As Sevenoaks District Council met this week to agree its budget for next year, Council leaders owned up to a £3 million overspend on the project to build a new swimming pool and leisure hall in Swanley.
The new centre opened mid February to a fanfare of publicity. But hidden away in the papers for the all-Conservative Cabinet meeting just before was news that costs for the project ended up £3 million over budget.
The project is controversial in Swanley, because it replaces a large sports centre and two pools with something much smaller.
The £20 million plan was designed to leave Swanley with:
Sevenoaks District Council had claimed it couldn't afford to repair the earlier centre, or to replace it with a sports hall and pools with matching capacity. So several sports clubs in Swanley have been left high and dry.
Now comes the news that it overspent by £3million, because of 'unforeseen' problems with the site. These are manholes, drains, soakaways and voids discovered after construction started, on land which the District Council has owned for 50 years.
Perhaps Council leaders hadn't heard about the privately built pool a few miles away by Dartford Bridge which crumbled because its foundations failed on unstable ground. But it woud have been a good idea to check!
Much of the extra cash has already been spent - but it wasn't reported to the Finance and Investment Advisory Committee which is supposed to examine the Council's budget and investment plans in the run-up to the budget. A £3 million hole in finances is a significant amount - which should have been declared to councillors while the budget was being set.
It's clear that Council leaders didn't want bad news to upset the opening of the centre, or the bye-election in Brasted, Chevening and Sundridge. So they hid it away until the last minute, only making it public at Cabinet where nobody else gets a vote!
It makes you wonder what else they are hiding!
Tony Clayton 18th February