Top-down apology after Leeds school expansion costs gaffe

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LEEDS council bosses have issued a top-down apology after red-tape errors meant a special-needs school expansion was under-costed by £400,000.

The apology, made to the council’s executive board, followed mistakes made by the council’s chosen contractor in relation to the multi-million pound expansion of the North East SILC (specialist inclusive learning centre). The 17-classroom facility will sit on the site of the former Blenheim Centre in the Woodhouse area of the city.

The original estimated cost of £9.9m has now risen to well over £10m. However this is still below the total budgeted £11m.

A meeting of the council’s executive board was told the errors were driven by the fast pace at which the vital project was being forwarded, as the city strives to deal with its wider school places crisis. The £400,000 under-costing relates to the omission from the design and cost report of a £200,000 drainage tank, and additional £200,000 costs of employing two specialist project managers.

The panel debated whether to reject the additional costs bid, but decided it could be counterproductive.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds city council, issued a personal apology and told colleagues: “We could end up with a big tussle and they could grab it back through other routes.” He said there would be a thorough review of what happened to “make sure this does not happen in the future”.

Coun Peter Gruen, executive board member for planning and personnel, said: “I apologise to executive board that it has come to light so late. We have to take remedial action now.”

However Coun Andrew Carter, leader of the main Conservative opposition group, questioned that “if there are errors, why are we paying for them?”. “I think we are being generous with public money,” he said.

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