Westminster Council has been accused of attempting a ‘cover-up’ of the £1.7 million overspend of the Leicester Square revamp.
Contrary to a confidential report authorising the extra £1.7 million payments to the contractors responsible for the work, the Council is claiming that the cost of the works “has been delivered almost £2m under budget.”
However, Labour Councillors say that the Council is deliberating trying to cover up the massive overspend by using the “estimated project cost of £19.383m” as if it were the approved budget for the Leicester Square scheme.
The following extract from the confidential report makes it absolutely clear that the approved budget for the scheme was £15.385m and NOT the £19.383m claimed by the Council.
“1.1 The Leicester Square Action Plan was adopted by Cabinet on 15 April 2002 with the long-term objective to implement a new design for the Square, its gardens and surrounding (nine) side streets. Following an extensive public consultation on the new concept for the area, the Cabinet agreed, in March 2007, to progress with the design phases, and procurement of the Works Contractor.
1.2 The project budget (excluding the costs for the new Ticket Office) of £15.385m was made up of the following funding streams:
- WCC Capital Programme £8.080m
- Mayor for London £1.700m
- Transport for London LIP £2.805m
- LSQ Businesses £2.800m
- TOTAL £15.385m
1.3 Early in 2010, during the design development stage of the Leicester Square Project, a detailed cost estimate was produced (jointly by Architects, Burns & Nice and Engineers, West One) as follows:
- Works Estimate (for all 4 options plus the toilet refurbishment) £16.300m
- Other project delivery costs (inc additional design for railings etc,)
- Supervision, known Utility works, WCC client costs £3.083m
Therefore the estimated project cost for delivery of all 4 options £19.383m
This exceeded the available budget of £15.385m by £4m.
1.4 Although there was a shortfall in budget it was still agreed to go to the market as this would enable us to get the 4 options priced separately and then decide as to what could be afforded. The minimum expectation was that option 1 works (gardens and terraces and toilets) would be able to be delivered within the budget.
Following completion of design a competitive tender exercise was undertaken in the Summer/Autumn of 2010.
1.5 When the tenders were received it was evident that the prices from SIAC would allow all 4 options plus the toilet refurbishment to proceed.
1.6 Approval to appoint SIAC and proceed with the Project was therefore given by Cabinet on 27th September 2010. The updated project budget was as follows:
- SIAC works for all 4 options plus the toilet refurbishment £8.432m
- Other project delivery costs (inc additional design for railings etc, Supervision, known Utility works, WCC client costs £3.083m
- Risk and Contingency £3.870m
Therefore the revised project cost for delivery of all 4 options £15.385m
This matched the available budget of £15.385m.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“I am staggered that the Council should try to cover up this massive underspending by claiming the extra £1.7 million cost of this project was an ‘underspend’. This takes ‘double speak’ to a new level and demonstrates an arrogance and contempt that Westminster Council has for the people who pay their Council Tax”.