County chiefs to probe bridge works saga - The Evesham Observer

County chiefs to probe bridge works saga

Evesham Editorial 2nd Mar, 2018   0

COUNTY council chiefs will examine the saga of the closure of Evesham’s Abbey Bridge – a debacle which saw Worcestershire County Council pay developers extra despite the project taking four months longer than planned.

Members of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Board agreed to form a taskforce into the saga at a meeting on Wednesday.

The review was sparked after Worcestershire County Council agreed to pay Hochtief nearly £3million extra despite the project taking 14 weeks longer in a debacle which saw a number of businesses close and traffic misery in the heart of the town.

Although the developer has refused to comment publicly, Hochtief challenged a compensation claim from Worcestershire County Council by blaming the adverse weather conditions and high river levels during the construction of the new bridge.

That’s despite the original tender from the company claiming the road would only need to be closed for 48 days and Worcestershire County Council telling Vale residents the bridge would only be closed for 12 weeks.

The task group will investigate the tendering process and the contract agreed between the council and Hochtief and will also look at the monitoring process, specifically when the council was aware of problems with delivery of the project and what it did about it.

Despite the green light, there was frustration after Conservative members of the panel called for a delay on when the taskforce started work until after the council’s Audit and Governance had concluded their own investigation into how the authority handled the situation.

Coun Paul Middlebrough, who sits on the committee, said: “I would like to see what they have to say, it will be helpful to see their paper before we decide on what we have to do.

“We are going to have to do something of that I have no doubt, but it is how we feed in. We don’t want to be duplicating their work and communication, which they won’t be investigating, is certainly an area we could look at.”

Committee chairman Coun Chris Bloore expressed his frustration and said work had been done behind the scenes to kick off the process and labelled the move as ‘not a clever way of doing things’.

“We made a decision to do it, we have come back with some ideas however the process has been started, e-mails are going out to the relevant parties. I don’t think this is a wise way forward.”

Despite the disagreement, the committee agreed to meet with members of the Audit and Governance board before setting out the taskforce’s aims.

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