Calls to halt Oakham library revamp project after £309,000 overspend by Rutland County Council

Oakham
Oakham

There are calls to put the refurbishment of Oakham 
Library on hold after it was
 revealed there was a £309,000 overspend on the project.

Rutland County Council’s cabinet last week agreed the extra cash for the project, which involves “essential” work to the library building and construction of a new purpose-built extension to re-home Visions Children’s Centre.

The council had already approved £220,00 in June 2016 for the library; and an additional £400,000 for the relocation of the children’s centre and £60,000 for the library in September 2016 - bringing the total spend now allocated to £989,000.

Now residents of Alwyne Close, next to the library, are querying where the additional funds have come from at a time of austerity.

The Alwyne Close residents, Georgina and Chris Rowsell and Mike and Jan Reynolds, previously objected to the relocation of the Children’s Centre from Catmose College to the library and this week they maintained that Oakham Enterprise Park would be a better location.

But they say their overriding concern now is that members of the public have not been consulted on both the initial project and now the overspend.

And five county councillors have also written a letter, echoing some of the residents’ concerns, which you can read in full on page 96.

In that letter, councillors Oliver Bird (Ind), William Cross (Con), Jeff Dale (Ind), Marc Oxley (Ind) and Gale Waller (Lib Dem), say the project should be put on hold immediately while full council revisits the matter.

The council said last week that the additional funding would be to remove the water tank found in the library roof void; additional foundation and drainage works at the children’s centre and further work to complete the replacement of the flat roof at the library.

But the Alwyne Close residents and the councillors who penned the letter have also raised concerns about whether sufficient accurate survey work was carried out before project started.

The Alwyne Close group said: “Had councillors known that the project would cost nearly £1m, would they have voted in favour? We think probably not and why was there no contingency in the original budget? The people of Rutland have not been consulted at all and we believe we have raised concerns on behalf of the whole of Oakham.

“We pay our rates and there would have been better alternatives with the new costings.”

And the letter-writing councillors said the “views of fellow councillors were ignored” and that the project had been “bulldozed” through the council.

Some councillors have also asked the decision to be “called-in” so full council can make a decision but this request has been rejected because “all procedures were followed.”

This week the council’s director for places Paul Philipson said: “Oakham Library has been chosen as the best place for Visions Children’s Centre due to its location in the middle of town and because it already provides a wealth of useful resources for families and young children.

“Both the library and children’s centre are vital frontline services and are benefiting from investment because of the help and support they offer residents. The library building, in particular, has been largely untouched for almost 50 years and needs considerable work so it can continue to serve the local community.

“Additional funding for the improvements to these services is expected to come from the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is money paid by developers specifically to help fund local infrastructure projects.”