Magherafelt council defends overspend at leisure centre

Magherafelt District Council Chairman Ian Milne and Chief Executive John McLaughlin who got a first glimpse of the new Greenvale Leisure Centre pool area during a tour of the new multi-million pound complex as it neared completion.
Magherafelt District Council Chairman Ian Milne and Chief Executive John McLaughlin who got a first glimpse of the new Greenvale Leisure Centre pool area during a tour of the new multi-million pound complex as it neared completion.
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Magherafelt council has defended the 125 per cent rise in the construction cost for the refurbishment of Greenvale Leisure Centre.

In it’s statement the council said it had acted in the best interests of ratepayers across the Magherafelt district.

They also claimed they achieved significantly better value for money than work carried out at other leisure centres in Northern Ireland.

This is the council the statement in full:

In response to the Local Government Auditor’s Report concerning the contract to redevelop the Greenvale Leisure Centre, Magherafelt District Council would like to advise the following:

The redevelopment of the Greenvale Leisure Centre, Magherafelt (which includes a 50 metre pool) cost approximately £1,400 per square metre

The recent contract to build and redevelop Carrickfergus Leisure Centre cost approximately £1,800 per square metre

We are advised that the recent construction of the new Bangor Leisure Centre cost approximately £3,000 per square metre

A recent advert for consultants to lead the construction of a new 8,000 square metre leisure centre in Newtownards had a budgeted price of £25 million. This equates to approximately £3,000 per square metre

The above shows that Magherafelt’s square metre rate is approximately 30% less than Carrickfergus’ and 50% less than North Down’s. Consequently Magherafelt District Council is clearly of the opinion that it has both demonstrated and achieved value for money. It is further of the opinion that the Local Government Auditor’s Report is flawed. Consequently it is of the view that that onus should now be placed more on the Audit Office to substantiate its views, rather than Magherafelt justify its actions.

The Audit Office also draws attention to the fact that the contract increased in value. This is correct. However, it fails to explain the reasoning behind this.

When the Council received the tenders for the original work the contract had come in at over 20% less than the expected price. The Council’s professional consultants advised that the tender rates were remarkably low and that it would be unlikely that they would be achieved again. (The square metre rates quoted above indicate that the consultant’s advice was correct). As a result of this, the Council recognised the very good value for money on offer from these contract rates.

It further recognised that there was only this one-off opportunity available, to avail of these competitive prices, and as a result, agreed to extend the scope of this contract.

We would emphasise that all additional work was either carried out at these rates, of at rates which were actually negotiated lower than these. Again the Council fails to understand why the Auditor takes issue with this course of action, as its (the Council’s) actions were clearly in the best interests of its ratepayers.

In summary, Magherafelt District Council feels that it has clearly demonstrated value for money in the redevelopment of the Greenvale Leisure Centre, that it has clearly acted in the best interests of its ratepayers, and that the Local Government Auditor’s Report is flawed.