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Councillor calls for investigation over spiralling costs

Created on 28/09/2020 @ 22:52
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Welshpool County Councillor Graham Breeze has called for a full investigation into why costs of converting the town’s former library into office space has spiralled by nearly 50%.

It has been announced that an extra £90,000 will need to be transferred from other projects to finish the conversion of the building for Powys County Council staff.

On Thursday, October 1, portfolio holder for Education and Property, Cllr Phyl Davies will agree to the increase and allow the money to be moved between council accounts. This process is called a “virement,” and will see the cash moved from other property and maintenance budgets to the library conversion.

But Cllr Breeze (pictured), who represents the Llanerchyddol ward where the former library building is situated, is demanding answers. Cllr Breeze is also a member of the council cabinet with responsibilities for corporate governance & engagement.

“The project was due to cost the council £175,000 but has now rocketed to £265,000,” said Cllr Breeze. “The virement report from officers which was published this week tells nothing of the reasons and the people of Welshpool and Powys need to know how estimates can be so far off track.

“If the answer is that the scheme has changed then we need to know why and if it is simply that officers have got their figures seriously wrong then questions need to be asked and answered.

“How could anyone get it this wrong? It’s not good enough saying we can move the money from other projects.

“I will be asking for a full report on the reasons these costs have spiralled out of control to be brought to Cabinet. The virement application contains not a line of explanation as to why an extra £90,000 is required.”

In the report, project manager Gareth Richards said: “This virement is required to complete the former Welshpool Library conversion to a new front facing office building replacing Neuadd Maldwyn as the front facing office for Welshpool.

“The project is key to providing agile office space for the north of Powys.

“An initial budget of £175,000 has been found to be substantially inadequate for the project. A total budget of £265,000 is required to complete and furnish the new office.”

To fund the project in Welshpool, £50,000 is to be taken away from the refurbishment of the Park office in Newtown. The report adds that the Park office refurbishment has now been “downgraded.”

The other £40,000 comes from savings found in other projects including £9,960 from the County Hall Lift at the PCC headquarters in Llandrindod Wells, and £12,600 from the Neuadd Brycheiniog guttering schemes.

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