'Absence' of Three Rivers District Council oversight contributed to William Penn Leisure Centre rebuild debacle

Watford Observer: 'Absence' of council oversight contributed to leisure centre rebuild debacle 'Absence' of council oversight contributed to leisure centre rebuild debacle

An “absence” of management by Three Rivers District Council contributed to the William Penn Leisure Centre rebuild lapsing into an expensive debacle, auditors have found.

An investigation into the redevelopment, which overran by more than two years and £4 million, found the district did not have enough staff to supervise the construction.

Meanwhile poor performance by the architects WS Atkins plc and Gee Construction Ltd also contributed to the project’s disastrous outcome, according to a report.

Accountants Grant Thornton said: “The council placed trust in Atkins and Gee as they are both recognised, reputable firms.

“The council considered it received poor levels service from both contractors and officers worked hard at all stages of the project and particularly after the dismissal of Gee, at which point the council regained control of the site and enabled the completion of the works within a challenging political environment and with limited resources.”

The investigation into the William Penn fiasco will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s ruling Liberal Democrat executive.

The redevelopment of the William Penn leisure facilities began in March 2007 and was initially expected to last 12 months and cost about £4.6 million.

External auditors, Grant Thornton, were commissioned by the council – at a cost of £18,000 – to investigate where Three Rivers went wrong with the project’s management.

The auditors highlighted there were a number of risks naturally associated with a project of this scale.

However it said the in the William Penn project there was an absence of “formal project management”, insufficient council staff to manage a project on such a scale, poor contractor performance and unforeseen technical difficulties.

The council appointed WS Atkins plc to provide the architectural design of the new facilities and commissioned Gee Construction Ltd to be the main contractor.

Watford Observer:

William Penn Leisure Centre.

However, a series of delays and disputes and infighting between the council and its contractors ground project to a halt.

Grant Thornton’s report states: “The overall partnership working approach between the council and Atkins and Gee was not conducive to good outcomes for any of the parties involved, with correspondence we have seen indicating that each contractor blamed the other for the issues that arose.” Last year, a settlement was agreed between the council, Atkins and Gee in which the council was paid £700,000.

Grant Thornton’s report said more stringent council oversight of the project could have prevented it failing so disastrously.

It said: “The management of these risks more robustly through a formal project management approach could have mitigated these risks significantly.”

The report adds: “The risks on this project that became issues could arguably have been more effectively mitigated at the very start of the project if the council had completed a comprehensive risk assessment.”

The report goes on to say that: “In hindsight, the council was not adequately prepared to take on such a major project and the contractor relationships associated with it.” The ability of council staff to manage the scheme was also brought into question.

The report states: “The project team included a project manager who was a relatively junior council officer, charged with the responsibility of the day to day running of the project.”

Comments (6)

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7:09pm Mon 27 Jan 14

croxley46 says...

Absolute fiasco by all parties concerned.
TRDC tried to hush it all up at meetings in private, refused permission to reveal reasons about the budget doubling and the 2-year over-run. Infighting between the paries concerned, and what does the council get in compo.? - £700K which is nothing compared with the double-budget costs incurred, and who pays for it - Yes, us Council Tax payers - disgraceful.
I don't suppose the extra costs came out of the council's "reserves" - if so, it just shows how much they've been over charging us in previous years.
Local government, whether it be at Parish, District or County Council level is a farce. (not that Central Govt. is any better!)
I wonder how many heads have rolled because of this - none I suspect.
Absolute fiasco by all parties concerned. TRDC tried to hush it all up at meetings in private, refused permission to reveal reasons about the budget doubling and the 2-year over-run. Infighting between the paries concerned, and what does the council get in compo.? - £700K which is nothing compared with the double-budget costs incurred, and who pays for it - Yes, us Council Tax payers - disgraceful. I don't suppose the extra costs came out of the council's "reserves" - if so, it just shows how much they've been over charging us in previous years. Local government, whether it be at Parish, District or County Council level is a farce. (not that Central Govt. is any better!) I wonder how many heads have rolled because of this - none I suspect. croxley46
  • Score: 2

9:02pm Mon 27 Jan 14

robaldred@live.com.au says...

so another example of well meaning people not knowing what they are doing,at least I hope they meant well,
so another example of well meaning people not knowing what they are doing,at least I hope they meant well, robaldred@live.com.au
  • Score: 2

8:28am Tue 28 Jan 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

Incompetence, a £4 million overspend, a 2-year delay and then a cover-up by the LibDems.

The very worst of all worlds.
Incompetence, a £4 million overspend, a 2-year delay and then a cover-up by the LibDems. The very worst of all worlds. Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: 0

9:17am Tue 28 Jan 14

Home Truths says...

The sad thing is that the fib dem council will learn nothing from this. They will blame everybody else, as usual, and the next project will be just as bad.
The sad thing is that the fib dem council will learn nothing from this. They will blame everybody else, as usual, and the next project will be just as bad. Home Truths
  • Score: 0

1:22pm Tue 28 Jan 14

EU_OUT_NOW says...

Lib Dems just love wasting money on ill thought out or unneeded projects. They blindly forge ahead ignoring the people of Watford.
Lib Dems just love wasting money on ill thought out or unneeded projects. They blindly forge ahead ignoring the people of Watford. EU_OUT_NOW
  • Score: -1

2:57pm Tue 28 Jan 14

PCllrRRidley says...

croxley46 wrote:
Absolute fiasco by all parties concerned.
TRDC tried to hush it all up at meetings in private, refused permission to reveal reasons about the budget doubling and the 2-year over-run. Infighting between the paries concerned, and what does the council get in compo.? - £700K which is nothing compared with the double-budget costs incurred, and who pays for it - Yes, us Council Tax payers - disgraceful.
I don't suppose the extra costs came out of the council's "reserves" - if so, it just shows how much they've been over charging us in previous years.
Local government, whether it be at Parish, District or County Council level is a farce. (not that Central Govt. is any better!)
I wonder how many heads have rolled because of this - none I suspect.
croxley 46 states farce from parish council upwards, you aren't wrong there, CGPC have failed in the main for the last seven years to obtain tenders for contracts that they issue, there is a solution for the residents of CG on this issue, if ten residents attend the APM in April and request a referendum ton the abolition/retention of CGPC, it has to be called and the residents will have the ability to vote.

After all, aren't we being offered a referendum on Europe, which I'm certain most CGPCllrs/residents would vote on!
[quote][p][bold]croxley46[/bold] wrote: Absolute fiasco by all parties concerned. TRDC tried to hush it all up at meetings in private, refused permission to reveal reasons about the budget doubling and the 2-year over-run. Infighting between the paries concerned, and what does the council get in compo.? - £700K which is nothing compared with the double-budget costs incurred, and who pays for it - Yes, us Council Tax payers - disgraceful. I don't suppose the extra costs came out of the council's "reserves" - if so, it just shows how much they've been over charging us in previous years. Local government, whether it be at Parish, District or County Council level is a farce. (not that Central Govt. is any better!) I wonder how many heads have rolled because of this - none I suspect.[/p][/quote]croxley 46 states farce from parish council upwards, you aren't wrong there, CGPC have failed in the main for the last seven years to obtain tenders for contracts that they issue, there is a solution for the residents of CG on this issue, if ten residents attend the APM in April and request a referendum ton the abolition/retention of CGPC, it has to be called and the residents will have the ability to vote. After all, aren't we being offered a referendum on Europe, which I'm certain most CGPCllrs/residents would vote on! PCllrRRidley
  • Score: -1

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