Catalogue of errors led to new Leeds primary school coming in £1.6m over budget

Bankside Primary, aerial view

A catalogue of errors including weak management, poor project control and bad relationships between key council departments led to the construction of a new primary school in Leeds going almost£1.6m over budget.

A report from Leeds City Council into what went wrong says the failings identified in the project to build the new Bankside Primary in Harehills were one of the reason’s behind last year’s decision to scrap the council’s in-house design team, Architectural Design Services (ADS), and its long-term partnership with architectural services firm Jacobs.

The report – which is going to be discussed on Wednesday (5th September) by the council’s executive board – says construction of the school started four months late (in July 2009) with a budget of £9.1m, and was completed 13 months late (in September 2011) having cost £10.69m.

A commercial settlement was reached with construction firm Kier in May this year and the executive is set to authorise the £1.59m overspend at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Weak management”

Among the failings identified in the report were:

insufficient clarity with regard to the membership, constitution and remit of the Project Board and the role of the Project Manager”

Roles and responsibilities were unclear throughout the project team.

weak senior management of the design team in ADS and a lack of appropriate capability in ADS resulted in commitments being made to the project, both in terms of design capability and timescales that were unachievable”

insufficient independent check and challenge by the Project Board at the end of the important stages”

costs were either based on poor information or not based on the correct level of information at the right time. This made cost control very challenging, delays and inevitably extensions of time and claims from the contractor”

Increasingly poor relationships between Education Leeds and ADS … relationships were less than ideal from the outset … and this had an adverse impact on the project, particularly with regards communications between the three main parties, Education Leeds, ADS and (construction company) Kier Northern”

Poor change control processes, including reporting arrangements for approving changes and overspends”

New joint venture

The report says that lessons have been learnt following “extensive reviews”.

“This learning has been incorporated into revised processes in Children’s Services and other directorates to ensure the issues that led to overspend and delay do not happen again,” it adds.

Among those lessons are: schools project timescales to be realistic rather than being driven by often “unachievable” school year deadlines; costings to include a contingency sum reflecting site constraints; design and cost reports not to go to the council’s executive board until “design freeze” and costs understood.

The issue with the council’s in-house Architectural Design Services (ADS) and its partnership with Jacobs was solved when the council scrapped them both and handed over its architectural design work (and the 28 ADS staff who carried it out) to a new joint venture with Norfolk Property Services, which began trading in February this year.

“The overspend has been funded from £1,200,000 of contingencies set aside against Primary Capital Programme (PCP) Schemes, for which Bankside was a Pathfinder Project, and £393,495 of general Children’s Services programme contingencies,” the report notes.

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2 Responses to Catalogue of errors led to new Leeds primary school coming in £1.6m over budget

  1. Seapig says:

    Perhaps if LCC hadn’t made the decision to disband its own in house project assurance team, the issues around project board remit, roles and responsibilities and weak management would have been identified and addressed

  2. When did they disband the in-house project assurance team? Who does it now?

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