Huntingdonshire flagship projects were ‘late, over budget, flawed and poorly managed’

The opening of Huntingdons Multi Storey Car Park,

The opening of Huntingdons Multi Storey Car Park, - Credit: Archant

Late, over budget, flawed business cases and poorly managed – that was the damning verdict of Huntingdonshire District Council’s managing director on two of the authority’s multi-million pound flagship projects.

Jo Lancaster’s report on Huntingdon’s multi-storey car park and the redevelopment of One Leisure, St Ives reveals they cost HDC a combined total of £835,000 more than they should.

The £5.4million car park was originally due to open in March 2012 but delays and increased costs were among the reasons for the council having to find an extra £669,000 towards building it.

Mrs Lancaster says its completion in January this year – it was not used for parking until March, and even then only partially – meant it had been delivered 22 months behind schedule.

Commenting on what went well, she said the car park had led to investment in the town centre, temporary construction jobs and more parking.

But it had failed to achieve the planned increase in car parking figures, she said, as the number of vehicles using town centre short stay car parks was now less than before it was built.

The multi-storey budget also assumed income from developer contributions from the Huntingdon West proposals which have not yet materialised, as Sainsbury’s planned move has stalled and new shops at Chequers Court are yet to be built.

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The £5.3m revamp of One Leisure St Ives was £166,000 over budget and not delievered on time. It was supposed to result in increased income and the number of people using it, but both have under achieved.

Profit of £353,000 a year rising to £561,000 by 2015/16 was anticipated but it has achieved nothing like that, the nearest being the 2013/14 total of £107,214.

User numbers are also down on expectations. The 2013/14 total of 656,119 was nearly 100,000 short of the target of 760,000 for 2014/15.

For both projects, Mrs Lancaster criticised the lack of progress reports to members to explain delays, poor record keeping, and said flawed business case assumptions were made.

On project management, she concluded: “Both projects suffered from delays and overspend, with little evidence of systematic reporting or recording of decisions and variations to the originally agreed schemes.

“This is evidence of poor project management; procedures were not followed which has made this close down process difficult in the absence of any structured records, particularly a full business case and project initiation documentation.”

Mrs Lancaster recommends a review of the business cases of both schemes, as well as the use of One Leisure and car parks in Huntingdon.

Tory cabinet members of HDC welcomed the report and said lessons would be learned.

The report is due to be considered by HDC’s Economic Well-being Overview and Scrutiny Panel tomorrow (Thursday, November 6).