Lessons must be learned, say councillors, as Hitchin Town Hall overspend is identified

Hitchin Town Hall.

Hitchin Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

The contentious project to renovate Hitchin’s landmark town hall is set to cost taxpayers nearly £2 million more than initially planned – says the chairman of trustees of the group formed to oversee the building work.

Hitchin Town Hall Ltd chairman Stephen Pike – in response to councillors at North Herts District Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday night adding an ‘unavoidable’ extra £223,392.00 to the cost of the project – said: “I am amazed and flabbergasted.

“My understanding was that the total costed by the council was £4.33 million.

“But having studied their report they are now saying it is a £4.71 million – with an overspend £291,931 to be added, not the £223,392 they are stating.

“This makes the total figure £5,006,431 – more than £675,000 beyond the original £4,330,000 – and they are already six months overdue.”

“The council is already seriously at risk of an additional cost of more than £1 million – but now we have to add a further £675,000.

“The whole situation is terrible.”

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The Town Hall project update report distributed at the Tuesday’s meeting stated: “Additional costs have been or will be incurred estimated at £233,392.” Councillor Tony Hunter, who oversees the council’s community engagement brief, said: “As with many projects of this size and complexity, there have been some unavoidable additional costs incurred during the construction phase.

“In part, these relate to the delay in securing listed building consent last year and there have also been additional works required due to the conditions on site, which had not previously been identified.

“We’d like to reassure people we’re doing all we can to minimise additional costs and protect council tax payers’ interests.”

Councillor David Levett said: “I’m very disappointed costs have accelerated and we still don’t know how much it will be.”

Strategic director John Robinson said: “We’re detailing areas where unavoidable costs have been incurred.”

Councillor Terry Hone said: “I’ve no doubt it will cost North Herts taxpayers more money.”

Councillor Jane Gray added: “I do hope we learn from things which have gone wrong in this case.”