Blimey. It looks like Bristol’s Tories have finally woken up and decided to start acting like an opposition after six months of pointless fawning over Labour’s Bees-Holland-Hammond council leadership triumvirate of proven incompetents.
They even appear to have bothered to read one of the daft proposals(PDF) going before the city’s Labour cabinet later this month. Indeed Friday found Tory deputy Geoff Gollop – the one that can do sums – in the pages of The Evening Cancer asking some much-needed questions about “Barnett’s* Folly”, the proposed Museum of Bristol development project on the site of the much loved old Industrial Museum.
Gollop has noticed that the purpose of next week’s cabinet meeting seems to be to agree to a cost increase of 25% for building the new museum. Without a brick even being laid, the capital costs of the project have crept up £5m to £25m. An increase that Bristol’s long-suffering council tax payers will of course have to meet.
Gollop says: “This is madness. I think we could be comparing it to Bath Spa because we don’t know what additional costs may be lurking. We are seriously vulnerable here and we need to assess the risks. There is a good case for a museum of Bristol – but not at any price. For me, I think £20 million would have been the upper end.”
Not the view of Labour’s profligate leadership though. Rosalie Walker, the executive member supposedly overseeing the project, assures us: “This is a marvellous project and it’s going to be very successful.”
Although she does concede there has been some “uplift” in the costs. Uplift!!! More like a rocket into the outer fucking stratosphere.
But no worries says Rosalie: “It’s more money than it was last year, I agree. But I would be horrified if it ended up being anything more than the new figure of £24.7 million.”
She may well be horrified but she’s failed to deliver any kind of guarantee whatsoever that costs won’t rise further hasn’t she? And let’s face it Labour’s record on rising development costs is not impressive.
They’re still arguing the toss using lawyers and CONsultants, at more expense, over their £6m overspend for Redland Green School for instance.
However, it’s not just the cost of building the place that should be cause for concern. The proposed revenue costs – the costs to run the place day-to-day – are also looking like a problem.
According to the projections, the museum – at present – will cost £992,000 pa to run and it’s proposed that over one third of this will be magically raised through the museum’s conference facilities. It’s also proposed that a further phenomenal £300,000 pa will be raised through cuts in the council’s museum budget elsewhere.
The city council is currently describing these targets as “ambitious”. That’s local government jargon for “pie-in-the-sky”. You need only look at the example of @Bristol, also on the Harbourside, that’s recently had to close two-thirds of its operation because of . . . Wait for it . . . Revenue funding problems to realise this.
So not only are council tax payers underwriting an open cheque book for building the place, we’re also being signed up to fill the inevitable huge funding gap to run the place. this is currently estimated by those in the know at something between £250-£500k a year already.
Although precise figures are hard to come by because so far the council has only provided a revenue budget “in summary”. In their Cabinet Report they explain that “The planned revenue budget for the Museum is set out in Appendix 4”. However, due to some strange oversight there’s no Appendix 4 attached to the report!
Yes that’s right. The cabinet is about to agree to spend £25m on a project without even getting sight of detailed revenue projections for running it afterwards.
The words expensive and fiasco come to mind.
* By the way, anyone seen the twat originally behind this farce, the council’s Head of Culture, Paul Barnett lately?