Council overspend soundly criticised

PUBLISHED: 05:38 05 October 2006 | UPDATED: 09:59 24 May 2010

NORTH Somerset Council has been heavily criticised in a report on how it tackles major building projects. The Audit Commission slammed financial bosses after an overspend of millions of pounds on original estimates for five recent projects. An extra £1.7

NORTH Somerset Council has been heavily criticised in a report on how it tackles major building projects.The Audit Commission slammed financial bosses after an overspend of millions of pounds on original estimates for five recent projects.An extra £1.7 million has been spent on the current expansion of Gordano School at Portishead and a further £1.3 million on work to Priory Community School in Worle.The biggest overspend was on The Campus in Locking Castle with an extra £3 million being spent above the original budget of £11.4 million.Auditors said the council lacked the construction expertise to handle major construction projects.The report said: "The most significant gap, impeding the council's performance on construction work, is its lack of capacity and skills to fulfil the role of an informed client of the construction industry."Principally, among these is its limited client side expertise on the control of construction costs on its building projects, and its lack of organisational capacity to put in place the strategic direction, systems and procedures to support efficient, effective and economic procurement of construction work."Auditors also said the council should be more cautious after losing more than £1 million after a contractor went into liquidation.The council's legal team is confident it can recover the money from the contractor's insurers that was paid out in August 2004.But the commission's advisors wrote in the report that the council should plan for a potential loss of the money. Council bosses said they needed to employ building specialists and have more detailed training for staff to carry out future capital projects.Councillor Mike Bell, executive member for finance, said: "The report is all fair comment and nothing has really come as a great surprise to us."They have been pretty harsh by saying we've been weak in our procedures though. "The problem is that we haven't adapted from running £9million on capital projects five years ago to £40 million a year now.

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