Civic centre upgrade cost doublesRefurb and upgrade of council HQ now estimated at £54m
The estimated cost of a scheme to upgrade and refurbish Haringey Council's head office has more than doubled to £54million.
Budget papers leaked to the opposition Liberal Democrat group reveal the projected bill for the revamp of the Grade 2-listed Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green – initially put at £24m – has climbed by £30m.
It comes after the council’s top decision-makers agreed to consider adding an annex to the existing building to ensure it is large enough to meet the local authority’s accommodation needs.
The council claims adding the annex “should save money over time” and that its accommodation strategy is designed to be “self-financing” by reducing costs and bringing in money through the sale of redundant buildings. The council’s cabinet is expected to make a final decision in January on whether to build the annex.
But the potential increase in costs sparked a renewed row over the scheme, with Lib Dem group leader Luke Cawley-Harrison claiming the Labour administration “cannot be trusted to be responsible with taxpayers’ money”.
Cllr Cawley-Harrison said: “As many people in our borough struggle to cope with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unbelievable that Haringey Labour is soldiering on with this unnecessary and unwanted project, spending tens of millions on new offices for themselves when we have fewer in-office workers than ever.
“Residents will quite rightly be shocked that costs for the project have doubled before building has even begun, and Haringey Labour’s track record shows that the amount spent is only likely to rise even further.”
When the initial £24m plan for the Haringey Civic Centre revamp was revealed, the Lib Dems dubbed it a “vanity project” and claimed the money should be spent on a community and cultural transformation fund to revitalise high streets. Although the opposition group supported spending £12m on repairs, they were against spending an extra £12m on offices.
Responding to the latest comments, council leader Peray Ahmet said the planned investment would bring a “treasured local landmark” back into use and “secure its future as a civic headquarters for the council and a local democracy hub for the borough”.
Cllr Ahmet added: “Our decision for a full refurbishment of the civic centre included reviewing the option of adding an annex to the current building to meet the council’s accommodation needs.
“Based on the outcome of feasibility works carried out earlier this year, we have decided to continue with the design of the annex option. A final decision on whether to go ahead with the annex will be taken in January 2022, once further design work is completed.
“This will be reflected in a proposed increased budget provision for the civic centre project. Rather than an instance of spiralling costs, this is an essential part of prudent financial planning.
“Ensuring value for taxpayers’ money is a key priority. We will keep costs as low as possible through robust project governance, regular cost reviews, appropriate contingency planning, thorough engagement with contractors and the use of efficient construction methods.”
Earlier this month, cabinet members agreed a £10.1m upgrade of two more council-owned buildings in Wood Green; 48 Station Road and Alexandra House. Designed to fit out the offices for collaborative and hybrid working and allow essential maintenance to be carried out, a council report also noted that the investment would boost the value of the buildings and make them more “marketable” when staff move into the refurbished civic centre in 2025.