Can we afford the Bedale Bypass?

by billhoult on 15 October, 2009

At the North Yorkshire County Council quarterly meeting I raised serious concerns regarding the funding of the A684 Bedale /Aiskew/Leeming Bar Bypass scheme.

Originally estimated to cost £25M it has now risen to £39M according to a report presented to the Tory Executive on the 29 September this year

Preparatory works on this scheme have already cost the North Yorkshire Council Tax payers a great deal and the latest increase will add another £724K to the bill.
The Director Of Highways and Planning has however reported that the average cost overruns on Highway schemes across the country is a massive 44% of the estimate and if that happens in this case the final bill would be more than £56M.

The bad news is that Central Government will only agree to fund 90% of the costs up to the estimated costs, 50% of overuns up to an agreed level after which Council Tax payers have to stump up 100% of any increase. In view of this the Council taxpayer could end up paying a huge £15M more towards the cost

My view is that £15M is a huge sum for the tax payers to stump up bearing in mind the economic crisis. At the last Budget seminar the Director of Finance painted a dire picture for the Council’s finances over the next few years ahead and we will be hard pressed to maintain services at current levels. Given the Council’s track record on its control of contracts can we take the risk of pursuing this scheme?”

The Tory Executive member for Highways claimed in the meeting that the costs were subject to regular scrutiny, however he was quoted in the Yorkshire Post on the 14 October as saying that he believed that the bypass should go ahead and that “There will never be a better time” Maybe he is right but enthusiasm should not displace prudence when such large sums are involved.

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