Posted: 29.06.20 at 19:53 by Steve Shaw - Local Democracy Reporter
COUNCIL taxpayers in the borough may have to pick up the bill for the overspend on Thurrock Council's A13 road widening project with the latest estimate being almost £27 million will have to be found.
The budget for the widening of the A13 between Stanford-le-Hope and the Orsett Cock roundabout has ballooned from £79 million to the latest estimate of £114.67 million following a series of problems ranging from public safety concerns to inaccurate land studies that needed to be repeated.
The council has been scrambling to find a way to make up for the extra costs and has now confirmed that it has secured £8.9 million from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), which is a government scheme aimed at driving job creation.
However, the council is yet to find the additional £26.9 million and revealed in council documents that it may be the taxpayers that have to pick up the bill.
A report published ahead of next week’s Planning, Transport, Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting reveals that the council is looking at three options for finding the extra cash.
These are either using the council’s money, asking for an increase in grant funding or asking for money from the private sector.
The report states: “Thurrock Council recognises the need to seek alternative funding through whatever route is available and the likely need to use capital funds.”
Delays to the project have caused anger from opposition Labour councillors, including Martin Kerin who chairs the scrutiny committee.
After it became clear how badly costs has spiralled, Cllr Kerin called on the Conservative councillor Mark Coxshall, who oversees regeneration, to resign as well as for an inquiry into what he called “mismanagement” of the project.
Cllr Kerin added that the people of Thurrock “deserve answers” about how this happened.
But Cllr Coxshall sees the work as being “more important than ever” and key in helping the South Essex economy recover in the wake of Covid-19.
In May, when the overspend was initially revealed, Cllr Coxshall said: “It is a key development for the entire South Essex region and will help to provide jobs and new opportunities for Thurrock’s residents, businesses and employers.
“These significant benefits are crucial as our government begins to sketch out the roadmap to ease lockdown measures and reopen society.
“The council and its partners will continue to work hard to make sure construction carries on throughout the coronavirus pandemic, whilst protecting the workforce and the public to ensure this scheme is delivered as quickly as possible to support the recovery of Thurrock and indeed every council along the A13.”