Previous PC "didn't plan, document nor understand" implications of project they started

With all the building work now complete at the Festival Hall, the Parish Council have confirmed that the total costs of the project exceeded the budget by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

At the Parish Council meeting on Monday, 13th November, Councillor Geoff Hall provided a summary of the Medical Centre project, which exceeded the budget by £370,000.

Speaking about the scale of the project, Cllr Hall said "I believe that most Parish Councils of the size and resources of Alderley Edge's would take the view that a project of this size and complexity would be beyond their scope. Nine volunteer, part time Councillors, together with a part time Clerk, is a very small group to draw on for what has been (and continues to be) a very costly and complex project.

"Let me put this in context: Prior to embarking on this project the largest single expenditure made by the PC was £30,000 for Christmas Lights. This project was 100 times larger, requiring expenditure of £3 million."

He also stressed that when the AlderleyEdgeFIRST group was elected in May 2015 they were given very little information about the Medical Centre and Festival Hall project and the only document they had was the Conservative Party leaflet issued just before the May election.

Cllr Hall said "We did not inherit a single document from our predecessors showing how they planned to complete this project, no detailed costings, no assessment of the risks, no analysis of how they would resource what was a major project. I have been involved in many projects during my career, from petrochemical plants to IT implementations and software development. I have never witnessed a project so poorly documented and planned."

The final cost of the Medical Centre over the period May 2015 to October 2017 was£2,369,243, compared with a figure of £2,000,000, which was promised by the outgoing Conservative Parish Council to be the maximum cost in their election leaflet above. This is a difference of £369,243 or 18.5%.

Cllr Hall said "Whilst cost overruns on such projects are not uncommon, what is unusual about this scheme is that the additional costs could have been predicted by the previous Conservative Parish Council.

"The extra costs did not arise because of any unexpected problems, nor because we changed the specification. Nor did we make any changes to the agreements already on the table in May 2015.

"The differences arose because key costs on the Medical Centre had been overlooked by the previous Parish Council and because of a failure to plan the Medical Centre Second Floor. In addition, the implications of the costs on the Council's cash flow were not properly understood and addressed by those responsible."

He added "I would not wish to proceed without giving our predecessors credit for their original initiative. Without that we would not now have a state of the art Medical Centre in our village. The previous Parish Council deserve credit for this, but not – as the report clearly demonstrates - for the way in which they executed the project."

Referring to Conservative party election leaflet from early May 2015, which states that the Medical Centre was guaranteed to cost no more than £2,000,000, and the Building Contract, which states that the agreed cost is £2,162,165, he commented "Those responsible on the previous Parish Council did not plan, document nor understand the practical and financial implications of the project they started."

Councillor Hall also highlighted other costs that he said had not been budgeted for, including professional fees to cover leases for the pharmacy and second floor tenants, project management fees payable to Arcus - who they had appointed to manage the build on behalf of the Parish Council - along with letting agent and management services fees for the pharmacy and second floor tenants.

He then explained that security costs had been missed, saying "The NHS required that the new Medical Centre should meet national building security standards. These are laid down in a process called Secured by Design, which is administered by the Police. This called for a 2.1m (7ft) wire mesh fence around three sides of the site, with security gates. The previous Parish Council did not accept this, but rather than renegotiate it, they simply removed all provision for it from the budget – exposing the PC to non-compliance with its Lease agreement with the NHS.

"We dealt with this issue by renegotiating with the NHS and the Police to remove the 7ft fence completely from 2 sides of the site and to reduce the height on the third side to 1.8m (6ft). This significantly reduced the costs."

The new Parish Council also had to add funding for lighting, ceilings, toilets and washrooms to bring the second floor of the Medical Centre into a lettable condition as the contract only provided for the second floor to be left as an unfinished shell.

In total these extra costs added a further £207,078 to the £162,165 missed from the original build contract, making a total project cost of £2,369,243, compared with a promised cost of £2,000,000.

A breakdown of the costs is shown in the attachment report.

Cllr Hall concluded by saying "The content of this report is consistent with what we reported in June 2015, shortly after we took office. However, the key question in all of this still remains unanswered: how could it be that we were told by the former Conservative Parish Council in May 2015 that the Medical Centre would cost no more than £2m, when the building contract, which they had already seen and approved, shows a figure almost £200,000 higher?"

In December Councillor Geoff Hall will report on the Festival Hall and in January 2018 he will draw conclusions relating to the whole project and its impact on the Parish Council's finances.

Alderley Edge Medical Centre, Alderley Edge Parish Council, Festival Hall


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Barry Buxton
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 3:55 pm
Never again should a small bunch of amateurs be let loose on a project like this!
Stick to your knitting;Christmas lights.
Barry Buxton
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 4:21 pm
"Nine volunteer, part time Councillors, together with a part time Clerk" and their predecessors should never have been let loose on this project!
Stick to your knitting; christmas decorations.
Ruth Norbury
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 4:33 pm
Dear Barry Buxton, thank you for both of your comments which are edifying and encouraging. I shall certainly stick to my knitting in future as you advise.

I trust that you will stand for parish councillor in the next election, to safeguard the best interests of our village.
Tim Jackson
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 5:40 pm
The village now benefits from a fabulous state of the art medical centre and community hall, the envy of many villages across the entire country - I believe we should all be very grateful to those who have worked so hard on the village's behalf to provide this to the community.

From the early concept to the finished facility, an enormous amount of hard work has gone into this project by a few very dedicated people across the political divide. Thank you to all those people who stood up to be counted and gave us our new Festival Hall. Let's enjoy it and now make it work for our community.
Barry Buxton
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 5:45 pm
Not me Ruth Norbury - I don't agree with the existence and cost of Parish / Town Councils.
Mike Dudley-Jones
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 7:04 pm
Tim Jackson,

Thank you, on behalf of the last Parish Council, the present Parish Council and Jones Contracts for your kind remarks. Indeed, we should all be proud of what we now have.

For us existing Parish Councillors, it has been a privilege to be part of the team that made this all happen. Volunteers and amateurs we may be but we are not a team that turns away from a challenge. Our time and experience from other varied walks of life have helped us at every stage - and our residents may depend on us to continue our work in helping to make Alderley Edge a better place for us all to live.

Clearly though Mr Barry Buxton lives in a different world, where things somehow happen not by dedicated hard work and resolve but through a combination of negative attitudes and abject misery.
John Bowden
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 8:41 pm
Wow, Barry. Quite harsh I must say!
I'm sure many people in the village do agree with the existence of parish councils and appreciate that they are invited to attend consultations / meetings and get involved. These are local people who give massive amounts of time to make things better for all of us at a local level and you surely have to appreciate that?!?!

If you are so strong in your opinion but don't agree with parish councils maybe you should go straight for MP yourself so that you can do away with these 'amateurs'?
Nicholas Ridings
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 8:46 pm
I have to agree with Tim. The previous team where not perfect, and I am sure the current team would also admit they are not experts/perfect either. However it is due to the joint efforts of both these groups of volunteers that we have the excellent facilities we do.

Rather than commenting on the failures of one or other of the groups, I would congratulate both on giving the village a top of the range set of facilities. It takes a lot a personal commitment to do this, something the "quick to criticize, but not prepared to do anything to help" group should think about before knocking the results.
Fiona Braybrooke
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 9:12 pm
Well I do hope that Barry Buxton will not be requiring the services of the fantastic new Medical centre. I that the current AEPC should be very pleased with the legacy that is now in place for the village.
Peter Bugler
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 9:24 pm
Brilliant job. Fantastic outcome. Well done.
However when they build all these new houses I assume we will have to find the funds for another Doctor.
Claire MacLeod
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 9:26 pm
Hi Barry Buxton

Your comments imply you have read the 17 page report by Cllr Hall, in which case I fully support your suggestion that the previous Conservative Parish Council should, indeed, have 'stuck to knitting and Christmas lights'. 'Planning' a new Medical Centre and Festival Hall on the back of a fag packet was never going to fly. Thank God for the skills, dedication and fiscal responsibility of the current Parish Council, which facilitated the completion of these two major projects, in the face of incredible challenges - all apparently driven by personal, egotistical and political ambitions, without much care for the interests of the community of Alderley Edge, whom they were voted to represent.

And I'm sure I'm not alone in being grateful for the continued transparency of the existing Parish Council. Now that the projects are complete it is exactly the right time to shed light on the huge mountain they had to climb to get to where we are now.

I do hope the previous Parish Councillors are prepared now to offer some explanation for their, frankly, amateur (a kind analysis) or deceptive (a more sceptical analysis) approach to the two major projects they committed to.
Barry Buxton
Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 11:11 pm
Many of these respondents are living in cloud-cuckoo land. Anybody can practice Corbynomics, shake the money tree and spend other peoples money unwisely. Note again Cllr Hall's comment: "I have never witnessed a project so poorly documented and planned." It should never have been started without much greater certainty regarding economic viability.
I hope the current regime haven't now developed a taste for what used to be known as "les grands projets", a la francois mitterrand.
Nigel Beesley
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 11:44 am
Whatever the feelings about Costs, Planning Implications, etc , having both used the Medical Centre and attended the extremely successful recent Tea Dance at the Festival Hall,I am very impressed with this rejuvenation of the original Regal Ballroom . As a frequent visitor I feel Alderley Edge has a great asset here, and it's future use for Health and Entertainment must surely pay off in time.
Tony Haluradivth
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 2:33 pm
I don't often comment on forums but as an OAP living in the village (and and as one not receiving a Footballer's gold plated pension). I am worried about the implications of the "overspend" . I am not seeking to divide or cast blame in any direction but would just like to know if our Parish Precept is going to shoot up next year as a result of this an extra £10/£15 a month can hurt many of us and particularly those of us who have to buy in care to help us stay in our homes.
Claire MacLeod
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 2:54 pm

Your provocative comments led me to look for other articles you have commented on previously to ascertain whether you are simply being belligerent on this one occasion, or whether you have a track record of similar behaviour. It didn't take me long to realise that this name-calling, confrontational approach could be described as your 'MO'.

Take this article in three years ago, , in which you referred to fellow contributors (the majority of whom were challenging you) as 'ostriches', 'nimbies' and 'luddites'.

Looking a little further, I found this gem. Again, sadly for you, like a voice in the wilderness, the vast majority of other contributors do not share you views about the "political skill and fiscal stringency" of Michael Jones who, if my memory serves me correctly, was forced to resign under something of a dark cloud and a number of issues around dodgy contracts.

It's useful for me to put your comments above within this wider context as it helps me to understand that not only do you enjoy poking hornets' nests, but you also have a range of values that are far removed from my own (and apparently many other people).
Alan Brough
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 7:24 pm
Good Evening Barry Buxton,

Your robust (some would say arrogant) remarks put me in mind of a former Councillor that used to patrol this parish - he too was big on bluster and sadly unable to join up the dots when it came to the needs, hopes and desires of Alderley Edge. He was prone to solving one problem by creating three more and thankfully, he was pretty comprehensively consigned to history after the last Parish Elections.
Alan Brough
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 9:22 pm
I have been pretty vocal in my support of the "new" PC and my denouncements of the "old" PC. However, I recognise that the former PC included some good and hard-working people who put in a great deal of time and effort - for no financial reward - for the good of Alderley Edge.

The transition between old and new was (to say the least) "broken" and it comes as no surprise to learn that there are discrepancies in the estimates / budgets / actualities involved with the creation of the fantastic, fit for purpose, fully functional facility that is the new Festival Hall.

The fact that we have a first class Medical Centre aligned with a modern, multi-use public hall facility - the like of which cant be found anywhere else in the borough should be cause for celebration and congratulations to members of both the current and old PC's.

Over many years to come, the Festival Hall will provide a reliable and sustainable source of revenue and (more importantly) joy for the people of Alderley Edge that will eclipse the alleged "overspend" to the point that it will make commentators such as us appear trivial and churlish.
Helen Gaughan
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 10:08 pm
An aside from the post ...... Fortunately I do not need to frequent our wonderful facility !!!! Unfortunately my husband is having regular contact with healthcare specialists at the Practice ..... This is , as far as we are concerned , a great improvement on the previous George St site !!!!! The new medical centre and Festival Hall facilities are fabulous and up and vibrantly running !!

We are so very grateful to everyone who made our new surgery become a reality , PC and CEC Councillors alike and the NHS " bods " .... I'm sure we can all agree that the new medical centre is now better equipped and accessing since the move ☺️ ......

Thanks to Drs. Thompson , Hunsley , Speake , Garvey et al for looking after us all !!!
Catriona Lang
Friday 17th November 2017 at 12:20 pm
This story is shocking, although not entirely unsurprising. Well done and thank you to the current Parish Council members for your continual hard work, transparency and desire to do what's best for the village and its inhabitants. How lucky we are to have you.
Jon Williams
Friday 17th November 2017 at 8:12 pm
Or you could look at it another way - If it was not for the "old Parish Council" we would not have it in the first place
Saturday 18th November 2017 at 8:53 am
Jon - you can also look at it another way. That it didn't matter to the old parish council that the books wouldn't balance on this project because of its close relationship with Cheshire East. That, if I remember, was how many things used to operate in many localities. The new parish council has taken the idea, seen it through, and produced comprehensive accounts and reports. The latter is about openess and transparency.