Officers are called in over budget blunders
HIGHLY paid council officers should be held to account for 'a catalogue of errors' on big budget building projects. North Somerset councillor Mike Roe says five recent developments have cost £6.5million more than expected because council officers are unab
HIGHLY paid council officers should be held to account for 'a catalogue of errors' on big budget building projects.North Somerset councillor Mike Roe says five recent developments have cost £6.5million more than expected because council officers are unable to manage large contracts.The Campus in Locking Castle, Weston, had a £3m overspend, Yatton Library was £160,000 over budget and the cost of Portishead Primary School rose by £400,000. Most recently, projects to build new faculty blocks at Priory Community School in Worle and refurbish Gordano School in Portishead have come in £3m more than initially expected.Cllr Roe says there must be something 'fundamentally wrong' in how officers manage large contracts and warns other schemes, like the refurbishment of Churchill Community School, may be dogged by similar problems if lessons are not learnt.Councillors plan to 'call in' the decision to approve the extra £3m for Priory and Gordano schools at a joint scrutiny panel and grill officers on what went wrong and who should be held accountable.While this takes place, the money cannot be released to the contractor building the schools.Cllr Roe said: "We need to see if disciplinary action needs to be taken."I hope it doesn't jeopardise the finish dates of these projects, but if it does fault will lie firmly at officers' feet."We need to stand up to the council officers and tell them in no uncertain terms we expect them to deliver projects on time and on budget and if they can't they must come back and tell us why."As councillors we are told officers have things under control but the evidence doesn't support that. "These officers on substantial salaries are responsible for the day-to-day activities and should be held to account."There may be genuine reasons for the mishaps but we need to hear what they are."If it was down to a lack of control by officers, the chief officer has got to hold them to account through disciplinary action. They should not get bonuses, their salaries should be cut or they should even lose their jobs."Executive member for finance Cllr Mike Bell said: "This is not good enough. The public is entitled to answers about the decisions that have been made. "Senior councillors and officers will be meeting as a matter of urgency to hold each other to account and to agree action. I will ensure full information is provided to the council and local people on the outcomes."It is disappointing the excellent outcomes from these projects have been lost amidst the problems that have beset procurement and project management."The authority's executive member for children and young people's services, Cllr Peter Kehoe, said no other projects will be affected. He added that the extra cash for Priory and Gordano schools was not an overspend but was due to inflation and was planned for within the overall school buildings budget.