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Council ‘wasted’ £300,000 on scrapped Watts Grove housing project

PUBLISHED: 18:00 16 December 2013 | UPDATED: 18:14 16 December 2013

Labour councillors demonstrated against the scrapping of the Watts Grove scheme in October

Labour councillors demonstrated against the scrapping of the Watts Grove scheme in October

Archant

A scrapped housing project in Bromley-by-Bow saw the council write-off £300,000 of taxpayer money earlier this year after a “dramatic” rise in project’s price-tag.

The cost of the aborted project in Watts Grove, which would have provided 149 new council homes, was revealed by a Freedom of Information request from the Labour party, after questions were raised by a council watchdog about the wasted money.

The council’s response showed that £307,996 was effectively written-off after the cost of the project shot up “dramatically”, leading to the plans being scrapped in July.

This included £88,250 on procurement, £67,654 on legal and financial advice, £72,000 on one technical advisor and £43,942 on other officers’ time.

Cllr Abdal Ullah, Labour’s spokesman for housing, said: “Not only has the current mayor failed to deliver the council housing he promised, he has wasted over £300,000 of taxpayer money in the process.”

Labour say Mayor Lutfur Rahman has been asked by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee to attend its meetings to explain what happened but has refused to do so.

Labour Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman, chair of the committee, said: “This committee is here to hold the executive to account, but it is clear that the mayor isn’t interested in the democratic process.”

Cllr Ullah added: “His silence is an insult to taxpayers who want to know why their money is being needlessly wasted.”

A council spokesman said: “The total cost for the Watts Grove scheme changed significantly from the first stage of the process to the point where final bids were received.

“The cost rose dramatically and the scheme was considered unsustainable in light of overall council budget cuts from central government.”

A spokesman for the mayor said: “Cllr Uz-Zaman’s outburst is a bit dim. We are building more affordable homes than anywhere else in the UK, but we expect value for money for taxpayers and the project in question fell short of this.”

He added that Cllr Alibor Choudhury, cabinet member for resources, has attended scrutiny meetings to discuss the matter.

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