FIFE COUNCIL have been "forced" into spending more money on looking after their empty buildings after their insurance company stopped providing cover.

The change of approach towards their vacant properties – there are currently 49, some of which have been disused for at least 10 years – will come at a cost with more inspections, CCTV and improved security measures.

Councillors were told last Thursday that the council's insurers, Zurich Municipal, will no longer provide any cover for empty buildings while an alternative policy puts the local authority at greater risk.

Michael O'Gorman, service manager for estates, explained: "We believe the new arrangements are good practice, they do incur greater cost but they are necessary to satisfy the insurance requirements.

"Insurers across the country are increasingly tightening their requirements so not only is the council being asked to bear greater risk, the main insurer, Zurich Municipal, is stepping back from providing cover for vacant properties.

"That's replicated at other councils, so we're not alone in that, but it does mean there are changes to the insurance coverage and, as a consequence, we need to improve our security arrangements.

"The risk team have managed to put some cover in place for vacant properties – Zurich weren't prepared to provide any cover at all – but unfortunately the alternative insurers are looking for a higher excess, £1 million, where previously it was £250,000."

The additional security measures are to minimise the risk of accident, damage or fire loss and so far have amounted to an extra £22,000 being spent on inspections/survey commissions, £2,800 on building clearances, £30,000 on shutters and £18,000 on rental of CCTV systems.

Mr O'Gorman added: "Zurich wanted us to have the premises manned 24 hours a day but the cost for that was prohibitive.

"It's not just one man but two, perhaps even three to cover for holidays etc, so that was quite expensive and CCTV is a nice compromise, it gives additional cover we didn't have before so hopefully we can nip some activities in the bud."

Councillor Bill Porteous said: "I'm pleased about the improved security arrangements we're making, to a certain extent it's forced upon us by the insurers, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.

"It's self-evident that we need to place resources in getting all these vacant properties off our list and we need to encourage everyone to do that.

"If they're not vacant they're not a problem so let's get a move on."

Mr O'Gorman said many of the delays in getting rid of vacant properties were down to legal issues, clarifying that the council hold the title deeds "so we can prove we own them and sell them", and planning hold-ups.

There are currently 49 vacant council buildings, a rise of eight from October.

Councillors were told that can change quickly with properties in the process of being sold, transferred or demolished and members asked to be kept up to date as regards properties in their ward.

In West Fife the vacant properties are: the Moray Institute in Kelty (which is under offer); 160 Appin Crescent, Dunfermline (up for sale); Abbeyview local office (to be retained); the janitor's house at Commercial Primary School in Dunfermline (demolish); Kingseat Bowling Club (retain); Pittencrieff House and The Lodge, both Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline (retain); St Margaret's House, Dunfermline (pending); the schoolhouse at St Margaret's PS (demolish); Donibristle PS schoolhouse and outbuilding, Dalgety Bay (demolish); and Roodbank Cottage, Inverkeithing (demolish).