By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
A MULTI-MILLION pound project to build new college buildings and a council headquarters in the heart of Tameside is set to go another £120,000 over budget in the wake of construction giant Carillion’s collapse.
Phase two of the Vision Tameside development in Ashton includes a new advanced skills centre for Tameside College, a public service and council base, and a retail space for Wilko.
Building work had stalled in January after the project’s lead contractor, Carillion, went into liquidation.
To get contractors back on site, the town hall agreed to bring a new company through an early works agreement – Robertson Construction Group – to save the project.
Robertson had reported it would cost £13.5 million to complete the building work, but officers revealed this has now risen by almost another £1 million to £14.3m.
This has been partially offset by other reduced or re-profiled costs across the entirety of the project.
But a report presented at a meeting of the strategic planning and capital monitoring panel this week, states that the overall Vision Tameside budget has now increased by £120,000 since June, to £62.9m.
It is expected the building will be completed by January 11, 2019.
However, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s independent monitors have told the council they believe this timeframe is ‘overly optimistic’.
Director of operations and neighbourhoods, Ian Saxon said: “This is one of the first public buildings that was affected by the collapse of Carillion and it’s back on track and we are looking at a handover in the early new year.
“The college will be moving in in February half-term.
“So while I’m not trying to suggest there isn’t an amount of pain, we should hold on to that this is a good news story.
“It will have a wider benefit, not only for us but for the college too.”
Council leader Brenda Warrington told the meeting that there was also weekly monitoring looking at the progress of the project.
Mr Saxon added: “There are a lot of independent checks and balances. We shouldn’t lose sight of the high level of success that will be the opening of that building.
“There were quite a lot of buildings around the country that are paused as a result of the collapse of Carillion and to get a contractor in place and to get it back up and running is good news.
“A project of that scale will have problems that have to be overcome.”
Cllr Warrington replied that she was “certainly pleased” with the progress thus far.
“The odd hiccup seems to have been overcome where necessary, and as you say we’re back on track as far as we can,” she said.
It is intended that a smaller and more energy-efficient building will save taxpayers £1.5m a year, as the ageing council HQ was too large and expensive to run.
And leaders hope it will help kickstart huge regeneration of Ashton town centre.
The price of negotiating the early works agreement to get the Vision Tameside development remobilised will be more than £9m for the council, and has also forced them to ‘re-prioritise their plans for future investment and regeneration’.
The council report states that while the current spend for the programme is still within the budget envelope, until a further contract is signed, the “risks and subsequent costs that will need to be managed going forward are unknown”.