It added: "Remedial work to address the defects identified on these buildings (which include schools, libraries, community centres and care homes) is ongoing."
The buildings included ones funded using traditional methods, as well as through PPP and the more recent non-profit distributing (NPD) model.
The report stressed the "need for councils to ensure that standards of quality and service" in building standards are maintained, despite the pressure on local authority budgets.
Edinburgh City Council's finance and resources committee recently found £153 million is needed over the next five years to tackle the "history of under investment" in the authority's estate - with this money being made available for work starting in 2018-19.
The Accounts Commission said the incident at Oxgangs Primary School "revealed serious faults in the procurement, design and construction of the PPP schools covered by this contract" - adding that these could have had "life-threatening consequences".
The report continued: "Defects have been identified in other schools and buildings within the council estate as a result of the work undertaken in response to the Oxgangs incident. These defects are being addressed by the council.
"This incident highlights the importance of regular, comprehensive structural risk assessments and inspections to be undertaken on public buildings to ensure defects are identified and remedied."
Graham Sharp, chairman of the Accounts Commission, said: "The City of Edinburgh Council responded quickly and comprehensively to the wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School. However, all councils in Scotland must ensure public buildings in their care are regularly checked and appropriately maintained.
"While reduced resources mean councils must make difficult decisions about service provision, they should have an appropriate level of expertise to deliver and safely maintain buildings. People must have confidence in the safety and integrity of public buildings."
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said: "We welcome the Accounts Commission's report, which addresses the lessons to be learned by all local authorities following the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary. The safety of the public is of utmost importance to the City of Edinburgh Council and we fully acknowledge the need for regular, comprehensive structural assessments of public buildings and are in the process of delivering a series of actions identified by Professor John Cole in an independent report into the closure of Edinburgh schools in 2016."