Building work at Horsham school could go over budget

JPCT 230115 S15040033x Horsham, Millais. Leon Nettley retiring after more than 20 years at the school (17 years as headteacher) -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150123-123003001

JPCT 230115 S15040033x Horsham, Millais. Leon Nettley retiring after more than 20 years at the school (17 years as headteacher) -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150123-123003001

  • County Council committee hears update on cost of building work
  • Audit report highlights concerns about £14m budget
  • Cabinet member ‘confident’ it will come in on budget
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Building work at Horsham’s Millais School could go over its £14m budget allocated by West Sussex County Council.

On Monday (March 16) members of the Regulation, Audit and Accounts Committee learnt the finances allocated to refurbish the school may not be sufficient to cover the cost of the remaining work.

The project, which started in 2012/13, includes a new three storey building and the demolition of the Hills building and hut. It is due to be complete in autumn this year.

But the report before councillors on Monday said the council’s Internal Audit revealed there was ‘lack of transparency around approval of the project’.

It read: “There have been concerns raised by the project manager, quantity surveyors and Internal Audit about the size of the contingency allocated as the project is halfway through and the contingency left does not look sufficient to cover the risks remaining for the project.

“There is potential for the project to come in over budget due to the high level variations and forecast predictions.”

After the meeting committee member Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) said: “A lot of the work had started before a contact was in place.

“It seems to me there’s been some pretty poor project management here. Because West Sussex spent all that time restructuring (departments), it went through two or three project managers at the beginning.

“If the Millais School needed the work done, then that’s great, but when there is poor project management, it’s the taxpayer who pays.”

Cabinet member for finance Michael Brown said: “We remain confident that the building work to Millais School will come in on budget.

“However, this is a design and build project and there are aspects of it that we still need to secure exact prices for as the project progresses to completion. That is not unusual with this type of project.

“Currently there is around £100,000 worth of this type of work which is why the matter was discussed this week.

“We do not anticipate any problems securing prices for this work as the project progresses.

“If additional costs were needed they would be found either from savings on re-design or from elsewhere in the council’s capital programme, which would not be to the detriment of other schemes.”