Haringey Council accidentally leaks £54m office expansion scheme

Peray Ahmet and Haringey Civic Centre

Peray Ahmet (inset), Labour leader of Haringey Council, has defended plans to spent £54m on an office improvement scheme - Credit: Ken Mears / Polly Hancock

Haringey Council has accidentally revealed a plan to spend £54m on an office refurbishment, by mistakenly giving a report to a member of the opposition.

A briefing on next year’s proposed budget was left in a box of paperwork that a Lib Dem councillor was due to visit the council and collect.

The document, seen by the Ham&High, said the scheme – to refurbish the existing Civic Centre and build extra offices in an annex – would be funded by council borrowing.

Plans to expand a £24m refurbishment of the Civic Centre, to include a new annex, were discussed at Cabinet last month.

Lib Dem Julia Ogiehor asked for an updated estimate of the cost but was told the public would have to wait until January to find out.

“If, as it looks at the moment, it all stacks up and is good value for money and it saves money to the council taxpayer, then we will go ahead with it,” said Labour's Isidoros Diakides.

Since discovering what they called the “bombshell” budget report, Lib Dems have questioned the need for the costly works.

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“As many people in our borough struggle to cope with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unbelievable that Haringey Labour are soldiering on with this unnecessary and unwanted project, spending tens of millions on new offices for themselves when we have fewer in-office workers than ever,” said Lib Dem leader Luke Cawley-Harrison.
“Residents will quite rightly be shocked that costs for the project have doubled before building has even begun, and Haringey Labour’s track record shows that the amount spent is only likely to rise even further.”

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison, leader of Haringey Council's Lib Dem group

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison, leader of the Haringey Lib Dems, called the scheme 'unnecessary and unwanted', saying changes after the Covid-19 pandemic meant less office space than ever would be needed in the future - Credit: Haringey Lib Dems

Haringey Council denied that the cost had doubled, saying the predicted £54m bill was for a far bigger project than the initial £24m.

Council leader Peray Ahmet described the Grade II listed Civic Centre as a “treasured local landmark”.

"Rather than an instance of spiralling costs, this is an essential part of prudent financial planning,” she said.

“Ensuring value for taxpayers’ money is a key priority. We will keep costs as low as possible through robust project governance, regular cost reviews, appropriate contingency planning, thorough engagement with contractors and the use of efficient construction methods.”