£3m ‘overspend’ sparks fury at district council

District council bosses are set to review charity collections in the Vale
District council bosses are set to review charity collections in the Vale

DISTRICT council bosses are set to shell out more than £3million above what they expected to pay for three major building projects, the Herald has learned.

Opposition leaders this week called on council chiefs to explain how the projected costs of the council’s new offices, the Aqua Vale leisure centre and town centre enabling work had rocketed.

Forecast figures show town centre works – which include demolishing the civic centre – are set to cost £1.9million more than the £6.4m budgeted, while the council is set to spend £512,000 more than the original £9.02m on its new Gatehouse Road offices.

It comes weeks after the Herald revealed that improvement works on the Aqua Vale leisure centre are set to cost £600,000 more than the original £5.85m approved business case sum.

But council bosses have denied that the figures represent an overspend, and that extra improvement and maintenance costs had been deliberately added.

Opposition groups have hit out after seeing the figures.

Councillor Steven Lambert, Liberal Democrat, said: “We’re not happy that there seems to be a bottomless pit of money that they’re spending all across the offices and Waterside project. At some point the money is going to run out.”

And Councillor Robin Stuchbury, Labour, said: “There’s a political accountability deficit in this council, we’re finding out these things no sooner than the public.

“We should have been informed, as group leaders, that there was a problem, and it should have been explained to us.”

And Councillor Chris Adams, UKIP, said he was ‘gobsmacked’ by the sums, stating: “It sounds like they’re trying to hide away as much as they can.”

A written statement by Aylesbury Vale District Council leader John Cartwright said: “The report does not represent overspend. It reflects newly identified pressures and the updated value of major maintenance contracts.”

Mr Cartwright said councillors agreed a capital programme in April last year, and costs were refined in late 2010, but even at that point there was uncertainty.

He said: “This is not unusual with large projects.”

He also stated that the office and conference centre plans had been adapted to ensure services could continue if there was a powercut, and to increase hiring income.

And Mr Cartwright added that initial costs for the town centre works were ‘indicative’.