Bradley Stoke Town Council has admitted that its latest newsletter understates the cost of building its new office at the Jubilee Centre.
The latest edition of the glossy 8-page newsletter, delivered to all homes in the area over the last few weeks, puts the “total expenditure to date” at £293,461 but enquiries by The Journal have revealed that this figure doesn’t include thousands of pounds spent on architect’s fees and other costs associated with obtaining planning permission for the project.
Responding to The Journal, Town Clerk Sharon Petela said:
“The expenditure to date reflects the build costs and does not include the initial project costs from 2010 & 2011. These project costs will be included within the final report when it becomes available.”
According to the article, a final report is due to be issued in “July/August, when all costings have been received and confirmed”.
Minutes of a meeting held in February 2011 show that Councillors approved a quote for £5,455 from a local architects firm to take the proposals through to the planning stage, while correspondence on South Gloucestershire Council’s planning portal confirms payment of a £502 application fee.
Figures in the newsletter predict that a saving of £28,816 will be made over the first ten years of the building’s existence but the analysis fails to include the fact that an estimated £82,000 of money held in the Council’s reserves has been spent on the project. A quick calculation suggests that with the expended reserves included, savings will not be realised until 2024.
Once the break-even date has passed, the Council says it will make savings of £28,927 p.a., this being the amount it previously paid in rental and service charges for its former rented premises, although that analysis appears to ignore costs for management and maintenance that will now fall to the Council instead of a landlord.
The article also claims that the building has been completed at a lower cost than was originally budgeted, although a look back to the previous newsletter published in February, which devoted two whole pages to the project, confirms that estimated build costs have risen from £292,000 to £300,245 in the space of five months.
A further £11,075 has been spent on removal costs and refurbishment of the Council’s former rented office, a figure that could have been much higher had Community Payback personnel not been available to carry out some of the work.
In related news, there seems to have been a breakdown in communication between the Town Council and the local police force over a possible relocation of the Bradley Stoke police team’s ‘beat post’, currently located at the Willow Brook Centre, to the new Council office.
The Council currently makes a financial contribution to cover the business rates for the beat post but that two-year arrangement ended on 31st March this year. The Council’s Strategic Plan, last updated on 14th March, states that provision has been made for the beat post to be relocated to the new Town Council office, which would save the Council the cost of the business rates.
Perhaps unaware of the Council’s wishes, the police have recently written to ask about a renewal of the business rates subsidy.
Speaking at the July Full Council meeting, Cllr Ben Walker suggested that no further payments be made to the police and they should be asked when they are moving to the Jubilee Centre.
Cllr Rob Jones, who didn’t support the building of the new office at the Jubilee Centre, questioned the need for the police to move, arguing that people have become familiar with its current location.
And in a further complication, Town Clerk Sharon Petela added that she wouldn’t be happy asking her staff to take messages for the police should they take space at the new office.
To resolve the situation, Councillors decided to invite the District Commander, Neighbourhood Team Inspector and (possibly) the Chief Constable to attend the August Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday 15th August “to discuss the possibility of the police having a permanent base at the new Town Council office”.
Photo 1: Bradley Stoke Town Council’s new office, now open at the Jubilee Centre.
Photo 2: Official opening of the police beat post at the Willow Brook Centre in January 2011.
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