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Wolverhampton Civic halls revamp to cost extra £21m – with new roof needed

By Pete Madeley | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

The revamp of Wolverhampton’s Civic halls will cost £21 million more than expected – as council bosses revealed the venue needs a new roof.

The much-delayed project, which started nearly two years ago, was initially budgeted at £14.4m and expected to be completed by March 2018.

But today it can be revealed that Wolverhampton council has scrapped its initial scheme after ‘major issues’ were uncovered, with a new electrical system and major structural work required, including a replacement roof.

The Civic closed in December 2015 for the start of the refurb

The Express & Star understands it is now set to cost at least £36m – £21.6m over the original budget – and may not be completed until late 2019 at the earliest.

And one option on the table is to ditch the revamp entirely.

It comes as the Civic and Wulfrun Hall reopened in the run-up to the Christmas period with Robert Plant performing a sold-out show at the Civic on Monday night.

Robert Plant performing at the Civic Hall on Monday.

It is the third major council run scheme to bust its budget in a matter of months.

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The cash-strapped, Labour-run authority, which was crowned council of the year in June, needs to find an extra £23.2m for renovations to the city’s railway station and the Midland Metro extension.

And the cost of moving the city’s markets has almost doubled to £4.9m, meaning the total council overspend on works could top £50m.

The opposition Tory group has branded the council ‘incompetent’ while the TaxPayers’ Alliance said the authority should be held to account for its lack of care when spending taxpayers’ money.

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Wolverhampton council spokesman Oliver Bhurrut, said the council was ‘reviewing the options’ before deciding on how to proceed.

“Plans for the £14.4 million redevelopment of the 80-year-old, Grade II-listed building have begun but work was held up when contractors uncovered major issues,” he said.

“We then commissioned much more intrusive survey work to look at these. We now know the scale of the issues we face to return the Civic to its former glory.

"This includes a completely new electrical and engineering system, major structural work, including a new roof and the latest safety and security measures.

“We’re currently in the process of finalising the costs of this additional work but the project will inevitably cost millions more.

"The council could just continue with the current scheme but we want to ensure that the city has a venue fit for future generations.

“So, before any further works start, we are exploring national and regional funding options that could contribute to what will, in effect, be a much larger project. A thriving and vibrant city centre is a key part of our vision for Wolverhampton. The Civic halls is crucial to that future.”

The Civic halls attract 330,000 visitors a year, bring in £4.3 million and support 360 jobs. The venues host a range of major events, including the Grand Slam of Darts and the sell-out show from Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant.

The first tranche of funding for the refurbishment came from the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal (6.2m) and the city council (£4.2m).

In April council bosses announced the re-opening had been put back six months.

They then announced a further delay in August following the discovery of asbestos at the site.

Wolverhampton council’s opposition Tory leader Wendy Thompson has demanded a full investigation into the Civic revamp. This has been a shambles from the very start, and it defies belief that two years down the line they are finding out about problems with the job,” she said.

“The council is completely incompetent and they need to fully explain why they are costing the taxpayers so many extra millions.”

Chloe Westley, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Taxpayers will be disappointed that their council has failed to deliver key projects at the cost initially agreed.”

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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