OPPOSITION councillors in Swansea have called for more clarity on the council’s potential liability for unfinished work at the city’s £135 million Copr Bay development.
They expressed concerns following an announcement by Copr Bay contractor Buckingham Group that it intended to appoint administrators.
The company has been rectifying defective steel paintwork at the multi-storey car park it built across the yellow pedestrian bridge from Swansea Arena. That work has been going on for months, and there are other snagging issues to resolve elsewhere at the development.
The Labour-run council said in a statement on August 17 that it had protected its financial position, that the outstanding works were minor, and that it did not anticipate Buckingham Group’s situation leading to extra costs.
But Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Black, who chairs the council’s scrutiny committee, said officers needed to give more detailed assurances about the cost of the remaining remediation work, how robust the contract with Buckingham is, and what legal remedies were available if it did go into administration. He also sought clarity on who would carry out the remaining work if Buckingham Group or its administrators were unable to, and whether all this would further delay the opening of the multi-storey car park opposite the arena.
“My understanding is that fixing the issues with the paintwork coating system applied to the steel in the car park is actually very expensive,” said Cllr Black.
“In the likelihood that Buckingham Group do go into administration, that will prove to be a significant liability, which any purchaser will be reluctant to take on, assuming that anybody can be found to carry on the business. It then comes down to whether there are sufficient assets to cover the cost of this work, in addition to any liabilities on other projects the company is responsible for.”
He said his party’s concern was Swansea taxpayers being left paying for this work, or the council being dragged into litigation that would delay the opening of the car park. Cllr Black said he felt these risks were “very real”.
Leader of Swansea Conservatives, Cllr Lyndon Jones, has written to council leader Rob Stewart asking him to clarify potential liabilities for the authority and what the maximum bill could be.
Cllr Stewart said around 90% of the Copr Bar multi-storey car park works had been completed. It is also understood that significant provisions have been made to protect taxpayers financially.
The Labour leader said: “I’m surprised that Cllrs Black and Jones are not aware of the position with regard to the remaining elements of the Copr Bay development, as regular briefings on the development have been provided to the scrutiny committee that Cllr Black attends, and additional briefings provided to all political group leaders. They have been kept informed all though this process and further briefings will be undertaken early next week.”
He added: “In terms of the specific concern around additional costs should Buckingham Group formally enter administration, we have made it clear in our initial statement that we have taken steps to protect the council and the taxpayer from additional costs. Therefore, while some works remain to be completed, we do not anticipate any additional costs falling to the council or taxpayer but at this stage it is not appropriate to go into more detail as this could potentially undermine the council’s position.”
Buckingham Group said this week that its intention to appoint administrators came with “immeasurable regret” and was the result of rapidly escalating contract losses and a sharp reduction in liquidity.