Posted: 15.09.20 at 15:22 by The Editor
THURROCK Council has finally broken its silence about monies paid to a consultancy firm as it tries to put right two major botched infrastructure projects in the borough.
The A13 widening project and the Stanford rail station rebuild have both massively run over budget and suffered long delays – though the council has consistently played down the problems with both projects.
As recently as last week the council’s assistant director of transport infrastructure projects Anna Eastgate shrugged aside criticism and concern, saying everything about the project was ‘positive’.
She was reporting to councillors on the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee and produced a report on the rail station saying the cost of the project was a fraction over £19 million but admitted that might rise.
At a previous meeting she had been lauded as the woman who had turned the project around, being fulsome in praising herself to councillors, saying: “There has been a change in resource. It took an outside view, somebody who had not been embodied in the project. I’m long in the tooth, nothing fazes me.”
What she didn’t mention then – and didn’t mention last week, was that the council has actually turned to outside consultants to solve problems – spending £590,000 on a contract with Mace Ltd on work on Stanford rail station.
That was revealed in an exclusive Thurrock Nub News story last month.
A further £150,000 was committed to Mace for work on the A13 widening.
We pressed the council for detail about what the money was being spent on, and had to apply further pressure to get an answer, which came today (Tuesday, 15 September).
However, detail is sparse and we are no clearly to knowing if the £590,000 is included in – or on top of the £19 million ‘budget envelope’ the council has set for the rail station project.
The statement today says: “Mace are providing project management and health and safety services on behalf of and as directed by Thurrock Council. Mace are not providing any design or procurement services.”
Ms Eastgate has also challenged the mathematics of local media, including Thurrock Nub News. However, it appears she has a selective memory in producing her own calculations.
When the A13 widening project was first announced the cost was set at £79 million. In May this year the council confessed the cost had risen to between to up to £120 million. That's a gap of £41 million - confirmed by the council's portfolio holder for regeneration Cllr Mark Coxshall and widely reported - but Ms Eastgate, says: "I have never reported on a figure of £41 million. We are now saying the forecast funding gap is £29.6 million."
Whether it's £41 million or £29.6 million, councillors have been warned that at the end of the day the costing predictions could still rise further.