Agenda item

Civic Halls Refurbishment - Lessons Learned

[To review and comment upon the content of the Civic Halls Refurbishment – Lessons Learned report]



Keith Ireland, Managing Director presented the third of three reports he had commissioned from Audit Services on a lessons learned review on three capital projects in the city.  This repot related to Civic Halls refurbishment.


Member of the Committee reported that they were shocked and horrified with what had happened on the project. It was not in keeping with the way the Council now operated and it was felt that the reputation of the Council had been damaged as a result.  Members also felt that the Council had not received the level of service expected by contractors on the project and that there were issues of competence, particularly in respect of the costings.


The Managing Director supported by the Strategic Executive Board and other senior officers of the Council responded to the Committees questions and observations, the details of which are summarised as follows and should be read in conjunction with the detail in the lessons learned report


It does seem that there has been a responsibility issue that has come out from the report. How has the management team been managed?

·           Detail on the action taken in relation to council employees accountability and responsibility for the project could be discussed in private session.


(The Chair commented that he would like as many questions answered on the open session of the meeting.  If there were any questions that could not be responded to in open session, then the meeting would move into closed session)


·           The Council had not accepted what has happened on the project and a number of things have happened to improve the Council’s services over recent years.


·           The project comprised two schemes.  One to do with capacity of the Civic Halls and the other to do with the building. The project had slipped through the net and it had not been picked up sooner.


·           We know we need a Project Director, and top advisors. At the time the Council did not get the right advisors.


Whether legal proceedings against the external advisors/ contractors who had failed the Council on this project.

·           Meetings have taken place to determine whether grounds exist for claims and the value of claims against external firms. Employees were exploring the Council’s ability to cover costs and legal activity was being pursued


Why did the project fail?

·           It is complicated what was going on. In 2010 no one employee owned the project. I did not ask questions about Civic Halls because it was not part of my area.  Things were not done and the Council received bad advice on the project.  No one asked if the intrusive survey work had been undertaken.  There were competence issues.  There is evidence that the project was never on track and was being under categorised in its risk rating.  The third Project Manager came in and identified issues with the project.  The project was then categorised as red risk.


·           The first the Senior Management Team became aware of the issues was when. it received a limited assurance report from the Council’s Internal Audit service. Since then changes have been made to the management of the project.  When the Strategic Director for Place looked into the project he identified that there were issues and the project needed to be revisited.


Why intrusive work on the building had not taken place at the outset of the project?; why the fabric of the building was in such a state of repair?; why the Council’s own building repairs/ maintenance programme failed to point out the problems with the building?; and whether a structural survey had now been undertaken.

·           At that time the Council had a £60 million backlog of repairs and record keeping in this area was poor.


·           As part of our due diligence the structural survey of the building is being carried out by the new Project Manager.


The accountability and management responsibility for the project?

·           In terms of governance of the project, the responsibility for the spend and financial aspects of the project rested with the Council.  The physical construction works will be left to the Project Manager.


Whether the Council’s fiduciary duty been compromised.

·           There were no breaches to Councillors fiduciary duty.


Why an experienced Project Manager had not been appointed to manage the project at the outset; has an experienced Project Manager now been appointed; what will their responsibility be; and how convinced are we that the new Project Manager would deliver the project on time and to budget?

·           We know we need a Project Director, and top advisors. At the time the Council did not get the right advisors. We are bringing in a new Project Manager to look after the scheme. The new Project Manager was at the early stage of their work.  We feel they are the right people to deliver the project.


On the reporting to elected members and the timeline of events (P93), could action have been taken at the time if Cabinet Members had flagged up any concerns.

·           The Cabinet Member for Resources regularly grilled officers about the state of the project and expenditure on the project and officers had to justify the spend.  The view that Councillors did not interrogate the officer about the project is incorrect.  As far as we knew the scheme was progressing well.


Has any work taken place into the impact of the closure on the city centre economy?

·           Work on the impact of the closure of Civic Halls on the city centre economy has not taken place.  Work on the growth aspects could take place once the building is refurbished.


How confident are you that the current cost figure is accurate that the project would be delivered on budget and on schedule?

·           Once the assessment reports are available we can come back and say if we are confident or not that the project would be completed on time and on budget.  We cannot give a guarantee on the delivery of the project until the assessment reports are available.  It is anticipated that the assessments would be available later in the year around in October 2018.


Is there scope for seeking external financial support to assist in the delivery of the project, including English Heritage Funding.

·           It has been made clear that the Council is expected to secure external funding for the project.  This was being explored but there was no guarantee that external funding would be secured.  We need to wait for the results from the surveys. The English Heritage option is something being considered. However, it might be too late in the day to try and secure that funding.


Should the Committee have a site visit to Civic Hall

·         A visit by the Committee to the Civic Halls site would be welcomed.



1.    That the lessons learned action plan be received.


2.    That the Committee oversee the implementation of the action plan over the next 12 months and to receive a quarterly update report on the progress made in implementing the lessons learned.


3.    That the actions taken to date be supported which include:

a.      To improve programme and project management

b.      To ensure better financial modelling

b)     To ensure partners deliver their commissions to the right quality and specification.


4     To ensure the right people are appointed to the right roles including appropriate project managers and/or a programme director for large scale capital projects


5.    That the Managing Director’s decision to make the report an open report to ensure maximum transparency be noted.

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