Yesterday, the Council’s Cross-Party Executive Scrutiny Board examined and challenged the Cabinet paper on the new, refurbished, Assembly Rooms plan. This proposal was part of the Conservative Group’s 2018 manifesto; the commitment was to do a simple refurbishment, for £10m, which would incur no borrowing.
The plan, as presented now, is for the renewal to cost £24m ( albeit with ~£5m ehancements included) but, still a substantial increase in the nominal £10m.
No borrowing is required to support the plan, however…
The proposal clearly states, that just over 50% of the funding – £13m, will come from capital receipts. This is money that has already been received from the sale of other Council Assets; so is essentially cash in the bank. In the original capital plan, tabled by the previous Labour administration, this £13m was earmarked for the new Moorways Swimming Pool.
Cllr Eldret ( Leader of the Labour Group) challenged Don McLure ( Chief Finance Officer) on this whole issue. A number of pertinent points were revealed:
- As capital receipts are ‘cash’ then it makes sense to use this in favour of borrowing, where it is available.
- Using the capital receipts for the Assy rooms refurbishment, in itself, is not a problem – it is sound Treasury management practice.
- It is sound practice, because the Assy Rooms project will start before the new Moorways Pool.
Don McLure was hoping to fend off this particular line of questioning pending a Cabinet report in the New Year on the Moorways project. However, he had to concede that “digging work” would take place on the Assembly Rooms, first.
Why is this significant?
The Assy Rooms Cabinet paper states:
“An indicative programme has been prepared as part of the feasibility study, showing construction works commencing in September 2019 with a target date for opening the venue of Autumn 2020″
This means that the new Moorways pool will not start until September 2019, at the earliest. The original plan was construction to commence in Summer 2018. A delay of, at least, a year!
The Conservative administration was always planning to review the design of the new Pool with an objective of adding more aspects to the “fun pools”. In previous meetings, Council Officers had explained that the re-design review was being carried out during planned, “value engineering” work and so would have little impact on the overall delivery programme. This seems not to be the case now. The implication of this is that the Pool will not be open until Autumn 2021.
Although refurbishment of the Assembly Rooms was a manifesto commitment there is still much controversy over whether this is the best way forwards. The Council had previously agreed to proceed with a new build Performance Venue which, whilst costing more, would be better designed for the longer term. The Cabinet is set to approve its refurbishment plan today.
The irony of this situation is that the rationale behind the refurbishment of the Assembly rooms is to “get on and do something” and make good, the 4 years of dithering of the previous Labour Administration. Yet, at the same time, the Conservative Administration are, themselves, injecting dither into a mature Pool programme resulting in a 1 year delay….and counting.
Categories: Derby City Council