Monday, 14 December 2009

Temporary Library Costs “Unbelievable”

Major concerns about the costs quoted for relocating Southport Library into the Market Hall have really begun to concern me.

I told the press this week:, 'Conservative and Labour councillors have been claiming the cost of the temporary relocation would be £500,000 – which they say is not affordable.'

However I believe that the true cost is likely to be very much lower.

“We have thoroughly checked the figures and reckon that the net cost of the temporary relocation is likely to be in the range NIL to £100,000 - nowhere near the £500,000 claimed,”

“Some of the costs have been unbelievable. For example, there is a figure of £25,000 for ‘Kitchen Ventilation’. This is for a small temporary kitchen with facilities for the library staff to make a cup of tea, or heat some lunch in a microwave.”

“The other key issue is that there will be savings while the current Southport Library is shut for 2 ½ to 3 years. Those savings should be set against the relocation costs.”

“From Council figures we have obtained, we reckon there are savings of around £70,000 a year, on such things as building repairs, insurance, rates and suchlike. Over the period of closure that is something like £170,000 to £200,000 saved.”

“What we clearly have is a situation where certain other politicians are trying to make the cost as high as possible as an excuse not to provide a temporary town centre library.”

“We have 7,000 residents so far who have signed our petition to say that they think those politicians are wrong.”

If you want to see the details follow the links to our website on the left and then go to the download button.

(A, B &C) was sent on 6 November 2009 (a week before the key Cabinet meeting) by Council officers to all Cabinet members and all Southport councillors. This e-mail gave details of the estimated costs required and the amount retrievable against the planned Market Hall refurbishment. These were:

Gross costs for temporary Library £471,000
Less Retrievable against Market Hall refurbishment £101,000
Total net cost of temporary Library in Market Hall £370,000

Even the £370,000 seems overstated. Within that total, the biggest item by far is £183,600 + 10% Contingency + 15% Design Fees = £229,500 for “Upgrading lighting levels, ventilation and heating” (so-called M&E Works). Supposedly none of this £229,500 of spending would be retrievable/reusable in the long-term Market Hall refurbishment. We find that very difficult to believe.

Late last Wednesday (9 December 2009), and following a request to Council officers, we received certain information (D) which casts even more doubts on the figures within that £370,000. Some of the costings we obtained look to be way over the top, for example within the £229,500 M&E Works are the following:

Toilet Ventilation £10,000
Ventilation High Level £30,000
Kitchen Supply/Extract Ventilation £25,000

(Note that the kitchen referred to will be modest facilities for library staff to make a cup of tea, or heat some lunch in a microwave.)

In addition local Lib Dem councillors have looked at what savings there might be from the 2 ½ to 3 year closure of the current Lord Street Library. We managed to obtain details (E) of the costs incurred in 2008/09 and charged against Southport Library in Sefton Council’s accounts. Some of that spending would not take place during the Library closure and, we believe, could be set against the costs of the temporary relocation of the library. The most obvious examples are:

General Building Repairs £ 6,411
Environmental Sewerage £ 4,744
General Rates £15,015
Insurance – Premises £34,400
Building Cleaning £10,700

These costs alone total over £70,000 for one year. Over the 2 ½ to 3 years of the closure, the total saving would be of the order of £170,000 to £200,000.

To summarise:
According to Council Officers the “non-retrievable” net cost of works necessary to allow the Library to temporarily relocate to the Market Hall is £370,000, not £500,000 as some local politicians have bandied around.
Lib Dem councillors even have serious doubts about the figure of £370,000. It is claimed that none of the £229,500 within this total for “Upgrading lighting levels, ventilation and heating” is reusable in the Market Hall refurbishment. We find this unbelievable.
Even if none of those costs were “retrievable”, then some of the estimates still appear grossly excessive, for example £65,000 for ventilation including £25,000 for “Kitchen Supply/Extract Ventilation”.
Closure of the current Library leads to cost savings which can be set against the Market Hall temporary conversion costs. Over the period of closure those savings could amount to £170,000 to £200,000.
Taken together, we believe that the net cost is likely to be in the range NIL to £100,000.

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