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Council leaders renew support for much-needed temporary accommodation


Council leaders have renewed their support for much-needed temporary accommodation in Walton-on-the-Naze following an increase in costs.

Contractors last year started work on a £1.47million revamp of the former Spendells House sheltered housing block, in Naze Park Road, to house people and families who find themselves homeless.

Tendring District Council (TDC) is converting the existing two-storey accommodation, which dates back to the 1960s, to provide 32 flats for those in need.

The council’s Cabinet today (Friday, 24 May) reiterated its support for the project after receiving a report highlighting an increase in costs, including national inflationary pressures, items not included in the original specification and addressing issues discovered after works had started, such as fire compartmentation, electrical supply, water supply and drainage.

The Cabinet has now allocated an additional £860,000 to complete the scheme, bringing the total estimated cost of the project to £2.33million.

It was revealed that some of the additional works, costing a total cost of £386,536, were carried out by contractor Contractors Arc Group London Ltd as instructed by the project team, but without proper authorisation – exceeding the approved budget.

This has now been reported to the council’s Cabinet under Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

As a result of the issues raised, the council is undertaking a number of activities with the aim of avoiding such issues emerging in the future, including implementing project review points, ensuring realistic contingencies are included and identifying appropriate staff to take part in formal project management training.

Councillor Andy Baker, TDC Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, said lessons have been learned following the issues, but added that the council remains committed to the overall scheme.

“We recognise that the cost of this project has increased substantially and that works have been carried out without the proper authorisation,” he said.

“But we have reiterated our support for the project, the fundamental reasons for which remain - to provide much-needed temporary accommodation for homeless people and families in need.

“The financial cost of emergency hotel provision to meet the escalating demand to provide temporary housing is unaffordable in the long term, while such accommodation itself is unsuitable for family life.

“Having got to this point, the best value option from here is to continue with the project.

“Alongside accommodating homeless people in more suitable facilities and reusing a redundant building, it will also save taxpayers’ money in the long-run.”

The Cabinet also acknowledged that managers are being reminded of the internal control arrangements in place and requested that the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning provides corporate oversight of the completion of the project within the approvals in place.

Spendells House closed in March 2018 due to the low demand for the dated sheltered housing accommodation.

The new temporary housing facility is scheduled to be completed later this year.

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