Cllr Vicky McGurk has made an embarrassing U-turn on her explanations about Labour’s overspending on the Newfield ASD project.
A report by Labour’s Exec Member for Finance and Governance Cllr McGurk at July’s Exec Board contained an overspend of £568,000 on the project. Part of the explanation was that £239,000 demolition costs were omitted from the original budget.
This has since turned out to be untrue.
Resident and Conservative campaigner Jon Baldwin was quick to question the demolition costs, asking the following question of Cllr McGurk at the Exec Board:
“In my career as a Quantity Surveyor, if I forgot to include demolition costs in a budget then I would likely lose my job or client. It certainly displays a level of incompetency. Do you think it is acceptable to forget to include demolition costs and who is ultimately responsible for that oversight?”
Cllr McGurk’s response reiterated that the demolition costs were accidentally omitted from the budget. She said “The Council acknowledges the error in failing to include the cost of the demolition in the original scheme budget and as a consequence it has reviewed and amended its processes and procedures to ensure that this does not happen again”.
Blackburn Conservatives subsequently uncovered that £239,000 was included in the 2015/16 Capital Budget for demolition works after all, directly contradicting Cllr McGurk’s Report and her explanation to the Exec Board in response to Jon Baldwin.
Cllr McGurk has since admitted the demolition costs were included in the original budget. She stated at Council Forum “They were actually budgeted for, but unfortunately the demolition costs went into a different budget code and that code wasn’t then attributed to the capital spend”.
In addition to the inaccurate reporting and response, Newfield ASD was completed in 2018 and handed over to the school in August 2018. £568,000 overspend only being reported in the final quarter of 2019/20 raises serious questions about the reliability of Labour’s budget monitoring.