Overspend watch

Whoops! They’ve done it again!

Looks like Bristol City Council have screwed up another capital project. This time it’s the £20m Colston Hall foyer project that’s still ten months from completion.

Here’s the relevant bit of the report (pdf) from the city’s hapless culture boss, Paul Barnett, that will be presented to elected councillors at the Quality of Life Scrutiny Commission on Monday:

We are currently reporting a pressure against contingency (70K) and the ways of managing this are being explored by the Project Board and a report has been taken to the Asset Management Board.

The lack of clarity and openess is quite extraordinary isn’t it? Presumably there’s no need to tell councillors – and by extension us – how much this “pressure against contingency” – or “overspend” as it’s usually called – actually is.

You might also want to note how the matter is being dealt with by the project board of officers responsible for the overspend and by the obscure “Asset Management Board”, which appears to be a committee of unelected officers who meet well away from the public eye. Nothing like democratic scrutiny is there?

The level of contingency funds cited – £70,000 – is rather unusual too. £70,000 contingency funding on a £20m project works out at just 0.3%. A figure of 3% would be more reasonable. So is the £70k a (deliberate?) typo or has some city council clot running this major capital project really kept back just 0.3% of the cash available for contingencies?

I think we should be told … But I doubt we will.

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