15/03/2017 Look East (West)


15/03/2017

Latest news for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Milton Keynes and Northants.


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In Look East tonight, over budget and now out of pocket.

:00:09.:00:10.

How Corby Cube left the council facing multi-million pound losses.

:00:11.:00:13.

And experts suggest radical solutions to the mental health

:00:14.:00:15.

And a cloudier forecast expected for tomorrow.

:00:16.:00:18.

A ?13 million overspend is bring written off

:00:19.:00:36.

by Corby Borough Council, who today admitted that they will not

:00:37.:00:39.

Building the Corby Cube cost the tax payer ?48 million pounds in total

:00:40.:00:43.

But opposition councillors say the council

:00:44.:00:46.

"lost control of the project". Stuart Ratcliffe reports.

:00:47.:00:49.

The Cube is now as much a Corby icon as The Steel Man,

:00:50.:00:52.

After years of wrangling, the council has now decided

:00:53.:00:57.

it has no chance of clawing back the ?13 million overspend.

:00:58.:01:03.

The Labour administration managed the Cube project appallingly.

:01:04.:01:05.

The Cube board was led entirely by them.

:01:06.:01:07.

They lost control of the project and allowed costs to spiral.

:01:08.:01:10.

We will now not recover those overspend costs,

:01:11.:01:11.

which is an enormous loss to the taxpayers of Corby

:01:12.:01:14.

Nearly seven years after the Cube opened, parts of this building have

:01:15.:01:21.

The top floor was originally supposed to be a restaurant.

:01:22.:01:25.

Then, plans were revealed for it to be turned into

:01:26.:01:27.

offices, but no-one has moved in yet.

:01:28.:01:32.

Corby Borough Council did not want to speak to the media today.

:01:33.:01:34.

In a previous statement, they have said they believe

:01:35.:01:38.

there were failings with a number of parties connected

:01:39.:01:40.

But they have been advised that there is is insufficient

:01:41.:01:45.

evidence to show that the conduct of those parties was the sole

:01:46.:01:48.

Not surprisingly, news of the multi-million pound write-off

:01:49.:01:52.

They could have spent the money on more housing and helping

:01:53.:01:59.

They do not need a big shiny building like that, do they?

:02:00.:02:04.

I think there should be a full-scale enquiry into this, as to why.

:02:05.:02:07.

They just seem to use people's money in any way they want.

:02:08.:02:14.

In 2015, the council admitted miistakes,

:02:15.:02:15.

but said that lessons had been learned.

:02:16.:02:17.

They had this to say about large-scale building programmes.

:02:18.:02:21.

There are not too many major construction projects which come

:02:22.:02:24.

in on time and on budget all the time.

:02:25.:02:26.

But it is unfortunaste when it does happen.

:02:27.:02:34.

And there are plenty of examples to back up that claim.

:02:35.:02:36.

The Cambridgeshire guided bus was meant to cost ?116 million,

:02:37.:02:40.

and was over ?60 million over budget.

:02:41.:02:48.

The Luton-Dunstable guided bus was again late and over

:02:49.:02:50.

And Delapre Abbey in Northampton, orginally budgeted for ?6.3 million.

:02:51.:02:57.

Now, almost ?1.5 million extra has had to be found.

:02:58.:03:03.

And, finally, a solar farm near Peterborough.

:03:04.:03:04.

Over ?2 million was spent on preliminary work, but then,

:03:05.:03:07.

Back in Corby, most agree that the Cube is the centrepiece

:03:08.:03:14.

of the town's regeneration, but it raises the question of whether

:03:15.:03:17.

a small council, like Corby, could or should, undertake

:03:18.:03:19.

So, why do councils overspend like this?

:03:20.:03:32.

I asked an expert in local government, from the London School

:03:33.:03:34.

of Economics, Professor Tony Travers.

:03:35.:03:38.

Well, of course, big projects do not come around very often,

:03:39.:03:41.

so whereas councils will be relaying roads or

:03:42.:03:43.

putting up streetlights or mending schools, in some cases,

:03:44.:03:48.

quite regularly, they will not be doing that with major theatres

:03:49.:03:51.

and equivalent big projects very often and there is just always

:03:52.:03:53.

the risk that the skills they need to do that are less present

:03:54.:03:56.

Is it also that council offices, or councillors, are also

:03:57.:04:08.

not fully qualified to deal with the financial arrangements

:04:09.:04:10.

necessary for these large-scale projects?

:04:11.:04:14.

I think, in fairness to councils, they often get it right.

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But sometimes they get it wrong. We have seen examples of tramways

:04:20.:04:22.

that run over budget or big libraries and so on.

:04:23.:04:27.

But central government also gets them wrong at scale, as well,

:04:28.:04:30.

So, there is a wider public sector problem here,

:04:31.:04:34.

but occasionally, councils do get it wrong and not only

:04:35.:04:37.

Is there enough good-quality advice available to councils

:04:38.:04:44.

when they have taken on this kind of thing?

:04:45.:04:48.

The question of advice is a crucial one, because obviously councils do

:04:49.:04:51.

seek advice from various companies who are used to big construction

:04:52.:04:53.

The problem may be, of course, that all of the advisory industry,

:04:54.:05:01.

at some level, has a vested interest in big projects going ahead.

:05:02.:05:04.

So, getting really good advice and keeping the project motoring,

:05:05.:05:08.

when, in the end, the taxpayer can always step in,

:05:09.:05:10.

is more difficult than, say, you or me getting

:05:11.:05:17.

some work done on our house, for example.

:05:18.:05:23.

Is it sometimes deliberate, in the case of councils,

:05:24.:05:25.

setting a low price mark, to get approval from fellow

:05:26.:05:29.

councillors councils and to make it more palatable for the public,

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but you know know it is going to be over that and there will not be

:05:33.:05:36.

Certainly, in some big national projects,

:05:37.:05:38.

national government projects now, the UK Treasury insists

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on calculating a so-called "optimism bias" -

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that there is a risk in coming up with the figures for a project

:05:48.:05:51.

that there is an under-statement of cost.

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The public sector is trying to do something about that now,

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to make sure they do not run over budget.

:05:59.:06:01.

So, yes, there is a risk that, in an attempt to get

:06:02.:06:04.

a particular project started, that councils may understate

:06:05.:06:06.

Should local authorities with a lower council tax take

:06:07.:06:10.

lower their expectations and not take on these big projects?

:06:11.:06:13.

The difficulty is that councils, who have the

:06:14.:06:15.

for ensuring it is attractive to look at, has good facilities and has

:06:16.:06:23.

things that makes people want to go there, to invest in business and to

:06:24.:06:26.

live there, do have to undertake these projects from time to time.

:06:27.:06:31.

We would not have town centres, if this had not

:06:32.:06:33.

The difficulty is that they are infrequent,

:06:34.:06:38.

these big projects, and, therefore, often, the expertise is lacking,

:06:39.:06:42.

not only in the council, but even sometimes in some

:06:43.:06:44.

of the big companies that advise councils,

:06:45.:06:46.

because this particular project, in the one place, may be

:06:47.:06:48.

Northampton Town Football Club says a "big step" has been taken

:06:49.:07:00.

towards resuming work on the club's East Stand.

:07:01.:07:02.

The stand was to be redeveloped, using a multi-million pound loan

:07:03.:07:05.

from Northampton Borough Council, but little work was done

:07:06.:07:07.

and the project is being investigated by

:07:08.:07:09.

Tonight, the club said a legal deal has been reached over a parcel

:07:10.:07:13.

of land at Sixfields, between the company

:07:14.:07:15.

that owns it, which went into liquidation in 2015,

:07:16.:07:17.

and administrators and those owed money by this company.

:07:18.:07:26.

A human rights committee heard evidence today on how best

:07:27.:07:28.

to manage mental health problems within our prisons.

:07:29.:07:30.

Last year, a record number of people killed themselves

:07:31.:07:32.

in jails across England and Wales and Woodhill Prison

:07:33.:07:34.

in Milton Keynes had the highest suicide rate of them all,

:07:35.:07:37.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia and dead before the age of 30.

:07:38.:07:45.

Kevin Scarlett was on remand when he took

:07:46.:07:47.

his own life at Woodhill Prison - a victim of the services inability

:07:48.:07:50.

The jail was criticised for failing to assess him properly.

:07:51.:07:57.

was, at the time, echoed by his family.

:07:58.:08:02.

Nobody actually believes that he wanted to kill himself.

:08:03.:08:04.

The prison guards should have found him,

:08:05.:08:07.

should have treated him medically and, then,

:08:08.:08:09.

The Milton Keynes prison has the highest suicide rate

:08:10.:08:19.

Today, those statistics were pored over by

:08:20.:08:22.

a cross-party committee looking into why prisons are failing

:08:23.:08:24.

Anyone with mental health issues is going to become a lot more

:08:25.:08:32.

ill by being in prison, because of the nature of prison

:08:33.:08:35.

Even those people who enter prison without mental health

:08:36.:08:38.

issues, I think you're looking at the large amount of time kept

:08:39.:08:41.

You only need to talk to people about how that can

:08:42.:08:48.

One solution proposed is to introduce

:08:49.:08:50.

more heaslthcare workers into the prison system.

:08:51.:08:58.

In a visit to the region earlier, the Justice Secretary announced an

:08:59.:09:09.

extra ?100 million to employ more staff. But that does not go far

:09:10.:09:13.

enough, according to one of the witnesses today.

:09:14.:09:23.

People who have reoffended because of their mental

:09:24.:09:25.

health issues may have to be in a more secure environment.

:09:26.:09:28.

We might be better dedicating a prison for these individuals

:09:29.:09:30.

and have people trained to deal specifically with them,

:09:31.:09:32.

rather than have the situation now where they are part

:09:33.:09:35.

Campaigners want urgent action, but the government says that solving the

:09:36.:09:45.

mental health crisis within the prison service could take many

:09:46.:09:46.

years. Passenger numbers at Luton Airport

:09:47.:09:51.

grew by 19% last month, compared to the same period last

:09:52.:09:53.

year, marking nearly three years Over one million people used

:09:54.:09:56.

the airport in February. Plans have now been submitted

:09:57.:09:59.

for a new light rail link that will connect the airport terminal

:10:00.:10:02.

with the rail station, which the airport predicts

:10:03.:10:04.

will increase annual passenger We can catch up with the latest

:10:05.:10:06.

weather outlook now, Temperatures hit 18 Celsius in some

:10:07.:10:10.

parts of the region today. It will be cooler tomorrow,

:10:11.:10:17.

with more cloud. At the moment, we have clear

:10:18.:10:19.

sky and it is expected to turn quite misty

:10:20.:10:21.

as we go through the night. Some cloud coming through

:10:22.:10:24.

from the west later. These are the sort of values

:10:25.:10:26.

we can expect overnight. Around 6-7 Celsius, with a light,

:10:27.:10:29.

south-westerly wind. Tomorrow, things should get

:10:30.:10:31.

off to a bright start, We have got this weather front

:10:32.:10:33.

coming in from the north-west and that will turn things cloudier

:10:34.:10:37.

as the day progresses. It could also bring

:10:38.:10:39.

us some patchy rain. But early brightness

:10:40.:10:41.

and sunshine to start with. But more cloud piling

:10:42.:10:43.

in from the west and, Temperatures for tomorrow,

:10:44.:10:45.

around 10-11 Celsius for most of us and more of a noticeable breeze

:10:46.:10:50.

coming from the south-west. The national forecast is coming up,

:10:51.:10:52.

but here is the outlook. A cold night, Thursday

:10:53.:10:55.

night into Friday. A lot more cloud around

:10:56.:10:56.

during the day on Friday. Rain arriving later

:10:57.:10:59.

and an unsettled weekend. it stays dry I will be surprised.

:11:00.:11:04.

Here is Nick with the national headlines.

:11:05.:11:18.

For large parts of Wales and England there was blue sky and warmth.

:11:19.:11:24.

Warmest day of the year, a clumsy way of saying the UK had the highest

:11:25.:11:34.

temperature of the year so far. There have been big contrasts. Some

:11:35.:11:39.

of that misty, murky weather to the south-west is advancing across other

:11:40.:11:41.

parts of England and Wales through the night. Ahead of that, where we

:11:42.:11:45.

have clear spells, central and eastern England there could be fog

:11:46.:11:50.

patches developing, outbreaks of rain

:11:51.:11:52.