Tory county councillors responsible for transport have agreed to pay out an extra £3 million for the construction of Abbey Bridge after a four month delay, misery for Evesham road users because of congestion and ANOTHER massive pay out for what have should been a simple project. Group leader Peter Mcdonald has his say on the issue:

“Once gain the County Council has been caught out trying to do things cheaply and without checking all the facts, costing our local tax payer millions.  They have lost money trying to do things on the cheap. The contractor for the project Hochtief  is demanded an additional £2.5 million for works that were unexpected and not covered in the original contract.  The County Council have clearly not done their homework and not prepared itself properly for doing the job.”

“We have sacked all our experienced workers or contracted them out to the private sector, nobody is checking the work of contractors and we have been caught with a massive bill.   The County Council has lost its expertise and experience with the building of bridges, they should have come to an agreement with BT over the realignment of the fibre and telecoms cables before entering into a contract.  This should have been obvious.”

When it comes to covering up of the Tories financial incompetence  millions can be found, but when it comes to vital services such as care for those with learning difficulties, home care, youth provision and child support there is not a penny in sight.  They show double standards, they claim austerity and cost the taxpayer extra money due to their sheer incompetence.

No action or investigation is taking place, nobody is being held accountable for this massive blunder.

Labour will ensure the lessons will be learnt. They can’t even cut correctly without making costly mistakes.

I have asked the Chairman of OSPB, the main scrutiny committee, to accept as an emergency Item on their next agenda, the handling of the contract for Abbey Bridge.

Members of the Council and the public deserve to hear the truth and to be told the facts.  Their failings need to be exposed and their incompetence needs to be corrected.  We simply can’t afford to make such costly mistakes, we must make the changes to avoid such failures from ever happening again.”

Council’s full response to Cllr Mcdonald:

“The Abbey Bridge project was originally estimated to cost in the region of £10 million with a road closure of up to one year. The tender process was based upon a design and build approach in order to give bidding contractors the maximum opportunity to use their experience to come up with innovative proposals to reduce both cost and closure period.

The Hochtief bid stood out for its innovative design and construction methodology which offered significantly lower cost and a relatively short closure period of ten weeks. A key element of the design was how to deal with the issue of minimising disruption to the service apparatus running under the bridge and viaduct, notably, the BT fibre and telecoms cables. Hochtief’s proposal was to “slew” the cables and re-fix them within the new structure but this was caveated on BT’s agreement to the method. This agreement could not be secured until later during the progress of the works when the cables were exposed and their condition could be assessed.

A dispute arose as to whether BT expressly objected to their cables being slewed or not but Hochtief had little choice but to redesign the bridge because, being wider than the original structure, the cables could not stretch to the distance of the longer curve on the Western side of the structure (by inference, the Eastern side became shorter). Whilst the viaduct works progressed steadily, this event caused a major delay to the commencement of the new bridge deck which pushed its completion from early December 2012 to early March 2013.

Ultimately the disagreement was referred to dispute resolution in accordance with the terms of the contract. In the first instance, this was to adjudication which found in the County Council’s favour. With an outturn cost of over £10 million, Hochtief seemingly had little choice but to pursue their position by referring the matter to Arbitration, again in accordance with the dispute resolution provisions in the contract; this second tribunal, which trumped the earlier adjudication, found in favour of Hochtief. Despite the County Council disagreeing with the Arbitrator’s findings, the legal advice was that there were no substantive grounds for appeal on findings of fact. Unlike court proceedings which take place in the public domain, Arbitration proceedings are private in order to respect the confidential, commercial information of one or all of the parties.

The County Council, taking into account the legal advice it had received and the legal costs and risks involved in going further, decided to settle the final account. The account was settled at approximately £2.5 million more than the contract sum of which approximately £1.6 million relates to the additional cost and delay attributable to the issue in dispute; the remaining balance relates to anticipated extra sums associated with issues as the tie-in of the new viaduct to the existing carriageway, which was designed by inspection, and Severn Trent works. As another point of reference, if this remaining balance were added to an average of all tenders (£5.8 million), this would give a comparable contract cost of £6.7 million.

Ultimately, the view of the County Council is that this project still represents good value for money, especially when compared with original estimates and tenders. By prudent management of the capital works finances, the additional costs were accommodated within the budgets that had been set.

The lessons learned from this project, which will be reported to audit and governance scrutiny imminently, include the need for greater caution when considering low bids and ensuring that Project Managers seek advice from appropriate professionals when problems arise.”