Plan to spend an extra Â£490k on Northampton abbey restoration put on hold over spending concerns
A decision to spend a further Â£490,000Â on the delayed Delapre Abbey restoration has been put on hold over fears the project's costs are 'climbing' out of control.
The move by the Labour group on Northampton Borough Council to call-in the decision will now see the major project subject to a special scrutiny meeting on July 12.
Initially, the project was set to cost the authority Â£5.65 million, but there has since been five separate requests for additional funding - the latest of which being a request for an additional Â£490,000 last week.
Leader of the Labour group, Councilor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: "We are not against the restoration of Delapre Abbey. We have supported it from the outset.
"What I am very concerned about is the whole management of the project and the escalating costs involved. It seems that every few months the council authorises yet another amount of money to spend on the project.
"The cabinet decision we have ‘called in’ is about the decision to give the Delapre Abbey restoration an extra Â£490,000. This is on top of an extra Â£650,000 they gave earlier this year and Â£950,000 last year.
"We can’t understand why the costs keep on climbing and Cabinet nodding them through. Why is this project so over budget?”
The official call-in notice by the Labour group states there is "insufficient financial control" of the Delapre Abbey restoration project, adding that cabinet members continue to authorise additional expenditure "without a new, up-to-date project plan in place".
A borough council spokeswoman has confirmed the decision will be heard again by a scrutiny panel of councillors on July 12, who will get to propose changes to the policy before it comes back before the Conservative cabinet again at a later date.
The additional funds are being sought to complete a series of 'supplementary pieces of work', which fall outside the scope of the original contract with restoration firm, Robert Woodhead Limited, the council says.
A spokesman for the authority said: “We have a call-in process to ensure that decisions taken by cabinet can be fully scrutinised at any time members feel it necessary.
“The overview and scrutiny committee members have been contacted and a meeting called for Wednesday, July 12, which is the next time they are all able to gather.
“Cabinet’s decision of Wednesday, June 21, and any action arising from that will be put on hold until overview and scrutiny has had a chance to examine the matter closely.”