Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Council at fault in Eastern Transport Corridor overspend

The independent consultants' report on the overspend on the Eastern Transport Corridor has been released to the press before being shown to opposition party councillors on the Resources Scrutiny Committee! Late on Wednesday afternoon, local journalists were called in to see the Chief Executive of the Council, Ada Burns, to be spun on the report.

This is unacceptable and shows the manipulative approach of this Labour Council and its distain for non-executive councillors. Presumably the Labour leadership believed it could set the agenda for the news coverage of this report by spinning its line before the opposition parties even got a look at it.

Taken together with their devious and secretive approach to other developments in the town, and here I include North Road Primary School, of which more later, this Council's true colours show through its laughable claims to be open, listening and accountable.

The report itself, which Lib Dem and Conservative councillors obtained from the Northern Echo this afternoon, makes damning reading.

In brief, the report blames the Council for the overspend. Firstly, it criticises the Council for not going out to re-tender after significant delays in the start of the project were incurred due to the need to take measures to protect the great crested newt colonies on site. Secondly, it criticises the Council for failing to include all potential costs, such as those for the diversion of services, in its original budget. Thirdly, the contingency allowance was too small and was all swallowed up before construction started. Finally, the report is critical of the decision to allow the rasing of the height of a section of the road by 2 metres, without considering the effect this would have on people living nearby.

As usual, of course, the Labour leadership will deny responsibility and try to pass the buck to officers, though the report says that there is to be no disciplinary action. Considering that the mistakes made are similar in type (poor management control and decision-making, failure to allow for contingencies etc) to those which led to the overspend on the Pedestrian Heart, the Labour Cabinet should share the blame because of its arrogance in failing to heed and learn from previous mistakes.

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