LAMBETHWATCH: COST OF NEW TOWN HALL IS  NOT £160 MILLION, SAY LABOUR (It’s £155.5 million)

The cost of Lambeth’s new town hall is not £160 million says one of Lambeth council’s two deputy leaders.

Cllr Paul McGlone says the figure of £160 million should not include the £4.5 million the council are saving by reducing the number of their buildings.

The latest figure comes in an exchange of emails between Labour’s Cllr Paul McGlone and opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs which read as follows:

From Cllr McGlone to Cllr Briggs:

Dear Councillor Briggs,

At the council meeting last Wednesday, you claimed that the cost of the Town Hall had risen, from £50 million, to £104 million, then to £160 million. This is factually inaccurate and you know this.

The key decisions and delivery of the Your New Town Hall programme will have spanned nine years, from 2011 to 2020 by the time the housing is complete. To somehow pretend that no cost estimates, projections or unpredictable circumstances, especially relating to the volatile housing construction sector, should have ever changed over that period is frankly silly.

But the key facts are clear – the cost of renovating the Town Hall was £25 million. The cost of the construction contract for this and the brand new Civic Centre was originally £55m and has increased to £68 million due to construction inflation.

We have been honest about the reasons for this, but it is important to note that the increased rental and land values for the buildings we are vacating has partially offset it. The overall project has remained with its objective of paying for itself, which I set from the start.

The £104 million is the total investment in the wider project, including investment in IT infrastructure as part of the council’s overall transformation towards being more efficient and moving more services and processes online; the purchase of the freeholds for Olive Morris House and Hambrook House (to bring forward some of the new homes as part of the project); and the management of the development and the staff moves. This is funded by investment of council reserves, repayable in full with interest, as well as land receipts from developers, the sale of council premises, and the rental income that the council will make from Phoenix House and International House.

All of the above contributes to the saving of £4.5 million a year, by reducing the number of council buildings from 14 to 2. The £160 million figure relates to the total Lambeth costs plus investment from Muse in the housing at Ivor House, Hambrook House and Olive Morris House, to be delivered over the next couple of years. To attribute this developer cost to the council and to suggest that therefore costs have risen in this way is deliberately misleading.

As leader of the Opposition group, you have access to this information and the opportunity to ask officers to clarify the cost if you believe it has changed. That you did not do so and then made the claim at council shows a deliberate attempt to mislead Full Council about the Town Hall project.

I trust you will therefore apologise for doing so.

I have copied this to all councillors and to the Head of Legal and Democratic Services so that the minutes can be corrected to be factually accurate.

Regards, Cllr Paul McGlone

_________________________________________________________________

Dear Cllr McGlone,

Re: Your New Town Hall renovation

Thank you for your email.

Only Labour councillors in Lambeth would plaster on boarding outside the Town Hall the fact that their New Town Hall project will cost £165 million, but then try to spin a different figure when the cost has become an issue.

I stand by that figure, which comes from several sources, and by some calculations it appears to be an under-estimate.

You have had literally years to provide clarity on the cost of this project, yet only now when challenged do you wish to assert figures which have never been provided, or checked independently.

I remember the cost of the Town Hall renovation being raised a few years ago in a council meeting or cabinet and you refused to answer the question, instead choosing to pretend that the opposition Conservatives were against the logic of the savings that you were suggesting would be made on what you said was the £50 million cost of the project.

It is rather sad that Labour councillors consistently make personal attacks and smears on opposition councillors (‘This is factually inaccurate and you know this’). Opposition councillors are simply trying to scrutinise what you do with the information available to them.

In one sense I regret that I mentioned you in person at the council meeting; the out-of-control cost of the Town Hall renovation, like so many other commissioning failures by Labour councillors is a failure by all Labour councillors.

Yet unlike Labour councillors, who believe themselves to be so virtuous they are always ready to cast the first stone (when actually all you do is spend people’s money for them, and not very well), my councillors and activists will always try our best not to mention councillors’ names unless it is impossible not to do so.

So whilst it may not much consolation, on a personal level I regret being forced to mention you by name.

However, the usual back-slapping and self-congratulation had begun about how great it was that Labour councillors were borrowing eye-watering amounts of money that residents had little chance of paying off, and that irresponsibility needed reining in, back to reality.

I cannot believe that if residents knew about the cost they would be pleased that money which could otherwise be used on capital projects (and in so doing release money elsewhere to help improve services, end waste and fraud, and help vulnerable residents), will now not be available.

Yours sincerely, Cllr Tim Briggs, Leader of the Opposition

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