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  1. Cabinet members in Herefordshire Council are facing a slew of questions after the city’s major road project careered out of control. Furious residents want answers and have submitted numerous questions to the cabinet about the City Link Road which faces a £6 million overspend, jeopardising the Transport Hub and improvements the Commercial, Newmarket and Blue School Street elements, as well as flood mitigation measures in Hereford. Image | Google The ruling Coalition leaders will meet on Thursday to discuss the matter and have expressed grave concerns about the ‘casual culture of overspend’ they say was the hallmark of the previous Conservative administration's approach to the delivery of major capital projects. Cabinet member for transport, John Harrington, said At a public Cabinet meeting this Thursday, 22nd July, members will debate a report which they say highlights a litany of errors and possible cover-ups which took place at the council under the Conservatives between 2015-2019. The current administration say previous cabinet members and officers played down the ballooning cost of the compulsory purchase orders needed to deliver the road element of the Hereford City Centre Transport Package. Coun Harrington claims the public and opposition councillors who challenged promises that ‘the most expensive piece of tarmac in England’ was delivered on time and to budget, were misled. Coalition members committed themselves to unearthing the overspend on the city road scheme during a purge to improve project management and governance of major infrastructure projects in the council. Cabinet Member for Finance, Liz Harvey said: How Did Hereford’s City Link Road Spiral Out of Control? Investigations commissioned by the current cabinet into value for money around council capital projects have concluded that land block purchases at the station end of the road created an early £3.8m overspend on the Link Road. The Coalition administration say this hole in the project’s finances was masked by combining the original stand-alone City Link Road project with an entirely separate Marches LEP funded project intended to deliver a transport hub at the station, public realm improvements on Commercial Road, Blueschool Street and Newmarket Street, providing much needed safe walking and cycling routes from the city to the railway station. The GP hub and new student accommodation along the Link Road were included and the combined project was rebranded as the Hereford City Centre Transport Package. Coun Harvey said she believed that combining of separate projects: ‘allowed Peter to rob Paul, and spiralling City Link Road costs were paid for with budgets originally set aside for the transport hub and other public realm improvements.’ Of particular concern to the current administration is the unusually high level, over 100, of 'compensation events', according to Coun Harrington, that saw contractors, Balfour Beatty Living Places, revise upwards their original bid to deliver the projects. Coun Harrington said: ‘I am not suggesting that BBLP deliberately underinflated their bid to secure the HCCTP contract, but so many compensation events during the delivery of a project raises questions about how the council managed this contract and how realistic BBLP's original bid was. We simply must not operate like this again in the future and, alongside senior officers, we have put in place procedures to ensure that all major capital projects are run by one corporate department from now on, with cross cutting responsibilities ensuring we do not ever again get the kind of silo working that I believe has led to some of the missteps that have dogged this project.’ Prior to Thursday’s cabinet meeting to discuss the matter Coun Harrington said that Coun Harrington said: Coun Harrington added: Finance member, Coun Liz Harvey, commented:
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