Agenda item

St. Sidwell's Point Project Contractual Arrangements

To consider the report of the Director Culture, Leisure and Tourism.



The Director Culture, Leisure and Tourism presented the report, which followed a request from Councillor M. Mitchell and colleagues in the Progressive Group who sought further information on the contractual arrangements of the construction of St Sidwell’s Point (SSP) in terms of any lessons to be learnt from managing such a large scale project.


Councillor M. Mitchell attended the meeting under Standing Order 44 and thanked officers for the excellent and detailed report, and wished to put the request for consideration in context. Following the experiences of the project, he proposed a Member Task and Finish Group to consider how as a local authority such large capital programmes could be managed effectively. He said that as Members they were mindful of ensuring accountability and matters of governance and he suggested a Task and Finish Group may offer the opportunity to consider a wide range of issues, including the structure of business plans, variability of costs, ensuring value for money, and managing any delays in the timetable.


The Director introduced Justin Pickford, who project managed and provided technical expertise throughout the entire period. He had worked with an exceptional external team working to a budgeted and resourced process.  He noted the comments made and suggested that when the Wonford Health and Wellbeing Centre came forward, he would welcome any opportunity to incorporate the learning from SSP into that project.


Members made the following comments:-


·      that such projects should be left to the appointed project manager.

·      although being mindful of Member and officer time and commitments to convene a Task and Finish Group, the Member welcomed the opportunity to scrutinise the project.

·      a Task and Finish Group would offer further guidance for any future projects.

·      that some aspects of discussion of the management of future projects could be picked up in the work of the Exeter Development Fund Task and Finish Group.


Councillor M. Mitchell proposed a Task and Finish Group, which was seconded by Councillor Read and following a vote, the proposal was lost.


The Leader welcomed the report and reflected on the timetable, having chaired the cross party Leisure Complex and Programme Board, which oversaw the evolution of the project and which reported such to the Executive and Council.


Justin Pickford set out the key issues of the project as detailed in the report. He had worked on the scheme since its inception, with the appropriate level of professional support and specialist skills having been engaged, using standard industry recognised documentation to ensure there was no misunderstanding around the duties, roles and responsibilities. He highlighted four extraordinary changes within the contract which had been subsequently addressed:-


·      the Section 278 highways works were far more extensive than originally anticipated, with resultant costs being higher than envisaged;

·      the original building cladding material, although compliant with all building regulation was changed following the Grenfell fire;

·      the Operator fit out works costs exceeded the allocated budget following the decision to bring the operator back in-house; and

·      the effects of Covid 19 on the timetable, which had resulted in a separate settlement for the scheme.


He responded to a Member’s question relating to the highway works and that in future, arrangements for the Highways Authority to carry out trial work beforehand would be suggested. There was recognition that it was important to ensure the right team and level of support was in place.


Councillor M. Mitchell thanked Mr Pickford for an excellent and informative report, but he suggested that it covered the project management aspects, rather than touching on Exeter City Council accountability and governance matters. He would be satisfied by an approach being made to the Exeter Development Fund Task and Finish Group to consider contractual and projects management issues as part of the consideration of future projects.


Strategic Scrutiny Committee noted the report and supported further discussion of project management be made at a future meeting of the Exeter Development Fund Task and Finish Group.


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