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Project Management in Gainsborough

October 24, 2013 12:04 AM
By Councillor David Dobbie - West Lindsey District Council - Governance and Audit Committee Member
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

On Tuesday the West Lindsey District Council Governance and Audit Committee received a report from Audit Lincolnshire on the Elswitha Quarter Development centred around the disused Guildhall, now being demolished, and Whittons Gardens.

The review focussed on how the project was managed, from its inception in September 2010 through to the rejection of the Judicial Review in January 2013.

The auditors interviewed a number of councillors and officers, but not some of the key officers primarily responsible for the development during 2011 as they have since left the Council.

Amazingly for such a major project the report states:

a) "There was no effective project management process prior to February 2012"
b) "Subsequent project management arrangements could also have been more comprehensive given the significance of this project."
c) Councillors were asked to make a decision without knowing the full financial risks and rewards associated with the proposal presented in September 2012.

Basically this project was beyond the competency of the Council to carry out.

In addition I was appalled at the lack of consultation on the proposals to develop the Elswitha Quarter with the Town Council and residents. The Town Council applied to WLDC for Whittons Gardens to be listed as an Asset of Community Value as a safeguard against sale before giving an opportunity for the Town Council to buy it for everyone's enjoyment. The law requires the District Council to make a decision known within eight weeks. Nearly one year later I regret that WLDC has failed to make a decision.

In response to the audit report the Conservative Council Leader Geoff Summers writes "The overriding desire of the Council in pursuing this project has been to improve Gainsborough for its residents by enabling the development of high quality facilities."

He also writes "We will continue to vigorous pursue this objective whilst having regard to the recommendations set out in the report. " He can be sure the Liberal Democrat District Councillors and the Liberal Democrat controlled Town Council will hold him to this.

So let's see these fine words turned into actions, with more effort to support community projects in town and the re-introduction of the Joint Town/District committee that was stopped by the last administrations of the Town and District Council in 2007. I hope that WLDC will grasp this opportunity to demonstrate they are to work with local people to improve Gainsborough.